Can I Start a YouTube Channel with My Phone?

by Jun 23, 2020

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At the time of writing this, there are 31 million YouTube channels and this number is not getting any smaller. New people start a YouTube channel every day. If you’re thinking about starting a channel, you might be wondering what gear you need or if you can start a YouTube channel with your phone.

All you need to start a YouTube channel is a way to record yourself and an idea. You can start your YouTube channel with a smartphone, as most modern smartphones have good enough video and audio to get started. You can even edit and upload your video directly to YouTube from your phone.

When starting out, you’ll want focus on telling your story and getting your message across to your audience. This takes time and practise and there is no better way to practise than with the gear you have in your pocket every day.

Benefits of Using a Smartphone to Start a YouTube Channel

I’ll be honest, unless you know how to be on camera and use all the settings on it, your first few videos will be messy (heck, I know mine were). So, get over the worry of buying all the gear when starting your YouTube channel. As a new content creator, you’ll be best off focusing on creating engaging content and not learning how to use a new digital camera. There are quite a few benefits to using a smartphone over using a digital camera.

Learn to talk to the camera

If you’ve never recorded yourself speaking before, you might feel a little awkward talking to a camera. I can guarantee you that the first time you watch yourself back, you will not like it.

It’s common as a beginner to be distracted by looking at yourself on a flip out screen, or you might just not be happy with how your voice sounds when you play it back. So, get used to practising recording yourself with just your smartphone before you invest in a camera, to see if vlogging is something you enjoy doing.

Also, using a phone you’re more likely to look at the lens, especially if you’re using the camera on the back of your phone, which offer a higher quality image than the ‘selfie’ camera on the front.

Another benefit of starting out with just your phone is that it doesn’t feel as awkward when talking to a phone as it can do when talking into a camera. This is especially true if you are recording in public, as using a phone you’ll look like you’re just having a video call with a friend and you’ll blend into the crowd. Cameras, especially ones with an external mic and a Deadcat, can attract attention, which can be overwhelming when you’re just starting out and a bit nervous about filming in public anyway.

Smartphones are waterproof

If you’re vlogging or filming video outdoors, you will have to contend with the weather (especially here in the UK) and most entry level to mid-range cameras are not weather sealed. Most modern smartphones are, however, and can cope with a little rain or even being fully submerged under water, which means you will have one less thing to worry about when recording.

Use of apps

With so many apps out there to help you create content, pick a few and learn how to be creative. Some of the most popular are Canva for graphics and either iMovie or KineMaster for editing your video.

Also use apps for recording your video. MixCam and Dualgram on the iPhone allow you to record with front and back cameras at the same time. Likewise, FiLMiC Pro and ProCam give you access to control your camera’s settings in a similar way to a larger camera.

Make sure you also download the YouTube studio app to access analytics and reply to comments on your channel from your smartphone. You will be able to check how many subscribers you have, your views and watch time on your channel. You’ll also be able to reply to comments you receive on your videos using a better UI than the YouTube app. (Note that this is not the YouTube app that you use to watch videos.)

In-camera transitions

If you’re worried that you’ll not be able to do the same camera movements or get the cinematic look to your videos, I’m happy to tell you that you can. Whipping your phone to the side, up or down when recording will give you the exact same effect as doing those moves with a digital camera. It is worth checking out Jesse Driftwood on YouTube if you want to learn more about this technique.

Smooth phone footage

Most cameras on smartphones now have built-in stabilisation, which will give you nice smooth footage. So, if you are recording on the move, you won’t need a gimbal for vlogging, although you can see some benefits to using a gimbal with your smartphone.

High frame rate

An iPhone 11 Pro is capable of capturing 4K footage at 60fps or slow-mo video at 1080p and 240fps. This is much better than most digital cameras will be able to capture, with most cameras only being able to do 120fps at 1080p, and not at all when recording in 4K.

If capturing slow-mo video doesn’t matter to you, then don’t worry, just know you can do those super cool slow-motion shots on your phone if you need to. *Tip: slowing down b-roll footage can help it look more stable.

