Jun 13, 2022
Love it or hate it — the future of film and video isn’t going bigger, it’s going smaller. Not only are we seeing more people consuming video content on their smartphones, but we’re also seeing more content creators and filmmakers alike move to iPhone filmmaking and smartphone videography.
Regardless of how you feel about this trend, it’s undeniable that for those wanting to embrace this next wave of smartphone filmmaking, you’ll need to learn the right iPhone video skills to excel in this new world.
Luckily, no matter your current cinema camera skill level, learning the basics of how to shoot cinematic shots with your smartphone (in particular an Apple iPhone) isn’t that hard. These mobile filmmaking devices are quite intuitive and designed specifically to capture quality video in a variety of circumstances and formats.
So, taking advice from content creators and iPhone filmmakers alike, let’s look at these basic tips for how to get cinematic shots via iPhone filmmaking without any post-production or editing.
Before we dive in, we should take a step back to talk about the different iPhone models and camera options. As you might expect, not every iPhone has the exact same camera. And in fact, depending on which iPhone model you go with, your camera’s capabilities can vary drastically in terms of camera lens, low light capability, and other image quality concerns.
Since the iPhone 7’s release with its dual camera technology, Apple has really helped to push the smartphone video camera game to the next level. And truth be told, the built-in camera options for each iPhone since has been one of the few areas in which Apple could really provide a marketable upgrade and difference over the last iteration.
As such, having a new iPhone (aka the latest version of the iPhone) will always have the best camera technology available. That being said, you don’t always have to have the newest of the new to shoot quality video footage. Especially if you know the right iPhone filmmaking tricks…
OK, now moving on to actual iPhone filmmaking process steps that you can take in-camera to record better iPhone footage, our first tip has to do with frame rate. For those who might not be familiar, frame rate is a filmmaking term which measures the number of images (or frames) recorded within a one second period.
The default frame rate for most smartphones is 30 FPS (frames per second), or sometimes 60 FPS for newer cameras. However, 24 FPS is considered the most true and cinematic rate for playback. As such, a great way to quickly make your videos more cinematic is to change your frame rate from 30 FPS to 24 FPS — which you can easily change by following these steps.
When compared to a high-end cinema camera, an iPhone film is always going to be a bit lacking in terms of steady shots, manual control options, and some other basics.
Another simple trick to recording more cinematic footage with your iPhone is to simply pick the right iPhone lens for the job. Using the iPhone 13 Pro MAX as our example (which actually has three built-in lenses to choose from), you’re going to need to make a few decisions. Which focal length is the right one for your shot? And what are the best uses for each?
While the wide and ultra wide lenses are great for getting a lot of action in your shots, the telephoto lens will usually be considered the most cinematic as it better reflects classic cinematography looks. Plus it is also a better choice for stabilization.
A cool thing about recording footage with a modern iPhone these days has been the improvements in focus controls, shutter speed, and battery life.
While everyone loves a good auto-focus (AF) technology that does the work for you, to really unlock the cinematic iPhone movie capabilities of your iPhone camera you need to learn how to lock focus on your desired subject.
When recording video you’ll usually see several squares on the screen indicating which subjects or items your phone is capable of focusing on. If you have a single subject in mind, you can put your finger on the subject you wish to keep in focus and lock that focus in. Now, even if they move (or you move), this subject will stay in focus when you capture shots.
From there you can also go ahead and adjust the exposure of your shot to make it brighter or darker. For cinematic purposes, lowering the exposure (even just a little bit) can be a great way to bring in more contrast and make your iPhone movie look just that much more cinematic and important.
From there you can also always take things up a notch by using resources for your iPhone filmmaking that extend outside of your smartphone camera. One of the best ways to get more cinematic looking footage is to simply smooth it out.
And the best way to record smooth iPhone movie footage is to use some sort of mount — whether that be a stationary tripod, a slightly more moveable monopod, or a truly unlocked motion gimbal which provides stabilization for any movement or shot type.
And trust us, there are plenty of great gimbals out there for iPhones. Check out our full list of the best iPhone videography accessories to browse some of our top picks. However, you don't need to break the bank on an iPhone filmmaking mount or anything — just pick a quality version that works well with iPhone cameras.
Along the same lines, you can also add to your iPhone’s cinematic capabilities by adding an attachable lens cover to create different lens types. Also, from our best filmmaking accessories for iPhones list, some top iPhone filmmaking options for content creators of any type include:
However, you can also do a quick Google search yourself to see which lenses are available for your exact mobile filmmaking choice and version. Just be sure to follow our iPhone filmmaking tips for recording your own full quality version.
Aside from those specific tips for smartphone filmmaking and iPhone-centric cinematography, the real crux to recording good smartphone footage comes down to good lighting, strong composition, steady camera work, and solid audio.
If you’d like to venture out more and read up on how to edit a video on your iPhone from start to finish, or check out other helpful smartphone resources, then you can read up on these great articles from the Soundstripe blog: