Our top five smartphone accessories:
1. A Clip-on Lens
With a great range of clip-on lens attachments available for iPhone and Android users, smartphone photographers needn’t be limited to a single focal length or style of lens.
To start with there’s probably the most well-known of clip-on lenses, the Olloclip. Most popular is the 4-in-1, available for the various permutations of iPhone 4 through 6 as well as Samsung Galaxy S4 and 5. Through a clever bit of engineering, the 4-in-1 lens packs in a fisheye, a wide-angle, a 10x macro and a 15x macro, all of which work on both the front and rear cameras. There’s no real set-up – you do quite literally just clip them on and shoot away.
If you’re after something specific, however, and don’t feel like you’ll need a 4-in-1 package then look into the Moment lenses. These are some well-engineered bits of kit for iPhones, Samsung Galaxies and even Google’s Nexus 5. You’ve got a choice between a wide-angle that doubles your field of view, a mini tele that will get you twice as close to the action, and a 10x macro with a custom diffuser hood. Or all of the above!
There are also options to get a little more creative. You may be familiar with Lensbaby for its tilt-shift lens camera optics that create distinctive bokeh – well they’ve made a smartphone version as well. The Lensbaby LM-10, LM-20 and LM-30 all allow you to get different awesome optical blur effects on your iPhone 5 or 6.
2. Mini tripod
Keep those shots steady with one of the many tripod options available specifically for smartphones. If you’re after adventurous compositions that involve getting your phone to dangle from branches or cling to rocks then the Joby Gorillapod is the obvious choice. A grippy tripod with malleable legs, the Gorillapod can be contorted and arranged to cling to almost anything, with a rubber grip that holds the phone firmly in place.
For something simpler, we’d say look into the Manfrotto Pixi series. You can pick up one of these diminutive tripods with a universal smartphone clamp and they’re perfect for quick tabletop compositions. Also, handily, when picked up the Pixi doubles as a stabilising grip for getting steadier photos and videos handheld. Not bad!
3. Photojojo Lights
On-camera flash is crap. Smartphone flash is worse. Don’t be the person forced to illuminate their smartphone images with the native flash – instead try picking up a Pocket Spotlight. From the folks at Photojojo, the Pocket Spotlight is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a constant light source that will clip onto your smartphone and, yes, fit in your pocket. Make portraits with pop, or add dramatic lighting to video. A charge via USB gives you about an hour of constant light,
Alternatively, get evenly lit portraits and macro shots with the Smartphone Ring Light. Powered entirely by AAA batteries, this ring light features adjustable brightness and colour, allowing you to precisely fine-tune to achieve the look you want.
4. Protective Case
Don’t just stick with a generic protective case – there are plenty of options available that will also improve your photography. iPhone users can look into the Klyp+ range from Manfrotto, which comes in a Deluxe Photo Kit that also throws in such bells and whistles as an LED light, three extra lenses and a tripod adapter. You can read our review here.
Alternatively, save a few quid on a GoPro by picking up an Optrix case instead. These allow an iPhone to be submerged in water up to a depth of 33 feet, and can survive even rougher water sports such as white water rafting.
5. Remote Shutter Release
Finally, expand your triggering options by picking up a simple remote triggering system. The one we’d recommend is the Muku Shuttr, which works with a huge range of different smartphones. It’s small and light enough to attach to your keys but is also pleasingly solid and well constructed. A simple, inexpensive way to expand your options.