Digital Journalism Dos and Don’ts



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  • Test equipment (including camera, headphones and tripod)
  • Always bring headphones
  • Always bring extra batteries and memory
  • Always bring a tripod


  • Shoot first, then talk with sources so you’re sure to get footage of what they mentioned
  • Obtain a wide diversity of shots (i.e. the Five Shot Rule)

1. Extreme close-up of action detail
2. Close-up of the face of the person doing the action
3. Medium shot, face and action together
4. Over-the-shoulder view of the action (point of view of the person doing the action)
5. One more different angle — be creative!

  • Avoid camera movement
  • Avoid shooting in low-light
  • Avoid panning and zooming
  • Avoid far distances and weird or distracting backgrounds
  • Use the rule-of-thirds to compose shots
  • Be aware of sight lines
  • Use headphones
  • Stay organized by getting shots of scoreboards, etc.
  • Check your work early and often
  • What works best for video storytelling? Action-based activities, processes (think time-lapse), animate objects, interesting and dynamic scenes with movement.


  • Backup your media files on your desktop.
  • Stay organized. Label your files and use preview (space bar on a Mac) to determine which clips you want to retain. Add colored tags to clips for easy identification.




  • What works best for photos? Avoid portrait compositions, use macros, know when to use fill flash.
  • Make sources comfortable by asking them to describe what they do while you shoot.
  • Know your rights!


  • Don’t be a wallflower
  • Get closer
  • Use the rule of thirds
  • Incorporate diagonal lines
  • Incorporate interesting angles and close-ups (macros)
  • Incorporate foreground interest
  • Avoid flash and low light environments
  • Be absolutely motionless when capturing a shot
  • Depress shutter halfway to focus (or touch screen)
  • Check your work (esp. focus) by zooming in on photo to determine blur/pixelation
  • JPEGs are lossy
  • Gather a wide array of shots
  • Stay organized by getting shots of scoreboards, etc.
  • LIFE Magazine’s essential shots for photo essays:

1. OVERALL SHOT: wide angle to establish the scene
2. MEDIUM: focus one activity or group
3. CLOSEUP: one element or detail
4. PORTRAIT: either a head shot, or environmental portrait
5. INTERACTION: People conversing or in action.
6. SIGNATURE: decisive moment, summarizes the situation w/ all the key storytelling elements.
7. SEQUENCE: a series w/ a beginning, middle and end (gives the essay a sense of action).
8. CLINCHER: a closer to end the story.


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  • Try out equipment beforehand
  • Adjust recording levels (-12 DB avg.)
  • Determine what kind of mic to use
  • Determine what file type to record to (AAC, WAV, MP3 etc.)
  • Make sure you have enough memory
  • Use a backup


  • Avoid handling noise
  • Wear headphones
  • Avoid interruptions
  • Ask if you can record the conversation
  • Make the source comfortable before recording (small talk)
  • Place mic 3-5 inches from sound source
  • Record plenty of natural and ambient sound
  • Avoid recording from farther than 3-5” from a source’s mouth
  • Once you’re recording, clap your hands to create a waveform spike which will help you align your audio and video later
  • Don’t speak
  • Ask open-ended questions where the source repeats the question in the answer
  • Avoid noisy or windy environments



  • Whenever possible, try to record audio and video on separate devices (especially for interviews or medium/wide shots).
  • Sound rules. Start videos and audio slideshows with 4-5 seconds of good natural sound before presenting any visuals.
  • Spellcheck all proper nouns and use consistent lower thirds (style, typeface, color etc.)
  • Kill your darlings
  • Avoid copyright violations
  • Know the software
  • Use simple transitions (cross-dissolves, fades)
  • Know the correct export settings (this depends on where your video will air)
  • Keep file names clear and simple


  • Whenever possible, try to record audio and video on separate devices (especially for interviews or medium/wide shots).
  • Think storytelling as opposed to documenting: people are what drive good stories.  Emotions, interactions, moments of elation and disappointment etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to gather A LOT of content
  • Practice!