Some handsets, like the Sony Xperia Z5, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and LG V10, take incredible video. Many users, however, are stuck with phones that have decidedly lower video chops. Features like laser autofocus, face detection and optical image stabilisation not being part of the picture doesn’t mean you as a user must resign yourself to the fate of only being able to produce so-so videos from your smartphone. Although lower end models won’t be besting flagships or dedicated cameras any time soon, these five tips will help users to put up a fight by wringing every ounce of performance possible from lower-end phones with lower-end cameras, as well as mid-rangers with fairly good cameras like the OnePlus 2 or Moto X Pure.
The first tip is somewhat common-sense, but it’s certainly something you’ll want to pay attention to if you’re not already. It’s arguably the biggest way to wrangle a better video out of any given condition. When shooting videos, keep the phone as still as possible. If on the move, a GoPro may serve better, or at least a mount or stick for your phone. If you’re shooting stationary, a tripod or an improvised device can help. A stack of books or cheap solutions from the web can quickly and easily turn your shaky, constantly-focusing videos into high-quality footage. The second biggest thing is lighting conditions. Even the most advanced flash on a smartphone leaves something to be desired compared to flashless recording in good light. Ideally, light should illuminate your subject either from the shooting angle or from the side, as viewed by the camera. Light should be warm, but not overbearing or discolored. Mind you, this is for normal shooting; some projects may be more suited to a sicklier pall of lighting or the raw and overexposed light of a phone’s flash LED. The third biggest thing to pay attention to is post-production. In most cases, even the best raw video from any sort of source won’t be as good as it could be. Video editing apps that can touch up, add sharpness and change the lighting can help just about any piece. This is definitely a case where the smallest change can have the biggest impact.
The last two tips, also common sense, are a bit of an afterthought in most cases, but still important to take note of. First off, nobody likes vertical videos. Yes, they’re supported on YouTube and Vine now, but watching them in any other media will result in ugly black bars on the sides. A full-screen view will make any video more dramatic and immersive, so tip those phones over before you hit record. The last tip is to double check free space before you start rolling. If you have a gigantic MicroSD card or can stand to record in lower resolution, that will help, but a MicroSD card is not always available, nor is a ton of storage, and recording in low-res is less than ideal.