Tips for Better Smartphone Video

Smartphones give you the power to get great video at a moments notice. Whether you’re on a picket line, at a rally or a membership meeting, your smartphone gives you the ability to capture all of these moments and more. Before you begin shooting video you need to remember these tips.

Before shooting any video turn your phone horizontally to shoot in landscape format. Otherwise, your footage will have two black vertical bars along both sides of your video.

Framing is key to an esthetically pleasing shot. If you are conducting an interview with someone do not center them in the shot. Place them left or right of center and be sure to remind them to not look at the camera.

Although some smartphones allow for digital zoom in video it will create pixelation and make for ugly video. Get closer to your subjects. This will be especially important when interviewing people in order to pick up better audio. If you’re planning on adding titles to your video be sure to use a head and shoulders shot of your subject to leave room for the title.

While smartphones come equipped with LED lights, these can alter the color temperature of photos. Use as much natural lighting as possible or artificial lighting when necessary.

Avoid backlit settings. While you may be able to make out your subject, your smartphone camera won’t. Having your subject in front of a window or having the sun behind your subject will create negative lighting you’ll want to avoid.

You can improve your videos with a few basic accessories. The addition of a third party camera app, a tripod mount, and an external microphone can give you professional quality video and audio for less than $100.

A little editing can go a long way towards making your videos look professional. Both iOS and Android phones provide editing software that allow for trimming clips and adding transitions and titles.

Remember, when it comes to smartphone video, less is more. Using simple cuts or fade-ins and fade-outs will look more professional than fancy transitions that steal focus from the story you’re trying to tell.

Let’s Go to the Videotape: Lobby Day Activism

Video has become one of the most powerful means of communication. Looking for proof of something? Video provides it. So, how can unions use video evidence to further their goals? Here’s one example.

Lobby Day Activism

Many unions hold lobby days at their state legislature for their members. Union members meet with union officers, political directors and lobbyists to learn about key pieces of legislation and the message the union wants to deliver to legislators.

Political directors and lobbyists generally know prior to the lobby day what issues members will be covering and may also have a vote count of legislators on those issues.

By creating teams of member lobbyists, one to speak with their legislator and one to video the conversation on their smartphone, unions can get legislators on the record.

“Senator, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. As your constituent and a member of the union, I want to know if you will be supporting SB 100 which protects my pension.”

Depending on the legislators answer, that video can immediately be uploaded to the Internet (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) and then emailed out to members in that legislators district (e.g. Salsa, Blue State Digital, etc.) asking them to take action.

Legislator Supports: This email and their subsequent contact thanking the legislator will help reinforce their position on the issue.

Subject: Thank Senator Smith for protecting your pension

Dear member,
Senator Smith is supporting SB 100 which will protect your pension. Here’s what Senator Smith had to say.

Contact Senator Smith and thank him for protecting your pension.

Legislator Waffles: This email and their subsequent contact requesting the legislator’s support may help move their position on the issue.

Subject: Tell Senator Smith to support your pension

Dear member,
Senator Smith hasn’t committed to supporting SB 100 which will protect your pension. Here’s what Senator Smith had to say.

Contact Senator Smith today and ask him to support SB 100 and protect your pension.

Legislator Opposes: This email and their subsequent contact requesting the legislator change their position may help move their position on the issue.

Subject: Demand Senator Smith protect your pension

Dear member,
Senator Smith is opposing SB 100 which will protect your pension. Here’s what Senator Smith had to say.

Contact Senator Smith today and demand he support SB 100 and protect your pension.

Tools Used:


When a legislator changes their position on the issue it is important to get that information out to members immediately and have them contact those legislators again, especially if their position has changed to a positive one.

Video Interview Essentials

The key to a great video interview starts with the setup. Whether you’re using your smartphone or a video camera you’re going to want to set up prior to the interview to get the best video and audio.

Check the Background
Whenever possible avoid busy or moving backgrounds. Beware of objects that might distract viewers and if possible remove them from the background. An awkwardly placed item can appear to come out of the subjects head or body. Depending on the location, it isn’t always possible to avoid an active background like at a rally. In that case, move the subject far enough from the event so it won’t dominate the interview.

