7 Basic Rules of Smartphone Video storytelling

Jeff had discovered a new balm, a miracle balm, a balm that would alleviate pain and suffering. From now on, anyone stung by a bee need not worry, Jeff’s balm was a magical solution, a wonder drug that would instantly heal all bee stings.

Jeff wanted to share his new discovery with the world, mostly with people living in Africa. For eons African bees, overtly aggressive, had caused pain and suffering to hapless victims, Jeff’s balm would alleviate this suffering.

Jeff  had a simple full proof plan; Shoot a video on his smartphone, upload this video on YouTube, sit back and wait. Anyone who has ever experienced a bee sting, would get excited watching his video, and place an order. Jeff knew he was onto something great.

Jeff’s video shooting script was simple, – get stung by a bee, endure the pain, watch his face swell, apply his miracle balm and wow! – the swelling would disappear instantly  – anyone watching this video would marvel, click subscribe or place an order!

Jeff’s plan was straightforward and right on point, what the plan didn’t have was knowledge on how to shoot professional smartphone video that would wow every viewer..

In this article I will share important smartphone video shooting rules, apply this views correctly, and your smartphone video shoots will soar.

Before proceeding, let’s set records straight; – Anyone out there, unlucky enough to have been stung by African bees – Jeff and his wonder balm are a figment of my imagination…Sorry!

The following seven smartphone video shooting rules, are however very real ;-

  1. Know your Audience

  2. Understand the rule of thirds

  3. Use Light creatively

  4. Shoot B – Rolls for your video

  5. Know your video’s Location

  6. Take care of Audio

  7. Practice your camera presence


  1. Know your Audience

What is your message how can you have this message packaged in a smartphone video story?

Every smartphone video shoot, starts with choosing a topic, researching this topic, developing a simple script, shooting, editing and uploading. This process is all about your audience, how do they think? how do they feel? what in your video will excite them?

To shoot an interesting video, create a story arc – introduce your character or characters, show their pain, – what obstacle stands in their way to a happy future? What resolution does your video offer? – The underlying message in your video must be – how do you help your hero to overcome the obstacle(s)?

Your smartphone video should appeal to your viewer’s emotions. Do you want them to be happy, excited, nostalgic, sad, angry, resolute, bold, courageous or determined. How will your video evoke these emotions?

The video should inspire action. What action would you like your audience to take? Make a clear call to action, ask them to take the action at the end of your video. Encourage your viewers to engage in a conversation, or share their own stories.

2. Understand the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a basic photography and video making rule. Your smartphone camera has grids, turn on these grids and intersecting lines will appear on your viewfinder.

When shooting your smartphone video, place your subject at the points where the lines intersect. Lay your most important elements along the grid lines.

The rule of thirds will help you avoid placing your subject at the centre of the screen, preventing your video’s horizon from splitting in half. The elements in your video will be more interesting.


3. Use Light creatively

Light, light, light, – Light will make or break your smartphone video. Creative use of light is a skill. Professional filmmakers and video makers have perfected the art of using light correctly. You too must perfect this important rule.

The sun is your best source of light, if you know how to work with it. Shooting your smartphone video during the day is more challenging than shooting that same video during early morning or late evening when the sun’s rays are softer.

Light can either be “soft” – like light from open laced window, or like light on a cloudy day, light can also be “harsh” – like bright noon day sunlight, or it can be “flat” – like warm studio lights.

Using artificial lights indoors will help you light up your subject where you want the light to be, for example, it may be on your subjects face or body.

Avoid overhead lights, they cast shadows on your subject.To get “flat” light effect,

place two light sources on  either sides of your smartphone camera, you can also place your light  directly in front or at the back of your smartphone camera.

4. Shoot B – Rolls for your video

Have you watched a static video, one where the smartphone camera is placed in one place and all action in the video is captured from this single camera? I bet you didn’t stick around long enough to watch the video’s end.

B – Rolls are extra footage of your elements and subject shot from different perspectives, that supplement your main shots. B – Roll introduce new aspects of interest in your smartphone video.

Use foreground, background  and your video’s environment to shoot as much B-Roll footage as possible. Shoot any other footage that relates to your message, this extra footage will be inserted in your main video during editing.

B – Rolls are a library of video footage shot over time that can be inserted in your smartphone video to make it more interesting Create more interest in your Outdoor videos with diverse B- Rolls.

   5. Know your video’s Location

Your video’s background is crucial to your video,  a solid coloured background when shooting an indoor video looks more professional, use a wall, a large coloured sheet, a bed sheet to create a clean solid background.

Your subject should stand  a few feet away from the backdrop, to avoid casting shadows in the video.

When shooting outdoors, try to have an uncluttered background. Cluttered background causes distraction to your viewer. For example, when shooting in a street, try to find a quiet activity free area where you can use the street’s natural solid background that is less distracting.

Avoid shooting your smartphone video in front of a reflective surface like windows or mirrors.

When shooting indoors, Let the light from the window fall on the face of your subject.

6. Take care of Audio

Audio matters; clear crisp audio recording will speak volumes about the professionalism of your video. Your inbuilt smartphone mic is not powerful enough to record clear audio.

Invest in good microphones. If you are shooting an outdoor video, you need an excellent shotgun mic one that has  a tight pickup area reducing surrounding sounds and is capable of delivering clear and crisp directional audio.

Lavalier Mics are discrete and can be worn by your subject on the lapel of their clothes, make sure your subjects wears it  as close to their mouth as possible. Using pop filters will help you eliminate blips and crackles in your audio.

When shooting your video be conscious of all background noises, your mic will pick up all background noises, strive to eliminate as much background noise as possible.


         7. Practice your camera presence

Are you shooting a professional video, where you speak into your smartphone camera? Your camera presence is an important skill that will instill confidence in your viewer.

If you fidget and are nervous, your smartphone video will appear amateurish regardless of whether you know your craft or not. Camera presence is a learned skill. Here is how you can cultivate camera confidence:

  • Maintain the right posture, hold your head high, push back your shoulders, breath in evenly and deeply to relax your body.
  • If you can’t keep your hands still and you don’t know what to do with them, have some props; a mark pen, and white board will give you something to do, and make you appear relaxed in front of the camera.
  • At the beginning of your video smile, people are attracted to happy people, maintain a friendly tone throughout the video.
  • When nervous we all tend to speak fast, consciously slow down your speech when recording, enunciate every word clearly and distinctly, let the sound of your voice come from deep within you.  Speak from your diaphragm and not your throat.
  • Watch videos of yourself and note your mistakes, shoot another video and strive to correct those mistakes. Every skill  gets easier with constant practice, practice to develop your camera presence and confidence.

Wrapping it up

These seven rules are by no means exhaustive,they are guide posts, pointers –  to help direct your smartphone video shoots.

If you have a fully charged smartphone, what are you waiting for, start  shooting.

Practice,  put these rules into practice, it’s the only way that will help you polish and sharpen your smartphone video shooting skills.

Kindly drop your comments below, to share your challenges, experiences or inspirations.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: