How to shoot pro-quality video on your phone or tablet

Don’t have the money to hire a video crew? No problem. Anyone with a mobile device can create outstanding video with clear sound.

You know those shaky videos with the muffled audio that you watch on Facebook or Twitter, usually because they have funny kids, cats, goats or some combination of the three?

Those aren’t the kind you want to shoot when the stakes are high, such as corporate or employee communications campaigns.

However, that phone or tablet that you carry around all day can do far more than shoot video of your dogs’ tricks or your kids’ soccer games. You can capture business-worthy video with your mobile devices, if you follow savvy advice from video experts.

Below are easy tips and tricks that you can use to create high-quality video for those times when hiring a video crew isn’t possible:

Hold device horizontally, not vertically: This tip tops every expert’s list, so you know it’s a must.

“Vertical video is useless for sharing on a corporate intranet or on a sharing site like YouTube,” says Drew Keller, owner of video content creator StoryGuide. “If you shoot video vertically, you get those black bars on either side of the image, which isn’t engaging for your viewers,” and can visually impair your video.

When you hold the device horizontally, you’re taking advantage of its natural aspect ratio, and the black bars will vanish.

Steady the device: Stabilize your phone or tablet so you don’t take shaky video. Even a little bit of movement is hugely distracting for the viewer.

“If you’re bobbing and moving, so will the image the viewer is watching, forcing them to try to track the subject,” Keller says.

At the very least, hold the camera close to your body using both hands, and with your elbows by your side, instead of at arm’s length, which will minimize bobble, he suggests. You can also improvise by propping up the device on some books or a flat surface such as a table top.

RELATED: Download your FREE guide on “How to create videos employees love.” Learn to craft videos that captivate and engage employees.

Many tripods include frames or holders for such devices, and they fold up super-small for easy transporting. (See suggestions from Keller at The Joby line of tripods is inexpensive and well reviewed.

Jay Harel, vice president of product management for Kollective, which provides enterprise video platform applications under the Kontiki brand, suggests seeking out stabilized tripods if you’re planning to create phone or tablet video while on the move.

“They compensate for the movement you get when you’re filming in a moving car or walking around,” Harel says.

Follow the “rule of thirds”: It’s what pro photographers do, and it’s easy for the rookie—with a bit of practice. Imagine that your phone or tablets screen is divided into three sections, both horizontally and vertically.

“Don’t center the subject right in the middle,” says Tim Ryan, founder of TAR productions, a video production company based in San Diego.

Place one element in one third of the screen and another element, such as an interviewee or background element, in another third. It makes for a more pleasing composition.

Balance lighting: Lighting your subject appropriately—that is, keeping faces well lighted while avoiding harsh shadows—is one of the biggest challenges of shooting video with a mobile device.

“Most offices have overhead light and large windows,” Keller explains.

Overhead lighting is designed to illuminate what’s on your desk, but unfortunately it creates raccoon eyes on people’s faces—not a good look. On the other hand, “windows are also a problem because the sensors in the camera don’t have as much latitude between light and dark as our eyes do,” Keller says. That means a video shot near a window can throw the face into darkness.

“Getting light on the face is important, so I recommend turning your subject around so they’re facing the window,” he advises. “Positioning yourself with your back or side to indirect sunlight will create a far more engaging shot.”

Ruth Sherman, a speaking and media coach for celebrities and executives, is a fan of using daylight as an alternative to office lighting when shooting phone or tablet videos. “Shoot videos outdoors or use daylight as much as possible,” says Sherman. “It’s the best light, and the most flattering,”

Set the stage: Think carefully about what viewers will see besides the person you’re putting on camera, Keller says. “Many people like to shoot their interviews in a conference room,” he explains. “Honestly, this is the place where videos go to die—they are soulless boxes, covered with bad art.”

Think of the background for the interview as an integral part of the story.

“We make decisions about the trustworthiness of the speaker and we gather information about who they are by their environment,” Keller says. “So, shoot your interview where they work. It can be in their office, in the atrium of their building, on location, in the cafeteria … really anywhere but the conference room.”

Capture sound with an external microphone: Along with shaky video and bad lighting, poor sound can doom your video.

“The microphones on a smartphone are really designed for talking on the phone,” Keller says. “They capture sound all around, including co-worker conversations in the hall, the radio playing in the next office, the traffic outside and the air conditioner above.”

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve. Ideally, Keller says, you should buy an inexpensive external microphone that plugs into your phone or tablet—it will improve audio quality dramatically and will not amplify all that extraneous background noise. (For a list of suggested mics, and some guidelines on the proper plugs and connectors for different mobile devices, check out Keller’s helpful list at

Another benefit of an external microphone is that it will allow you to pick up some useful ambient sound—without having that sound overpower your video.

“As long as the mic is close to the speaker’s mouth, you’ll get good sound even in a place like a coffee shop,” Harel says, “and you’ll have background noise you can use.”

If you don’t have an external mic and you have to shoot video, position yourself no more than an arm’s length from your subject. “You may feel like you are standing in their personal space, but it’s better than wasting their time by shooting an interview that’s useless,” Keller says.

If you need a primer on some feature of your smartphone or tablet, you’d probably ask your kids. Smart move—and when it comes to video, they probably know more than you do. In the above video from Kontiki, the kid experts sum up the dos and don’ts for good-looking video.

RELATED: Download your FREE guide on “How to create videos employees love.” Learn to craft videos that captivate and engage employees.

This article is in partnership with Kontiki.


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