Because of an interesting question I got on the Video Marketing Mastery website the other day, I made this video for you with a camera I hardly ever use for my weekly videos: the iPhone.

When you watch the video you’ll discover immediately why I had to use this camera instead of the one I use 99% of the time.

But I thought you might find it interesting to know how I made the picture look the way it normally does in a controlled shoot.

“But, Steve”, I hear you say, “I’ve see your iPhone shoots and they look OK. Why are you making such a big deal out of this one?’

Good question! And the answer has to do with the factor of Expectation.

When you see a video that was shot with the iPhone, your expectation of quality is much different (lower) than when you see a “studio” or more controlled shoot. And when you see them side-by-each, the contrast can be startling.

So because I needed to find a way to make the image look the way it usually does, and for that, some tweaking was in order.

The tweaking came in resolution, chroma and brightness. These seemed to be the major differences between my pro-sumer camera and the iPhone in the real world.

The first time I shot this I shot it at 720p. This introduced a lot of unwanted grain into the picture and to my eye was completely unacceptable. So I selected 1080p. That helped, but didn’t get me all the way there because the capture rate was too low at 24.0mbit/sec. So I increased the capture rate of the camera to 32mbit/sec.

All of this was done using FiLMiC Pro, a very inexpensive app for the iPhone that gives you lots of control over the image. There are similar apps for Android and Windows phones.

So much for the image capture part. What about audio? Well, I’ve told you previously that if you are within arm’s length of the camera that you should be able to use the iPhone’s built-in microphone. So that’s what I did. You tell me if it sounds OK to you.

Partially because the lighting was so rich (I used the Ultimate Lighting Hack technique I’ve showed you previously) the image was color-rich, so I used a filter in Final Cut Pro X that reduces the amount of color in the shot by just enough to make skin tones look more natural. Reduce it by about 20%.

The image was still a little dark, so I used another filter in FCPX to increase the brightness by about 20%. This was just enough to raise the overall level without blowing out the image on the monitor screen. But here we see the limitation of the iPhone at play. There isn’t enough depth of image to raise the level much more than that because then the whole picture starts to blow out.

Here’s the thing: All editing programs give you this level of control over the image. These are simple, basic things anyone can do to make the image look relatively “Pro”.

After this editing piece was done, I inserted some text to use for annotations because I dislike the way YouTube makes annotations look, added some music, the opening and closing and that was it.

You might think that’s a bit of work for a 3 minute video, but if you want to give your audience a good experience, it seems like a fair trade-off to me. After all, shooting with the iPhone is much, much easier than with most video cameras.

OK. Now you can see how this came out:

    9 replies to "How to give your camera phone a “Pro” look with these 3 simple tweaks"

    • Mark Harmer

      Hi Steve,

      Great tips. And nice to see you using an XHA1 with the w/a lens. That’s the one I use too – I love these cameras as they’re so easy to use and have two of them.

      I’d love it if you have any stuff on how to get things down to a simple message when your client wants to throw everything (and the kitchen sink!) into a video – so more about the message than the technology.

      • Steve

        Thanks, Mark. It’s funny you should bring that up. Info on working with clients is coming very soon.

        For now, just let your client know that because video unfolds over time, it’s harder to put lots of ideas in the video and make them stick. Better to have one great unforgettable idea than 42 mediocre ideas that no one remembers!

        • Mark Harmer

          Thanks, Steve, that sounds great! In my experience you need to be a mix of consultant, marketing guru, technical expert, consellor…etc…etc! I like the good, simple way you present things (and I know that what looks simple often looks that way because of a lot of thought and knowledge).

          I have one Datavideo DN-60 that sits on the top of my XHA1 and uses a CF card that records about 2 hours of footage in one go (I always run a tape too). But it’s amazingly quick to use – you can pull 2 hours of stuff off the card in about two minutes. However, I really like that you have tapes for archive purposes as that’s a real bonus that we’ve now lost by going to solid-state memory. You never know when you need to go back to them and it’s a real bonus not to have to fill your hard drive with files permanently.

    • Kim

      Hi Steve – thanks for all your great videos. I see in the XHA1, you said it uses tapes? How do you get that onto the computer in this digital world?

      • Steve

        I know. It’s so hard because nearly every time I grab the end of the tape, it sticks to my fingers instead of going into that little USB port 🙂

        Seriously though, firewire works and Final Cut Pro X controls the camera all the way through. You get to watch the video as it plays across the screen and decide how much or how little you want to bring in. Remember, it is digital tape, and I think more secure than a hard drive, which WILL fail. It’s only a question of when.

    • Paul Clifford (@PaulAlanClif)

      The sound IS a little echoey. Not nearly as bad as most iPhone videos, but I do have a cheap solution. On Amazon, there’s an iPhone quad mini (TRRS) to XLR cable you can buy for around $30 ( It’s a little much for a one-off test, but it works like a charm for a dynamic mic (or a wireless one with XLR out) and is worth the $ if you’re doing a bunch of iPhone videos.

      • Steve

        Absolutely, Paul, thanks! I do have a cable just like that one, but chose not to use it for this video. I actually did want to see what people would notice sans microphone. And I think, like you, that there is quite a noticeable difference. You should have heard it before I jacked up the bass. LOL.

    • Teena

      Hi Steve, video looks and sounds great to me (but then I’m not a professional at all 🙂

      I’m getting into using my iPhone to make videos, but when I turn it sideways to record myself, I constantly forget to LOOK at the camera “dot” – and I look at the centre of the iPhone instead. When the video is viewed, I am looking off to the side — d’oh.

      Any tips on how to capture myself on iPhone video and forcing myself to look at the little camera on the end of the sideways phone every time? Or is it going to be a whack on the side of the head or a rolled up newspaper to train me? 🙂

      • Steve

        Actually, Jaeny Baek has the coolest little technique I’ve ever seen. We’re going to demonstrate it in a couple of weeks. You tape a photo of a friend over the lens. Hard to miss it then. Will show you the details soon.

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