How to Become a YouTube Star with Just a Smartphone

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So, you want to become a YouTube star, but you only have a smartphone? We have some good news for you then, because modern smartphones have become extremely capable video cameras and editing machines. This means that with just the phone in your pocket, you can start shooting, editing, and publishing your own content, and we are going to show you how.

Settings and Tips

To capture the best quality, you need to learn the ins and outs of your phone’s camera and make sure you bump up the settings to maximum quality. The iPhone we are working with here lets us use 4K resolution at 30 fps, so we are going to go with that, for sure. Next, you will want to know the hardware—many cameras have dual- or even triple-lens systems, allowing you to access greater zoom levels or retain more detail. It isn’t always that simple, however, since in this iPhone 8 Plus, we have stabilization only on the wider lens, and that will result in smoother footage, so we may want to rely more on that option if we are shooting handheld.

Dual Lenses

Besides phone-specific functions and features, let’s consider some quick tips that will help you capture good-looking footage. One of the simplest ways is to make sure your subject is in focus and that you are steady. By keeping your elbows close to your rib cage, you will have better balance and can hold the smartphone steadier, for longer durations. Also, for focus, just make sure that you are setting the focus point manually by tapping the screen and holding the subject in that spot.

Another way to capture stunning footage is through manual control, which will generally require a third-party app to unlock. This does allow you to be more creative, or even access higher-quality recording options. To really captivate your audience, you will need more than simply good footage, you will need some solid audio and music. YouTube provides a limited music library, so if you are just getting started, this is a good place to look and it will add something to your video. Recording quality sound while out and about does get a little more complicated, because the phone’s built-in mics will be lacking once you move farther away from the device. In this case, you are better served picking up a few small accessories.

Equipment

Among the first pieces of gear you should acquire is some sort of microphone. For speaking and working within arm’s reach of your phone, I would say to go with a lavalier because they are reliable and compact. The main alternatives are directional mics, which are great for shooting from short distances and for capturing general sounds while shooting B roll. You should immediately see an improvement in your videos, and better audio makes videos much more watchable.

RØDE VideoMic Me Directional Mic for Smart Phones

Beyond audio, the sign of a “professional” shoot is the stability. Tripods are classic ways to do this, and you can find plenty of compact, smartphone-oriented ones at B&H. A modern twist on stabilization has to be the handheld gimbal, which lets you work handheld and still get buttery smooth footage that previously was only attainable with pricey Steadicam systems. Our current favorite is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Smartphone Gimbal, which offers outstanding performance and amazing battery life.

DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Smartphone Gimbal

Of course, having all the right tools is only part of the solution. At the end of the day, what will make or break your YouTube stardom is whether you’re producing content people want to watch. And while there are certain types of videos that tend to garner large audiences and lots of clicks—makeup tutorials and unboxings, for example—we recommend focusing on a topic that appeals to you personally. Having a niche not only can help set you apart from the crowd, but, because it’s something you’re genuinely interested in, the odds are you’ll be a reliable authority and your excitement will elevate the quality of content.

Brett and I attempted to make our own viral YouTube video with an eating contest and shark costumes.

Post-Production

After you capture all your video comes, perhaps, the hardest part of working on a smartphone: the editing. The reason post-production is difficult is because video editing is something that was designed to be handled by desktop computers with plenty of power and shortcuts to get you through the process with precision and speed. Smartphones must take a couple of shortcuts, but this is not necessarily an issue since there are plenty of modern apps that can get you through an edit in no time at all.

For iPhone owners, editing can be as simple as throwing your footage into iMovie and beginning and finishing everything in that software. For Android, you can download an app from a plethora of options and get everything from simple options to near professional-level editing suites. Pick something you feel comfortable with and just hop right into it. You will want to jump into your major content quickly. If screenwriters are concerned about the first five pages of their feature, this is shrunk down to mere seconds when it comes to online content. Next, you will want to avoid going overboard on edits, but using cuts effectively will help maintain the overall pace and feel of your video. You don’t want boring shots to hang on for too long and you don’t want to cut off your interesting moments too early.

Editing is itself another art in the video-production process and requires plenty of experience and experimentation to truly get the hang of it. Make multiple versions and show them to your friends to see which style they prefer before publishing, if you have a moment. And don’t forget to add some music if your video allows for it, because it can help cover up some edits and smooth out sound, as well as add another interesting aspect to the overall piece.

Once you make it this far, there really isn’t much else to do except upload it. So, open up the YouTube app and get going. Add the appropriate title, description, and tags, and choose a fun thumbnail so you can appeal to people just wandering the Web.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you get started producing your own vlog or video series for YouTube, even if you don’t have the latest and greatest cameras to help you out. Do you have any of your own tips or favorite equipment? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

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