instagram icon on a smartphone

If you’re feeling inspired by artists using video on Instagram to boost engagement, it’s time to integrate video content into your own social media efforts. The good news is there are plenty of easy and affordable ways to use your smartphone to create engaging video for Instagram. (For inspiration, check out this post where we feature 10 artists who are doing an awesome job with video on Instagram).

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The most important thing to consider as you develop a plan for creating video content: what kind of video would appeal to your target customer? Think about what your audience finds educational or entertaining, and start there.

Successful videos for the Instagram feed capture the same qualities as successful photos, with an added element of storytelling. You’ll draw upon your photography skills to compose visually engaging videos — concepts like the rule of thirds, and playing with color, texture, and scale are all part of the creative process. Your videos should capture the visual style that your followers are used to seeing on your feed.

Whether you’re recording a video of your product in action, showing how your work is made, or creating a tutorial, take time to prepare before you record.


  • Clean the camera lens with a soft cloth to remove dust and residue
  • Make sure your phone is charged, with enough storage available for recording
  • Consider turning on “Do Not Disturb” or “Airplane Mode” to avoid distracting notifications while recording
  • Download the most recent update of the Instagram app to take advantage of any new features or in-app tools

woman sitting on a bench

Consider the location where you’re shooting your video, and whether the setting will reflect the style of your brand. You’ll want to:

  • Shoot in a location with lots of diffuse natural light
  • Decide whether to film in landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) format
  • Move close enough to your subject to avoid using the zoom function, which can make your video look grainy or blurry
  • Consider using a phone Tripod, or balance your phone against a prop

Apps, Settings, and Tools

Explore your phone’s camera settings. iPhone cameras automatically adjust the exposure and focus while you record, which can lead to uneven footage. Take advantage of the iPhone’s Auto Exposure/Auto Focus (AE/AF) lock feature by tapping on the screen and holding it until AE/AF box appears. That locks in the focus for your recording, which keeps your video looking sharp.

The iPhone camera offers regular video, as well as settings for timelapse and slo-mo video. You can also use Instagram’s app Hyperlapse to create timelapse videos, or Boomerang to create looping videos. To create smooth timelapse videos, you need to hold your camera very still — consider using a tripod, or prop your elbows against something to stabilize the camera.

Get creative with editing: could you record multiple shots that could be spliced together to tell a fast-paced, engaging story? Your video should capture a viewer’s attention in the first 3-5 seconds, to keep them from scrolling past. When you upload your video to Instagram, scroll through your video frames on the edit page to choose an engaging cover image (the still image preview displayed before your video auto-plays) that hints at the overall content.

It’s risky to rely on sound to capture the viewer’s attention — videos autoplay on mute by default. Try adding text overlays with apps like Splice or Quik if your video needs added context. Apple’s Clips app automatically generates subtitles in a handful of styles. If you do use sound in your video, consider using music that compliments the video, or invest in a Mic setup for recording ambient sound or voiceover.

Some advanced techniques to consider are trimming and splicing videos together to create a richer story. Using apps like iMovie and Adobe Premier Rush CC to create richer content could pay off, if the resulting video tells a more interesting story.

You don’t necessarily need extra tools to get started, but shooting overhead videos is easier with a phone mount with an articulated arm or a tripod. To record fluid motion, the iPhone (and the Hyperlapse app) offers auto-stabilization features, but if you plan to record a lot of video on the move, consider using a Gimbal to avoid shaky camera-work.

Share your videos

Time to share your work! Explore the analytics information in your Instagram business account to choose an optimal time to post. Use relevant hashtags to help your video get in front of more viewers in the explore and search feeds. You can use up to 30, but experts find that using 7-9 hashtags is best for engagement.

Finally, think about how to engage your audience further in the comments section. Bobby, who creates engaging video posts for Paradise Fibers, recommends, “Respond to comments on your post as quickly as possible, as you would to a person standing in front of you. Ask questions, start conversations, and be a friend.” Bobby adds, “Listen to your audience. They will either love something or hate it and most of the time they have suggestions of what they would love to see from you. Listen to them and you will build trust with your viewers which will keep them coming back for more.”

How would you use video to inspire and engage your fans and followers?

Erin Dollar is an artist, surface pattern designer, and founder of Cotton & Flax, a collection of boldly patterned textile home decor that is designed and manufactured in California. Her work has been sold in 100+ retail shops, from indie boutiques, to large mass-market retailers like West Elm, CB2, and Need Supply. By growing her ecommerce business to accommodate wholesale buyers, she has built a sustainable business that generates income year-round, and built a platform for long-term growth. See her webinar, Wholesale for Craft Business, in our archives.

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