The Beginner’s Guide to Filming with Your Phone or Tablet

Written by the Lenovo Companion App Content Team

Once upon a time, there were two main options for creating DIY videos: carrying around a bulky, low definition camcorder or investing in expensive equipment that took weeks to learn.

Now you can just whip out a pocket-sized device. With today’s advanced camera technology, anyone can take crisp, clean, professional-looking videos. All you really need is a little know-how and a lot of practice—the kind most of us can get as we regularly film family, friends and social media updates.

The Companion team sat down with Lenovo production specialists to get their top tips for making better use of tablet and smartphone cameras. Whether you want to embed a video on your business blog or share your cat’s latest escapades with friends, the following suggestions will help transform your videos from ho-hum to high-quality.

Shoot in Landscape View

Want a super simple way to improve the quality of your videos? Turn that phone on its side. Many people shoot in portrait mode—the same vertical hold you use to check email or take a call. But while still images can be easily rotated, there’s not a widescreen in the world that’ll accommodate vertical videos. Instead, they get squeezed between two huge black bars and become difficult to view on computer monitors and TV screens.

So start by getting into the habit of shooting in horizontal landscape mode. You’ll immediately see a huge improvement in your smartphone and tablet videos.

Use Two Hands

One of the great benefits of the smartphone is its ability to fit snugly between five fingers. Yet you’ll rarely catch a professional videographer (or photographer, for that matter) holding any type of camera with just one hand. That’s because it’s much harder to keep a device from shaking when holding it with one hand

To keep your tablet or phone steady, hold it close to your body with both hands for greater support. Better yet, rest your elbows on a table or lean against a wall for more stabilization.

Be Mindful of How You Move

It’s natural to want to move around the subject you’re shooting—by instinct most of us will follow the cat as it jumps and the kids as they crawl. When moving with the camera is necessary, try to do it in a controlled manner and keep your device steady with fluid motions.

“Sometimes, the best thing you can do is set the camera down and let the subject do the moving,” advises Lenovo Videographer Tarik Laham. “Your video will instantly feel more controlled and professional.”

Does your tablet have a built-in kickstand? Use it. Did you buy a cheap tripod for your smartphone? Get it out of the closet. Keeping your camera at a standstill, when possible, will allow you to capture more lifelike memories and moments. And steer clear of the digital zoom feature, which will pixelate your picture and lower the quality of your video. Instead, you can get a clearer image by tapping the object on your screen on which you want to focus.

Pay Attention to Lighting

Want to frame your company’s CEO in a professional-looking shot for her on-camera interview? You could create your own lighting kit (more on this in a future post). Or you can simply head outside shortly before sunrise or sunset. The pros refer to these times as the “Golden Hour,” when there’s a glorious, golden glow that makes for naturally attractive videos on any high-resolution device.

No matter what time of day you film, always be sure to shoot in even lighting. If half of your group is under shade and the other half is in bright sunlight, it’ll be difficult to get an even exposure. Get everyone and everything, including your smartphone or tablet, under the same canopy of light. 

It’s one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to improve the quality of your videos.

“Don’t throw a bunch of money at shooting videos,” says Lenovo Videographer Chris Uy. “There are so many tutorials and tips available today. If you have a decent camera, there’s really no need to spend a lot more to make them look good.”

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