How to use a smartphone for filmmaking

As a member of the DESIGN102 filmmaking team one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “can we film corporate videos on our smartphones? And if so, how do we do it?”

I normally answer the question with a question of my own, “What is the story you want to tell?”

Improved mobile camera technology, a move toward issuing staff with corporate smart phones, and restrictions on budgets, has meant filming, editing and publishing video is now both easier and more appealing than ever before. This is a great development, but getting great video from your phone means more than just picking it up and pressing record.

Creating good corporate video is all about storytelling. The story you want to tell will influence the type of camera you should use and the way you shoot the video.

Professional equipment or smartphone?

Using professional equipment, with professional people, is sometimes the best approach to filmmaking and storytelling. Capturing the Prime Minister’s speech to the country or producing a slick glossy campaign video for a new initiative, demands equipment and people you can rely on and that will perform, even in demanding situations.

However, sometimes professional equipment isn’t required or even wanted. Smartphones can capture unscripted events in the moment, are extremely cost effective and allow for candid pieces to camera without the invasiveness of a camera crew. They can capture managerial messages to staff, testimonials from staff around the country and add a creative element to an otherwise dry social media campaign.

Having teams willing to use and experiment with smartphones is without doubt a positive development for government. However, before picking up your phone, we’ve come up with ten tips to consider before you head out filming.

Ten top tips

Tip one - Space and light

Find the biggest, brightest space you can. Smartphone video cameras don’t perform well in dimly lit spaces. Open plan offices are great and filming outside is also good, however, watch out for traffic, wind and other people, all of which might make it tricky to get a good shot or good quality sound.

Tip two - Tripod

Yes, it’s annoying to carry around a tripod but what is even more annoying is trying to watch a shaky video. Unless you are intentionally trying to produce a Blair Witch Project style horror video find something to stabilise your phone.

Tip three - Horizontal filming

We live in a widescreen world - TV, computers, websites all use widescreen video dimensions (16:9). Unless you only intend your video to be viewed on another phone, turn the phone sideways and film horizontal.

Tip four - Rule of thirds

Filming an interview? Don’t put your subject in the middle of the shot. Put them off to one side, making sure the direction they are looking towards has the majority (2/3) of the background space in it.

Rule of thirds
Rule of thirds

Tip five - Get your event speaker in the centre of the frame

When filming people speaking at events, it’s almost always best to get them front on, in the centre of the frame. The only exception might be if you’ve been positioned on the far right or left of the stage or are using your phone as second camera.

Tip six - Selfies in the centre of the frame

Do you have a person who needs to say something directly to the viewer? Are you filming yourself? Whether it’s a personal video message to a conference or selling a product, get the subject in the middle of the frame.

Tip seven - AF Lock

Many phones have an AF (automatic focus) lock feature. On iPhones, hold your finger over the spot you want to focus on for a few seconds and the lock will appear. Locking focus is a great way to stop your phone from constantly trying to focus during that important interview!

Tip eight - Use natural light

Film your subject using a window as lighting. This is incredibly effective in getting good looking shots when you don't have professional lighting. However, make sure not to film your subject and the window together or your subject will become backlit - a dark silhouette against the bright window.

Using natural light
Using natural light.

Tip nine – Remember the audio

Good audio is often more important than getting a good picture. Spending time on getting this right is important. If you have time and money, invest in a lapel mic for your phone. If not, your best option is to record your video in a large quiet room. Voice Memo app that comes free with the iPhone is great for recordings.

Tip ten - Transferring large video files

Getting your video off your phone can be tough. Try the free WeTransfer app and email up to two gigabyte files at a time.


Remember, the most important part of a successful corporate video is finding the best approach to telling your story. Smartphones can now empower staff to tell interesting and compelling corporate stories using video in new ways not possible in the past.

By honing your filming skills, you can dramatically improve the quality of the video you are shooting and in turn, viewer engagement levels, as you communicate your video’s message more effectively.

If you’re interested in learning more about filmmaking at DESIGN102 please get in touch:


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  1. Comment by TalkingTree Media posted on

    A very helpful article on how to go about using a smartphone in film making... Good Read!


  2. Comment by John Parkar posted on

    Getting your video off your phone can be tough. you can use different apps on the internet to take help.
    by the way, it is the good topic of an article.