True, new and better smartphones are released yearly by tech giants such as Apple, Samsung, and Google. However, even with a few extra megapixels, what does it take to turn your smartphone into a professional camera that will ensure you have the best photographs to upload to Instagram?
With all the leaps and bounds we’ve made in technology, a smartphone doesn’t have the same magic as a DSLR camera. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it. Many accessories, apps, and tools on the market will fill your social media with stunning photographs that will rake in likes and shares.
A Snapchat or Instagram filter can only take your photography so far, as will the lens your smartphone comes armed with. To truly unlock your smartphone’s potential, you should consider investing in a portable lens for the phone.
First off, to know what kind of lens that will suit your photography needs, here is a simple guide to which lenses are best suited to which shots:
- Fish-eye (ultra-wide lens) has a focal length of 8-24mm and is best for panoramic shots, landscape, cityscapes, and abstract photography.
- Wide-angle, has a focal length of 24-35mm and is best suited to architecture, interiors, and landscapes.
- Macro has a focal length of 50-200mm and is best suited for ultra-detailed photography such as make-up, nature, design, and art.
- Telephoto has a focal length of 100-600mm and is best suited to nature, astronomy, and sports.
Whether it be for the trendy fisheye lens or for capturing those tiny, minute details your phone isn’t capable of, here are some of the best lenses on the market for every budget:
The Edoking 60x will turn your smartphone into a miniature microscope if you’re all about those tiny details. Perfect for budding nature photographers or even hobby jewelry makers who want to zoom in close to the stones they use.
As it retails on Amazon for a mere $14, this is a cheap lens to purchase if you’re looking for an easy way to create quirky, viral images for your social media accounts. Use it on sand, bugs, and flowers, and this 60x lens will give you unique, fun photographs.
The Moment Lens line is a far pricier option at around $90 to $100 each. However, the extra cash is more than compensated for with this spectacular lens series. Unlike the cheaper plastic offerings, the Moment Lens range is made from glass with metal casings, making it look and feel far more professional.
The Moment’s Wide Lens will double the field of view on an iPhone X’s main camera, making it perfect for capturing sweeping landscapes. Likewise, the Telephoto lens can turn an iPhone X’s 2x zoom into a big 4x zoom, getting you far closer to the action without compromising on sharpness. Or, if you’re looking for close-up detail, the Macro lens offers 10x magnification.
CamKix 3 in 1 Lens
If you’d like to experiment with your photography using different lenses, then the CamKix 3 in 1 kit budget option that allows you to play with a fisheye, macro, and wide-angle for under $10 is perfect. You can decide what lens suits your style of photography first and invest in a pricier lens later.
One of the hardest contentions when using your smartphone as a professional camera is that these slimline phones are often hard to grip. This might look good and make for a smartphone that fits easier into your pocket. However, when it comes to taking the perfect action shot at a concert or holding your phone steady for that ladybug, you might need a helping hand.
Phone cases that mimic the curves and grips of a professional camera can be a worthwhile investment for adding that extra flair to your photographs. Upmarket grip cases can cost as much as $100 and are made from fine materials that will look and feel good, but you can also get budget options on the likes of Amazon and eBay.
Is it a holiday if you don’t get one of those elusive underwater shots for which social media goes mad? Of course not! The problem is, even though most of our smartphones claim to be waterproof (to a certain depth) these days, many of us are still reluctant to put such an expensive gadget underwater.
That’s where a waterproof case comes in. These very cheap cases make it possible to take your phone underwater without worry and still allow you to use your touchscreen easily. Just snap it on and take as many underwater selfies as you can!
Especially on holiday or out and about, you’ll need to keep your phone close if you want to get all the best shots. It’s no good if a butterfly lands on your finger and you scare it off, fumbling around in your bag or pocket looking for a phone.
Adopting a phone strap for your wrist or neck will always have your camera in hand, ready to snap all the best moments as they happen. Of course, you can get lots of cheap straps, but if you’re looking for something more stylish, Moment – which sells premium lenses – also have a range of leather straps for your phone.
Perfect for shooting with a telephoto lens, when using time lapses, or for using during group shots, a smartphone tripod is an essential tool to help you improve your photography. Not only will a tripod keep your phone steady and aimed, but you can also match it with a Bluetooth remote (see below) to ensure nobody gets left out of the family snaps.
There are several tripods on the market, all to suit different budgets. However, if you want a truly flexible option, Joby Gorilla Tripods have moveable legs that can be wrapped around objects such as trees. This allows you to get the perfect composition for your photographs and can even allow you to be adventurous, taking photos from weird and wacky angles.
Do not use the zoom
If you want better results, avoid using the zoom on your smartphone as it may affect the quality of photos. For a close-up photo, it is best to move towards the object. A blurry photo on your camera roll can be annoying.
