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Digital Stories Guide

Photography Tips

CHECK YOUR BATTERIES & EQUIPMENT: Same as with filming video, this is critical!

TAKE EXTRA MEMORY CARDS: Always have extra memory cards on hand in case the one you are using fails or runs out of space.

USE A HIGH-QUALITY FORMAT: Shoot in the highest quality that you can. Shooting in RAW is best but RAW files will quickly fill up your memory card.

REMEMBER COMPOSITION: Photography isn't just about the equipment; it's about framing and composing your shot in the best way possible. Make sure nothing in the background is too distracting. Make sure your subject is not being cut off at awkward points in the photograph (at their elbows, knees, and ankles). Experiment with different angles, depth of field, leading lines, the rule of 1/3s, etc.

NOTICE THE LIGHT: Pay attention to the light. Is it too contrasty or too flat? Is your subject squinting because it is too bright? If possible, try to move your subject or recompose yourself.


Audio Recording Tips

Choose a quiet setting: You ideally want to be in a quiet, possibly sound-proof, closed-off area.

Place your microphone strategically: The approriate distance between the speaker's mouth and the microphone is 8 to 12 inches. This prevents capturing "popping" noises and heavy breathing in your recording.

Check your levels: Your microphone levels should never peak into the red. The optimal point for your microphone levels is just below the red.

Record ambient sound: Ambient sound is the natural sound of any environment. Ambient sound will come in very handy when you are editing your digital story.

Capture & create sound effects: Record your own sound effects. Experiment with different objects and textures to create exactly the sound that you want. For example, a bag of cornstarch will add a snowy "crunch" sound to footsteps.

Speak clearly and articulate your words: Remember to speak conversationally, whether during an interview or narration, as if you were speaking to a close friend. 

Listen to the audio playback: Don't be afraid to start over if you made a mistake!

Creating Original Content

Some digital stories will require original content. You might have to take your own photos, shoot original video, or create your own sound effects/music.

Now that most people have smartphones with such good cameras, taking pictures and video with your personal device is a great option. See the Filming Tips box below.

No matter what you might be producing, make sure you reserve equipment ahead of time at the library. Full listings of the library equipment can be found here.

Below is a sample of some of the audio and video equipment you might find helpful to complete your project. 

Examples of Audio Capture Devices

 Zoom H4n Audio Recorder

Zoom H4N Audio Recorder - A portable recording device and a 2-channel USB interface in one palm-sized unit, the H4n Pro Handy Recorder from Zoom features a built-in stereo microphone, two low-noise preamps with combination XLR / 1/4" inputs, multiple recording modes, on-board effects, a built-in metronome, a chromatic tuner, and more


Examples of Video Capture Devices

Smartphone iPhone

Smartphones and Tablets - If you own a smartphone or tablet, you can use it to capture video to communicate a digital story or idea. Check out this link to learn techniques of capturing good audio and video with your personal device: Shooting with a Smartphone

 Canon Camera

Canon DSLR Cameras - DSLR cameras can be used to capture both still pictures and high-quality video.  


Canon Camera

Canon XA10 and XA11 Video Cameras - Professional HD cameras with XLR inputs and headphone jack for audio monitoring. 


Filming Tips

CHECK YOUR BATTERIES & EQUIPMENT: This is something you want to check and double-check. Nothing is worse than being out on a shoot and having to call it quits because your camera died.

TAKE YOUR PLANNING MATERIALS: Don't forget to take your interview questions, maps, release forms, storyboards, and anything else you prepared for your shoot.

USE A TRIPOD: Using a tripod is a much-overlooked aspect of filmmaking. Your footage will look a lot more professional.

AVOID ZOOMING: Zooming is an art. Films with a lot of zooming resemble home movies.

STICK TO ONE ASPECT RATIO: Pick one aspect ratio (16:9 or 4:3) in your camera settings and don't change it. It will make editing much easier.

SHOOT MORE THAN (YOU THINK) IS NECESSARY: If you're not quite sure if you got the take right, try it again while you have everyone in place. Scheduling reshoots is difficult and inconvenient!



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