How to Build a Pro Vlogging Kit for Under $500
Actually, it’s $318.93 AND you can do it all with only your smartphone!
Video can be your communication hero when you’re not able to physically interact with your audience. It’s the quickest and easiest way to nurture your relationship and provide direct engagement virtually. With today’s technology, you can do what the professionals do at home with your smartphone. Having your own professional vlogging kit will allow you to create engaging, high-quality videos and it’s surprisingly less expensive than you might imagine.
Your kit should include: an external lens, an LED light, a flexible phone mount, an external microphone, and a video recording app. So let’s take a look at some great options that will help you shoot like a pro!
Since most front-facing cameras on newer smartphones can now film in HD or 4K, many vloggers prefer to use them because it allows them to see themselves while they record. However, one of the biggest challenges they face is being able to hold their smartphone far enough in front of themselves to get a decent medium shot. “Selfie-sticks” can help with this but a more professional solution is to use a wide angle lens. Not only will this lens give you a wider field of view, but it will also produce more pleasing images than a typical smartphone lens due to its advanced optics.
This wide angle lens allows you to get 2x wider shots on the front-facing camera allowing you to capture more of the background and the environment surrounding you.
Important note – Sandmarc lenses are designed for iPhones, so if you are shooting with a Pixel, Galaxy, or One Plus Phone you can get a comparable lens from Moment. Just keep in mind that this might cost you a bit more since they sell their mounting options separately, whereas Sandmarc includes a clip-on mount in their price.
- Capture better low light in night mode
- 2x more field of view
- Included clip-on mount that slides over the phone’s lens
Pro Tip: Wide lenses are more suitable for self-recording on a smartphone since you have to film closely, but a telephoto lens has a more flattering effect on the human face. Photographer, Dan Vojtech, has an incredible illustration of this on his blog.
Upgrade Option: If you have some wiggle room in your budget we suggest buying both a wide angle and telephoto lens since they both can be incredibly effective and useful depending on what you’re capturing.
A fit-in-your-pocket fix for portable lighting that packs a punch— regardless of its size. This LED will eliminate your worries and the need for lugging around fragile, bulky equipment. Not much bigger than your standard business card, this compact LED light is USB charging capable and ready to go with you wherever you need it.
Aputure has amazing products which is why they’ve been able to make such a name for themselves in the lighting game— this LED is no different. It’s durable with 9 SMD bulbs and multi-functionality that allows you to use it as a standalone light, mount it on other equipment, or use adhesives to stick it to just about any surface. Magnetic filters and 9 diffuser settings allow you to accomplish perfect lighting regardless of your setting or surroundings.
- 13 hours of battery life at minimum brightness
- 1.75 hours of battery life at maximum brightness
- Mount adapter for mounting the light to an accessory cold shoe
Upgrade Option: If you want to kick it up a notch, then consider using a ring light which creates an attractive catch light on a subject’s eyes while emitting even, diffused lighting that helps eliminate shadows. Ring Lights are commonly used for fashion or macro photography and you can pick up a great IVISII Ring Light Kit on Amazon for $159.99
Flexible Phone Mount
A tripod is great, but only if you have a decent amount of space and you’re using a standalone camera. Smartphones also need a mount. Tripods will give you the ability to record hands-free from a further distance and mounts give more stabilization and attachment abilities. You can buy a smartphone mount and mini-tripod separately, but if you’re going to spend the money, you might as well get the biggest bang for your buck and buy it all-in-one.
This flexible smartphone mount by Joby can be used as a bendable handheld grip, a standard stand alone tripod, or wrapped around objects to sturdily hold any smartphone (including plus size) in a portrait or landscape orientation. Tilting capabilities allow you to capture your best shot without a glare, at any angle. Add attachments — like lights or mics — with the included (and removable) Cold Shoe PRO Mount and, of course, GorillaPod has tons of additional attachments available. Check out some of Joby’s vlogging and mobile video tips that are helpful for wherever you are in your virtual journey.
- Easily adjusts from portrait to landscape mode
- Holds plus size phones
- Supports additional devices like lights and mics via removable Cold Shoe PRO Mount.
The Rode VideoMic Me-L is specifically for users who own an iPhone 5 or newer that has a Lightning port. You can find the Me-L’s close relative here that’s compatible with any other smartphone or tablet as long as the camera lens is on the opposite side of the headphone jack (to avoid view obstructions). We chose to feature the Me-L because it’s one of the highest rated mobile shotgun microphones out there. It hooks straight into the iPhone’s existing audio infrastructure allowing for the most clear and crisp sound possible. The cardioid polar pattern makes sure the sound is picked up directly where the mic is pointed and rejects audio hitting the sides of the mic.
- Plugs into the iPhone’s Lightning port allowing for front or rear facing use
- Headphone connector for immediate and direct audio monitoring
- Pulls power from the iPhone battery
Alternative Option: If you prefer to use a lapel microphone, then you may want to consider Rode’s smartLav. The smartLav is the same price as the VideoMic Me ($79.00), however if you have an iPhone with a lightning port you will need a mobile interface which sells for an additional $79.00. There is also a smartLav interview kit for those
Video Recording App
One downfall of video recording on a smartphone is the limited manual controls you have versus recording on a standalone camera. This professional video recording app will turn your handheld device into a professional camera with capabilities that are typically only featured on high-end standalone cameras.
- Manual Filming Control (Exposure, Focus, White Balance, Zoom)
- Up to 4k resolution at 100 Mbps
- Cinematic Frame Rates: 24 or 48 fps
- Direct sharing to Facebook, Dropbox, Vimeo, Pinterest, iMovie, and more
A Little Something Extra…
If your space needs some sprucing up – try adding a simple backdrop to up-level your production. We found all of these on Amazon for around $35 each!
I hope this gives you some guidance and confidence going into the vlogging world. If you use (or are currently using) any of these products we’d love to hear how they work for you or, even better, link one of your vlogs in the comments for us to watch!
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