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Your Video Camera + Gear ARE NOT as Important as You Think (and Here's Why)

video, gear, video gear, videography, smartphone, tripod,

When I was a kid, I wanted to learn how to juggle. So, I began saving my allowance to buy all the things I would need: 3 bean bags and a book on how to juggle.

To get started, I read the book cover to cover before even picking up my bean bags. By the last page of the book, I knew all about the earliest jugglers, the history of the art and the geometry of juggling knives, but I still didn’t know how to juggle.

Furthermore, now my little brain was overwhelmed by the concept, too busy contemplating angles and grip methods rather than doing what I really needed to do to learn: PRACTICE.

Later in life, I would get distracted by the same old stuff. I’d buy art supplies, but never paint. I’d buy language software, but never practice. I would choose stuff over skill. Style over substance. I would dress the part, but I wouldn’t play the part.

I’m not alone. We all do this. It’s not that our intentions are bad or that we don’t really want these skills, it’s that we’re afraid to get started and want an easier way.

And so, we choose stuff over skill.

In my mobile storytelling circles, I get asked the same question over and over again: What gear do you carry in your kit? People are always surprised when I can pull everything I need out of my pocket while they fiddle around with a mobile video setup that looks more like Disney’s Wall-E than it does a smartphone.

I'm here to tell you that gear will not make you a good videographer. Practice and good ideas will.

Do I have some pretty kickass gear? Absolutely. But I try not to let the stuff distract from the skill, especially when I have everything you need to get started in my pocket. Your iPhone shoots 1080p, and your headphones have a decent mic. What are you waiting for? If you’ve never shot a video before, that $300 microphone and that $200 lens won’t help you.

If I could bet that $500 on a videographer with the best gear or a videographer who’s practiced a lot, I would absolutely put my money on the guy who’s practiced more.

If I had just picked up three of my Beanie Babies and gotten started, I’d probably know how to juggle by now. Stop allowing yourself to be held back by stuff. The stuff will postpone you. The stuff will distract and confuse you. You just need to get started.

Apple or Android?

storytelling, mobile storytelling, apple, android, apps

I am an Apple maniac. I'm on my third MacBook Pro and my fourth iPhone, and I have two iPads that I keep on hand. I'm also a graduate of and adjunct instructor for the University of Missouri, where dimly lit classrooms are illuminated by hundreds of soft, glowing Apples.

But during my training sessions, I almost always have a mixed audience of Apple users and Android users, all of whom want to make the most of their devices. As I learn more about the capabilities of Android devices, I've developed a list of pros and cons for both.


Apple devices shine when it comes to simplicity of app interfaces and variety of applications.

Even though I have three full-featured editing software options on my computer, I often find myself using apps to edit short videos anyways. Compared to software, video editing apps on the iPhone have just the basics. They make it easy to choose the right settings and difficult to screw up by making edits you don't understand. Learning Steller or any other short and creative storytelling apps is also very user-friendly.

Another area in which Apple products shine is the sheer variety of storytelling applications. I have no legitimate rationale for the number of storytelling apps available on Apple devices compared to Android, but my best guess is the type of people who utilize each family of devices. Apple products are often used by videographers and designers who would be likely to utilize these types of apps.


Where Android shines is as a middle ground between full-featured software and basic apps. Although the design and use isn't as streamlined or easy to learn as Apple apps, there are many more features in most of the comparable Android apps I've seen. There's also, of course, more variety in camera quality and capability on Android phones, and a variety of larger-screened options (yes, I know of the iPhone 6 Plus) that make editing easier. They're also often more affordable, and one part of smartphone storytelling is that it's a more budget-friendly option.

The conclusion?

Work with what you have and what you're used to. Just know the limitations of what you're working with and find a creative solution that works for you.

DIY Tripod Mount for your Phone

tripod, tripod mount, iphone android, tutorial, video, smartphone, video smartphone, content marketing, mobile storytelling, videography, storytelling, audio, apps, applications,

When I was teaching a course for the American Society of Business Publication Editors, the Social Media Club of Kansas City and a few other groups, everyone was in awe of my homemade tripod mount.

I'd only manufactured it out of desperation--I misplaced my own mount and needed one for the presentation--but people love anything that's free, or close to it.

Sure, there are plenty of tripod mounts for your phone available for about $10, but you can build this one in less than a minute with $5 worth of materials you can find at any hardware store.

Macro Lens Hack for Smartphones

iphone photography, camera, photography, iphoneography, macro lens, mobile storytelling, storytelling

I was getting some work done at a coffee shop when I got distracted by all the condensation from my iced coffee that was inching its way closer to my laptop. I had been doing some research on getting better detail shots with a smartphone when an idea struck: could I use a tiny droplet of water on my iPhone lens as a makeshift macro lens?

Now, I've played around with a lot of macro lenses for iPhones, from the cheap the the insanely-expensive-for-what-it-is. And shockingly, my experiment produced pretty amazing results. Take a look:


The trick is for the droplet to be about one millimeter (yes, that tiny) in diameter. Anything larger and all you'll get is a trippy blurred effect. If you're having trouble with size, it should be about half the size of your lens. Here's a quick 30-second demo:


Give it a shot and let me know about your experiences in the comments!