Framing the Subject
Never center the subject in the shot. Place them to the left or right of center and be sure to remind them to not look at the camera. As the interviewer, you should stand to the left or the right of the camera opposite of the side the subject is on. This will draw their eyes away from the camera and make for a better shot.

For cameras with an optical zoom, zoom into frame the subject in a head and shoulders shot leaving enough room to place a title on the subject that won’t obscure their face.

Some subjects may have a tendency to move around during the interview. From swaying back and forth to stepping forward and backward, moving around can cause them to move out of focus or out of frame. If you notice in the pre-interview that the subject tends to sway, politely point it out to them.

Lighting the Subject
Use natural lighting whenever possible. If you’re shooting indoors be aware of overhead lighting or lighting from windows. Play around with moving the subject slightly to determine the best lighting possible.

Avoid backlit settings. Having your subject in front of a window or having the sun behind your subject will create negative lighting you’ll want to avoid.

If you’re outside you can use a whiteboard or a reflective board (a car windshield reflective screen is an inexpensive alternative) can help to bounce sunlight and eliminate shadows on a subjects face.

You may want to invest in LED natural lighting that work off batteries and can be set up on a tripod to help light your subject both indoors or outside.

Getting Good Audio
Utilize an external microphone along with headphones to make sure you’re getting the best possible audio.

Conducting the Interview
It helps to have an initial conversation with the subject and go over the interview questions. This will help them to think about what they want to say and may help you come up with additional questions to ask. Remind the subject to not look at the camera and to wait until you are finished with a question before responding.

Begin by starting your camera and asking the subject to say and spell their name. Then ask them for their title. This will give you accurate information for titling the subject in your video.

Almost anything can be fixed in editing. If a subject starts answering before you finish a question, stop the interview and remind them to wait until you are done before answering. If the subject gets flustered on a question, take a moment to regroup and have them start over.

Getting Your Video to go Viral

What is going viral? When a video is so popular that people keep sharing it and watching it a video is said to have gone “viral” like a fast-spreading infection. For some, this may mean more than one million views on YouTube.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to what makes a video go viral; however, there are steps you can take to improve your chances.

Know your audience

Think about who the video is for and make sure the video is something they want from the union. Not something you want them to have.

Will they be likely to share it? Does it affect and/or include them? Your video has to be relevant to your audience if you want them to share it.

Be genuinely engaging

Less is more when it comes to video. Use the best three clips/photos from your rally rather than 20. Make sure it’s a current and timely issue. A short video on a timely issue will resonate better than a longer video on a general issue.

Use a good headline

Write 15-25 headlines for your video. Use words that will excite your audience and build curiosity. Make sure that the headline is consistent with the video otherwise you could lose members’ trust.

Headlines can often benefit from using one of these words: Top, Why, How, Will, New, Secret, Future, Your, Best, Worst.

Once you have several headlines, select 2-3 you think would work best and test them with your audience. The number of views will tell you which headline works best and then you can resend the video to everyone with the best headline.

Use a relevant static image

YouTube allows users to set a specific static image for your video. YouTube usually pulls three images from your video as the static image used when sharing the video. Sometimes these images are not appropriate (e.g. member with their mouth open or eyes closed) or relevant to the video’s message. By setting a good static image, you will increase the level of viewings.

Again, there is no silver bullet but you can increase the chances of your content being shared/liked/commented if your video includes:

Vine Videos and How You Can Use Them

Vine videos are a great way to share breaking news, take your followers where they can’t go, and promote yourself in fun and creative six-second videos.

Video can take up a huge amount of space and depending on your member’s internet speed a long video could take a long time to be viewed. We are living in a world of instant access and using a Vine video to get your message out can help you be successful.

Here are some tips to help you use Vines successfully for your organization.

Use hashtags.

Be sure to include a hashtag for your organization (#ILCA) and possibly one for what’s in the video (#6secondrally)

Promote Events

Let’s face it, all of our members can’t be at every event, but posting a Vine of your event will engage them and make them feel a part of what your organization is doing. Rallies, actions and speakers all make for great Vines.

Call to Action

An image with a voice over is an easy Vine to create and give your members a call to action, like a shot of your state capitol and you saying “Call your legislators about the worker’s rights bill today.” #WorkersRightsBill and a link to the action page on your website.