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Videos with your phone. What NOT to do (and what to do).

I was sitting in my sons preschool graduation this year and I looked around the room at all the parents beaming at their kids.  Nearly all of them had their cell phones out taking video of the cute kids singing (and my kid trying to hold it together–he’s not a fan of people looking at him).  And I noticed they were all doing the same thing.  And they were doing it wrong.


I’m certainly no expert when it comes to video, but I’ve done my fair share and thought I’d pass along a few things that will make your videos better.


First.  Tuck your elbows in.  I tell people to do this with their photos as well, but it also applies to video.  I don’t know about you, but my arms can only be steady for about 20 seconds.  Then my triceps start to burn and in comes shaking arms.  Which also means a shaky video.  Stabilize your arms against your body so you can hold the camera still.

Or stabilize your arms on your knees or a chair or a wall.  Anything that will keep your arms and hands steady while you’re filming.


Second.  This is the one I see people doing all.the.time.  Don’t shoot video with your camera vertical.  Start by thinking with the end in mind.  When you replay a video on your phone, it looks okay when it’s shot vertical, but when you replay the video on your computer screen or TV, vertical videos don’t look good.  They’re small and awkward and don’t fill the screen like a video is intended to do.  When shooting video, turn your phone horizontal and film the video that way.


Warning:  Once you start a video, you can’t turn your camera or the video will be shot sideways. You have to start the video with the camera already horizontal.


Here’s an example of a video shot with the camera vertical:

And here’s how it would look if you turn the camera horizontal:

These videos are a good indication of what my life will be like for the next 15 years.  So. Much. Wrestling.

Once you get videos into a format people can watch them (i.e. on a disc, the computer, or hooked up to a TV screen via Apple TV, etc.) the videos will look SO much better if they’re filmed while the phone is horizontal (so it fits the screen you’re viewing it on correctly).


Another thing to note is just like photos, videos depend on good LIGHT.  If you don’t have good light, the quality of the video will be diminished.  So whenever possible, shoot your videos with good natural light.  If you don’t have a lot of light, your videos will look more grainy.


And while we’re on the topic, I’ve had several people ask me what I do with all the videos I take. Each time I pull my camera out to take some photos of my kids, I usually try to do a little video as well.  But I generally only video about 1-2 minutes at a time (sometimes even shorter).  Longer videos tend to get boring.  I organize all my photos and videos in iPhoto and have a smart album set up so it pulls all my videos into one place.

Every few years for each kids birthday, I try to make a slideshow with photos and videos of them.

Then each year, I pull together the videos of the whole family from that year and just string them all together using iMovie.  I don’t add music so you can hear the sound from the video.  The videos just stream together one after the other.  Depending on the project, the videos may be in order by date, or put in random order.  Doesn’t really matter as long as they’re assembled in a way people can view them.  My kids LOVE to sit down and watch these.  And they often force their friends to sit down and watch them too.  Some of my kids would sit for hours and watch videos of themselves. Hours.

Some of the iMovie videos I make I include video clips and pictures mixed together and add music to those (usually vacation video and photos).

Here’s a small sample of what the videos grouped together looks like.  Notice the first video is shot vertical (before I knew better) and the rest are horizontal.  Gives you a good feel for what a difference it makes.  Stick with this at least until the Micky Mouse in Walmart part.  Kills me every time I watch it!

Next time you pull out your camera to take some video, remember to keep your arms steady, and turn your camera horizontal.  Then get those photos and videos organized so you can quickly put them together and have fun watching them over the years.


I’m going to share a few more awesome tips while shooting video on your phone that will be going out to my e-mail subscribers (I like to give my VIP e-mail friends some exclusive content).  There’s one tip in there that a lot of people probably don’t know (and trust me, you want to know it).

If you want the tips, be sure to get on the e-mail list by entering your name and e-mail below. Make sure you confirm your e-mail address and shortly after you’ll get the free “Ten photo tips to improve your phone photography” eBook.  Then keep your eye out for the “Video tips” e-mail coming from me soon!

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  • Hi Lindsday! Good point about vertical video! I see it all the time and think “no turn it sideways!” lol. I have a video background from before smart phones so it never occurred to me to shoot vertical when I got one. This message needs to be spread for our children’s sake haha.ReplyCancel

  • Dawn

    I am going to show my age, but I am so used to taking videos with my digital camera where you could only film in one direction! I have videos that I took the wrong way and I could never turn. It makes sense to shoot horizontal, but I think I was thinking that it I couldn’t. I learned something….THANKS!!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca

    I backup all our photos to snapfish, but they stopped backing up videos awhile back and I’ve been a bit lost with what to do with them all! I ove the diea of using imovie. Just bought my husband a mac this past winter. Lokks like I may be borrowing it from him in the very near future. I’ve NEVER used imovie, so would love any pointers on how to go about this process and what you’re storing the final products on (i.e., external drive, discs, etc.)? Thanks so much! So glad I found your blog!!ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Hi Rebecca,

      Go to http://www.beckyhiggins.com on her blog and search iMovie. She’s got some GREAT posts on there about using iMovie on your phone to create stuff. I use iMovie on my computer and LOVE it but haven’t done any tutorials on it. I bet you could search YouTube and find some stuff to help you get started.
      I store the final products on my external hard drives which are then backed up by Backblaze.ReplyCancel

  • Deb

    Great post, Lindsay, as always! So many great tips here. Here’s my question, which I don’t know if you can answer since I use a PC, not a Mac, (but maybe another reader might know): I already knew to shoot videos horizontally, but with Windows 10, they show up sideways on my computer. In Windows 8, I could just right-click and it would give the option to rotate just like a photo, but not with Windows 10. Good old Microsoft, huh?! They also got rid of Movie Maker, which was great. Hmmm, maybe I need to start thinking about converting to a Mac…ReplyCancel

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