Mobile Filmmaking 101: Ultimate Guide For Your Smartphone

A back-to-the-basics guide to shooting better videos on your smartphone, covering topics from mobile lenses to audio equipment.

Man shooting a mobile rig with microphone on the beach

Concept > Gear

Over the last decade, filming on a smartphone device has become increasingly popular as the quality has been refined. Although films and short videos have traditionally been made using high-quality mirrorless, DSLR, or other professional-grade camera rigs — the smartphone industry has revolutionized our creative process. Because our smartphones’ camera lenses and in-house applications are so advanced, you can produce quality videos without the need for expensive camera equipment.

If you’re an aspiring beginner with little experience or knowledge of glossary terms, check out our article to learn about mobile filmmaking basics, such as ISO, shutter speed, focus peaking, and more.

But if you understand how manual settings work and want to take your footage to the next level with unique tricks, gear recommendations, or editing apps — read below for our ultimate guide to mobile filmmaking on your smartphone.

Product video shoot with Profoto lights.
Product video shoot with Profoto lights.

1. Adjust Manual Settings

When it comes to crafting captivating films, whether it's on your trusty smartphone or a professional camera, there are a few key elements that you absolutely need to understand: ISO, frame rate, aperture, and shutter speed. These manual settings can shape your footage’s visual aesthetics and overall mood and will take your lackluster-looking phone footage into something much more impressive.

Achieve all the tools you need and more in the Moment Pro Camera App. It’s beyond what your smartphone’s native app provides, and it’s easy to learn. A few basic settings to become familiar with are listed below:

ISO - ISO values are typically represented as numbers, such as ISO 100, ISO 400, or ISO 3200. A lower ISO, such as ISO 100, is less light-sensitive and is commonly used in well-lit environments or when a filmmaker wants to achieve a clean and noise-free image. However, it may require more light or longer exposure times to achieve proper exposure.

Shutter Speed - In filmmaking, shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, such as 1/60, 1/120, or 1/1000. A faster shutter speed, such as 1/1000, captures less light and freezes motion, resulting in sharper images with minimal motion blur. This is ideal for capturing fast-paced action sequences or creating a dramatic effect.

Frame Rate - The most common frame rates in video production are 24 and 30 frames per second (fps). A higher frame rate, such as 60 or 120 fps, can result in a smooth slow-motion sequence. Choosing the appropriate frame rate depends on the desired visual effect and the intended use of the video. A lower frame rate, like 24 fps, is often preferred for its cinematic look. It is commonly used in narrative films and provides a slightly more "filmic" and natural motion.

Aperture - In filmmaking, the aperture is measured in f-numbers or f-stops, such as f/2.8, f/4, or f/16. A lower f-number, like f/2.8, indicates a broader aperture opening, allowing more light to enter the lens. This results in a shallow depth of field, where the subject appears sharply focused while the background is blurred.

But there’s so much more. We have a comprehensive Moment-produced online course detailing these manual settings, basic tricks, and techniques that will be your one-stop shop for everything you need here.

Moment Pro Camera App
Moment Pro Camera App

2. Find a Way To Stabilize Your Camera

Smartphones have become powerhouses in packing advanced features into their compact size, making them remarkable tools for cinematography. However, their small form factor makes them susceptible to camera shake, especially during moving shots. This is where gimbals play a crucial role by providing stability and enabling filmmakers to capture smooth, professional-looking footage. Using a smartphone gimbal, you can elevate your videos from good to great and nail the professional vibe.

Although new gimbals are introduced every year, the advancements moving forward are expected to be incremental compared to the exceptional features already present in the top smartphone gimbals available today.

After extensively testing numerous gimbals, it became evident that only a handful of brands consistently deliver the hardware and software quality required for reliable shooting. Among these options are the highly acclaimed DJI Osmo Mobile 6 and the Zhiyun Smooth 5S. Read more about the details of our favorite smartphone gimbals here.

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Osmo Mobile 6


Osmo Mobile 6 is an intelligent smartphone stabilizer packed with creative features. It's not only compact and easily foldable to fit in your palm, but also launches automatically once unfolded to cap...

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Mia shooting with the Osmo Mt.obile 6 in low light.
Mia shooting with the Osmo Mt.obile 6 in low light.

