Storytelling: Top 7 tips for everyone to shoot good video

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

Shooting video with a smartphoneEveryone can now do video. Many of us carry phones with cameras. Most of those phones even shoot high-definition video. But just because we have some of the tools, that doesn’t mean everyone can use them perfectly.

Some of us – including me – have learned this the hard way. The key is to learn from missteps and from others.

Videos can be shot easily. Point the phone, remember to click record and keep pointing. They can be simple. Really simple. Uploading to WordPress, YouTube or Facebook is easy and takes minutes – if not seconds.

Examples could include:

  • A building fire.
  • A car accident.
  • Your daughter learning to ride her bike for the first time.
  • Other things right in front of you and that can be shot without having to move.
  • Horrific incidents. Often, the more unusual or terrible something it the lower the production quality can be. (Think of a terrible car crash. People watch it, even when something has to be circled so the sequence of events actually makes sense.)

Other videos, ones that aren’t spur-of-the-moment kind of productions, a smartphone production doesn’t always work. Here are my top tips to keep in mind when you are using your smartphone to shoot video that you will publish – and remember everything published is a reflection on you and the organization you represent.

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Here are my top tips when it comes to video…

1) Get good audio

Not having good audio can make or break a video. Your options:

  • Buy a microphone (called lavalier) that you can stick on the person you are interviewing.
  • Be close enough that the internal mic will do. (This will feel too close to your interview subject, but is doable.)
  • You can also use a second smartphone to shoot the audio and then later sync the audio and video. Keep in mind that this takes more time than “just” shooting it all on one device. This can improve the video’s quality.

2) Hold shots longer than you think you need to

It’s easy to see something worth shooting, point the camera, think that you got it and stop recording. Once you play the footage back, chances are that the shot is shorter than you thought. Always shoot longer than it feels. Slowly count to five or ten.

3) Move to zoom

Don’t use the camera’s zoom function. If you need to get a closer shot, use your feet to zoom and move closer. This will help with video quality.

4) Tell a story

Before you start shooting, think about  what the story is you want to tell.

5) Hold the camera steady

You don’t want your audience to get seasick. Hold the shot. Don’t move quickly. Not talking to others around you (other than the interviewee) also helps with this.

6) Hold the camera the correct way.

Some phones will adjust the final video’s orientation, but some phones make this harder. So make sure you are holding the phone in the way that will upload the video correctly – and not upside down, for example. Most phones work best when you hold them horizontally while shooting.

7) Test everything before shooting your video

Make sure you have enough storage on the phone, that the mic works and that you know how to upload the video to the Internet. This could be through the YouTube or WordPress apps, for example. The key is to test the workflow.

Shooting video has become easier and great stories can be told – even through simple videos. I’ve learned much of what I know when it comes to smartphone video storytelling by trial and error. I hope my Top 7 tips help you tell great stories through video.