Is Your iPhone a Legitimate Video Camera? (iPhone Video Tips)

People rave about the quality of video on an iPhone and it’s hard to disagree. So much power in such a small package. More and more great photos are being taken on iPhones and I think that trend will continue with video. The old adage is definitely true - the best camera is the one that you have with you.

I work with a very skilled photographer, Scott Cohen, who is a virtuoso with an iPhone. He has long been pushing me to do a video that is shot with just an iPhone. I have always been reluctant. Why would we shoot with an iPhone when we have much better cameras? Is it just to say that we can do it? Is it a legitimate video camera? I think the answer lies somewhere in between.

The biggest advantage of shooting with an iPhone has nothing to do with the image. It’s spontaneity. You can pull it out of your pocket at any time and shoot away. And that ready access makes all the difference. Many videos live and die on capturing a moment, an expression, or the light at the perfect time of day.

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A few weeks ago, I was parked in Scott’s driveway at 3:45 in the morning. We were heading to San Francisco for a video project. As I was waiting for him, inspiration struck. Why not shoot a video on our iPhones that captures our trip? And so I pulled out my iPhone, aimed it at the garage and waited for Scott to come out. We (mostly Scott) continued to shoot throughout our trip.

A week after I got back I started sifting through the iPhone footage. It immediately brought a smile to my face. The value and virtue of spontaneity was readily apparent. Shooting the same shots with a regular camera would have been a royal pain and we probably would have bailed on the idea halfway through the trip. The shots were short and impulsive and because of that I used way more clips than I normally do when editing. The iPhone was dictating an editing style that was different from my norm and proving to be really fun. I found myself getting lost in the project and swept up in the possibilities. Maybe the iPhone was just as good as any other camera. Maybe it is all you needed. I dove in even deeper by writing and recording music for the video on my iPad. And why not add a voice over. Usually I advise against using scripts but hey, I was broadening my creative possibilities.

To be honest, when I finished the video I really didn’t know what to make of it. Was it good or was it garbage? Was it a valid marketing video or just self indulgent? And then I started thinking about the message. I produce videos for a living. What does shooting on an iPhone say about me as a professional? Am I suggesting that anyone can and should be shooting professional videos with their iPhones? I’m still not sure what the answers are. You be the judge...watch the video below...

In the end, I have decided to only post the video here. Ultimately I know this video would have looked better and more impressive if I shot with my normal camera. But then again, I wouldn’t have shot this video with my normal camera. So therein lies the conundrum. iPhone footage might someday find its way into client work but for now here are some iPhone video tips to share…

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1. Be spontaneous and shoot regularly

It’s very liberating to let go of your perfectionism and just point and shoot. Don’t worry how or if the video will be used. Enjoy the pure act of shooting.

2. Focus on moments with good natural light

Good lighting can make any camera look great. If you let the light be your guide, you’ll be amazed at what the iPhone can do.

3. Take advantage of the size & stealthiness

iPhones are light and small so you can put them anywhere. One of my favorite shots in the video happened when Scott put his iPhone on the handrail of a moving walkway. The other big benefit is stealthiness. Most people think you have a phone in your hand and will be far less conscious than they would be if you were shooting with a regular video camera.

4. Don’t view your iPhone as a replacement for your video camera.

It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Use what you like. Don’t use what you don’t like. There are shots in this video that I think are great and would readily use. There are others that I used because I was trying to pull off an all iPhone shot video.

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