Pimp your smartphone with the best gadgets to help you to capture professional-looking photos and videos
Smartphone cameras are amazing – a powerful camera with often multiple lenses, manual and automatic shooting modes and the ability to shoot Raw are just a few of the reasons why they’re so good. And that’s even before we consider the impressive photo quality and ability to capture video in 4K. They’re so popular, in fact, that few people these days own a compact camera because their smartphone does everything a compact can do, and much more.
The phrase, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ is one of the biggest cliches in photography; to the point where it’s almost even painful to even think it. But the fact remains, it’s completely true. And since smartphone cameras can capture high-quality photos and videos makes them an incredibly useful creative tool that’s nearly always to hand. So, here are five accessories that will help you to create more professional-looking smartphone photography and video…
1 ShiftCam 10x Macro ProLens
£80 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3bTZthQ
Smartphone cameras often feature several lenses and the ability to shoot in a variety of modes, but one way to expand photographic possibilities is to use lenses that attach to the existing lens. There are many smartphone lenses available at a range of price points, and while ShiftCam ProLenses are some of the more expensive, they’re also among the best available.
The advantage of using third-party lenses is that you can expand the capabilities of your smartphone camera while enjoying excellent image quality. And the most common types of lenses available are wide-angle, fisheye, telephoto, macro and anamorphic lenses for professional video.
The ShiftCam 10x Macro ProLens is a 25mm macro lens providing 10-25x magnification for high-quality close-up images. The lens comes with a clip that attaches to the vast majority of smartphones, with special phone cases available for newer iPhone models. ShiftCam also produces a range of individual lenses and lens kits covering a range of different lens types so there’s something for everyone.
2 GorillaPod GripTight ONE GP Stand
£30 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3Iil1Rb
Many smartphones are capable of shooting exposures of up to 30 seconds, which opens up a wealth of creative opportunities for shooting creative long exposures and at night. And with camera support required for exposures of 1/30sec or slower to avoid camera shake, a tripod is an essential item for even smartphone shooters.
Carrying around a full-size tripod for a smartphone would be as ridiculous as it sounds, so mini tripods that can be carried in a pocket or bag are ideal. The majority of mini tripods with phone holders have fixed legs so you can place them on the ground, tables or walls etc. but GorillaPods add much more flexibility.
The GorillaPod GripTight ONE GP features a ball head for camera positioning, and the flexible legs can be used like a traditional tripod or wrapped around objects for more unique viewpoints. Your smartphone attaches to a telescopic phone holder that connects to the top of the GorillaPod, and the whole thing folds down small enough to carry in your pocket.
3 Ulanzi VL49 Camera Light – £30
£30 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3NOjUdl
Whether shooting stills or video, you may find yourself in need of artificial lighting to illuminate your subject. LED lights are getting smaller and more powerful all the time, and small LED light panels are ideal for shooting with smartphones, mirrorless, DSLR and video cameras.
The Ulanzi VL49 Camera Light is a small yet powerful LED light panel offering illumination up to 800 lux with the ability to set the colour temperature anywhere from 2500K to 9000K. This can be set to match existing light source colour temperature, or for creative colour effects when multiple light panels are used. An internal battery is charged using a USB-C cable to provide up to 10 hours of illumination.
To attach the light close to the smartphone you’ll need a smartphone video rig with a cold shoe attachment. But with a built-in magnet, you can attach the Ulanzi VL49 to metal surfaces as well as using the hotshoe foot and 1/4in screw to attach it to cold shoes and tripods etc. This makes it a highly versatile lighting option in a small package.
4 DJI OM 4 SE Gimbal
£85 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3yJXqFP
If you’re serious about shooting video, and since most smartphones these days can capture video in 4K, a gimbal is an essential item that will enable you to capture professional-looking cinematic footage. These devices can be quite expensive for larger and heavier cameras, but for smartphones they’re relatively inexpensive and DJI produces a compelling option that won’t break the bank.
The DJI OM 4 SE Gimbal allows you to capture stabilised videos and offers a handful of useful modes. The gimbal uses a clever magnetic design where a metal clip attaches to your smartphone and can be connected magnetically to the OM 4 SE quickly and easily. The gimbal also folds down for storage and transportation and comes complete with a charging cable, carry bag and a mini tripod.
Offering 3-axis stabilisation, the OM 4 SE ensures smooth video, while tracking modes intelligently track moving subjects such as people and pets. Plus, gesture control allows you to operate the gimbal when you’re in front of the camera capturing a VLOG, selfie or a group photo/video.
5 RØDE VideoMic Me
£43-£70 on Amazon:
RØDE VideoMic Me-C (USB-C) https://amzn.to/3RaQrx0
RØDE VideoMic Me-L (Lightning) https://amzn.to/3OPJ5NN
RØDE VideoMic Me (35mm jack) https://amzn.to/3AuW3w4
Smartphones have great microphones and while these are ideal for voice calls, they’re not the best when it comes to capturing video. For this, an external microphone will capture much richer sound quality that matches the stunning 4K video modern smartphones are capable of capturing.
The RØDE VideoMic Me comes in three flavours with a USB-C, Lightning and a 3.5mm jack option for connecting to different smartphones. The mic is plug and play with your camera and other phone apps that use a microphone, plus it can also be used with the RØDE Reporter app for simply recording sound. There’s even a 3.5mm headphone output so you can monitor sound as you’re recording.
The microphone can be used with most smartphones and tablets with the relevant input, and RØDE recommends that the operating system is Android 10 and above or iOS 11 and above. And for outdoor recording, a ‘dead cat’ furry windshield is included.
- AuthorJames Abbott
James is a freelance photographer and journalist producing content for photography magazines and websites and is a former deputy editor of Practical Photography magazine. He’s also the author of The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing.View all articles