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How To Shoot Outdoor Video On A Smartphone


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Saraann Camacho



Welcome to the world of smartphone videography! With the advancement of technology, shooting high-quality videos is no longer limited to professional cameras and expensive gear. Nowadays, smartphones are equipped with powerful cameras that can capture stunning videos right in the palm of your hand. Whether you’re a vlogger, content creator, or simply want to document precious moments, shooting outdoor videos on a smartphone can yield impressive results.


In this article, we will explore the various techniques and considerations to help you shoot outstanding outdoor videos on your smartphone. From choosing the right smartphone to mastering manual settings, we will cover everything you need to know to elevate your smartphone videography game.


But why shoot outdoor videos? The great outdoors offers a plethora of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant colors, and natural lighting conditions that can add depth and beauty to your videos. Whether you’re capturing a scenic hike, a city skyline at sunset, or a bustling street market, outdoor environments provide endless opportunities for captivating visuals.


Furthermore, shooting outdoor videos on a smartphone offers flexibility and convenience. You can easily carry your smartphone in your pocket or bag, allowing you to capture spontaneous moments without the need for bulky equipment. Plus, smartphones provide a familiar and user-friendly interface, making it accessible for both amateurs and professionals alike.


However, shooting outstanding outdoor videos on a smartphone requires more than just pointing and shooting. It involves understanding the capabilities of your smartphone, optimizing lighting conditions, mastering manual settings, capturing high-quality audio, and applying effective editing techniques. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you’ll be on your way to creating professional-looking videos that will captivate your audience.


Are you ready to embark on your smartphone videography journey? Let’s dive into the world of shooting outdoor videos on a smartphone!


Choosing the Right Smartphone

When it comes to shooting outdoor videos on a smartphone, having the right device can make a significant difference in the quality of your footage. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a smartphone for videography:

  1. Camera Quality: Look for smartphones that boast high-resolution cameras with advanced features such as optical image stabilization (OIS) and a wide aperture lens. These features help in capturing clear and sharp videos, even in challenging lighting conditions.
  2. Image Stabilization: OIS or electronic image stabilization (EIS) can compensate for shaky hands and vibrations while recording videos. This feature ensures smooth and stable footage, which is essential for professional-looking videos.
  3. Manual Controls: For optimal control over your video settings, look for a smartphone that offers manual controls. This allows you to adjust parameters such as ISO, shutter speed, and white balance, giving you more creative freedom and allowing you to adapt to different lighting situations.
  4. Storage Capacity: Shooting high-resolution videos can quickly consume storage space. Ensure that the smartphone you choose has ample storage capacity or the option to expand it with a microSD card.
  5. Battery Life: Outdoor shooting sessions can be time-consuming. It’s crucial to have a smartphone with a long battery life to ensure that you can capture all the footage you need without running out of power.
  6. Water and Dust Resistance: Shooting outdoors exposes your smartphone to various elements, including rain, dust, and dirt. Consider a smartphone that offers water and dust resistance to protect your device during outdoor filming.
  7. Compatibility with Accessories: Depending on your requirements, consider if the smartphone is compatible with external accessories such as gimbals, external microphones, or filters. These accessories can further enhance the quality of your outdoor videos.

Keep in mind that while flagship smartphones often offer the best camera quality and advanced features, there are also mid-range options that can deliver impressive results. Research and read reviews to find a smartphone that suits your budget and meets your videography needs.


Remember, the camera is just one aspect of the smartphone. Consider other factors such as the overall performance, user interface, and durability of the device. It’s important to choose a smartphone that you feel comfortable using and that can handle the demands of outdoor videography.


Now that you know what to look for in a smartphone, let’s move on to understanding lighting conditions and how they can impact your outdoor videos.


