How to shoot great interviews with your mobile device

"Man, I wish I had a video camera," we've all thought it — watching the stream roll along, chatting with a passionate individual about a stream, a project or great days of fishing. With most of carrying smartphones in our pockets, we almost always do have a camera with us.

Shooting video can seem intimidating, but by following a few simple tips you'll have professional and compelling video clips to share online.

Use the rule of thirds

Think of your screen as a grid broken into three sections both horizontally and vertically. Keep the interviewee to one of those thirds. Right or left side can work. My advice is to *never shoot these interviews vertically with your phone. *

Think about Subject placement

Most people these days watch videos on their mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, etc.) sog they won't be able to see the subject of your interview from far away. Keep the subject as close as you can to the phone so the viewer can see whom you’re talking to and to provide some separation from the background clutter. Think chest up. Too close and it’s just a head talking. Too far and it’s the full body that gets lost in the environment you’re recording. Getting closer also helps attain the best audio from your subject as well.

Minimize Background noise

Be mindful of planes, trains, water, birds, wind and other environmental factors that can distort or detract from the subject’s words. Be sure wait until that plane passes, or step six more steps away from the rushing water. If the wind is a problem consider two options. One, turn your back to the wind to act as a wind block. Or two, move the subject to a more controlled environment either indoors or somewhere sheltered from the wind.

Keep the camera still

Often we shoot these interviews handheld. When the interviews are on the fly this is understandable, but if you have the option to steady your phone you will create a more professional looking product. Tripods are rarely an option for spontaneous videos, which means we have to make due with what’s around. Consider resting your camera atop a wading staff, a nearby rock or parked vehicle. I’ve also had some success shooting mobile video by resting the camera on my knee while kneeling down as well. This works well if you ask your subject to sit on a log or a rock nearby.

Keep it short

Nobody has the time to watch a 4-minute interview. Simply said, keep it short. One or two thoughts or questions will be more impactful online than an epic documentary.


Microphone accesories

There are a ton of these out there ranging from $20-$200. I’d recommend using your headphones when doing an interview with any of these to monitor all the noises coming into your phone.


said on Monday, March 24th, 2014

Josh- This is great! I have added your article to the Chapter Wiki page that helps with Digital Story Telling.


Add Content