How to Shoot Better Vertical Video

Listen closely and you’ll hear the faint cries from creative directors and filmmakers around the globe.


After over 50 years of viewing our content on television and cinema screens it was bound to take some time to break old habits. The delivery medium shaped the rules of the game and in turn the craft of how to communicate within the borders of that rectangular frame. Video was always presented in horizontal (short and wide) format while vertical (tall and skinny) was reserved for clueless amateurs.


Enter the smartphone….

Think of how you personally interact with your mobile device. If you’re anything like 94% of the population (Source: MOVR Mobile Overview Report) you’ll be looking at the screen in a vertical position. It’s taken some time but our perspectives have finally caught up with the technology on which we’re viewing our content. This means that the rules of the game aren’t just different but the entire playing field has been turned on its side.



Lesson #1: Respect the platform.


Understand where your video will live is half the battle. There are plenty of content platforms that have now been optimised for vertical video in such a way that vertical video ads are performing almost 10x better than their horizontal cousins. Having a basic working knowledge of the platform is a great first step. Here’s a quick list of the major players below:


  • Square Video: Instagram (Video posts), Twitter

  • Horizontal Video: YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo

  • Vertical Video: Snapchat (Chat photos & video), Whale, Facebook, Facebook Live, Instagram (Stories), YouTube (Not obvious), Snappd (Built for vertical),


It’s also important to understand how your video is presented differently when playing a vertical vs horizontal file. Consider the Facebook mobile timeline and how vertical video significantly dominates the screen real estate. If your goal is get eyes on your content then vertical videos definitely make it harder for users to skim past it in their timeline. On the flip side you don’t want to see your video end up being presented with those nasty black bars on either side.


Lesson #2: Embrace Authenticity


You know that 30 second TV commercial you spent a fortune producing last quarter? I’m sure at some stage you’ve been tempted to pump that out to all of your social channels to get some extra ROI.


Guess what? brand’s TV commercial has absolutely no place on many social platforms. Would you advertise your snapchat content on TV? No? Then why has it taken so long for so many brands to realise that the opposite also applies?


Having a clear purpose behind your video content will prevent you from being the person  trying to sell tuxedos at the beach.


At least while we’re still in the infancy of vertical video, there is an unspoken authenticity and grassroots stigma attached with it’s delivery method. In many cases vertical video also has the touch of amateurism to it which, depending on the platform, is deemed a more genuine and intimate (think FaceTime, Hangouts etc).


Lesson #3: Shoot for the format


The Rule Of Thirds Is Still The Fail-Safe


Without giving a deep lecture into cinema framing and composition check out this grid below to show you how to mentally divide your camera display. Try and direct the attention of the viewer towards the intersections of the the grid.


The Seven Things To Remember When Shooting Vertical Video


  1. Understand how subjects move through the frame.
  2. Consider how the subject or the movement within the frame will benefit from the orientation of the screen. Tall objects, steam rising, long roads ahead etc
  3. Show details - Remember that your viewer is viewing this video on a mobile device. Consider the size of the image needed to communicate your story on this medium.
  4. Try and stay steady - Vertical format accentuates left/right movement. A few tips to keep a steady hand
  5. Plant your fee
  6. Tuck in your elbows
  7. Hold your breath