Producing high-quality material with a smartphone is now easier than ever, but new equipment comes with its own challenges, not to mention an entirely different workflow.

So if you're new to shooting, editing and publishing videos and audio with your mobile, or simply looking to hear how you can improve your workflow, check out this advice crowdsourced from mobile journalism professionals on Twitter and Facebook.

Developing your workflow

There is an abundance of apps available on the market that help mobile journalists (mojos) shoot, edit and produce engaging material for broadcast and online audiences, but with so many choices that do so many things, where do you begin?

Glen Mulcahy, head of innovation, RTÉ, told us that mobile journalists should start out with a great visual story, where you've thought through your video in sequences.

Doing this will ensure you remember to take all the clips you'll need, without getting flustered during the shoot – especially useful if you are short on time.

To do this, you'll need to consider where your content will be published, explained BBC mojo trainer Marc Settle. Different social platforms require different video styles, formats and lengths, so it's vital to think ahead in order to make your editing process much easier.

"Film with the content's destination in mind – the visual grammar of a piece shot for TV won't work so well for online or social," he said.

Not only do journalists have to consider the platform they are producing for, it's also vital to consider the needs of the audience – would they benefit from a polished, highly edited piece, or is it more important to sacrifice the tiny edits for faster publication?

Mojo filming essentials

Regardless of how different your workflow is when shooting with a mobile phone, basic filming rules still apply, such as ensuring your shots are correctly framed and you capture more material than you need in the final edit.

However, Philip Bromwell, video and mobile journalist, RTÉ News, explained it's especially important for mobile journalists to get more close-ups than they anticipate using – this keeps video quality high, as the more you zoom, the worse your picture gets.

"Get close, then closer still. One of my mojo maxims is that you shoot more close-ups than you think you need, because you will use them," he said.

Be creative. Use how small and versatile the smartphone is – you can get shots from angles you wouldn't get with regular cameraWytse Vellinga, mobile trainer

Indeed, it's easy to trim or delete footage, but impossible to extend clips or use what you haven't got. To avoid this problem, why not try to edit on the scene? If you need an extra shot, you can still go and get it there and then, before using apps such as iMovie or LumaFusion to put your video together.

Get creative

It's essential to remember that using a mobile phone gives journalists a huge amount of creative freedom. Firstly, smartphone apps can be used to produce content in a range of formats and styles that are traditionally created on post production editing suites, such as Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro.

Julia Bayer, social media journalist, DW News, noted that easy-to-produce video effects such as a timelapse, Boomerang-style loops and split screens can enhance videos for social media, by making them more eye-catching and interactive. Check out the Quik app for an easy way to create animated videos on-the-go, or these free editing apps for adding effects to your footage.

And don't just get caught up with focusing on shooting videos. Dougal Shaw, creator of mojo-produced CEO Secrets at the BBC, explained that journalists should keep in mind the ability to use stills within a video edit, as they can be a "powerful" addition to their work that also takes up less of the phone's memory. Check out these apps and more tips for taking better pictures with your smartphone.

Another benefit of the smartphone is its size – the light, small frame makes it much easier to move around than the bulky, traditional cameras that broadcasters have traditionally lugged around for decades, so why not take advantage of the extra flexibility that you'll have when filming with your phone?

"Be creative. Use how small and versatile the smartphone is – you can get shots from angles you wouldn't get with regular camera," explained mobile journalism trainer Wytse Vellinga.

Tweet could not be found or could not be loaded.

Not only can you squeeze it into tight spaces that bigger cameras wouldn't fit into, as Eleanor Mannion of RTE established when getting unique angles and shots filming an entire documentary on an iPhone, but you can attach it to other objects to raise the camera up for drone-like shots, or simply film things out of reach.

"I use a closed tripod as an alternative for a selfie stick, not just to do pieces to camera, but also to film things that are not at reach," explained Leonor Suarez of TPA, who had to get a range of high-angle and panning shots for the production of historical documentary "Time To Revenge".


Going live directly from your smartphone is a brilliant way to report breaking news events as they happen, as Richard Gutjahr, reporter for German national broadcaster ARD, demonstrated when he covered the terrorist attacks in Nice and Munich for audiences around the world.

However, this can often be daunting and, of course, things can go wrong. Ensure you're familiar with the various issues to consider when going live from your phone, including your safety, the ethics of what you're filming, and copyright issues surrounding the scene you're capturing.

During your live stream, don't forget to keep welcoming people who have just joined, explaining to them who you are, where you are and what you're doingPeter Stewart, BBC Surrey

Why not experiment with going live before you might have to do it in a breaking news situation?

Peter Stewart, social media producer, BBC Surrey, explained that preparation is key to keep viewers engaged, and those news organisations looking to use Facebook Live and Periscope should bear this in mind before broadcasting online.

"When you start off livestreaming, know what you are going to do, say and show before you begin," he said.

"During your live stream, don't forget to keep welcoming people who have just joined, explaining to them who you are, where you are and what you're doing.

"Remember to refer back to what you've just done for those who want to watch the replay, and throw forward to what you'll be doing in a few moments' time to keep audiences tuned in."

Out in the field

If a story breaks and you're immediately sent to cover it with your smartphone, there's a high chance you won't have all your equipment with you – your trusted tripod, and umbrella for that matter, may be back at the office.

"Use any street furniture such as traffic lights or benches to steady your phone when filming street scenes," explained Phyllis Stephen, founding editor of The Edinburgh Reporter.

Indeed, mailboxes, benches and streetlamps make for a great tripod when filming moving events such as parades or demonstrations, multimedia journalist Eva Mayordomo told us, noting that she sometimes leaves her kit behind so she is able to run up and down the crowd to get a wider variety of shots.

"Never sell an old handset when you upgrade," explained Corinne Podger, digital editorial capability manager, Fairfax Media, and mobile journalism trainer.

"Two phones equals two camera angles, or a cheeky way of getting 2-channel audio for mixing later."

Indeed, doing the best with what you have will often suffice, with the public unaware of many mojo hacks that help journalists get the perfect shot.

For example, Vellinga uses duct tape for sticking his phone to anything he wants, and Charles Hodgson, video journalist, View News, recommends using shopping trolleys and chairs on wheels for great tracking shots.

Tackling the weather

Smartphones used in extreme temperatures can often fail, and if they're not waterproof, shooting in the rain or snow can prove difficult, so keep your kit protected with waterproof casing – or as Sue Newhook, journalism lecturer at University of King's College, suggests, a zip-lock sandwich bag.

Shooting in the sun? Try holding your business card against the phone and above the camera to remove lens flare – useful in sunny conditions or when around brights lights.

Additionally, Settle noted that if you can't see the screen, sticking post-it notes to your smartphone can help make it visible in bright sunlight.

Tweet your tips and advice for mobile journalists to @Journalismnews.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).