How to shoot video that doesn’t suck (even using your phone)

If you’re not a professional videographer, it can feel like you only get good shots by chance.

It is easy to feel like our phone cameras just aren’t good enough. However, with a few simple tweaks, your clips can go from bad to…acceptible, if not downright okay.

Shoot positioned just inside a window with indirect sunlight, and don’t get the window in the shot.

This technique works best for direct-to-camera presentation-style shots.

Master this and you’ll be able to get pretty great looking shots as long as you are inside and next to a window.

The light must be indirect, meaning you shouldn’t be able to see the actual sun. If you feel hot sunlight on your face or see harsh, jagged shadows in the room, it is receiving direct sunlight and you need to find a window facing in a different direction.

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Harsh direct sunlight. Only shoot in soft indirect window light.
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This is the beautiful soft window-light we’re after.

As long as there is a decent amount of indirect sunlight coming in through the window, you should be able to stand or sit anywhere from 3-8 feet inside the window and have beautiful soft daylight hitting your face.

You’ll want to face the window. You don’t have to face it head on, but make sure it is in front of you. Now put the camera between you and the window.

Just a couple more things before you hit record…

Turn off every light in the house.

Obviously this technique requires it be daytime. Shooting good video at night is much harder than during the day. If it’s night time, go to bed and shoot the video in the morning.

There are many great writings about lighting theory. We don’t have time for those right now.

So you’re just going to have to trust me and go turn off all the lights. Can’t turn off the lights? Find a different building.

Why shoot only by window-light? Simply put: the light coming from the sun is different from what comes out of a bulb.

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Day light is blue, normal lightbulbs are orange.

Cameras kinda go colorblind when you mix the two together.

Shoot with your camera just above eye level.

It is the most flattering angle, and no one wants to see your nosehairs.

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See how flattering this angle is? The lengths I go to teach this stuff…

Improvised tripod ideas:

  • Lean it up on a shelf
  • Balance it on a stack of books
  • Prop it on a window-ledge
  • Nestle it in a bush
  • Rest it on a picture-frame

BONUS TIP: Clean up the background.

Once you have your phone/camera in the right position, take some time to scrutinize the background of the shot.

If in doubt, move things.

Seriously.

When I used to shoot weddings, I would move random wedding guests stuff because it looked messy in the shot.

I’d usually move it back…usually.

Taking the time to clean up the area in which you’re shooting can make a remarkable difference.

Sure, stark backgrounds aren’t always the best–but they are always better than messy ones.

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I found this picture on the internet.

Follow these tips and your shots will look better. There are times when you can’t shoot under these conditions. Don’t shoot then. Wait until you can control the variables.

Next up, how to shoot video that doesn’t sound like garbage.