People ask me all of the time about how I create the videos on my video blog and other digital video content that I create. They’re shocked that I started vlogging with my smart phone! Anyone can do it. Of course, editing saves lives (death by boredom) and enables incomparable expressions of creativity. Nonetheless, accessories and equipment are crucial to taking your game to the next level.

Here are a few of the crucial tips to keep in mind when creating video content with your smart phone:

1. Lighting is clutch. Don’t have bright lights and lamps shining into the camera. This will render you a silhouette as the camera adjusts the lighting automatically. Got a few extra bucks? Grab some of these cheap clamp lights ($8.99 at the time of this post) here or at home depot. Some vloggers will grab a ring light, something like this, which knocks out shadows around your nose etc.

2. Back lighting can help for the vlogger who sits in the same room every episode. It helps to gently shine some light on your background. I’ve found that shining some colored lights adds a lot as well. It doesn’t upset the white balance too much in the camera and adds that extra color flare giving it a more dynamic look than that florescent light or dark office vibe.

3. Audio happens once. Capture is everything. Background sounds can destroy a great shot. Get it right the first time to make sure the audio is tight and editable. I use this AmpRidge shotgun microphone which basically blocks out the extra surrounding noise and focuses on what is in front of it. Clutch. This makes audio editing much easier to reduce extra sounds after the capture.

4. Hold the phone sideways (90% of the time). When you play this on youtube or Facebook or practically any other social media channel, you’ll want that regular screen vibe…not the awkward perpendicular rectangle screen which leaves black on both sides of it. That also make editing for the more formal video much less professional. Now of course, when one is watching on their phone, the perpendicular might be better because the viewer doesn’t have to turn their phone sideways to fill the screen. However, I haven’t seen any prime time video production companies make the switch for that reason. Neither should you. (btw same goes for live streaming and raw uploads on Facebook and make sure you turn it sideways before your press record.)

5. Selfie stick helps but isn’t a must. In truth, I like tripods and selfie sticks because they add weight to the phone and serve as a bit of a stabilizer. It is also great to be able to get different angles and the like. However, it isn’t necessary. Sometimes the selfie stick can actually create more shake since it may amplify the shaky hand depending on the camera stabilizer feature. Nonetheless, I like to have mine in my pocket or my computer bag at all times just in case.

6. Tripod please. No one like the constant shake. Tripods help to stabilize things in a major way taking your rant from good to great, well. Also, try to keep the tripod on eye level. Few people appear flattering from the up the nose angle. You can get a table tripod or even go for a real tripod. Here’s a 60 inch tripod that I found on Amazon for less than $25. For $5 less you can get the 50 inch but when I’m on the road without a camera operator, every inch counts for that right angle. I haven’t tested either model so make sure the reviews are good.

7. Don’t vlog and drive. Unless you have a car mount. I use something like this but you can find one that works for your car just google/amazon “smartphone car mount.” The main thing is that you need your hands when you’re driving and you don’t want to play camera operator while operating heavy vehicles. The major upshot is that you set the camera once and combine this with your shotgun mic (referenced above) and you have a pretty cool capture in the car for you and your passengers. Here’s a fun example of having a group vid in the car. It starts at the 3min 10 sec spot for your convenience.

I hope these tips help you get you started or help you up your game. Don’t be afraid of feedback and I always recommend that friends  find someone who can critique you and give you pointers along the way. I have only benefited from my professional videographers giving me tips over the years as well as watching youtube tutorials on the production process.

SOC offers video strategy, coaching and editing for organizations. If you would like to make a time to speak with JP Katz he can be reached here.