Photography and Videography Best Practices

EPI User Guide

Smartphone Best Practices for Video and Photo

The EPI communications team aims to elevate the research of its members through content creation and social media engagement. Part of that includes capturing the best videos and images. This guide aims to provide direction on how to maximize smartphone capabilities for photo and video.

Blurred relaxed young woman in casual wear sitting on workplace with modern laptop and meditating with closed eyes during recording video blog. Focus on modern smartphone fixed on tripod.

Smartphone Photography

The explanations below are based on the iPhone, but you can adapt these methods to whichever device you own.

There are many options on the iPhone for image capture modes – Timelapse, Slo-Mo, Cinematic, Video, Photo, Portrait and Pano. For photography, try to stay in the regular Photo mode.

There are also a number of custom settings in Photo mode using the drop down arrow at the top middle of your screen. This guide will address each setting in the order they appear on the iPhone screen.


First of all – ensure the flash is always turned off.

Even if you find yourself in a scenario that is very dark, try using an external light source instead of the flash on the phone. An external light source can be someone holding a flashlight or even another phone to light your subject.

Regardless of if the subject is a human, object, etc., holding the light slightly above and off to one side of the photographer/subject is ideal.

Live Mode

Live mode can be fun to play with if you want to get creative, but typically keep this turned off.

When is it useful? If you are photographing running water, it can create a cool effect. Turn on live, hold yourself very steady and capture the image. Then in your camera roll, you can change the live image to a long exposure. Sometimes it looks great; sometimes it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t, you can just switch the image back to live.

Color Balance

Leave this setting alone. It should default to a “Standard” color.

Image Aspect Ratio

It should default to 4:3, and this works quite well. 16:9 is preferable, though, as it fills more of the screen and requires less cropping.


You can access the exposure option in the settings, but the most efficient way to adjust exposure is when you are photographing the image.

Tap your subject, then slide the sun icon up and down to adjust accordingly.

If the sky looks white behind a person or if the sky is showing up and the person is too dark, then you may want to adjust your angle. iPhone photos can be edited slightly but not as well as a professional camera.

It is ideal to aim for an evenly lit scene, meaning the subject and the background appear the same or similar brightness. Creativity is fantastic though; such as the lighting example above with the flashlight, this rule gets broken. Keep in mind that scenarios vary, and that is ok!


A 10-second timer is great if you need a group photo with yourself in it. Otherwise, a good old selfie group shot works, as well. A selfie can be fun and authentic.


Don’t turn on any filters. Keep the standard original color, so it is easier for whoever you hand it off to to edit.

Smartphone Videography

Many of the considerations above apply here, such as with exposure, color, filters, etc. Please review the photography section. For video, there are a few options you will find most useful.


This is great for showing a passage of time. Set your phone on a steady surface – tripod, propped on the ground or a counter, etc. Click to record and let it run for as long as you like (or as long as the battery lasts).


In the upper right corner of the iPhone, it will default to “HD 30” every time you open the app. This is completely fine if you forget to change it, but “HD 60” and “4K 60” are preferable.

The iPhone has great internal stabilization, but that does not mean you should be haphazard. Hold still and let the clip run for at least 10 seconds or more if there is an action happening. A great way to hold still is to lock your elbows by your sides and breathe slow. Try to be as steady as possible when you can also walk slowly to film, to follow actions, etc.


Get close to your subject.

Find a quiet spot (if possible). It doesn’t have to be completely quiet but we want the person speaking to be the most prominent sound.

If there is an action happening, you can ask the person to narrate what is happening in the scene.

If you are more formally interviewing someone, then you can have more control of the scene by pulling them to a quieter location.

Smartphone Both Photography and Videography


Gridlines can be helpful to turn on so you can easily see your composition. The gridlines help you tell right away if you’re placing the subject in the center, off center to the left or off center to the right. Any of these 3 options are great!

  1. Open Settings and go to Camera.
  2. Under Composition, turn on the toggle for Grid.
  3. Open the Camera app to confirm if you can see the grid lines on your screen.


The iPhone should auto focus. If your subject is not in focus immediately, then tap on the subject to focus. Note: this can also simultaneously change your exposure so slide the sun up and down again if that happens. The iPhone should automatically do this.


For quality, it is better to get closer to a subject than to zoom in. This will depend on the model of iPhone you have, though, as some have multiple cameras set to different focal lengths that have improved immensely over the years.


When indoors, natural light is best. If you are able to place your subject near a window or even near a side of the room where natural light is entering this is best. This, however, is not always possible especially in a lab setting, so do your best!

Even in a space without natural light, find the source of light in the room and take a moment to hold up your camera and walk 360 degrees around your subject. If the subject is a person watch their face and look for the side that they are less shadowed in and/or their eyes are brightest.

When outdoors, try the same exact method as above. If you are unsure of an angle, take a moment to do a 360 walk around them.

If the subject isn’t a person but a landscape, a detail, a microscope, etc., you can still move the camera around to get a feel for what the light and shadows look like from different angle. When in doubt, snap a few angles!


High, low, middle. Near, far, middle.

These are the six basic camera angles to combine. For example, try taking a picture of your lab space from high and far back in the space. Then try moving in low and close on something like a microscope.


Be cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times!

This can be on campus, in the lab, in the field; wherever you are, always pay attention to your surroundings. It’s easy to focus on the camera screen and get wrapped up in what you are doing, so don’t forget to look up, look around, and be aware and mindful. This is a whole separate topic, but please also be mindful of who and what you are filming, as well, and the considerations of others involved.