We get asked at Dogwood all the time about tips to make your iPhone videos look as good as some of the things that Mark Denman shoots for us. The simple answer is, it’s not possible! Mark’s a pro and we have amazing equipment at Dogwood to shoot the shot with. That said, we did recently produce a guide that we thought would be super helpful to share with you for the times when Mark isn’t available.

Thankfully, Mark did take a few moments to give us bullet points that I’m going to try and expound upon in the blog post. 

Phone Orientation

One common mistake many people make is not considering the format in which their video will be shared before shooting. While both horizontal and vertical video has its place, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using the correct orientation for your use case. If you are shooting a video to be played on a standard screen (think TV, YouTube videos, etc.) then you’ll want to film it horizontally. If you are trying to create a Reel for TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, etc. then you’ll want to film vertically.

If you’re not sure which orientation is right for you, then you can’t go wrong sticking with horizontal. Horizontal videos are universally compatible across various platforms, including social media, websites, and video-sharing platforms.

Another thing to keep in mind when deciding what orientation to film in is editing. When it comes to editing videos, shooting horizontally provides you with more flexibility and options. Editing software typically favors horizontal videos, allowing for smoother transitions, seamless cuts, and the inclusion of additional visual elements such as titles, graphics, and overlays. 

Mark’s Tip:

  • Make sure you’re choosing the correct orientation for the result you’re aiming for.


A quiet environment to record video ensures that the audio quality remains clear and intelligible. A quiet setting allows the viewer to focus solely on the subject matter being presented, without any unnecessary audio distractions.

When loud noises are present, they can easily overpower the desired audio and create a distracting listening experience. By waiting for loud noises to subside, such as construction sounds, traffic noise, or background chatter, the recording will be free from unwanted interference.

The microphone on your phone is designed to pick up sound from a close range, so by keeping it near your subject, you ensure that the audio is captured accurately and without any loss of detail. This is especially important when recording interviews, speeches, or performances, as it allows the listener to hear every word or nuance clearly.

Mark’s Tips:

  • Record in a quiet area
  • Wait for loud noises such as construction sounds, birds chirping, phones ringing, or anything else to stop before speaking.
  • If a sound starts while you are speaking, start over from a good starting point or the beginning. Remember, we can edit out any pauses
  • Be sure to keep the phone close to your subject (~2-3 feet) so the phone’s microphone can pick them up well

Lighting for iPhone Video

Backlights, whether they are direct sunlight or artificial light sources, can create strong contrasts and cause the person being recorded to appear as a silhouette or poorly defined against the background. By positioning the light source in front of the subject, the person’s features, expressions, and details are properly illuminated, allowing the camera to capture their facial expressions and nuances accurately. Additionally, avoiding backlights helps to maintain a consistent lighting balance throughout the video.

Bright lights in the background can cause overexposure, washing out the subject and making it difficult for viewers to see facial expressions or details clearly. It can also create distracting flares or glares that draw attention away from the intended focus. 

By minimizing or eliminating bright lights in the background, the camera can properly expose the subject, resulting in a more balanced video. This allows viewers to engage with the person on screen, capturing their gestures, emotions, and non-verbal cues effectively. 

Additionally, avoiding bright lights in the background helps to maintain a clean and professional look, enhancing the overall production value of the video.

Mark’s Tips:

  • Avoid backlighting. Stand in-between the main light source and the person you’re recording.
  • If you are outside, try to film in the shade
  • Generally speaking, the best source of light is going to be a window


The word head space may not be familiar to you but it refers to the empty space above a person’s head within the frame of the video. When filming, you don’t want your subject to have too much head room because they will get lost in the frame, but you also don’t want them to have too little and look crammed in.

By allowing sufficient head space, you provide breathing room for the subject, preventing them from feeling cramped or confined within the frame. This not only enhances their presence and stature but also allows viewers to focus on their facial expressions and body language more effectively. 

Additionally, head space gives room for any movements or gestures the subject might make, ensuring that they are captured fully without being cut off by the edges of the frame. By giving your subject adequate head space, you create a more professional and visually appealing video that engages and captivates the audience.

Mark’s Tip:

  • Give your subject a little bit of head space so they don’t feel crammed in the frame or off-center


Ensuring that the background of your video is free from distractions is crucial for maintaining focus and delivering a professional-looking result. A cluttered or distracting background can divert the viewer’s attention away from the subject, making it difficult for them to fully engage with the content.

By choosing a clean and uncluttered backdrop, you create a visual environment that complements and enhances the subject’s presence. This allows viewers to concentrate on the main message or action taking place in the foreground. 

Mark’s Tip:

  • Check your background to make sure there aren’t distractions. You never know what may be happening behind you!

In conclusion, taking your iPhone video to the next level requires paying attention to a few key factors. First and foremost, always make sure you’re filming in the appropriate orientation for your project. Secondly, ensure that the audio source is positioned 2-3 feet away from the subject to capture clear and balanced sound. Proper lighting is essential for creating a visually appealing video, so make sure to utilize natural light or invest in affordable lighting solutions. Framing your subject correctly, giving them adequate headspace, and removing distractions from the background are crucial for maintaining focus and delivering a professional-looking result. 

By implementing these tips, you can transform your iPhone videos into captivating and high-quality content that engages your audience and leaves a lasting impression. So, grab your iPhone and start capturing stunning videos that stand out from the crowd!

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