Smartphone cameras are largely responsible for the explosion of photo-sharing services like Flickr, Instagram, and Snapchat and the rise of selfies.
And while it’s easy to dismiss smartphone photography as too amateurish – especially given its reputation for poor quality – there are plenty of people who are proud of their smartphone photos.
Whether you’re a proud owner of a cellphone camera or you want to stay up to date with the latest trends, here are a few smartphone camera accessories that could make your photos even better.
When choosing smartphone camera accessories, it is crucial to think carefully about your goal. What style of photo work are you going to do, how much are you willing to invest in equipment, what are your priorities. Is it the price? Quality? Performance? What smartphone do you own now, or which smartphone are you going to get in the future? Once you have these answers, move on to the next steps.
- 1 Smartphone tripod
- 2 Cell phone mounts, stands, holders, grips
- 3 External microphones
- 4 Smartphone camera lens
- 5 Which type of lens to use?
- 6 Smartphone camera lights
- 7 Smartphone gimbals
- 8 Gimbal compatibility
- 9 Other smartphone photography accessories
If you’re serious about using your smartphone to take pictures, you may want to consider investing in a tripod. A tripod will allow you to take photos without holding the camera to use the timer, so you don’t get a camera shake. A tripod also gives you more flexibility for your pictures. You can try low-angle shots, and you can go handheld or use the timer.
You certainly don’t need a professional Manfrotto tripod for $500 to shoot lovely photos with your smartphone, so I recommend choosing one in the price range between $30 – $100. The better tripod you choose, the easier it will be to work with. At the same time, it is not a good idea to select the cheapest piece (this also applies to the holder) if you own an expensive high-end flagship smartphone. If you also want to take moving shots from a tripod, look for a piece with a fluid head. This ensures smooth, natural camera movement. In terms of maximum height, something between 5 – 6 ft (150 – 180 cm) is ideal.
Unfortunately, most tripods made for digital cameras aren’t compatible with smartphones. However, there are tripods explicitly designed for smartphones that work with almost all of them. Even a high-end tripod manufacturer like Manfrotto produces them, e.g. Manfrotto PIXI is a tiny tripod for smartphones that’s way more stable than you’d expect.
Cell phone mounts, stands, holders, grips
The smartphone mount is a device that is used to attach a portable electronic device, such as a cell phone, a tablet, or a handheld gaming device, to a flat surface. Smartphone mounts are commonly used by people driving and wish to place their phone in a convenient location, such as on their windshield or their dashboard. However, smartphone mounts have many other uses.
People who are mountain biking or going on a long hike may use a smartphone mount to attach their phone to their arm or shoulder. This allows them to access their maps and other information without holding their phone the entire time.
Smartphone mounts come in a very diverse price range. You can find the cheapest pieces for as little as 5 dollars, the highest quality ones for 50 USD or more.
So which one to choose? It depends primarily on what kind of smartphone you have (and how much you like it). Plastic holders in the lowest price range indeed won’t last half as long as a high-quality holder made of aluminum or other solid material. At the same time, it is important to consider another thing – the sled.
The cold shoe mount is a sled adapter into which you can insert a directional microphone with a suitable hot shoe adapter.
So if you plan to get a directional microphone, I recommend looking for mounts that include the sled.
The smartphone microphone is an essential part of any smartphone, as it picks up audio signals and relays them to the processor for conversion to audio signals. A microphone picking up the sounds around you can capture a beautiful landscape, a concert, or even a lovely family moment. But a microphone can also pick up unwanted sounds like echoes, wind, and feedback.
Wireless? Wired? That’s what this is all about. You can find directional microphones, studio microphones, and condenser microphones for podcasts or vocal recordings. So which type should you choose? It depends on what you are going to record.
Reportage – you’re in action. You need to record sound quickly. In this case, a directional or wireless lapel microphone will be most suitable. However, with a wireless microphone, it depends on whether you have time to port the speaker (put on the lapel microphone, get the transmitter working).
Vlog/YouTube video – indoors, a close-range studio or directional microphone will always be better than a wired lapel microphone which comes in handy if you’re sitting and not moving around. Outdoors, wireless mics (preferably with wind protection), and directional DSLR mics excel.
Webinars, online educational streams, or meetings – here, wireless microphones win outright. Cables are out of the question. Wireless looks sleek and is convenient. But if you’re not moving around and sitting right in front of your computer during these activities, a desktop studio microphone will be very effective.
Real estate, property, or product presentations – again, wireless microphones win.
Artistic work – are you making a video for a client, or are you doing your artwork? Give it your best shot, and don’t be afraid to capture the hustle and bustle with a directional microphone or set up a wireless set to help the client present their business. Do you want to dub? Lean on a studio microphone.
You will mix everything above – in this case, you definitely won’t go wrong by getting a wireless set. It will help you solve many difficult situations that you would find hard to handle with a regular lapel microphone.
If you also need to capture noise, get a more affordable directional microphone to go with it and play around with the result a bit in post-production. If you don’t want to tweak the audio after the fact, I recommend choosing a directional microphone in a higher price range to be safe.
