In the hyper-connected, digital age, more and more of our daily life is being captured by the smartphones that so many of us carry around. News channels have not turned a blind eye to this and are increasingly using footage and photos submitted by the public to create news reports.
User generated content, as it’s known, can often show an incident in a unique way, being captured in the moments before regular news crews can get to the scene of a story. So what should you do if you find yourself as a witness to a major event and want to capture it as it happens?
The BBC has a quite extensive list of advice for people who find themselves in the midst of an interesting story. This points out that one of the most powerful tools that can be used is your smartphone’s video function, and that any results can be greatly improved by following some simple guidelines.
Holding the phone so that it captures video in landscape mode will make a big difference, as the letterboxing effect that holding it upright can have when the footage is uploaded could make it harder to view in comfort.
Digital zoom is also to be avoided, as it reduces the quality of the quality of the footage, so instead just move closer to whatever it is you are filming. Likewise, sound can be improved by being closer to a subject, especially if that sound is someone talking. Of course, take care when you’re doing this.
The BBC also suggest taking a few photos to go with any video that you have, as the multi-platform nature of modern news broadcasting means that video clips are often backed up with photos on web pages.
When capturing pictures, avoid using any Instagram-style filters and steer clear of editing them afterwards. News reporting is all about giving an accurate representation of what is happening, so broadcasters will likely want your raw, untouched images instead.
Lastly, try to include a shot of something that validates your footage, either at the beginning or end of the clip. Broadcasters often have teams of people dedicated to proving that UGC is genuine, and a shot of that day’s newspaper or a road sign showing where the event happened can make it easier to prove that it is real.
Once you’ve captured your footage and taken some shots, you’ll want to send it off to whichever news network you choose. Both BBC News and Sky News allow you to upload photos through their smartphone apps and video can be submitted through their websites, making it quite easy to send your footage off to the people who may use it.
Unless there are some exceptional circumstances you’re unlikely to be paid for anything that you submit, but you should be able to expect to have your name appear in credit. You could also find yourself being contacted by the network for an interview about the story.
Once you’ve sent you footage and photos off, you’ll want to keep track of how they are used and the way in which the story unfolds. Take a look at our list of news reader apps to find out the best way to go about this.