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Hoping to get into filmmaking, but don’t have expensive cameras and equipment? Not to worry, because the perfect filmmaking tool is likely already in your pocket. 

iPhone cinematography is on the rise. From independent filmmakers to renowned directors,  everyone agrees that the iPhone offers a high-quality, affordable, and incredibly versatile way to make films. 

If you’re curious about trying it out for yourself, read on to learn how to get started. We’ll cover the tools and apps you might need, camera settings you should know, a few iPhone filming tips, and examples to get you inspired. 

What You Need to Make an iPhone Film

filming
A few accessories can turn your iPhone into a filmmaking powerhouse.

If you’re on a tight budget, you could probably get by with just your iPhone. However, if you have a little bit of money to spend and want to get the best out of your phone, here are a few accessories that will make a massive difference in the overall quality of your film. 

iPhone Film Accessories

External Lenses

Your iPhone camera likely already comes with impressive specifications, but unfortunately, it’s still pretty limited. Luckily, you can purchase external lenses that attach on top of your primary lens to achieve different effects. A must-have is the iPhone anamorphic lens—it’s what will help you achieve that cinematic aspect ratio, horizontal light flares, and the soft oval-shaped bokeh you see on the big screen.

ND Filters

When shooting outside on a bright day, you have little control over things like exposure or shutter speed. For example, you may want to shoot at a low shutter speed to achieve a bit of motion blur in your shots, but the amount of light coming through the lens would make them overexposed. That’s where ND (neutral density) filters come in. Simply attach one over your lens to reduce the amount of light that passes through without affecting the color of the recorded image. 

Gimbal and Tripod

iPhones have a decent built-in stabilizer, but if you’re looking to achieve a butter-smooth recording, it may be a good idea to invest in an iPhone gimbal. It will allow you to keep the phone steady while you walk or even run alongside your subject. For shots that are meant to be completely still or pan smoothly from one side to another, a simple tripod will do the trick. 

Microphones

When you’re shooting subjects up-close, you can use an external on-camera shotgun mic. However, if your subject is standing a bit further away from the phone, you’ll need a hidden lapel mic or a boom mic held above them and just out of the frame. 

Lighting 

When there isn’t a lot of natural light available, you may need to supplement with artificial lighting. This can be an LED panel that attaches to your phone or a set of studio lights that help light an entire space. 

Filming Rig

If you’re using a lot of accessories in your iPhone filmmaking kit, you’ll need something to support them all. An iPhone filming rig is a frame to which you can attach your phone, a shotgun microphone, an LED light, and any other accessories you may be using. Some rigs also have a built-in stabilizer. 

iPhone Filmmaking Apps and Settings 

Your iPhone has a powerful camera, but its native camera app is meant for casual users, rather than filmmakers. Instead, look into getting an iPhone filmmaking app—it will allow you to adjust more settings and give you much more flexibility in achieving the look and feel you want. 

There are many apps out there, but a few of the most popular ones are Pro Camera by Moment, FiLMiC Pro, and ‎ProCam 8. 

Once you’re inside the app and ready to film, play around with the following settings to get the best out of your phone’s camera: 

Resolution

The higher the resolution, the more clear and sharp your video will look. Your camera may already be set to a default resolution, but if not, choose at least 1080p or 4k if that’s an option. 

Frame Rate

The frame rate tells you how many images will fit into each second of video. The golden standard for filmmaking is 24 frames per second, but keep in mind that if you want to add a slow motion effect when editing, you’ll need the iPhone frame rate to be at least 60 frames per second.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed controls how much light enters the lens and, therefore, how sharp or blurry the images are. A slower shutter speed will result in more motion blur. 

A bit of motion blur is necessary if you want your film to resemble how we experience movement in real life. To achieve this, make sure the denominator of your iPhone shutter speed is roughly double your frame rate. Of course, you can break this rule if you’re deliberately trying to capture more or less motion blur for specific cinematic effects. 

