Tips for Smartphone Video – Fall 2015

Pros and Cons of Smartphone Video:


  • Good video quality
  • Can post video online and share it
  • You always have it with you
  • Small and discrete


  • Poor audio quality, poor mic placement
  • Hard to hold still
  • It’s not just a video camera, it’s a computer
  • Apps crash
  • Uses lots of memory and battery
  • Less “professional”

Recommended Apps:

videoliciousVideolicious (iPhone/iPad)
Shoot and edit video on iPhone/iPad. Used by reporters at New York Daily News. Check out their list of video journalism tutorials that cover how to shoot basic news stories.


FiLMiC Classic and Pro (iPhone) – $.99/$4.99

This iPhone app allows you to set and lock focus and exposure, monitor audio levels, and set frame rates, resolution, and video and audio quality.

598364177x356VideoPro Camera (iPhone) – $4.99
Developed by photojournalist Ken Kobre, this iPhone app allows you to listen to audio through headphones, attach a lav mic, and lock focus, exposure and white balance. The features are meant to solve some of the most common cell phone video issues.

Vine (iPhone and Android) – Free
Vine is a video sharing app that lets you to record a six second looping video and share it via Twitter. Yes, that means your story can’t be longer than six seconds.

hyperlapse Instagram’s Hyperlapse – Free
It stabilizes and speeds it up with time-lapse.

Recommended Hardware:

Cell phone car charger – Less than $5
Shooting video saps your cell phone battery. It’s worth the investment.


iStabilizer flexible mini-tripod (Fits all cell phones) – $29.95 or check out in Bozorth 105E
This small tripod fits any sized cell phone and eliminates shaky hand-held video. You can sit it on a table, wrap the flexible legs around most objects, or unscrew the mount and put it on a full-sized tripod.

iPhone 1/8 inch microphone and headphone adapter (For use with VideoPro App) – $28.50 or check out in Bozorth 105E.
Use this connector to split the incoming audio from an external mic and outgoing audio to your headphones.


Make sure your battery is fully charged.
Video will sap your cell phone battery. Always carry a plug and car charger with you.

Make sure you have plenty of free memory.
Video files take up a lot of space. Transfer your old video files to your computer before you go out to report.

Restart your phone.
Turning your phone off-and-on can help prevent crashes and freezing.

Set phone to Airplane Mode.
You don’t want your video to be interrupted by calls and texts.

Clean your lens.
Is your video blurry? There might be fingerprints on your lens.

Always shoot horizontally.
Screens and video players are horizontal. If you shoot vertically, you will end up with a narrow image and black bars on the side.

Use a tripod or something to stabilize your phone.
Cell phones are difficult to hold steady and often result in shaky video. Bring a tripod with you. If you don’t have one, trying using both hands, leaning against a wall, or propping your arms on something.

Pick a location with good lighting.
Go outside. Use natural light from window. Turn on more lights. If you are shooting somewhere dark, bring your own light.

Fill your frame.
Chances are your video will be viewed on a small video player or mobile device, not on a flat screen TV. So get closer. Follow the rule of thirds. Keep your composition clean.

Avoid pans or zooms.
Let the action move across your frame rather than moving with it. If you do use pans or zooms, do so sparingly.

For interviews, use a microphone and monitor your audio levels.
Smartphones aren’t great at recording audio. You need to be as close to the source as possible. For best results use an external microphone or lav mic. Some apps also let you monitor your audio levels with headphones while you record.

For b-roll, shoot in sequences and hold each shot for a minimum of 10 seconds.
Frame your shot, hit record and hold it still for 10 seconds. Hit stop. Then move to a new location and repeat. Get wide, medium, close-up, point-of-view, and reaction shots. Shooting in sequences will make it easier to upload and edit your footage.

Play to the strengths of smartphone video.
Cell phone video is best suited for capturing raw footage and quick interviews and posting them to the web. It isn’t as great for longer-form video stories that require a lot of shooting and complex editing. When you want to go mobile or capture breaking news, use your phone. When you want higher production quality, use a camera, microphones, tripods and equipment that offer greater control.

About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine,, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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