It's pretty obvious that one of the reasons cell phone cameras are so popular is they're so convenient. Many people carry their phones everywhere. Few carry their cameras everywhere.
The same is true for video cameras. It's easy to shoot a quick video clip with your cell phone camera; it's not so easy to haul around tons of equipment.
But while cell phone camera technology is constantly improving, cell phone videos are often short, grainy and blurry, discouraging many people from using their "video" setting very often.
It doesn't have to be this way. Here are eight tips to shoot better cell phone videos.
Before you start shooting:
Make sure you're using the highest resolution.
Check your options or settings menu when you're in video camera mode. My Samsung Sync offers two choices: 176 pixels by 144 pixels, or 128 pixels by 96 pixels. Other phones give you a choice between 320-by-240, or 640-by-480. Pick the highest numbers your camera offers. Higher resolution videos eat up more memory, but it's worth it.
Make sure your phone is not set to end the clip automatically after a set period of time.
The Sync offers choices such as 10 seconds, 30 seconds or full memory. If your phone has a full memory option, or something that appears similar, pick that. It will keep the camera recording as long as you want or until the phone's memory fills up. You can always edit it down later.
Check the memory on your phone to make sure you have enough. If you need more, get more.
I had a Nokia 6102i that had a nice camera but had only a few megabytes of memory. I could only record a little more than a minute of video. Many newer phones today have much larger internal memory capacities and are expandable via MicroSD or other cards. If you're a serious cell phone video enthusiast, you can carry several cards and swap them out as needed. That means your phone memory is limited only by your budget and how many cards you can physically carry. If you're not sure whether your phone's memory is expandable, check your manual.
Make sure the lens area is clean.
It's easy to get a fingerprint smudge on the plastic in front of your camera phone lens. You don't want that showing up during your videos, so make sure you wipe the plastic area clean before you begin.
Once you're shooting:
Lighting, lighting, lighting.
It takes a lot of light to produce a good cell phone video picture. You'll find your best shots typically come outdoors on sunny days. Inside, you'll need well-lit rooms with lots of sunshine or bright lamps. It's possible to shoot at night or in dark rooms, but your videos will be much grainier and blurrier.
Get up close and personal with your subjects. Don't use the zoom.
Whether you end up watching your video on your phone or on a computer, the picture is going to be small. Try to avoid making the subjects inside the frame small as well. If you're shooting someone who is talking, hold the phone up fairly close to him or her. Your subject might think it's weird at first, but most people get used to it pretty quickly. The same goes for objects, like cars or buildings. Get up close and fill the frame with your subject. Try to avoid using the camera zoom lens; zooming is usually choppy on a camera phone.
Move the camera as little as possible. If you have to move it, do it slowly.
Once you've started shooting, keep the camera as still as possible to reduce blur. If you do need to pan or move around somehow, do it slowly to reduce blurriness and jerkiness (unless you're moving simply to line up another shot, and you plan on cutting out the movement later during the editing process; then, it doesn't really matter). To keep the camera steady while shooting, try resting your hand or elbow on a flat surface for stability, or leaning against a wall or doorway.
Most importantly, have fun.
Let's be honest. If you're using a cell phone to shoot a video, it's probably not something too terribly serious or important (although there are notable exceptions, such as a car accident or other disaster). So why not have fun? Don't worry too much about things turning out perfectly - it's a camera in a phone, after all. Just enjoy yourself and try your best to make a video that you and your friends will like to watch.