True, every year new and better smartphones are released to the public from tech giants such as Apple, Samsung and Google, however, even with a few extra megapixels, what does it really take to turn your smartphone into a professional camera that will ensure you have the best photographs to upload to Instagram?
Well, even now with all the leaps and bounds we’ve made in technology, a smartphone just doesn’t have the same magic as a DSLR camera. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it. There are plenty of accessories, apps and tools on the market that will have your social media filled with stunning photographs that will rake in the 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 your 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:
If you’re all about those tiny details, the Edoking 60x will turn your smartphone into a miniature microscope. Perfect for budding nature photographers or even hobby jewellery 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, 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. The Telephoto lens has the capability to turn an iPhone X’s 2x zoom into a hefty 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 uses different types of 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 you have when using your smartphone as a professional camera is the fact 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 trying to take 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 really a holiday if you don’t get one of those elusive underwater shots that social media goes mad for? Of course not! 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 the 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’re going to 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.
By adopting a phone strap for your wrist or neck, you will always have your camera to 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 – who sell 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 make sure nobody gets left out the family snaps.
There are a number of 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 whacky angles.
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 the need for 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’re going to be spending 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 you like, without compromising on your battery. Meaning 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 all with on a daily basis. However, what many of us don’t realise is that not only have these posters taken literally hundreds of photographs to find this one exceptional 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, just 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 the sharpness, exposure, colour and crop of your photos with just a few clicks. You can even remover 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 apps set of pre-made ‘looks’ that can alter your photograph in the click of a finger.
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 particularly good photo editing app for those who’d like 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, many of which are subtle and give the feel of a photograph been taken on classic film – a style very popular with Instagram.
Free to download for both iPhone and Android, VSCO does have in-app purchases for further presets. Many Instagram pros use both Snapseed and VSCO on their images to make them look they’re most stunning.
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, as well as other design elements.
One of the most useful tools is called Mask, this allows you to add certain 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 seem very complicated at first, 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.
For one, 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 is, of course, important too, with anything between 12-21 indicating a good camera. You should also look out for um pixels though 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, all the best gadgets and still not feel like you’re taking professional photographs. Keep in mind, though, professional photographers didn’t get to where they are overnight, rather they practised and found the tools that helped them improve your 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.