Wannabe wired

Earlier this year, I undertook a new challenge at The Lawton Constitution — filming a 4-part documentary series featuring prominent Black leaders in the community. This series, titled Reflections, was an oral history created for both education and preservation.

I had some video experience at the time, but I had never put together anything that ambitious. So I sat about teaching myself the ins and outs of film. Which is to say, I watched a whole lot of YouTube videos about it. So here I’ve gathered six of the best tips I learned for filming and applied them to the most common camera available — the smartphone.

Don’t shoot vertical video

This one is pretty straight forward. Just because your phone can shoot in vertical doesn’t mean you should. Because you shouldn’t. Ever. It might look good on your phone, but think about how it will look on any other screen. Always turn your phone horizontally to shoot.

Use a tripod

Shaky footage will ruin any video, and there is only so much that can be stabilized in the editing process. If you don’t have a tripod but can take the time, set your phone up against a hard surface where there won’t be any vibration before you start filming.

Don’t use digital zoom

Almost all phones have a digital zoom function that can be tempting to use. But don’t. If you want to “zoom” simply move the camera closer to the subject. Unlike optical zoom, digital zoom doesn’t do anything other than increase the size of the image. Which means it will increase the number of pixels resulting in more static and noise in the image.


Using the flash on a smartphone or digital camera to lighten a subject gives it that old VHS appearance. It can’t compare to off-camera lighting. If you have external studio lighting, go for it, otherwise opt for natural lighting from the sun. Have your subject face the natural light, don’t have it behind them or you’ll get silhouettes

Audio recording

Most of the time, recording audio directly from the camera’s built-in microphone will suffice, but if you have access to an external microphone that will be your best option. And if you have a wind guard, even better.

Slow motion: try not to over-use it

Slow motion on phones can be fun to play around with, particularly with action shots, but don’t overuse it. Often times speed changes can be made in the editing process anyway, so unless you are just messing around having fun, I would avoid your built in speed adjusters.

So there you have it, those are my six best tips for making the best out of your phone’s video operations. Follow these and you’ll be shooting semi-professional looking video in no time. And if you’d like to take a look at our Reflections series, visit swoknews.com.

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