How To Shoot Beautiful and Professional Quality Video on the iPhone 7 Plus

Phones? Or do I mean cameras that can make calls and send texts? That’s how I feel about the state of smartphones these days and the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus? They’re off the charts. iPhone 7 has been out for about four months now, which has given us plenty of time to dive into the incredible camera features that this new phone has to offer. I won’t pretend like there aren’t lots of other great smartphones on the market with remarkable photography/video capabilities, but for the purpose of this article I’m going to focus on what I know and love, the iPhone 7 plus. 

Personally, I find one of the most exciting realizations about camera quality this good is the ability to produce video at a wildly high standard. It's so good that businesses, musicians, and filmmakers are using their iPhone to create company content, music videos, and full-length films. Talk about a revolution! 

Well, okay. It’s a video revolution.

The cost of a decent video camera in the 1980s ranged into the thousands, and the world’s first offline non-linear video editing program (CMX 600) came with the price tag of $250,000 (seriously) when first introduced. Only network news companies could afford such a thing. Living in times with video production and editing software as good and affordable as it has indeed changed how we spend money, creative time and energy. 

Why you should get on board with producing video content.

All of this is good and well, but you might be wondering what this means for you. As you’re probably well aware, we as a society have gone video crazy, and without a doubt, it’s our number one choice for the consumption of content. Aside from the entertainment value, I believe this has to do with the convenience factor. In a go-go world with so much information, we don’t have the time to read every think piece that piques our interest. We need as much info as possible in a short period, making video our format of choice. So, if you’re a content marketer who’s making a company explainer video, a musician filming a cover for your YouTube channel or an indie filmmaker making a film; a great video is now easier and more affordable to achieve, but here’s the catch. Despite all these great things we still need to know how to wield the tools correctly to make the best end product. 

I find the psychology behind our love of video to be really fascinating. Check out some of my favourite statistics/facts on the power of video:

  • People remember 50% more from a video than they do written text.
  • The brain processes video 60,000x faster than text.
  • A video is a form of escapism.
  • We build emotional, empathetic connections with visuals.

(Source; Psychology Today, Now Creative Group)


What’s new and special about the iPhone 7 Plus Camera?

Not one, but two 12 megapixel lenses on the back of the iPhone 7 plus. One is a wide-angle lens, and the other is telephoto. The aperture of the wide angle is f/1.8, and the telephoto aperture is f/2.8. The two lenses work in conjunction to offer a high-res optical zoom. The dual-lens is a brand new feature for the iPhone lineup. 
Here are some of the tech specs from Apple’s website:

•    4K video recording at 30 fps
•    1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
•    720p HD video recording at 30 fps
•    Optical image stabilization for video
•    Optical zoom at 2x; 6x digital zoom (iPhone 7 Plus only)
•    Quad-LED True Tone flash
•    Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps and 720p at 240 fps
•    Time‑lapse video with stabilization
•    Cinematic video stabilization (1080p and 720p)
•    Continuous autofocus video
•    Body and face detection
•    Noise reduction
•    Take 8-megapixel still photos while recording 4K video
•    Playback zoom
•    Video geotagging

(Source; Apple)


We can’t mention new camera features without mentioning ‘Portrait Mode’.

A new and exciting feature on the 7 plus is the portrait mode feature. Previously, we never had control over the depth of field when taking photos on the iPhone. The two rear cameras make it possible to blend two images into one resulting in a sharp, focused foreground subject with a blurred background. This works well for portraits, hence the portrait mode! We can now achieve a style that is similar to high-end DSLR cameras that capture a shallow depth of field.

Fun fact: The soft blurriness in the background of a portrait photo is called “bokeh.” Bokeh is a term that came from the Japanese.


Enable 4K Video Recording

4k video aka ultra high definition video is available on both iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models. Although out of the box the default mode is set to 1080p HD at 60 fps. Let’s change that. As you could have probably guessed, higher the definition means the bigger the file size. It’s something to be aware of if you’re a shutterbug. One minute of 4K video is equal to approx. 350 MB of space. 


1. Open the Settings app from the home screen.



















2. Scroll down to ‘photos and camera'. Tap record video under camera settings. 



















3. Select 4K at 30 fps.

















Bam! You’re all set.
Now open up the camera app and choose video mode. In the upper right corner, you will see ‘4K’. 