Understanding Lighting Conditions

Lighting plays a crucial role in the visual quality of your outdoor videos. Understanding different lighting conditions can help you make informed decisions when capturing footage. Here are some common lighting conditions and tips on how to work with them:

  1. Golden Hour: The golden hour refers to the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the sunlight is soft and warm. This lighting condition creates a beautiful, golden glow and long shadows, resulting in a cinematic and visually pleasing aesthetic. Take advantage of the golden hour by shooting your outdoor videos during this time to achieve stunning and dramatic visuals.
  2. Harsh Sunlight: Direct sunlight, especially during midday, can be challenging to work with as it creates harsh shadows and high contrast. To mitigate this, find shaded areas or use a diffuser to soften the harsh light. You can also position your subject so that they are partially shaded or utilize the camera’s exposure compensation to balance the exposure.
  3. Overcast Sky: Cloudy or overcast skies provide diffused lighting, which can be beneficial for shooting outdoor videos. The soft and even lighting eliminates harsh shadows and reduces contrast, resulting in a more balanced exposure. However, be mindful of the potential lack of vibrancy and saturation in the overall scene. Consider adjusting the color saturation in post-processing to add more punch to your footage.
  4. Backlighting: When your subject is positioned between you and a strong light source, such as the sun, it creates a backlighting situation. While backlighting can create a beautiful halo effect, it can also result in silhouettes and underexposed subjects. To overcome this, use fill lighting, such as reflectors or an external light source, to illuminate your subject’s face or apply exposure compensation to properly expose for the subject.
  5. Mixed Lighting: In outdoor environments, you may encounter situations where there is a mix of natural and artificial light sources. This can pose challenges in white balance and color consistency. To address this, consider shooting in RAW format for more flexibility in post-processing, or manually adjust the white balance settings on your smartphone. Remember to maintain consistency throughout your footage.

Mastering lighting conditions takes practice and observation. Take the time to study how light behaves in different outdoor settings and experiment with different techniques to achieve the desired look. Remember, lighting can dramatically transform the mood and atmosphere of your videos, so make it your priority to harness the power of light in your outdoor videography.


Now that you understand lighting conditions, let’s move on to exploring manual settings and how they can elevate your outdoor videos.


Using Manual Settings

Most smartphones nowadays offer manual controls that allow you to fine-tune the camera settings for optimal video capture. By mastering these manual settings, you can have greater control over the exposure, focus, and overall look of your outdoor videos. Here are the key settings to explore:

  1. ISO: ISO determines the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light. In outdoor situations, keep the ISO as low as possible to minimize noise and preserve detail in your footage. Increase the ISO only when shooting in low-light conditions, but be cautious of introducing grain or digital noise.
  2. Shutter Speed: Shutter speed controls the amount of time the camera sensor collects light. For outdoor videos, aim for a fast shutter speed to capture moving subjects with minimal motion blur. However, if you want to introduce creative effects like motion blur for waterfalls or flowing traffic, experiment with slower shutter speeds.
  3. White Balance: White balance determines the overall color tone of your footage. Different lighting conditions may have different color temperatures. Adjust the white balance manually or use the smartphone’s auto white balance mode to ensure accurate colors. If shooting in mixed lighting, it’s best to set a custom white balance or shoot in RAW format for greater flexibility during post-processing.
  4. Exposure Compensation: Exposure compensation allows you to adjust the exposure of the scene. Use this setting to compensate for extreme lighting conditions or to achieve a desired look. Increase the exposure compensation for darker scenes and decrease it for brighter scenes to achieve balanced exposure.
  5. Focus: While smartphones generally have reliable autofocus systems, manual focus can give you more control over the sharpness and depth of field in your videos. Experiment with manual focus to ensure the subject is in focus and consider using focus peaking if your smartphone supports it.

Explore your smartphone’s camera settings to locate the manual controls and experiment with different settings to understand their impact on your footage. It’s recommended to shoot in the highest quality video mode available on your smartphone, such as 4K or 1080p at 60fps, to capture the most detail.


However, keep in mind that using manual settings requires careful attention and adjustments depending on the changing lighting conditions. Monitoring the exposure through the viewfinder or the smartphone’s histogram can help ensure proper exposure levels.


By using manual settings effectively, you can take full control of your smartphone’s camera and customize the look and feel of your outdoor videos. But shooting stable footage is equally important, so let’s explore techniques for stabilizing your shots in the next section.


