Why would a photographer need a long-range microphone?
The answer is simple: as advanced as our cameras have gotten for still photography and videography, their microphones leave a lot to be desired.
After all, there's only so much you can do with that tiny microphone hole in your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
When you're shooting a wedding or event, making videos of birds and wildlife or honing your skills as a paparazzo, you need great audio to match the quality of the video you take.
So, if you have designs on creating top-notch videos, you need top-notch audio quality to match.
Here's a short list of the best long-range microphones for photographers.
Sound Shark is hands-down the microphone of choice for photographers shooting video.
There's a lot to like about this rig, starting with its small size.
You don't want an unwieldy microphone to deal with as you're shooting, and since Sound Shark mounts to your camera's hot-shoe, it's out of the way.
It's lightweight, too, so you don't have to worry about lugging around a big, heavy microphone that will only slow you down.
Another feature to love about this microphone is its incredible performance.
People five or six feet away sound as though they're wearing a lapel mic, and with technology that helps amplify sound by focusing it onto a single point, it's able to eliminate background noise, resulting in audio that is crystal clear.
That's an obvious benefit when you're shooting video at a wedding or event where there's tons of conversation and even music happening around your subject.
Birds can be recorded from over 50 feet away with great results.
The performance of Sound Shark is so good that it's been used for professional soccer and the NBA playoffs. Larger versions of the Sound Shark are used regularly for high-profile events like the Super Bowl and the World Series. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is!
The Sound Shark is capable of such excellent results because it's manufactured to the highest tolerances - just a few thousands of an inch.
That ensures that Sound Shark produces the highest-quality audio that simply blows other long-range microphones out of the water.
If you want to truly impress your clients, you need the audio to match the quality of the video. You can do that with Sound Shark.
Another popular type of microphone is the shotgun mic, like the Rode VideoMic Pro Compact VMP Shotgun Microphone shown above and below.
These microphones get their name from their long, skinny shape. Likewise, much like a shotgun, the performance of these mics is specialized directly forward.
That is, their pickup pattern is best when the subject is directly in front of the mic, no more than a few feet away.
Shotgun mics are popular for movie and TV production because they can be mounted to a boom and placed directly overhead the actors and actresses to pickup their voices.
Shotgun mics perform their best when they're very close to the subject.
Naturally, this isn't always possible when you're shooting video for a client, nor is it always possible for you to have an assistant with a boom to get the microphone close to the action.
Another thing to keep in mind with shotgun microphones is that if you're outside, you have to have a windscreen. Though these microphones typically come with a foam windscreen, they tend to be worthless if there's more than a slight breeze.
That means you need to invest in a zeppelin to eliminate the sound of the wind.
You can find shotgun mics just about anywhere, so they're widely available and can perform well given the right conditions. But compared to a parabolic mic like Sound Shark, shotgun mics simply fall flat.
The obvious benefit of a wireless handheld mic is that it's designed to be right there amongst the action and do so without any cables to act as a tripping hazard.
Depending on the microphone, you can get range up to 200 feet, which gives you all sorts of flexibility in terms of where you setup your video camera in relation to the subject.
What's more, some wireless handheld mics, like the innopow Metal Dual UHF system shown above and below, is that the microphones have an incredibly long battery life - up to 17 hours of continuous use.
The problem, of course, is that a handheld mic has to be held by someone. It's not exactly like you can ask the bride to hold a microphone as she's reciting her vows.
Additionally, unlike the Sound Shark or a shotgun mic, a handheld mic will be visible in the video. That's particularly true because the subject needs to hold the microphone near their face to get the best quality audio.
Even if you put the microphone on a low stand, it'll still be visible in the shot and it presents a tripping hazard as well.
The audio you can get from a handheld mic can be good given the right conditions, and they are extremely portable and easy to use.
However, when it comes to getting the best audio for your videos, handheld mics simply lag behind the likes of Sound Shark and shotgun microphones.