10 Tips For Getting The Best Video Results With Your iPhone 7 Plus


1. Record your video through the app  ‘Filmic Pro.'

Filmic Pro

Filmic Pro is a critically acclaimed, award-winning third-party app for the iPhone. At the Zacuto: Revenge Of The Great Camera Shoot Out, it beat the $5000 Sony FS100 and $13,000 Canon C300 in blind audience testing. It’s said to be the gold standard for iPhone videography. You might be wondering why you need this app, isn’t Apple's stock camera already the best? Filmic Pro takes all the great things about your camera and expands upon them with features that run deeper than the iPhone stock camera. Oh, and it’s only $9.99 from the app store! Check out more on Filmic.

Filmic Pro

Here what the new features on Filmic can do:

- Fully optimized for iOS10
- 4K Resolutions at up 100Mbps
- New, blazing fast code base in Apple’s Swift 2
- Full Granular Manual Controls for
-Shutter Speed
-Exposure Bias
-Variable Speed Focus Pulls
- New and Improved User Interface
- Fully customizable Slow and Fast Motion FX
- 17:9 Digital Cinema Aspect Ratios
- Improved Core Audio Support for External Audio Input Devices
- New Peak Limiter and Voice Processing Audio Filters


2. No vertical videos. Make videos in the horizontal orientation.

Video recordings on iPhone are recorded depending on the orientation of your phone. You will get much better-looking videos by just putting your phone in the horizontal position before filming. A horizontal orientation will allow for more coverage versus the narrow look of the vertical orientation.  


3. Use a tripod.

A dead giveaway of an amateur video is an unsteady camera shot. Though new optical image stabilization (OIS) within the 7 plus have given handheld video a steady frame. OIS is a great feature for a quick video, but investing in a tripod before doing any serious filming is a smart idea. Aside from shakiness is that a tripod will help to keep your shot in focus. There are several mounting solutions available on the market for the iPhone. A cool one (and ultraportable) is the Joby Grip tight GorillaPod stand. It can pretty well be mounted anywhere. The GorillaPod retails for $60.00 on Amazon. 

If you’re looking for a rock solid, tall and lightweight tripod, I would suggest the Manfrotto compact tripod. $64.87 on Amazon


4. Use good lighting.

No matter what the camera the need for good lighting is essential. Lighting is one of those factors that separate amateur video from pro video. Poor lighting will make your video look grainy and low quality. Be sure to record in a well-lit area though this can be challenging at the best of times. Investing in a simple lighting kit will give your videos a professional consistency no matter when or where you’re filming. Canadian Studio Pro Video Lighting Kit $109.00 on Amazon.


5. Lock the exposure and focus.

AE/AF Lock

Locking the exposure and focus is one of the last things to do before hitting record. It’s important to set the AE/AF lock so that the camera app doesn’t try to auto-focus or auto-expose in the middle of filming. Applying the lock is easy! After you have mounted your camera on a tripod, point it at your subject and tap the screen to focus. A yellow box has now has appeared on your subject. Hold your thumb on the yellow box and press down, a rectangular yellow box with ‘AE/AF lock’ should have appeared. Now you’re ready to record! 



6. Record good quality audio.

Arguably, more essential than having high-quality video is the need for having high-quality audio. Recent studies have shown that as viewers we tend to be less forgiving of poor sound and more forgiving of bad video. Ideally, you want both audio and video to be great though it’s surprising how many people overlook the importance of having well-recorded audio in their work. The Blair Witch Project is a good example of a film that used conventionally “bad” filming as an effect,  though the story could still be understood because the audio was clear. The video below does an excellent job of demonstrating how bad audio can ruin a video. 

Read 7 CONSIDERATIONS WHEN RECORDING AUDIO FOR AN INTERVIEW. A lot of these concepts work across all types of video production.


Rule of thirds

7. Use the grid.

Be sure to take advantage of the grid function on your iPhone. The grid allows you to work compositionally when setting up your shot. The rule of thirds is a tested and true compositional technique. Have your subject elements on the lines of the grid or where the lines intersect. 

