In newsgathering, the best camera is often the one you have on you.
“It’s all about good journalism — getting good video, getting good audio — and you can do that with your phone,” explains K.C. Wassman, a producer of NBC News’ “Stay Tuned.” “Storytelling’s storytelling, as long as you have a lens and a mic.”
In the video above and the edited remarks below, Wassman offers some advice about how to take your phone newsgathering to the next level with consumer-grade gear.
What are some benefits of using a phone to shoot news stories?
You don’t have to carry a heavy camera and it makes everything really mobile. Sometimes people don’t even notice, which is the best way to catch an authentic moment.
It also allows you to move about crowds much easier. For instance, I did a shoot ahead of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Herald Square was full of tourists and everyone watching rehearsals. I was able to shoot on my little Gimbal camera, without worrying about anyone bumping into me.
What are some of your favorite pieces shot on your phone?
Maxwell Frost, who’s now the first Gen Z congressman, spent the whole primary Election Day with us. We shot him on the phone in the car, when he was with voters, everywhere. It was really fun because Maya Eaglin, co-host of “Stay Tuned,” was able to get some vertical video with him, while I stuck with horizontal format. That allowed us to pitch to MSNBC and News NOW, and that video got everywhere.
Other basic shooting tips:
- Zoom with your feet. Move closer to a subject if you need to zoom in. Digital zoom has come a long way, but you’ll get the best image quality if you just move the phone closer to your subject.
- Pay attention to the rule of thirds. Imagine your camera viewfinder has two evenly spaced lines running from top to bottom and from left to right, splitting the screen into a 3-by-3 grid. The subject matter of your photo or video should be on one of these lines – or even better, have a focal point at the intersection of a horizontal and vertical line.
- Move around with your smartphone. Kim Cornett, Lester Holt’s senior anchor-producer, moves with her phone from a higher angle to a lower angle to get creative and interesting shots. Consider panning with your smartphone to get dynamic shots.
Interested in the basics of smartphone videography? Check out our first video on shooting with your phone.
Meet the NBC News Digital production operations team!
This team on the fifth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza helps NBCU News Group employees in New York City get mobile kits or any other cameras. Special thanks to (left to right): John Makely, Javier Parra, Albert Bickley and Joe Dibble.