Making a modern home movie using iMovie

19 September 2018

Over the last three years of making (and sharing) June in June, I’ve had many questions about how we film and edit these yearly movies of our daughter. It’s surprisingly easy to create a really fun and halfway decent finished product if you have just a few tools and tips, with the end result being something you’ll treasure forever. Today I’m sharing our best practices, if you’d like to try it yourself!

how to make an iMovie


Pick one month where you commit to having your cameras more readily at hand and filming multiple clips a day. The idea of capturing everything all year is daunting and overwhelming to me, but one month I can do! Even though kids change so much month-to-month, when we’re looking back from the vantage point of an eighteenth birthday, I think 18 mini movies will be enough for us :)
–We shoot almost all of our clips with my iPhone. (I have a 7 Plus – John has a 5S, so we don’t use his too often, ha!) The quality it produces is pretty incredible. We also have a GoPro, which we’ve used for underwater and action shots in a few movies! Very important: don’t forget to shoot horizontally!!
— Always film slightly longer than you think you need to – you never know when an extra half second will help you time something with the music, and it’s always better to have more footage rather than less.
— To help with editing, aim for variety in all ways! Film some scenes where your child is aware of, and interacting with, the camera, and some where he or she is not. Film multiple versions or angles of the same scene (like I did to create the opening montage of June watering flowers in Volume 3), as well as multiple versions of the same action over several days (like the opening sidewalk montage in Volume 2!). Film up close to your subjects and film from a distance. Film your subjects walking past the camera and towards the camera and away from the camera. Film them sitting and reading and film them running/walking/swinging/dancing/jumping.
— Just like with photos, try to shoot in good light – but don’t let “bad” light discourage you. Some of the sweetest moments happen in the evening or in the bathtub in a windowless bathroom :)
— Make sure to get both parents in front of the camera, as well as any siblings, family members, or friends that are particularly important to their life right now. Same goes for places you frequent, favorite activities, everyday routines, and funny habits or mannerisms — anything that’s a marker of their life at this age.


— I edit in iMovie, a program included with Macs. Since I’m far from a professional, keeping the editing simple and classic results in the most polished product. I don’t use a theme and generally don’t use transitions between clips (I did in Volume 1, so you can see what a “fade to black” transition between each clip looks like there, if you’d like!). I almost always use the “expand” title for text.
— We use Amazon Prime for phone photo backup. At the end of the month I download all of the videos from our back-up to my computer, delete any I definitely won’t use, then load the rest into iMovie. I usually use at least a piece of about 2/3 of the clips from the month (but that means about 1/3 end up on the cutting room floor).
— I purchase my song choice from iTunes, which easily loads into iMovie. Song choice is critical! I am on the hunt year-round for possible June in June songs, and store any possibilities in a note on my phone. If you’re stuck, try perusing Spotify playlists that fit with the feeling you’re trying to capture – they’re always a treasure trove of new-to-me songs and artists!
— I like to include a clip at some point where I can hear laughter or talking, since their voices change so much. Cue all the mamas sobbing in the corner.
Switch things up! Here’s where you’re grateful for the variety of clips you captured! :) Mix close up and pulled back shots and quick switches with a few longer shots (like at :44 in Volume 3) to give the viewer a chance to breathe.
— Don’t leave a clip on the cutting room floor because something is out of place. This is meant to capture your real life — don’t stress about your messy house in the background or your hair looking weird. The sweetest and most memorable moments are not fancy – some of my favorites in Volume 2 include June eating oatmeal in our bathroom and her ridiculous camping bedhead.
Three minutes is my max finished length – I usually shoot for between 2:00 and 2:30. This year’s was 2:45.

Most of all, remember this video is for you. Childhood passes all too quickly, and these yearly videos are my favorite way to capture all those things we’re so likely to forget: the length of their hair, their baby chub, the way they walk and run, their smile, the way they hold a spoon, the outfits they wear on repeat… all those things that, years later, will make you say, “Oh wow, I almost forgot about that…”

Happy filming, friends! If you have any questions I haven’t covered, drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

P.S. For those of you who have asked… YES, we will be making movies for Shep, too! Stay tuned for Sheptember Volume 1 in 2019 :)

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Diane Taylor
September 19, 2018 7:01 am

Hi Emily – I am not an IPHONE user (sorry but I am an Android girl all the way). Do you have any recommendations for tools that will work for me? I was thinking about putting together a slide show to music for my 15th anniversary next week (I have a bunch of pics saved that I want to use). I want to surprise my husband with it. Thanks so much – love your blog!!!