3. Lenses For Mobile Phones

Adding high-quality mobile lenses to your smartphone arsenal can significantly elevate the visual capabilities of your films. Twist, and voila — better and even more unique-looking footage with real glass, no A.I. tricks.

We offer M-Series lenses (for phones made before 2022) and T-Series lenses (newer than 2022). Our T-Series is ideal for the new generation of Apple or Android phones, but our M-Series is still a wonderful choice for older devices. We'll continue to make M-Series drop-in mounts for as long as they work, but T-Series is the new standard.

Our fan-favorite mobile Anamorphic lens is perfect for serious mobile creators wanting to create cinematic scenes similar to Blockbuster hits. It offers those classic black bars, a profound depth of field, and a smooth, almost buttery-like picture that’s difficult to replicate in post-production.

While our lenses may be priced at a premium compared to competitors, their outstanding optical performance, build quality, and durability make them a worthwhile investment for serious mobile filmmakers.

Moment Anamorphic Lens for better mobile footage.
Moment Anamorphic Lens for better mobile footage.
Photo By @remainhungry on the Fisheye 14mm Lens
Photo By @remainhungry on the Fisheye 14mm Lens

4. Mobile Filters

Filters play a crucial role in filmmaking by modifying the light entering the camera lens, resulting in various artistic effects and practical advantages. They are essential for controlling exposure, enhancing colors, reducing glare, and achieving specific visual aesthetics. Regarding mobile filmmaking, filters remain just as important for smartphone creators who aspire to capture high-quality videos.

One particular filter that mobile creators can significantly benefit from is the Variable Neutral Density (VND) filter. The VND filter is a versatile tool that allows users to adjust the amount of light entering the lens by rotating the filter ring, thereby enabling precise control over exposure settings. This filter is particularly valuable when shooting videos with a smartphone. By incorporating a VND filter, mobile creators can overcome this limitation and achieve more balanced and professional-looking footage, even in challenging lighting conditions.

CPL filters are indispensable for outdoor scenes, where managing reflections and enhancing the sky's color are crucial. By rotating the CPL filter, filmmakers can control the amount of polarization, reducing glare on water and glass, enriching the blues of the sky, and ensuring that the clouds pop, thus adding depth and drama to the shot.

On the other hand, color filters open a realm of creative possibilities, allowing filmmakers to set the mood and tone of scenes directly in-camera. These filters can simulate different times of the day — for instance, a blue filter can create a cold, moonlit night scene, while an orange filter can mimic the warm glow of sunset. The advantage of using these filters lies in their ability to offer real-time feedback and reduce the need for extensive color grading in post-production, thereby preserving the natural interaction of light and color.

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Variable ND Filters - 67mm / 2-5


We’ve shot with a lot of Variable ND filters. They were either too expensive or the quality wasn’t there. None of them hit the sweet spot on affordability, functionality, and quality… so we made our o...

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Moment VND filter on an iPhone.
Moment VND filter on an iPhone.

5. Lighting 101

When scheduling outdoor shoots, selecting the optimal time of day is crucial to capture the best natural light. The harsh midday sun often produces overly bright, stark lighting that can flatten your scene, leading to washed-out visuals with excessive white. To avoid this, professional filmmakers prefer shooting during the "golden hour" or "blue hour."

Golden hour occurs shortly after sunrise and just before sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, casting a warm, soft light that adds a golden glow to your footage, enhancing skin tones and landscapes beautifully. Conversely, the blue hour, which occurs just before sunrise or after sunset, offers a cooler, bluish light. This time is ideal for capturing the serene ambiance of twilight, with still enough light to avoid grainy footage but with a distinctively moody and ethereal quality.

While I’m a fan of natural light, learning the fundamentals of external light sources and how they can improve your footage during low-light scenarios, studio interviews, or talking heads is vital.

Three-point lighting is one of the most essential lighting must-knows for a video project. If you're in a scenario where natural light isn't cutting it, master this classic setup to achieve a balanced and professional look:

  • Key Light: This is your main light, usually placed on one side of the camera, creating shadows on the other side of the subject. It should be the brightest of the three to highlight the subject's form and dimension.
  • Fill Light: Positioned on the opposite side of the key light, it helps soften and reduce the shadows created by the key light without overpowering them. This light is usually less intense.
  • Back Light: Placed behind the subject, facing towards the camera, the backlight helps separate the subject from the background, adding depth and dimension to the shot.

