How to Shoot a Great Vacation Video

And say hello to your best smartphone films yet.
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In the age of Instagram and Vine, travelers are sharing their adventures in real time—spotlighting their room with a view, proving that a robot’s mixing their drink or even taking a next-level #selfieatsea. And if your vacation photos are worth a thousand words, a good-looking video is pretty much priceless. Follow these foolproof tips. The only requirement? That smartphone in your pocket.

Stay horizontal.

It might feel natural to hold your phone vertically (just like you hold it when you make a call). Shooting still photography this way is no problem—especially if your subject has some height. But the format for most video players, aside from phones and tablets, is horizontal. Turn your phone on its side, or when it comes time to show friends your film, you’ll have two distracting black bars running down either side of the screen.

Stand strong…

There’s nothing worse than shaky film. Use both hands, plant your feet, and relax. And along the same lines, don’t zoom. It’ll only make each move and fidget more pronounced.

…or consider a tripod.

To really amp up your videography, invest in a simple stand for your smartphone, like the flexible GorillaPod, with a lever for super-smooth panning and tilting.

Avoid panning around.

Think about videos you watch; the camera doesn’t really move. Most amateur videographers tend to pan from side to side far too much, so try to fight the urge. Focus on getting a collection of clips, which you can stitch together after the fact.

Get some editing help from an app.

     – Hyperlapse from Instagram

Shoot a video in this app and you can speed the clip up to 12 times its actual pace, so a prolonged moment (a sunrise or a ride on an epic ferris wheel, for example) appears even more awe-inspiring. In-app stabilization keeps the feed from looking shaky, so even if you’re moving around, the Hyperlapse video will be steady.

     – Socialcam

With no limits on video length and storage, this app lets you apply filters, add titles and a soundtrack, and stores your projects in the cloud. Plus, there’s the social part of it: You can share, like, and comment on friends’ and family member’s videos in the app—perfect for group trips

     – iMovie

String together multiple clips in an instant, select one of eight themes (there’s also 10 different filters), and add special effects, like cutaways, splitscreens, and more, in Apple’s own iOS app.