September 19, 2018 9:32 am

You have so inspired me to turn my video clips into a mini-movie!! Thank you for breaking this down.

September 19, 2018 9:47 am

My parents used to make home videos all the time, with one of those large, hand-held cameras people used back in the 80s. I don’t have kids but I started making “vacation videos” since we travel quite a bit. A few years ago making these videos used to take a while (days even), but now it’s easier than ever I feel. Recently, I used Windows Movie Maker to create a vacation movie for our trip to Japan. That took maybe 2-3 hours total to finalize and edit everything. And I know you guys are Amazon fans. But during our trip, Google Photos created several short movies for me out different clips I filmed at each city during the trip! You have the option to save the videos Google creates or dismiss them. I thought it was so cool, really convenient and helpful :)

September 19, 2018 2:53 pm

Being a TV author, I have made lots of videos, but I always had a camera guy and an editor who did the technical stuff. I just had to know and tell them how I wanted things to look like. I did some filming and editing in college, but it’s been a while, ha! And the technical part of it all has always seemed daunting to me. But, I have to say, your little movies (and the whole “let go of perfection” approach) inspire me to try something like it with my kiddos. They grow up so quickly! And looking back at my own childhood – all those videos my dad shot of our family are such treasures!
Also, I love Sheptember!

September 19, 2018 7:36 pm

Great tips! Why is it so important to shoot horizontally? Have your vertical videos worked?

September 19, 2018 8:14 pm

Sheptember makes me so happy! So fun! Can’t wait!

September 19, 2018 9:34 pm

These are great tips!!! :)

September 19, 2018 9:40 pm

Yes, Sheptember!!! I truly was wondering what you’d do for Shep, and this exceeds all expectations :)

Kelly Strawberry
September 20, 2018 10:19 am

Laughing so hard at Sheptember!!!!!

I love your little videos! They are simple and precious, and I’m so glad you wrote this post for someone like me who is not tech-savvy. I have a Mac and iMovie but have never used it. Excited to try this soon!

Is there a reason you need to photo/video backup? We use Prime for everything, but I have not thought about backing up photos/videos on my phone since it’s all in the cloud.

Kelly Strawberry
September 20, 2018 10:37 am

OK I did some researching and downloaded the Amazon photo app! Seems like they offer neat things with Amazon Photo. After thinking about it more, I think I do pay a few dollars extra per month for iCloud storage.

I never noticed until now but I clicked on iPhone “memories” in my photos, and it also makes short videos of past vacations, “furry friends” etc, and you can change up the music and change out the photo selections. It also seems to incorporate some of the live photos and videos. Very neat I just now discovered this feature!

September 20, 2018 11:27 am

Hi friend! We don’t use the cloud (it always confuses me?), so before we started backing up with Prime we weren’t backing up at all. And because it’s already included in the price, it was a no-brainer! And yes, I LOVE the memories function!! The video it makes of June’s first year always makes me tear up :)

September 20, 2018 2:44 pm

I like the zoomed-out approach to this: filming what you will want to see at an 18th birthday recap! That is so cool! I’m on top of our yearly photo albums, so now I need to get on this project because those iphone videos are everything!
Are you burning your movies to DVDs or simply storing them in amazon/vimeo?

September 20, 2018 4:35 pm

These are the sweetest videos! Thank you so much for the tutorial. Also, if you happen to remember, can you tell me where you purchased that gorgeous maternity dress you wore in the Connecticut wedding in Volume 3? You look stunning in it!

September 20, 2018 9:51 pm

OK, so if I have vertical videos how do I use them without it cropping them? There has to be a way to use them, surely.

September 26, 2018 12:03 pm

Hi Emily! Have you heard of the app 1 Second Everyday? It basically compiles a video like the ones you made for June for you! I don’t have kids yet, but last year we moved to Rwanda and I did one second a day video for the whole year…it’s sweet looking back our life before moving and then our first few months here. (You can see the video here: You can save any length of time you choose and make it into a video, so you could absolutely do a week or a month at a time. it is a paid app, but I highly recommend it!

March 22, 2021 6:06 pm

Any suggestions how to get a song downloaded from iTunes to iMovie?

March 23, 2021 12:32 am
Reply to  Em

Thank you! I didn’t realize that. ;^D