ISO

ISO measures your camera’s sensitivity to light. In low light conditions, you can increase it to brighten up the image. However, this lowers the quality of your image. Therefore, you should always aim to keep your ISO as low as possible. Use it in conjunction with shutter speed to find a balance between exposure and image’s quality.

Auto vs. Manual Focus

Auto focus comes in handy when you’re following a moving subject and need them to stay in focus. However, if you’re planning on switching focus in the middle of a shot to achieve a particular effect, you should use manual focus. 

White Balance

Depending on your lighting, the objects in your shot may have a yellow tint to them. This is referred to as color temperature and can’t always be adjusted in the editing stage without sacrificing quality. That’s why most cameras can help adjust the color temperature while you record. 

5 iPhone Filmmaking Tips

1. Shoot a Variety of Shots

There are many ways to capture your subject—you can play around with how close you get to the subject, the angle at which you capture them, what you include in the background and foreground, how you move the camera during the shot, and how you transition between shots. The key to keeping your audience engaged is to include a wide variety of shots and switch between them at a natural pace that helps tell your story. 

2. Pay Attention to Lighting

Good lighting is absolutely crucial to getting high-quality footage. Not only that, but it can also give you much more control over how your shots look and let you create different atmospheres and moods for your scenes. Even if you’re using natural light, pay attention to where it comes from in relation to your subject and how it affects the overall scene. 

3. Get High-Quality Audio 

Your viewers will likely forgive video that’s not perfect, but audio that’s muffled or hard to hear will cost you some points. If you need to record any audio for your film, be sure to use a high-quality microphone. If there are any background sounds that you need to make more prominent to help tell the story, see if you can record them separately and add them in post-production.

4. Take Advantage of Editing 

The editing stage is just as important as the videography itself. It’s where your shots come together to create a cohesive story and where your film comes to life with creative effects, color grading, music, and other effects. Spend some time learning and practicing editing techniques to make the best of your footage and help translate your vision to the screen. 

Software like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro are industry standards, but if you’re just starting out, you can use free software or apps like iMovie to get great results. 

5. Take an iPhone Filmmaking Course

There are plenty of classes available online that will teach you iPhone filmmaking. It’s a good idea to take both general filmmaking classes, as well as ones that specifically cover how to make a film with an iPhone. For example, Skillshare instructor Wayne Sables’ class “iPhone Filmmaking 2021—How to Make Cinematic Films” covers everything we talked about in this article and much more. 

3 iPhone Films to Watch for Inspiration

1. Romance in NYC (2014)

movie poster
Source: imdb
Romance in NYC

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign and shot entirely on an iPhone 6, Tristan Pope’s Romance in NYC follows a couple through everyday life. It’s shot from the perspective of the boyfriend for a very raw and intimate account. Shooting on the iPhone allowed for very creative angles and locations—the film crew could shoot just about anywhere in NYC without blocking off streets or hiring background actors. 

2. Tangerine (2015)

tangerine move poster
Source: imdb
Tangerine

Sean Baker’s Tangerine premiered at Sundance Film Festival and went on to win a handful of awards. Shot with three iPhones, iPhone gimbal stabilizers, anamorphic lenses, and the $15 iPhone film app Filmic Pro, the film tells the story of a transgender prostitute navigating life in L.A. A bit of color-grading and the addition of a digital grain in the editing stage gave the film the same look and feel as a traditional production. 

3. Unsane (2018)

unsane movie poster
Source: imdb
Unsane

Shot in just two weeks, Steven Soderbergh’s is a psychological thriller about a psychiatric ward patient. Soderbergh has been in the industry for over 30 years, yet he has only great things to say about shooting with the iPhone. So much so that High Flying Bird, the next Soderbergh iPhone movie, came out just a year later.

Get Started Today

With just how easy it is to get started with iPhone filmmaking, there’s no excuse not to grab your iPhone and begin shooting today. We can’t wait to see what you’ll create! 

Press Record and Tell Your Story! 

iPhone Filmmaking: Create Cinematic Video With Your Phone