Stabilizing the Shot

When shooting outdoor videos on a smartphone, maintaining a stable shot is essential to capture smooth and professional-looking footage. Fortunately, there are several techniques and accessories available to help stabilize your shots:

  1. Hold the Smartphone Properly: Start by holding your smartphone with both hands, gripping it securely. Keep your elbows close to your body to provide additional stability. This simple technique can significantly reduce camera shake and ensure a steadier shot.
  2. Use Built-in Stabilization: Many smartphones come equipped with built-in stabilization features like optical image stabilization (OIS) or electronic image stabilization (EIS). Enable this feature in your smartphone’s camera settings to minimize handheld shake and produce smoother footage.
  3. Invest in a Smartphone Gimbal: A smartphone gimbal is a handheld device that uses motorized stabilization to counterbalance movement. It provides incredibly smooth and stable footage, even when walking or running. Consider investing in a smartphone gimbal for professional-grade stabilization and cinematic shots.
  4. Utilize Tripods or Mounts: If you plan to shoot stationary shots or want to set up your smartphone in a specific location, using a tripod or smartphone mount will provide stable support. These accessories allow you to position your smartphone at the desired angle and eliminate any unwanted camera movements.
  5. Try the “Panning” Technique: Panning is a technique where you rotate the camera horizontally to follow a moving subject. To achieve smooth panning shots, ensure that your movements are slow, steady, and fluid. This technique adds a professional touch to your outdoor videos and can be enhanced further with a gimbal.
  6. Take Advantage of Natural Stabilization: Look for stable surfaces in your surroundings to rest your smartphone or lean it against. This can include walls, rocks, or any other sturdy objects. Utilizing these natural stabilizers helps reduce camera shake and can come in handy when a tripod or gimbal is unavailable.

Remember to practice and experiment with different stabilization techniques to find what works best for your shooting style and the look you want to achieve. Each technique has its advantages and limitations, so it’s essential to understand how to apply them effectively.


By stabilizing your shots, you ensure that the focus is on the content itself and not the distraction of shaky footage. Now that you have stable shots, it’s time to focus on framing and composition techniques in the next section.


Framing and Composition Techniques

The way you frame and compose your shots can have a significant impact on the overall visual appeal of your outdoor videos. Thoughtful framing and composition can help guide the viewer’s attention, tell a story, and create a visually pleasing and engaging experience. Here are some framing and composition techniques to consider:

  1. Rule of Thirds: The rule of thirds divides the frame into a 3×3 grid. Positioning your subject along the intersecting lines or at the points of intersection creates a visually balanced and appealing composition. Many smartphones have an option to display the rule of thirds grid, making it easier to compose your shots.
  2. Leading Lines: Utilize elements in your scene, such as roads, paths, or natural formations, to create leading lines that guide the viewer’s eyes towards the main subject. This technique adds depth and visual interest to your outdoor videos. Experiment with different angles and positions to find the most compelling leading lines.
  3. Foreground Elements: Incorporating foreground elements in your composition can add depth and create a sense of scale to your outdoor videos. Look for interesting objects, natural elements, or architectural elements that can serve as foreground subjects and enhance the overall composition.
  4. Use of Frames: Frames within frames can add layers to your composition and create a frame within the frame effect. This could be arches, windows, or any other element that surrounds your subject and draws attention to it. Experiment with different framing elements to add visual interest to your outdoor videos.
  5. Consider Symmetry and Balance: Symmetry and balance in your composition can create a visually pleasing and harmonious effect. Look for natural or man-made elements that offer symmetrical lines, patterns, or reflections. Center your subject or key elements in the frame to emphasize the symmetry and create a balanced composition.
  6. Dynamic Angles and Perspectives: Experiment with different angles and perspectives to add a dynamic and unique look to your outdoor videos. Get down low for a low-angle shot, climb higher for a high-angle shot, or try unusual vantage points to provide a fresh perspective.
  7. Negative Space: Negative space refers to the empty or open areas in your shot. Utilize negative space strategically to create a sense of simplicity, emphasize your subject, or add a dramatic effect. Give your subject breathing room and allow the viewer’s eyes to rest and focus.

Remember, these framing and composition techniques can be used individually or in combination to create visually captivating outdoor videos. Practice and experimentation are key to refine your skills and develop a unique style and eye for composition.


Now that we have covered framing and composition techniques, let’s explore capturing high-quality audio, which is an essential element in creating engaging outdoor videos.


