There are all kinds of reasons people hesitate to start making videos. From not enough time, to budget constraints, or feeling like you don’t have the skills, it seems there are always excuses for not taking the plunge.
But questions of time, skills, or budget aside, often, it comes down to a very simple reason: I don’t have fancy video equipment.
There’s a particularly pesky belief that great videos need all kinds of hard-to-use, expensive, and bulky equipment like huge cameras, complicated lighting set-ups, and more.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need professional (or even high-end) video gear to make professional-quality videos. You probably have all you need to get really amazing videos in your pocket or bag right now: your smartphone.
Get to Know Your Smartphone
In 2019, there were approximately 2.7 billion smartphones in use, and almost all of them have HD-capable (if not 4K) cameras built right in. And, of course, there’s the old photographers’ adage, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”
With advances in technology and software, today’s smartphones have incredibly powerful cameras and video capabilities, so it’s easier than ever to create video content. Even if your phone is a few generations old, it’s probably good enough to do what you need to do.
And remember, recent research by TechSmith found that the audio of your video is actually more important to keeping viewers’ attention than the video. Now that we’re used to watching shaky live video broadcasts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and more, people are much more forgiving if your camera work isn’t Hollywood-quality. But you want to make sure they can clearly hear your (or your subject’s) voice.
Again, your smartphone is probably enough in most situations, but for crowded and/or noisy areas where simply moving closer to your subject isn’t possible or enough, a small and simple microphone can help ensure your viewers hear you and not all the ambient noise. (More on some accessories—including microphones—that you can add to your smartphone set-up a little later in this article.)
While your smartphone is designed to be easy to use and basically point-and-shoot, getting to know it and its settings and capabilities can go a long way in helping you make better videos. Spend time checking the menu and settings. You may have more options than you think. For example, most smartphone cameras have a grid setting for the viewfinder that automatically divides the screen for the rule of thirds. You likely also can adjust the frame rate, image quality, and more. Every phone will be different, but open your phone’s camera app and see what’s possible.
Additionally, third-party apps offer even more options and features. Filmic Pro is a paid iOS and Android app that adds features such as white balance, tools that help you see what’s in focus, and more. Also from Filmic is Filmic Doubletake, an app that allows you to record two cameras simultaneously, including side-by-side or split-screen. That one’s currently only available for iPhone 11.
You can even edit videos right on your phone. Your device may have a built-in video editing app. If not, several third-party apps are available. For more feature-rich apps, you’ll likely want to move to a desktop video editor.
And if you’re looking for free learning resources for video, TechSmith Academy offers a lot of free information on topics such as creating scripts, lighting, shooting video, creating tutorial videos, and more.
5 Quick Tips for Mobile Video
- Make sure you’re familiar with your device. Check out the settings and see what’s possible.
- Turn off notifications while you record. You don’t want to be interrupted while shooting, and the vibration can also shake the camera!
- For steadier video, use a tripod or find another way to hold the phone steady.
- Move closer to your subject (even if it’s you). Your instincts may tell you to pull back, but keeping your subject close will make your video more personal and engaging.
- Add light. Your smartphone’s small sensor means that more light is better. You don’t have to use a professional video light. Even adding a well-placed lamp or natural light from a nearby window can make a difference.
Additional Gear for Improving Your Videos
Your smartphone is all you really need to get started making videos, but when you want to give your videos a more polished look, there are several inexpensive and easy-to-use accessories that can help.
- A microphone: It can be super-expensive or super-affordable. It all depends on what you want. But even an inexpensive microphone can help up your audio game significantly. One of my colleagues recently picked up this mic for $16 and reports that it works really well.
- A ring light: While a lamp or natural light can help improve your video quality, having a dedicated light can make things look a little more professional. The same colleague also loves this combination ring light and smartphone holder. As a bonus, he also uses the light to look better in virtual meetings.
- A tripod or other smartphone holder: This will help keep your video steady. For a little more money, there are also smartphone gimbal grips that help steady your videos when you’re walking around.
Don’t let a lack of professional equipment keep you from enjoying the benefits of video. With just your smartphone and a little practice, you can make professional-quality videos that delight and engage viewers.
Matt Pierce is Learning & Video ambassador at TechSmith Corp., the go-to company for visual communication. TechSmith empowers people to create remarkable content to share knowledge and information. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Education’s Department of Instructional Systems Technology, Pierce has more than 10 years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith.