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Embrace the Vertical Video Revolution! Filming and Editing for Social Media

By David Winter
Jan 15, 2024
8 minute read

In the dynamic world of social media, portrait videos have rapidly ascended to dominance. This shift is primarily fueled by the rise of smartphones, with users preferring content that seamlessly fits their handheld screens.

Platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts are at the forefront of this vertical video trend, revolutionising how we consume and interact with digital content. For creators, understanding and mastering this format is crucial for capturing and retaining the attention of a mobile-centric audience.

Why This Guide?

We aim to demystify the process of shooting and editing portrait videos, making them accessible and enjoyable for aspiring content creators. Whether you're an enthusiastic vlogger, a budding social media influencer, or someone eager to share your story, this guide will walk you through the essentials of creating engaging content in portrait format.

Section 1: Understanding the Portrait Format

Why Portrait Format Reigns Supreme

The Mobile-First Advantage

The portrait format aligns with our natural phone usage, offering a practical and intuitive way for content consumption. Most social media users access platforms through smartphones, and portrait videos cater to this habit by filling the screen and providing an immersive experience. This alignment isn't just about convenience; it's about creating a natural connection with the viewer, leveraging how we naturally hold and interact with our devices.

Engagement and Attention

Portrait videos have a unique advantage when it comes to engagement. They command the viewer's attention by occupying the entire screen, reducing distractions from other apps or notifications. Studies have shown that users are likelier to watch portrait videos for longer durations and engage more deeply with them, making this format particularly effective for social media storytelling.

The Portrait vs Landscape Debate

Aspect Ratio Differences

The key difference between portrait and landscape formats lies in their aspect ratios. Landscape videos, typically in a 16:9 ratio, offer a wide view suitable for traditional TV and computer screens. In contrast, portrait videos use a taller and narrower frame, usually in a 9:16 ratio.

This difference significantly affects how content is framed, perceived, and interacted with, especially on social media platforms where screen space is at a premium. Traditionally, films and TV require a wider frame to provide that cinematic sense of scope and space, while social content is more likely to emphasise that personal connection.

Viewer Experience in Vertical

Portrait videos offer a more immersive experience by filling the entire mobile screen, thus commanding the viewer's undivided attention. This format encourages creators to focus closely on their subjects, creating a sense of intimacy and immediacy with the audience. For social media, where capturing and retaining viewer attention is paramount, the vertical format provides a direct and engaging way to tell stories and share experiences.

Mastering Storytelling in Vertical Space

Embracing the Vertical Canvas

Telling a story in a vertical format may initially seem restrictive, but it opens up unique opportunities for creativity. With a portrait video, creators can bring their viewers closer to the action, offering a more intimate and focused narrative. The key to success in this format is to make every inch of the screen count, focusing on your subject and using the vertical space to guide the viewer's eye through the story.

The Art of Composition in Portrait

In portrait video, the composition becomes a crucial element. Unlike the more familiar landscape format, where the breadth of the scene is emphasised, the portrait format challenges creators to think vertically. This involves considering how elements are layered from top to bottom, creating a visual journey that leads the viewer's eye through the frame.

Key considerations include:

  • Foreground and Background: Utilise the foreground to present the subject or key action while using the background to add context or depth without overwhelming the viewer. It's important to understand that the limited space on the screen means that whatever is in your foreground will hold the maximum amount of attention. The background should mostly just be for context. 
  • Vertical Lines and Movement: Leverage vertical lines and movements within the frame to enhance the sense of height and space. This can be particularly effective in creating a dynamic and engaging narrative.
  • Balancing Elements: Ensure that the top and bottom of the frame are balanced in terms of visual interest. This balance keeps the viewer engaged and prevents the composition from feeling top-heavy or bottom-heavy.

Utilising Space Creatively

In portrait videos, the challenge is creatively using the limited horizontal space. This might involve close-up shots, which are excellent for showcasing emotions or details, or creative angles that make the most of the vertical format.

Additionally, consider how text, graphics, and other overlay elements can be incorporated without cluttering the frame. The goal is to create a visually appealing and coherent piece that tells a story effectively within the confines of a portrait orientation.

Section 2: Techniques for Shooting Captivating Portrait Videos

Preparing to Capture Your Story

Choosing the Right Equipment

Before you start shooting, selecting the right equipment is crucial. While professional cameras offer high-quality footage, smartphones today can produce excellent videos, especially for social media. Key factors to consider include camera resolution, stabilisation features, and the ability to adjust settings like exposure and focus manually.

Setting Up for Success

Your setup can make a significant difference in the quality of your videos. Ensure your device is stable — using a tripod or a steady surface can help avoid shaky footage. If you're using a smartphone, shooting in the native camera app usually offers the best quality, but third-party apps can provide more control over settings.

If you are going handheld with your phone or camera, you may want to consider some sort of stabilisation device to avoid giving your views motion sickness as the footage bounces around. 

Mastering Composition and Framing

The Rule of Thirds in Portrait Mode

The rule of thirds is a classic composition technique where the frame is divided into nine equal segments. Placing your subject along these lines or at their intersections can create a more balanced and engaging shot. This technique helps guide the viewer's eye in portrait mode and can be particularly effective for creating dynamic compositions. Many camera apps include this as an option to turn on and off. 

Utilising Angles and Perspectives

Experiment with different angles and perspectives to make your videos more engaging. Low-angle shots can make subjects appear more powerful, while high-angle shots offer a sense of vulnerability or overview. Creative angles add dynamism and can significantly impact the storytelling of your video.

Lighting and Sound for Portrait Videos

Natural Light and Simple Setups

Good lighting is crucial in creating visually appealing videos. Whenever possible, use natural light as it provides a soft, flattering look. If shooting indoors, position yourself near a window. Avoid harsh overhead lights that can create unwanted shadows.

Capturing Clear Audio

Clear audio is just as important as good visuals. If you’re recording dialogue or natural sounds, consider the environment. Minimise background noise and, if possible, use an external microphone to improve sound quality. Remember, poor audio can detract from even the most visually stunning video.

Movement and Stability in Shooting

Keeping It Steady

Stability is crucial, especially for portrait videos where any shake is more noticeable. Handheld stabilisers or gimbals can be great investments for smoother footage. If you're shooting without stabilisers, practice holding your device with both hands and using your body to absorb movements.

Incorporating Motion Thoughtfully

While stability is important, intentional movement can add interest to your videos. Panning (moving the camera horizontally) or tilting (moving the camera vertically) should be done smoothly and purposefully. Consider how movement can enhance your story or highlight essential elements in your video.

Section 3: Editing Essentials for Portrait Videos

The Basics of Portrait Video Editing

Understanding Aspect Ratios and Resolutions

When editing portrait videos, the first thing to consider is the aspect ratio and resolution. Most social media platforms favour a 9:16 aspect ratio for portrait videos. Ensure your footage is edited to fit these dimensions, avoiding awkward cropping or losing critical visual elements.

Trimming and Arranging Clips

Editing is where your story comes to life. Start by trimming and arranging your clips to create a coherent narrative flow. Pay attention to the length of each clip – in the fast-paced world of social media, shorter, more dynamic clips often work best to keep the viewer engaged.

Enhancing Your Video with Text and Graphics

Incorporating Text Effectively

Text can be a powerful tool in your video, especially for adding context or emphasising key points. When adding text, make sure it's legible and doesn't overcrowd your visuals. Positioning text in a portrait video is crucial – it should be easily readable without obstructing the main action.

Using Graphics and Emojis

Graphics and emojis can add personality and flair to your videos. They can help convey emotions or highlight specific elements. However, use them sparingly and ensure they align with your video’s overall tone and style.

Transitions and Effects for Visual Appeal

Choosing the Right Transitions

Transitions between clips can add polish and rhythm to your video. Opt for simple, clean transitions like fades or cuts rather than overly complex ones. The key is to enhance the viewing experience without distracting from the content.

Adding Effects and Colour Grading

Colour grading and effects can significantly impact the mood and feel of your video. Experiment with different colour palettes and filters to find what best suits your video’s theme. Remember, the goal is to enhance your footage, not overpower it.

Section 4: Creative Enhancements for Social Media Impact

Storytelling in Short-Form Video

Crafting a Compelling Narrative

In social media, you often have just a few seconds to grab the viewer's attention. Focus on creating a compelling opening and build your narrative quickly and efficiently. Think about how your video can convey a story or message, even in a brief format.

Maintaining Viewer Engagement

Keeping viewers engaged throughout your video is crucial. This can be achieved through exciting visuals, on-point editing, and ensuring there’s always something happening on screen to maintain interest.

You can also use hooks to keep them watching, such as a promise of something interesting coming up later in the video. 

Tailoring Content for Different Platforms

Platform-Specific Optimisations

Each social media platform has its unique quirks and preferred content style. For instance, TikTok favours creative, quirky content, while Instagram Reels may lean towards polished, aesthetic videos. Adapt your content accordingly.

Understanding Platform Trends

Stay updated with the latest trends and features of each platform. Utilising trending sounds, hashtags, or challenges can increase your video's visibility and relevance on specific platforms.

Section 5: Platform-Specific Tips and Tricks for Portrait Video Success

Optimising Videos for Different Social Media Platforms

Navigating Through Platform Requirements

Each social media platform has unique technical requirements and best practices for videos. Understanding these is crucial for ensuring your content is displayed optimally. For example, while TikTok and Instagram Reels primarily focus on 9:16 aspect ratio videos, YouTube Shorts allows for slightly more variation in dimensions. Familiarising yourself with these requirements ensures your videos look their best on each platform.

Adapting Content Style for Platform Audiences

The style and tone of your content can significantly impact its success on different platforms. Instagram Reels often favours high-quality, aesthetically pleasing content, whereas TikTok’s audience might appreciate more raw, authentic, and humorous videos. Crafting your content to appeal to the specific audience of each platform can significantly enhance its engagement and reach.

Making the Most of Platform Features

Leveraging Trending Features and Sounds

One of the keys to social media success is staying on top of trending features and sounds. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram often have trending challenges, sounds, and effects that can increase the visibility of your content when used creatively and appropriately.

Utilising Platform-Specific Editing Tools

Many social media platforms offer built-in editing tools that can be incredibly useful for creating engaging content. These tools are often designed to be user-friendly and include features like filters, stickers, and easy-to-use cutting and trimming options. While they might not be as comprehensive as dedicated editing software, they offer a great starting point for beginners.

That said, eventually, you will likely outgrow them and find yourself ready for a more advanced editing suite. That's where more fully featured platforms like Lightworks come into play. 

Effective Sharing and Engagement Strategies

Best Practices for Posting and Sharing

Timing can be everything in social media. Research the best times to post on each platform to maximise your content’s visibility. Additionally, engaging with your audience through comments, shares, and likes can foster a community around your content, leading to increased reach and engagement.

Analysing Performance and Learning

Most social media platforms provide analytics that can offer valuable insights into your video's performance. Regularly reviewing these metrics can help you understand what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to refine your strategy and content over time.

Embarking on Your Portrait Video Creation Journey

Creating engaging portrait videos for social media is a journey that blends creativity, technical skill, and strategic thinking. It's about understanding the unique aspects of shooting in portrait format, mastering the art of editing, and tailoring content for diverse platforms. 

Embrace this dynamic and ever-changing landscape with enthusiasm, and remember, your most powerful tool is your creativity and willingness to experiment and adapt. Each video is an opportunity to refine your skills, express your unique perspective, and connect with your audience meaningfully.

Start Your Video Editing Journey with Lightworks

Ready to bring your portrait videos to life? Download Lightworks for free and unlock the potential of advanced editing tools that can transform your creative visions into captivating content.

Whether you're crafting a viral TikTok, a visually stunning Instagram Reel, or an engaging YouTube Short, Lightworks offers the flexibility and features to elevate your work.

Join a community of passionate creators and start shaping your unique path in the world of social media video creation today.