Here’s a quick look at the ‘Rule Of Thirds.'

Rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds is the compositional process of dividing a frame up into nine imaginary blocks. These blocks act as points of reference when framing a shot. When placing your subject in the frame, it (generally) looks best to arrange your subject 1/3 or 2/3 up or across from the frame. With the rule of thirds, you want to avoid putting the subject in the middle block. For instance, when taking a portrait-style shot the main point of interest tends to be 1/3 of the way down the frame. Framing the eyes of your subject on the 1/3 line down proves to be an aesthetically pleasing shot! There are always exceptions, but having a solid understanding of the rule of thirds is a great place to start before rules with creative license. 

Let me show you how to enable the grid. It’s super easy. 






A) Go into your settings app.




















B) Scroll down to ‘Photos & Camera’ and tap.

photos and camera








































8. Keep your battery topped off. 


A charged iPhone might seem obvious, but don’t overestimate the power of your battery! (I’m sure most of you don’t). If there is one way to kill a battery, it’s by taking very high-quality video for long durations of time. Keep an extra charger in your video bag at all times. Having a permanent backup charger that stays with your video gear is a surefire way to make sure you’ll always be able to top up. Unfortunately, we’ll need another solution as power outlets are scarce or in very inconvenient locations when filming. 

External battery packs are the answer. There are tons of these devices on the market, and they range from approximately $25 - $80 CAD. I recommend looking into the Aukey 2000mAh. It’s $40 on Amazon and provides approx. 7.5 full charges of your iPhone before it too needs a charge. 


9. Edit video on your computer. 

Once you’ve shot all the video, you need to transfer the video files to your computer and edit there. There is a bunch of free editing software out there. The most popular (for Mac users) would be iMovie, which comes stock on all Apple computers. If you’re a PC, you can check out the highly praised free video editor ‘Lightworks.' There are a few reasons why editing on a computer is a good practice vs. editing within the iPhone. 

-    The processing power from a desktop or laptop computer can handle the video with ease. 
-    It’s inspiring to see your video on a larger screen in its full high-resolution wonder. 
-    Seeing your footage on a larger screen gives you a fresh perspective and helps to optimize your workflow when all your tools are within sight. 

“Studies have been done proving that a bigger monitor saves you time and boosts productivity. ‘According to the researchers' findings, folks who use a single 24" display are 52% quicker at tasks like editing documents and tossing numbers between spreadsheets than those who use a single 18" display."

All in all, the researchers worked out that larger monitors can save up to 2.5 hours to eight hours of non-stop work. That said, the study assumed users had to carry out tasks that benefit from the extra breathing room” (Source; Tech Report)


10. Put your phone in ‘Do Not Disturb’ or Airplane Mode.

It’s so easy to forget! But make it a part of your ‘things to do before hitting record’ checklist. Save yourself the frustration and embarrassment of ruining a good take with a phone call or text. 



Rise of the iPhone filmmaker

The doors are wide open for iPhone filmmakers. Accessibility of features on the iPhone has created an even playing field for both amateur and professional cinematographers. iPhone Film festivals are popping up with every new year and new iPhone. Matt Dresner and Corey Rogers saw this happening back in 2011, and they have been given credit as the first to make the original iPhone film festival. A virtual forum for iPhone filmmakers to submit their creations. Submissions breakdown into different categories: ‘Students,' ‘Fiction,' ‘Non-fiction,' ‘Long-form,' etc. They receive hundreds of submissions a year with judges on the panel from HBO and A&E. 

iPhone movies are not trying to replace or even replicate film. It’s another tool in the filmmaking toolbox. I like to think of it as a unique hybrid between cinematic Hollywood and guerilla style videography. The blend creates a compelling sense of realism. 



 “Nobody thinks anything of a couple of people on the sidewalk on the bus filming with an iPhone,” says Neill Barham, founder of Filmic Pro—the $8 app Baker used to shoot Tangerine. “It works with theatrical films, and it also causes incredible opportunities for documentary film and investigative journalism where you can’t prohibit people from bringing their phone into places.” (Source; Dujour)

Thank you for reading! Please comment with your own experiences using iPhone to make awesome videos and if you enjoyed this post, please share!