Face it, many of us are pretty amazed by the quality of the images we’re getting from the iPhone and other smartphone cameras.
I’ll be speaking about the art of smartphone photography at KelbyOne’s upcoming iPhone Photography Conference at the end of the month, and in conjunction with the online event, I put together a list of my favorite smartphone accessories that could make the photography experience cooler.
Remember, this newsletter has no affiliate links. I’m un-bought and un-paid for. So take my list for what it is: simple suggestions and what I like to use. And feel free to shop at B&H, Amazon, Paul’s Photo, wherever.
That out of the way, with so many of us are planning to leave our homes and travel in the coming weeks, and document the trip with our smartphones, let’s dive in.
If you plan on shooting video, or even if you don’t, I’d make this little $49 phone stand my first purchase. It will help keep your hands steady for video, and for stills, your panoramas will be smoother and your selfies easier to snap.
Best of all, there are two cold shoe attachments, which means you have a place to easily connect a light and microphone (more on those below.)
My friend Dave makes a similar, larger product, the iOgrapher, also worth checking out.
The first thing you’ll need when taking an iPhone or any smartphone out for the day is extra juice. Imagine hiking with your phone in Zion National Park’s the Narrows, as I did recently, and running out of battery? (That luckily didn’t happen, but it could have!) You can’t buy accessory batteries for iPhones, but you can pick up compact power packs, which, after they’ve been charged, can give you an additional 8 or so hours of life.
Wirecutter likes the $30 TravelCard Charger, which is nice and thin and the size of a credit card. It works with either Android or iPhones. I also swear by having charging cables in the car, plugged into USB, so that I’m fully charged when I arrive to the location.
Battery power and better snapping
Here’s a $25 iPhone case with external battery power, and a dedicated shutter button atop the battery. And it accepts external lenses from Moment (more on them below.) How utterly perfect! I want to love it, but the company doesn’t make cases for phones any edition newer than iPhone X or XS from 2018. Here’s hoping they put out an edition for the iPhone 11 and 12 series.
Many Samsung Galaxy phones come with removable storage to make extra room on the phone for all those high-resolution photos and videos, but not iPhone. So once the nag message telling you you’re out of room and can’t snap the shutter shows up, you have two choices. Delete like crazy, or pay for a monthly online storage solution, like Apple’s iCloud or Google One. I have another immediate and less painful fix. The SanDisk iXpand drive slips into the iPhone Lightning charging port, sucks up all your photos, allowing you to clear space on your iPhone safely. A 64GB edition will run you around $40.
We all take selfies, and many of us have a real issue getting them right. It’s awkward to frame everything correctly while holding the phone in an awkward position and putting our finger on the shutter. One solution is my selfie timer trick. Another is a cheap little accessory that fits in your pocket, a bluetooth shutter. You connect the device to your phone’s bluetooth and when you want to take a photo, you snap the fob without the awkwardness of your hand reaching for the shutter. What I like about these most is that they also double as a shutter release, which many pro photographers use when shooting ultra slow exposures. By clicking the shutter with the release, you eliminate camera shake by not touching the camera. My CamMix model cost all of $6.99 and works with iOS and Android.
As you’ve heard me say before, timing is everything when it comes to getting great smartphone shots. But often lighting can also really make a huge difference, as anyone who’s tried to improve their Zoom sessions can attest to.
My Zoom calls took a nice jump with this little $70 Lume Cube conference light, and it’s also small enough to fit in the pocket and take with you on the road. It won’t help you for bright outdoor shots, but will do wonders inside. For more power, pick up the $160 Panel Pro.
The great thing about recent iPhones and Galaxy models are the additional lenses that let you go ultra-wide and closer to the action. There’s also a cottage industry of companies that sell accessory lenses for phones, like Moment, but unless you have an older phone, you don’t need them. Moment’s 58mm telephoto, for instance, doesn’t even work with the iPhone 12, but instead, like the Shuttercase, mostly older models. If you have an older phone, this is one way to get more out of your photography, but I’d opt for an upgrade, personally.
Stray light can play havoc with our iPhone shots, adding unwelcome light streaks to the image. When that happens on cameras, we buy a lens shade. Luckily, there’s one available for the iPhone too, and the JJC Lens Shade sells for $19.99.
I saved the best for last. I’ve been making videos since 2016 and have used every kind of microphone you can imagine. I’ve never loved a microphone more than Rode Wireless Go II.
This is a tiny, wireless, lavalier microphone for interviews. They’re little boxes that snap on lapels, or podiums. The traditional lav mic setup is one receiver and one mic. Which means the other, un-amplified voice in the interview (yours) is usually faint, in the background. With the Go IIs, you get two mics and a receiver for $300. Rode figured out a way to split the signal in half and mic the interviewer and interviewee and it just works like a charm. (This is a great podcast solution, BTW!)
Note: but to work with an iPhone, you need two accessory cables. First, the $7.99 iPhone dongle to connect into the Lightning charging port and then a $25 basic cable connecting the receiver to the iPhone, as the iPhone responds to a different audio signal than the supplied cable that connects to cameras.
I’ll be joined at the iPhone Photography conference by some pretty incredible teachers, including Scott Kelby, Erik Kuna, Austin Mann, Terry White, Dave Williams, and Tracy Sweeney. This is the part where I’m supposed to urge you to sign up, but since I promised not to sell to you, I’ll just leave it at that.
Note: the photos of the Manhattan Beach Pier and palm trees were both shot on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Questions? Click reply and ask away!
Finally, I had a great chat recently with Juan Pons, an amazing wildlife and nature photographer who lives near Bangor, Maine, and told me about the photo highlights of this special area. It was for the Photowalks Talks interview series which I post on YouTube. Watch this and you’ll definitely want to visit the Pine Tree State.
Thanks as always for reading, listening and watching! Don’t forget to watch the Photowalks series on Tubi Let me know what you thought of today’s edition by clicking the HEART tab or just hit reply.