Am I the only one who excitedly grabbed my iphone and filmed a sketchbook tour only to find that the video stood sideways on its tail? This will probably be one of those “duh” moments to the more mobile phone oriented amongst us, but I struggled with working out how to take a decent video of my sketchbook pages and then edit it so that it could actually be used.

 I have a beautiful iphone 6 plus which I adore. It can do the most amazing things, but unfortunately its owner is not always quite up to scratch! I’m one of those people who can create a website, use fancy photo editing software and teach people to search professional bibliographic databases, but I can’t manage the tv control …

Anyway, I thought that others might get something out of my own journey of discovery, and if nothing else it would be a reminder for myself when I forget what I did last time! This is what I learnt, through a great deal of trial and error – and .. yes … Google …

Step 1:  Finding a place to film

There is a lot of information available online about the perfect type of lighting so I’m not going to pretend to follow it all. Fortunately my phone takes really excellent photos and videos so I keep it really simple. I don’t pretend to be a professional photographer!

What I have is a table near a window with indirect light (fairly bright, but not a lot of shadowing), and above it I have a full spectrum /natural light desk lamp. I adjust it to sit between the window and myself so that I don’t create shadows. My aim is to keep the colours as true as possible to the original, and to avoid my own shadow (or anyone else’s) falling on my sketchbook.

I film during daylight hours, as even the best of lights gives a completely different feel to natural daylight. I’ve tried filming outside in the garden but it can be tricky to find an angle where my shadow doesn’t fall on my book. Dull days are surprisingly good for photography for this reason.

Step 2:  Choosing a background

I want an interesting yet simple background that reflects who I am. I want it to make my sketchbook look better, but not to take over – so I need to avoid clutter which is easier said than done …

In my case I have lots of big inked pieces of A2 paper that I like to use as a background when I photograph my work. I have lots of colours to choose from – greens/blues and reds/oranges etc – so I can choose something that looks good behind a particular piece of work. The paper only needs to be a bit bigger than my open sketchbook because I’ll be filming up close.

You could use a nice table surface, kitchen benchtop etc. You just want to make sure your sketchbook is the star of the scene.

Step 3:  Shooting a video using the iphone

This is supposedly super simple, but I have still managed to muck it up lots of times, so I thought I should share the basics. There may just be someone in the world who is as technologically challenged as me – maybe!

  • Click on the camera icon
  • Select the video option
  • Turn the phone to either landscape or portrait to best fit your sketchbook tour. In most cases you’ll be holding the phone sideways (landscape).
  • Check the orientation . To check whether the iphone is actually going to video in landscape or portrait mode check where the timer is sitting. It should be at the top of the screen, whichever way you want to film. If it is sitting at one side then you need to adjust how you are holding the iphone (the higher side usually changes your orientation) – or lock the orientation in the right direction by swiping up from the bottom of the phone and clicking on the lock. If you get this wrong (like I have many times) DON’T PANIC – we can turn the video around later.
  • Flash – You might want to try it with or without the flash. If in doubt just put it on auto.
  • Start recording by CLICKING THE RED BUTTON TO START THE VIDEO!! This may sound like ridiculous advice but I’ll shamefacedly admit that I often get this out of sync and think that I’m filming when I’m not and not filming when I am. You’ll know it is working when the timer starts counting.
  • Finish recording by clicking the red button again. The timer will stop counting.
  • Don’t stress if you don’t get it right first time – just have another go. The wonderful thing about digital recording is that it doesn’t cost anything to try again.


Step 4: If you need to rotate your video

If you have done what I have in the past and accidentally had your phone in the wrong orientation while you filmed you might find that your video plays on its side in portrait mode. DON’T PANIC!

Download the free “Rotate and flip” app from the itunes store and follow the simple instructions to turn your video the way you want it. Easy.

Step 5: Editing your video

You might have super dooper software for this and if you love using that go for it. I actually do have those fancy things but I think they are overkill for simple edits on your phone, and I wanted something I could do away from my computer.

I can recommend the free Splice app which is very simple to use. Some of the things I do with it:

  • Crop parts out if necessary
  • Remove the audio – and then you can put something else in if you like, but I don’t personally like the effect of my heavy breathing as I film!
  • Add audio (sometimes – I don’t always want it). I’m a librarian by profession, and artist by passion, so I have to remind you to be very careful about what you choose here because of copyright issues. There are lots of copyright free music websites where the only ‘cost’ is acknowledging the musician in your credits. One site I have used a few times is incompetech by Kevin McLeod, but there are plenty of others to explore. Search for ‘royalty free music’ or ‘copyright fee music’. Video hosting website like vimeo also have resources you can use.
  • Add a website address (or a copyright notice) in small type as a watermark at the bottom. It’s not so much because I worry about these videos being swiped, but more because I want people to know how to reach me if they want to.

Once this project is saved it is ready to upload to wherever I want to share it – vimeo, Facebook, or my blog.  I haven’t quite braved youtube yet!

These are a couple of mine as examples of what I did using these techniques:

Happy filming!!

I hope these little discoveries of mine save you some time and get you on to the fun of videoing your own sketchbook tours. I’d love to see them, and I’d also love to hear about any tips you have. I know there are many ways of doing this and you may have a much better method. Please share!


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