Capturing High-Quality Audio

When shooting outdoor videos, capturing high-quality audio is just as important as capturing stunning visuals. Good audio enhances the viewer’s experience, immerses them in the environment, and maintains their engagement. Here are some tips for capturing high-quality audio with your smartphone:

  1. Minimize Background Noise: Find a quiet location to shoot your outdoor videos, away from busy roads, crowds, or other sources of noise. If it’s not possible to avoid background noise entirely, consider using a directional microphone or windscreen to minimize unwanted sounds.
  2. Use an External Microphone: To significantly improve audio quality, consider investing in an external microphone that is compatible with your smartphone. Directional microphones, such as shotgun microphones, are ideal for capturing targeted audio while minimizing background noise.
  3. Position the Microphone Correctly: If using an external microphone, ensure it is positioned correctly to capture audio effectively. Point the microphone towards the sound source or the person speaking to ensure clear and crisp audio.
  4. Monitor Audio Levels: Keep an eye on the audio levels during recording to ensure that they are neither too low nor too high. Most smartphones have a visual indicator or levels meter to help you monitor and adjust the audio levels accordingly.
  5. Consider Wind Noise: Wind can cause unwanted noise in your audio recordings. If you’re shooting in windy conditions, use a windscreen or a furry microphone cover to minimize wind noise and ensure clearer audio capture.
  6. Take Advantage of Natural Sounds: Outdoor locations often offer unique and immersive natural sounds that can enhance your videos. Capture ambient sounds, such as birds chirping or waves crashing, to create a more immersive experience for your viewers and build an emotional connection.
  7. Record Room Tone: Before you start shooting, take a moment to record a few seconds of the ambient noise in the environment. This will help in post-production by providing a reference point for noise reduction and maintaining continuity in the audio.
  8. Use Audio Editing Tools: After capturing your outdoor videos, use audio editing software or apps to enhance the audio quality. You can adjust levels, reduce background noise, or apply equalization to achieve a more polished and professional sound.

Remember, capturing high-quality audio requires attention to detail and the right equipment. Experiment with different microphone setups, positioning, and post-processing techniques to find the best approach for your specific shooting scenarios.


Now that we have covered capturing high-quality audio, let’s move on to the next section: shooting in different weather conditions.


Shooting in Different Weather Conditions

As an outdoor videographer, you’ll encounter a wide range of weather conditions while capturing your videos. Each weather condition presents unique challenges and opportunities. Here are some tips for shooting in different weather conditions:

  1. Sunny and Clear: In sunny and clear weather, the abundance of natural light can create vibrant and well-lit scenes. Make sure to adjust your exposure settings to prevent overexposure. Consider using a polarizing filter to reduce glare and enhance color saturation.
  2. Rainy or Wet: Shooting in rainy or wet conditions requires protecting your smartphone from moisture. Look for waterproof cases or pouches that allow you to continue capturing footage even in the rain. Maintain caution and avoid exposing your smartphone to excessive water, as it may damage the device.
  3. Cloudy and Overcast: Cloudy and overcast weather diffuses the light, creating soft and even lighting conditions. Take advantage of this soft light to capture detailed and well-exposed footage. However, be aware that colors may appear less vibrant, so consider adjusting color saturation in post-processing to add more punch to your videos.
  4. Foggy or Misty: Shooting in fog or mist can create a mysterious and ethereal atmosphere in your outdoor videos. Play with the reduced visibility and use composition techniques to create depth and layering. Focus on capturing the unique ambiance and the way light interacts with the fog.
  5. Snowy or Winter: When shooting in snowy or winter conditions, be cautious of exposing your smartphone to extreme temperatures. Keep the device protected from moisture and cold. Adjust your exposure settings to avoid underexposure caused by the bright snow. Consider using a lens hood or shade to minimize lens flare from the sun reflecting off the snow.
  6. Windy Conditions: Strong winds can introduce unwanted noise in your audio recordings. Use a windscreen or furry microphone cover to minimize wind noise. Additionally, be cautious of any potential hazards in windy conditions and ensure your smartphone is securely attached to a stabilizing device.
  7. Stormy or Dramatic Weather: Stormy weather can provide a unique opportunity to capture dramatic and powerful footage. However, prioritize your safety and do not put yourself or your equipment at risk. Look for safe vantage points to capture the stormy scenes and utilize the changing sky and lighting to add a sense of drama to your videos.

