Sure, they say content is king. Don’t use that as an excuse to crank out crappy videos.

There was a time when the only people with good video cameras were the hobbyists and enthusiasts. There were the old shoulder rigs that you popped a VCR tape into and lugged around. They slowly got smaller and higher quality. Eventually, photograph cameras became digital and video started creeping into them as well.

The days of me and my brother Caleb using our parents antiquated analog video camera to do a stop motion video of two model cars crashing and (literally) burning are long gone. For some reason, though, people still shoot video that is just as shaky, poorly lit, and out of focus as I did when I was 10 years old.

So, to the point. Pull out your phone. Turn it horizontal. Tap to focus on your subject. Hit record. While that might be a feat for some in and of itself, we’re just getting started.

1. Make sure your subject (or yourself if you’re the subject) is facing the primary light source

This could be a number of things. The sun. A lamp. Car headlights. A flashlight. A lightbox. Whatever the source, you want your subject to be in it. Shooting products or food? Same principle.

If you have a couple friends with you, use the flashlights on their phones as additional lighting or side lighting to help make your subject separate from the background.

2. Avoid too much backlighting

This issue is a video killer. You know the look: a guy is giving his audience great advice, but the viewer is just distracted by the washed out look of the video thanks to the bright sunlight coming in through the patio doors behind him. (See Point #1)

3. Make sure you have enough space on your device

It happens to the best of ’em. You’re shooting what is destined to be the greatest product launch video for your small business and you get the dreaded Out of Storage notification. It’s always a good habit to make sure you delete old and unused apps, photos, videos, and music from your device. Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud are also great ways to free up space on your device.

4. Stabilize

Buy one of these guys. Or one of these. Maybe one of these. If you’re cheap and/or in a pinch, use two heavy items, placing one in front of your phone (remember, horizontal!) and one behind it. Adjust the angle to make sure you’ll capture the subject appropriately. If you need, just take a photo to make sure the shot is framed right.

5. Avoid the selfie camera at all costs

Is it convenient? Yes. Is it ideal? No.

If you’re shooting video in your car (why do so many people do that? Lighting is typically decent due to all the windows, echoes are kept to a minimum because of the carpeting and seats, and people feel more private when others can’t hear them.) you can do this simple trick to raise your selfie video status:

* Grab a couple rubber bands or even hair ties. Open up your camera app on your phone.

* Place the phone horizontally on the rearview mirror so that the screen is facing the mirror. 

* Secure the phone to the mirror with the rubber bands or hair ties.

* Adjust the angle of the camera by previewing yourself in the mirror.

* Use the volume button to start recording.

Or, you can pick up a simple car mount for your phone that mounts to your dashboard or windshield. Here’s a pretty good car mobile phone mount from Schosche that not only holds your phone at any angle, but also offers wireless charging.

6. Capture good audio

Even the best, most professionally produced video is worthless if you can’t hear what’s being said.

Consider this: if you were in a movie theater and the film cut out but the audio kept going, you basically have radio content at that point. If the audio cuts out but the video is still going, you’ve got nothing.

Sure, you can go crazy and invest in a fancy microphone that connects to your phone. Or, you can use the headphones that have a built-in microphone. Simply plug the headphones into the phone and then take the earbuds and tuck them into the front opening of your shirt or jacket. Be sure to leave the actual microphone exposed on the outside of your shirt. Now you’ll have good mic proximity and your audio will be a lot better.

If you really want to look at a better mic, this affordable two-mic mic iPhone system is good for interviews, and this shotgun-style mic from Rode is solid, too.


Part of capturing great video relies on your ability to anticipate what the final product will look like. Framing, composition, and lighting are really important. While it can be fun to just start shooting everything with you camera, a good videographer is always thinking a few steps ahead. What will the editing process look like? How will the video flow and what transitions will there be? Are your shots framed in a way to allow graphic overlays and lower thirds for names and titles? There are a million things to consider when shooting video, so keep in mind that when you’re in the editing process, there will probably be times you’ll wish you’d thought ahead while you were shooting.

Like anything, it’s a learning process, so just get out there and start doing it.