Smartphone camera lens
When selecting a mobile lens, you must evaluate the capabilities of your smartphone in detail. Is it the current flagship on the market? An established but still fine piece? Or perhaps an older smartphone? It is not a good idea for more sophisticated, luxury smartphones to buy the cheapest lenses. They can spoil the image quality. And for the older models, it is not necessary to invest in the best.
Which type of lens to use?
Telephoto lens – we use these lenses for taking photos or videos at longer distances.
Anamorphic lens – a widescreen lens to mimic the look of the film, primarily for video. It would help if you used it in conjunction with one of the smartphone photo apps, where when stretched in post-production, it will produce a film-like wide image. More suitable for advanced users.
Ordinary lenses for smartphones – these are lenses like Macro, Extending, Wide Angle, etc. Macro is useful for magnifying single subjects, and zoom and wide-angle for a broader view.
Smartphone camera lights
If you’re not looking for a complete set of lights but rather need something compact, there are many types of light sources to choose from.
Ring lights – this type of LED light is ideal for illuminating a figure, face, product. Ring lights produce a softened, shape-regular light.
Strobes and video lights – usually cube-shaped auxiliary lights used to illuminate the scene, RGB variants are suitable for creating an ambient environment (e.g. when filming interviews).
Smaller light sets – come in handy when you don’t have the option of operating with large lights but still need to light a specific scene.
If you want to take professional-looking photos with your iPhone or Android phone, a smartphone gimbal is a great tool to add to your arsenal. Designed to stabilize your smartphone, a gimbal allows you to take ultra-sharp photos and videos with a device that’s otherwise known for its shaky, unsteady images. That’s especially useful with today’s high-powered smartphones, which have great cameras in them.
With smartphone gimbals, you need to pay attention to the maximum weight capacity and the span of the smartphone mount. For example, if a given gimbal has a maximum weight capacity of 250 g and your smartphone weighs 160 g on its own, it’s not a good idea to fit it with a protective cover and an additional lens. Furthermore, if the gimbal mount’s span is between 60 and 90 mm and your smartphone is 85 mm wide or even 64 mm wide, you can expect the gimbal to be more difficult to operate. The phone could fall out of the mount.
Smartphone gimbal manufacturers try to outdo or match each other in terms of features. Therefore, be sure not to worry that one gimbal will have 20 functions and the other only 5. Choose based on a detailed product description or video review if available.
It doesn’t matter if you own an iPhone, Samsung, Huawei or Xiaomi. The important thing is that it’s a smartphone with the current version of the operating system and can run the app from the gimbal manufacturer in question.
The gimbal balances the smartphone electronically by calculating the weight of the smartphone and places it in a horizontal position. As for the manufacturer’s app, you don’t always need to use it – the gimbal will run without it unless you’re interested in using special features that are only available in the app.
So if you are only interested in having stabilized video, I would recommend using a more advanced application specifically for a video aimed at maximum output quality. It’s a good idea to update the gimbal regularly, so try to check the original application every now and then.
Other smartphone photography accessories
Smartphone selfie sticks
Smartphones have revolutionized how we capture and share images and videos. One of the biggest, most popular, and best things about them is that they allow you to shoot video from a perspective that just wasn’t possible before. However, shooting video from your smartphone’s viewpoint can be limiting. For example, if you want to shoot a scene from a high angle or from a distance with a wide-angle lens, you’ll need a particular piece of equipment.
Selfie sticks are one of the most popular accessories for smartphones. They allow you to take self-portraits from a distance, and you can take group photos without asking someone to take the picture. Selfie sticks are available in most electronics stores, and they are easy to use.
Using a selfie stick can help you take better photos when taking a selfie. This is a telescopic pole that holds your smartphone and allows you to take pictures from a distance. This way, you can use the selfie stick as a monopod for your camera. This is particularly useful when taking photos in close quarters or in a crowded area, like in a concert, where you need to get a shot of a your idol band without other concert-goers appearing in the photo. Also, you can take pictures of yourself from an angle that’s not possible with the arm you use when holding your phone.
Cages and covers
They are made for specific smartphone models, but you can also find suitable universal pieces for all types of smartphones. Dual mounts are then in most cases, more versatile and sturdy than cages or covers. If you already own a directional microphone and additional light, I recommend reaching for a cage or dual mount.
The dual mounts
The dual mount allows you to add even more smartphone camera accessories and is designed for the best compatibility with most smartphones on the market. The primary purpose is to be able to hold the entire set in your hand while shooting.
Some covers have lenses already built into them, while others include a 17mm diameter thread, which is standard in the mobile world – you can attach smartphone lenses with the same thread.
The cage is similar to the dual mount, but is used more to place on a tripod. They are mostly made for specific smartphone models, but you can find versatile pieces among them.
Filters and adapters
If you like to create videos with your smartphone, you’ll be interested in these gadgets as well. With the introduction of filters, the videos taken with mobile devices can be comparable to the videos taken using a camcorder.
As this equipment is from different manufacturers, I recommend using caution when combining the cage/cover and filter/adapter/lens. The threads do not have to be identical to each other, so screw other products onto them with feeling.