Adapting to different weather conditions requires a flexible approach. Be prepared with the right gear, protect your smartphone from the elements, and take advantage of the unique visual and atmospheric opportunities that each weather condition presents.


Now that we have covered shooting in different weather conditions, let’s move on to the next section: editing and post-production tips to enhance your outdoor videos.


Editing and Post-Production Tips

Editing and post-production are crucial steps in the process of creating compelling outdoor videos. They allow you to refine your footage, enhance the visuals, and create a cohesive and engaging final product. Here are some editing and post-production tips to help you elevate your outdoor videos:

  1. Organize and Backup: Before diving into the editing process, organize your footage and create a backup of your files. This ensures that you have a secure copy of your original footage and makes it easier to locate and access the clips you need.
  2. Trim and Sequence: Review your footage and select the best clips for your video. Trim any unnecessary footage, and arrange the clips in a logical sequence that tells a coherent story or conveys the desired message.
  3. Color Correction and Grading: Adjusting the colors of your footage can greatly enhance its visual impact. Use color correction tools to achieve accurate colors and tones. Experiment with color grading to create a specific mood or stylize your outdoor videos, whether it’s a warm and vibrant look or a desaturated and moody aesthetic.
  4. Apply Filters and Effects: Explore different filters and effects to add creativity and visual interest to your outdoor videos. Apply vignettes, lens flares, or light leaks to add a cinematic touch. However, use these effects sparingly and strategically to avoid overwhelming or distracting the viewer from the main content.
  5. Smooth Transitions: Use smooth transitions between clips to create a seamless flow in your video. Choose transitions that match the tone and style of your video, whether it’s a quick cut, a fade, or a cross dissolve. Avoid using too many transitions as they can become repetitive or disrupt the storytelling.
  6. Audio Enhancement: Enhance and fine-tune the audio in post-production. Adjust the audio levels, apply noise reduction to minimize background noise, and add background music or sound effects to enhance the overall atmosphere of your outdoor videos.
  7. Include Captions or Text: Add captions or text overlays to provide additional information, context, or emphasize key points in your video. This can help enhance clarity and engagement, especially when sharing your outdoor videos on platforms with muted autoplay.
  8. Experiment with Speed and Timelapse: Altering the speed of certain clips or utilizing timelapse techniques can add a dynamic and engaging element to your outdoor videos. Speed up footage to show the passage of time, or slow it down to highlight a particular moment or action.
  9. Maintain a Consistent Style: Aim for consistency in your editing choices to create a cohesive look and feel throughout your outdoor videos. This includes consistent color grading, transitions, and overall visual style. However, feel free to experiment and adapt your editing style to suit the specific narrative or atmosphere of each video.

Remember, editing and post-production are opportunities to enhance your footage and bring your creative vision to life. Take the time to experiment, try different techniques, and trust your instincts. With each project, you’ll develop your own unique editing style and grow as a storyteller.


Now that we’ve covered editing and post-production, let’s wrap up this article. 


Shooting outdoor videos on a smartphone opens up a world of possibilities for capturing stunning footage with convenience and accessibility. By selecting the right smartphone, understanding lighting conditions, utilizing manual settings, stabilizing your shots, applying framing and composition techniques, capturing high-quality audio, shooting in different weather conditions, and enhancing your videos through editing and post-production, you can create visually captivating and engaging content.


Remember, practice and experimentation are key to honing your skills as a smartphone videographer. Each outdoor location, weather condition, and subject presents unique challenges and opportunities. Embrace these challenges and strive to create videos that not only showcase the beauty of the outdoors but also tell compelling stories.


Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting your journey into smartphone videography, continuously seek inspiration, stay open to learning, and push the boundaries of your creativity. With each video you create, your skills will improve, and your ability to capture breathtaking outdoor moments will become second nature.


So, grab your smartphone, venture into the great outdoors, and start capturing the world through the lens of your smartphone. Happy shooting!