Transferring Files from Your Phone

If you have an Android phone, you’ll be able to save the footage to your memory card and easily transfer that to a computer or an external hard drive. Transferring files on an iPhone is a little different however, you can do this by AirDrop or by plugging in a dongle to the bottom of your phone and transferring the footage on to an SD card and then plug the SD card into your laptop.

Another way to transfer your footage with both iPhone and Android phones is to transfer it to online storage or the Cloud using services like Dropbox (sign up to Dropbox here), where you can later access your files from your computer, providing you have an internet connection. Be careful of overusing your data, especially if you are travelling.

If you are using your phone to capture footage, you’ll want to download everything on a regular basis, as your phone can quickly get full of video files.

Editing YouTube Videos on a Phone

When it comes to editing your content, you don’t need a high-end laptop or the latest MacBook Pro in order to get started with your channel. You’ll be surprised how powerful and easy to use your phone is, with a few clicks it’s simple to edit together video right on your smartphone.

You can start editing video on your phone using free apps like iMovie for iPhone or KineMaster on Android devices. There are many more options, but these are the most popular among vloggers.

Once you’ve edited your video, you can save the file and upload directly to YouTube from your phone. You can even do some editing tweaks on YouTube itself.

Thumbnails and Channel Art

There are many apps that will help you create an eye-catching thumbnail for your video. Apps like Canva can be downloaded for free and you can create a thumbnail from their templates and before you know it, you’ll have your first video uploaded to YouTube.

You can use apps like Snapseed, Lightroom and Photoshop on your phone to edit your images before you use them for your thumbnail.

Check out this play list on creating channel art for your YouTube Channel

Gear That Can Help When Using a Smartphone

Mini tripod for phones

To hold your phone at arm’s length or to have a firm grip on your phone to avoid dropping it, you can buy a mini tripod (like this one on Amazon). This will help you keep your phone more secure while holding it away from your body and also support your phone when putting it on a surface to record. This is especially useful if you want to record time-lapses, which can run for several minutes at a time.

Phone power pack

Keeping your phone charged all day can be hard, especially if you are using it to record as well. I have found that carrying a battery pack in my backpack has saved me more than once, especially as I use my phone to navigate while driving so I need it to have enough charge to get me home at the end of a long day’s recording.

Lav microphone

The microphone in your smartphone is typically very good at capturing sound and is more than acceptable for your first few videos. However, you can step up your audio quality with a small lav mic or take it to the next level with the Rode VideoMic Me/Me-L (Android or iOS).

You can read more about microphones in our article are Rode microphones any good?

Portable light

Natural light is your friend when recording video, but adding something like a ring light will help keep you well-lit when natural light isn’t available. The Concept LED Video Light from K&F has adjustable lighting options, which will give you better control of your lighting when recording.

Bonus Tips for Creating Great Smartphone Footage

Focus on your message

If you are clear in your message, people will focus on that and not notice how you are capturing it. Become more confident on camera before you upgrade your gear.

Look at your lens

Make sure you are looking at the lens, as this will make your audience feel like you are talking to them. If you look at yourself on screen your eyeline will be off; it would be like looking at a person’s ear when you are talking to them! It’s distracting for the viewer and doesn’t give the impression that you want to engage with them. It will feel weird at first, but try to get used to looking into the lens on your phone’s camera when you are recording. When you watch your footage back, you’ll see what a difference it makes.

Keep your lens clean

As clear as your message might be, there are limits. Nobody wants to watch you in a haze of finger grease, so make sure you keep your lens clean. Check and wipe it before you press record.

Capture footage horizontally

While platforms like Facebook and Instagram like footage shot portrait, footage is displayed horizontally on YouTube.

Improve your video quality

It might feel intuitive to use the front-facing (‘selfie’) camera to record yourself, but the rear cameras on your phone will capture a higher quality image and so you should use these instead. Using the rear camera might take some time to get used to, but the effort will be worth it. This will also keep you focused on the lens and you will be less likely to look at yourself, so you will be more engaging to your audience.

Creating videos on YouTube should be fun, so use the gear you enjoy using and focus on creating great content. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can upgrade your gear if you need to.

If you’re new to vlogging and you’d like to find out more, you can download our free guide.

Other articles that you might be interested in:

Guide to getting started Vlogging

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