Burst mode is helpful for motion photos because it takes several clicks at once. Normally, burst requires you to hold down the click button. This feature mostly helps capture an action shot like someone doing a jumping stunt.
It is beneficial in casual and professional environments as you can select from a range of pictures. With burst mode, you can also cover your family moments.
Lock your focus
If you want to focus on the subject instead of focusing on others, you can press and hold the focus spot on your object. A yellow AE/AF lock message indicates you have successfully locked a person or object. This feature is helpful for companies that want to do product photography.
Similar to the need for a tripod for your smartphone, you can up your photography game even more with a Bluetooth remote. One of these handy gadgets will let you get the best in group shots – without needing that mad dash to get into the frame!
But this gadget can be used for more than your family album. A remote shutter allows you to get totally artistic with your photography. Just set your phone up with a tripod, explore angles, and you’ll be able to get some photographs that look like candid shots. This is especially useful for the perfect Instagram shot when you don’t have a mate to take all your shots.
If you spend a lot of your day taking photographs with your smartphone, be prepared for your battery to take a hit. All that screen time, flash usage, and taking 100-odd pictures to get your perfect shot will soon mean your battery is dead, which isn’t ideal when you also need your phone to keep in touch with others.
By bringing an external battery with you, you’ll be free to take as many photographs as possible without compromising your battery. Means you’ll have plenty of battery left to upload your shots on the way home.
Photograph editing apps
Many of us are put off by smartphone photography as we doubt we can replicate the beauty of the shots that social media influencers dazzle us with daily. However, what many of us don’t realize is that not only have these posters taken hundreds of photographs literally to find this one amazing shot, and they have also heavily edited it using an app on their phone.
So, every time you see a selfie on social media that looks like perfection without the need for a Snapchat filter, and you start to feel down, remember, they might not have a dog ear filter on, but these snaps are far from filter-free. Here are some of the best photo editing apps available at the Moment:
Snapseed is one of the best all-purpose photo editing apps on the market, which benefits from being incredibly easy to use too. Armed with a great set of basic photo editing tools, you can adjust your photos’ sharpness, exposure, color, and crop with just a few clicks. You can even remove unwanted objects from your photograph.
To add some creative flair, Snapseed has various filters that will alter the mood of an image and allow you to convert to black and white. You can also add blurs and textures. If that sounds too complicated, look at the app’s pre-made ‘looks’ set that can alter your photograph with a finger’s click.
Perfect for beginners, Snapseed has a wonderful feature that allows you to add the same edits to a new photograph, which is extremely useful when editing similar photographs.
Snapseed is available for free in the app store.
VSCO (pronounced visco) is a perfect photo editing app for those who want to add a vintage look to their photography. Perfect for landscape and nature photographers, VSCO is also beneficial to those who bullet journal or craft and share their creations on social media.
Unlike Snapseed, where you can spend ages finely tuning different aspects of your image, VSCO is more associated with its many preset filters, which are subtle and give the feel of a photograph taken on classic film – a style very popular with Instagram.
If you want the freedom to get super creative with your images, Enlight could be the app for you. It allows you to turn your images into paintings or drawings and other design elements.
One of the most valuable tools is called Mask. This allows you to add specific effects to a particular area of your image without touching other parts. This is a great way to blend multiple effects into the same picture.
The one downside to this app is that it can initially seem very complicated, but taking the time to learn and understand this app is very beneficial. You can purchase Enlight for $3.99 on the iPhone app store. It’s sadly not available on Android yet.
Choose your smartphone wisely
Of course, all these apps and gadgets are useless if your smartphone isn’t up to par too. Your smartphone’s capability for grand photography is more than just the megapixels it has. You also need to look out for other factors too.
Generally, the wider the lens, the better, which is why all the high-end offerings from Samsung and Apple will have a wider lens than your so-called ‘budget’ smartphones. Megapixels are important, too, with anything between 12-21 indicating a good camera. You should also look out for um pixels; as if this figure is high, so will your image quality.
Large screens don’t just give you more of a phone to hold onto and take photographs with; a larger screen also means you’ll see more to photograph too. The higher your screen resolution, the crisper the image too.
Other key features to look out for are; battery life, HDR, ISO control, and zoom.
Most of all, smartphone photography is all about testing and practice. You could have one of the best smartphones on the market and all the best gadgets and still not feel like you’re taking professional photographs. Remember, though, that professional photographers didn’t get to where they are overnight; rather, they practiced and found the tools that helped them improve their work. So, trial and error may be needed, but once you find the tools for you, smartphone photography can be incredibly rewarding and provide you and your friends with plenty of memories.