How to shoot news with a smartphone

Remember the Flip cam?  Those smaller cameras put news gathering capabilities in the hands of anyone with a desire to do it. To maximize the quality of the video, a list of best practices in video news gathering was developed.

Now that smartphones with video capability are everywhere, it’s worth talking again about techniques that can help the journalists who use them get the highest quality video possible.

1. Keep it steady.  With any small camera, you have to work especially hard to avoid shaky cam.  Look for natural tripods, such as a car hood or a door frame — anything  that you can use to brace the camera.  If nothing is available, you want to hold the camera with both hands and keep your elbows in close to your side.

2. Zoom with your feet.  A digital zoom is pretty worthless — it’s best to just get closer to your subject.

3. Know your mic.  Figure out where the microphone is located and play around a bit to determine how to record the best sound. Generally, you will need to move in close to the source of the sound or interview.  If you’re willing to invest a little cash, you can buy external mic kits for smartphones that will improve the audio quality.

4.  Look for the light.  If you have the option, try to shoot video in good light.  Low light situations are tough for  smartphones and other small cameras.

5. Set it high.  If your smartphone allows you to change  the camera’s resolution, stick with the highest setting possible.

6.  Hold it horizontal.  Remember the aspect ratio for TV is 16:9 or 4:3, so you’ll want to hold your camera as you see in the screen shot below.  (Thanks to reader RG for pointing this out!)

Though the video linked below was not designed specifically for journalists, it offers solid advice in how to shoot better video with a smartphone.  It also features a few gadgets that can give you more options in the field.




6 comments for “How to shoot news with a smartphone

  1. RG
    March 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    You forgot a sixth tip: Turn the phone sideways. If you don’t, when your video airs on TV it will be tiny and surrounded by a sea of black.

  2. Joe Johnson
    March 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Nowadays news will put anything on the air. We use blurry YouTube videos if they are titillating enough. Today we used someone’s cam phone that blocked a third of the video, so why stress?

  3. Deb Wenger
    March 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    RG — you’re right! Turning the phone sideways is an important element — thanks for the reminder. And Joe — you’re correct that a lot of poor video makes air, but it would be nice if it SOME of it was a little bit better, right?

  4. David Yates
    March 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I guess the video is good… although I don’t know. Why? Because the linked video about using your mobile phone to shoot video ISN’T MOBILE ACCESSIBLE.

  5. Deb Wenger
    March 15, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Ah, the devil is in the details! Thanks for pointing that out. The video is hosted on Yahoo, so we may be stuck with this issue — any suggestions out there?

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