How to Create High-Quality Video with Only an iPhone

Ahh, the miracle that is modern technology. From flip phones to the iPhone, the ability to have what is essentially a full computer in our pockets at all times is amazing.

Just as amazing is how far the camera quality has come in the last decade alone. From the original iPhone 3Gs to the iPhone X, you can now shoot 4K footage while carrying around not just one, but two 12-megapixel cameras wherever you go. These cameras are not just front-view and rear-view; they’re actually different focal lengths, one with a wide-angle lens and the other with a telephoto.

But just because there’ve been feature films shot entirely on an iPhone, doesn’t mean it’s always the right move. There are plenty of amazing film-quality digital cameras that can elevate your video marketing.

When it comes down to it though, with this latest batch of iPhones, the barrier for entry to create high-quality videos has never been more accessible. While we don’t recommend doing so for your higher-end commercial shoots, it’s now possible to create plenty of quality video content without ever having to rent a single camera package.

So how do you create a high-quality video with only an iPhone?

Glad you asked! Today, we’re going to review both the technical and strategic tips you can use to create the highest quality videos possible using only an iPhone.

What makes a high-quality video?

Quality is in the eye of the beholder, right? Well, not quite.

While it’s true that art is subjective, everyone knows a good video from a bad one, and believe us, everyone knows a bad video. There’s something about a bad quality video that just sticks out.

Maybe the lighting looks terrible, or the color is all wrong, or the framing is awkward, or the sound just doesn’t work! The subject matter can be powerful, but if those elements are off, it’s going to be really hard to get people to click play or keep watching for very long.

That’s because these are all elements within your control that indicate the quality of a video, and are all things that are easy to adjust on any camera, including the iPhone.

Some are add-ons to the iPhone itself, while others are tricks and tips for you to apply while you’re shooting your video.

Technical Strategies for Upping Your iPhone Video Quality Game

Let’s run through our top tech tips for upping your iPhone quality in the four categories mentioned above.

  • Stabilize your video with a steadicam or tripod. Even though the iPhone has a built-in image stabilizer, nothing is worse than shaky-cam syndrome. There are plenty of iPhone-specific tripod and tripod accessories available for your iPhone. However, if you really want to be mobile, look into investing in an iPhone steadicam rig like the DJI Osmo Mobile.
  • Don’t zoom digitally. Have you noticed how everything looks worse and more pixelated the more you zoom in your iPhone? That’s because the iPhone is zooming in on everything digitally – the lens isn’t actually changing. Instead, move closer to your subject until you get the shot you want!

  • AF and AE lock it up. When you tap a point on your iPhone screen and the image seems to pulse and change, that’s because the lens is focusing on and exposing the light to a specific point. You can lock that look in place by holding your finger down until you see a yellow box reads AE/AF Lock, which means the exposure has been locked in place and the lens is focusing there.
  • Don’t put your subject in front of a light source. It’s cinematography 101, but it’s important to reiterate, especially for iPhone videographers: do not backlight. That means don’t place your subject in front of a source of light, a window during the day, or the actual sun. The light hitting the camera will blow out the image, the person you’re filming will look like a silhouette, and your image will be ruined. Try moving so the light is behind you or to your side.
  • Fix it in post – or with an app. Getting your exposure right so your subjects are properly lit and look like normal humans (and not overly orange or washed out) is very important. Most everything else can be fixed in post, either with an editing software like Adobe Premiere, or on your iPhone itself with an editing app like Luma Fusion. For color, exposure, and contrast control specifically, try a color correction software like DaVinci Resolve for desktop or a color correction app like VSCO for iPhone.
  • Don’t edit your color directly from your camera, though. As easy as it is to fix and adjust color during the editing process, the last thing you want is to mess with the color settings on the camera or on the actual footage itself (if you don’t know what you’re doing). If the color is ruined from the source material, it’s going to be very hard to fix later in post. Get it right when you film it!
Use your computer to edit your videos.
  • Try an external mic. Just like a traditional film or digital camera, it’s always better to record sound separately and sync it later. If you can afford to buy a mic, there are plenty of great options, like a USB mic that can plug into an iPhone with an adaptor, Bluetooth mics that sync up and can be attached to your subject, or a third-party audio recorder like the zoom mic with a boom attachment.
  • Don’t rely on your camera’s mic. You get better quality sound when you can get your microphone up close and personal. This doesn’t necessarily mean going out and buying an additional mic – you can use another iPhone as a mic by recording the audio as a voice memo and placing it in your subject’s pocket. Then, sync up the audio later when you sit down to edit it!

There’s plenty of additional iPhone camera accessories not covered here, like wide or fish angle lens add-ons. These are all extras and can definitely up your game, but if you’re shooting with an iPhone 8 plus, X or XS, probably aren’t necessary for now.

What types of videos should I shoot on my iPhone and where should I use them?

While you might not want to use your iPhone videos for a national commercial spot, there are still plenty of creative ways to use your iPhone-shot videos. Here are a few strategic tips and ideas for incorporating iPhone video into your content calendars.

  • Social shares. You probably guessed it, but iPhone videos are perfect for snappy content shareable on social media. Keep your videos short and try to use framing that can be cropped into a square so it translates better on Instagram.
  • Live events. Bulky digital cameras are probably more work than worthwhile for live events. Grab your iPhone with a handheld steadicam rig and boom mic attachment, and that should be all you need to capture an awesome event video.
  • FAQs and Facebook Live. If soliciting questions from a crowd, like through a Facebook live Q&A, there’s no reason you can’t shoot on your iPhone. In fact, if you’re streaming for an Instagram Story, you’ll need to be shooting on iPhone anyway. Why not invest in making that footage look great?
  • Customer Spotlight. If you can’t hire a professional camera team in time to capture the perfect customer testimonial, no worries. With a steadicam rig and external mic, your team can easily jump in the car and head to your customer’s place of residence to capture high-quality footage at the drop of a hat.
  • Day in the Life. You’ll want to be pretty mobile when filming a day in the life video, so capturing your day via an iPhone seems like the perfect combination. With the tips, tricks, and tech we mentioned above, you can turn your day from a grainy cell-phone story to a high-quality highlight.

Even with the highest quality iPhone available, there’s no replacement for vision, creativity, and a high-quality team. If your internal team doesn’t have the bandwidth, or you want to work with the pros, you can always schedule a call with us here at Lemonlight. Our creative producers would love to find out how we can meet your video needs.

Grant Harvey

Grant Harvey