Tips and tools for shooting video on your phone

by Jacob Templin
Jun 23, 2020 in Mobile Journalism
Phone camera

This article is the second in a 3-part series based on training materials produced during the APAC video accelerator.

This article is part of our online coverage of reporting on COVID-19. To see more resources, click here

If you have a smartphone, chances are you have a professional quality video camera at your disposal. Knowing when and how to use it is important.

This tip sheet covers the apps and accessories you will need, and outlines the best practices when it comes to shooting video on your phone, whether you are shooting yourself or asking sources to shoot for you.

[Read more: Be like water: 5 keys for adjusting to a remote digital video workflow]

How to turn your phone into a professional video camera (for $100)

There are endless ways to improve the quality of your phone footage — and an endless amount of money you could spend on gear. Professional lenses, lights and microphones can improve the quality of smartphone footage dramatically. There are also a number of products designed specifically for your phone.

If you are on a budget, here are three items I would recommend acquiring:

1) An app that gives you greater control over things like f-stop, focus, color and frame rate
 2) A tripod or “gorillapod”

There are a number of ways a tripod can be used to give you more stability when shooting on your phone.

3) A wired lavalier

In many ways, sound quality trumps video quality. People are far more likely to tolerate poor video quality than poor sound quality. If you are interviewing anyone for your video, a wired lavalier is essential.

[Read more: 7 photo editing apps for mobile journalists]

How to work with sources to capture phone footage

In a pandemic, we are relying on phone footage and sources more than ever. We have seen a number of ways that newsrooms are being resourceful in order to gain access to hard-to-reach people and places.

What can sources shoot?
Best Practices
  • Be as specific as you can about the shots you want. For example, don’t just say “shoot horizontally.” Explain what that means, and send a screenshot of examples if needed.
  • Be clear on your sources' time commitment. From the outset, you need to explain exactly what you will need (give a shot list) and how much of their time this will take. This includes more than just shooting video — consider the time it takes to conduct an interview and send the video, for instance.
  • Build in a review process, if possible. If you can, give yourself an opportunity to see some footage and provide guidance for another round of shooting.
  • Simpler is often better. While the apps and additional gear I recommended will work for you, I would advise against sending to sources who don’t have video experience.

Main image CC-licensed by Unsplash via Kote Puerto.