Use reflectors or bounce boards to redirect light onto your subject or scene. This is particularly useful for filling in shadows lightly without introducing another light source; the gold-colored ones are perfect or have a more editorial feel.

Check out an article by our beloved creator, Audre Larrow, detailing which studio lights are best for your project, spanning both beginner and high-end picks.

The LumeCube Panel Mini light for iPhone.
The LumeCube Panel Mini light for iPhone.

6. Enhancing Audio for Your Smartphone

Audio is one of the most important components of a good short film or video. While smartphones have built-in microphones, they often struggle to capture clear, professional-grade sound. Clear and crisp audio is crucial as it engages the audience, conveys emotions, and enhances the overall storytelling. Poor audio distracts viewers and diminishes the impact of even the most visually stunning scenes.

  • Shotgun Mics: Ideal for capturing sound from a specific direction while minimizing background noise. These are perfect for dialogue and are commonly mounted on booms or directly on cameras.
  • Lavalier Mics: Small and clip-on, these mics are great for interviews and documentaries as they can be discreetly attached to a person's clothing, allowing for hands-free operation.
  • Condenser Mics: Known for their sensitivity and ability to capture a wide range of frequencies, these are excellent for studio settings and capturing ambient sounds.

When you're out there shooting your next film, remember that capturing great audio isn't just about having the right gear — it's about being tuned into every sound. Always wear headphones while recording, it's like having a superpower where you can hear every detail, from the softest whispers to loud, unexpected noises. And before you press record, take a moment to listen to your surroundings. Whether it's the rustling leaves or a distant siren, deciding whether these sounds add to the scene or distract will make a huge difference. If you’re indoors, try hanging up some blankets to soften echoes; it’s a simple (and aoffrdoable) trick that can dramatically clean up your audio.

When it comes to the equipment, big cameras and mobile devices each have their quirks. Big cameras come with XLR inputs that hook up to professional mics, giving you lots of control over the audio. You can fine-tune everything to capture sound just the way you want. On the other hand, shooting with a phone? You'll likely need adapters for external mics, and the settings won’t be as flexible. But don't let that stop you! A good editing app can work wonders in post-production, helping you balance and perfect the audio, like the Moment Pro Camera App.

Investing in dedicated audio gear is highly recommended to elevate your mobile filmmaking, like the JOBY Wavo Plus. This compact and affordable shotgun microphone attaches directly to your phone and provides super crisp sound, making it easy to operate with no added steps or apps.

The JOBY WAVO Plus Mic
The JOBY WAVO Plus Mic
The JOBY WAVO Plus Mic
The JOBY WAVO Plus Mic

7. Editing Apps

Just because you're shooting mobile footage doesn't necessarily mean you need to edit them on your phone. Many TikTok and YouTube creators opt to edit their timelines in desktop software because it allows for more detailed control over transitions and effects than what's typically available on mobile apps. Nevertheless, we do recommend a few mobile options for good video editing:

  • Adobe Premiere Rush is great for quick and efficient video edits on the fly while still offering advanced features. It offers a simplified version of Adobe’s professional software, which is great if you'd rather not invest in the larger software. It supports multi-track editing, and you can easily share videos across social platforms. It’s particularly useful for those already using Adobe Creative Cloud, as it integrates seamlessly with other Adobe apps.
  • For iOS users, iMovie is a great starting point due to its user-friendly interface and integration with Apple’s ecosystem. It is likely the first software many beginner filmmakers use. iMovie offers a variety of templates and themes, making video editing quick and straightforward. It's especially good for those who want to create polished content without a steep learning curve. It hosts everything you need if you're looking for something more simple and affordable.
  • CapCut is all the rave these days — especially for short-form creators. It's as easy as possible; you can get creative with in-house templates or filters. It's less serious than the above options, but its auto-syncing software is perfect for newbies who want the software to do most of the work for them.

The truth is, there's a lot to learn about mobile editing. It’s a skill best learned firsthand from a professional guiding you through their project. Editing can often present surprises, sometimes prompting a reshoot or script adjustments if the outcome doesn’t match your vision. To truly understand how to master impactful editing techniques and learn professional-level tricks that save time, we offer a wide range of excellent online courses produced by Moment. These courses provide step-by-step guidance from real-life creators, giving you the insights and skills needed to enhance your editing skills.

Shooting on the phone with a gimbal and tube light.
Shooting on the phone with a gimbal and tube light.

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