Photographers can all tell you a story about the time they missed an amazing shot because they didn’t or couldn’t have their camera with them. Fortunately, almost every photographer usually has their smartphone with them. As the quality of the cameras in smartphones improves, so do the tools and accessories to help you stay ahead of the pack. While the lens and sensors built into your phone will always have the biggest impact on quality, these tools will help you level up in all sorts of scenarios.
The best lenses for your smartphone are produced by Moment. These high-quality lenses lock onto specially designed phone cases allowing for solid alignment without fuss. Moment has shown a dedication to rolling out new cases with the release of each major phone to market. They cover Samsung, Google, and Apple smartphones. For select phones, such as the iPhone 7/8, they even have cases that have an integrated battery and a shutter button. We prefer the wide-angle lens, the fisheye lens, and the telephoto lens.
Olloclip has a clip-on lens system that is specific to each smartphone . They’re currently made for only Apple iPhones but are significantly more affordable and a breeze to use.
The Anamorphic lens from Moon Dog Labs is specific to Apple iPhones only. They are specially designed to mimic professional cinematic lenses, giving a timeless cinematic look. To get the best effect, you’ll need to use a post processing technique called de-squeezing.
Take mobile phone video to the next level with a gimbal. These devices (once balanced) allow for stabilised video movements that are seen in nearly all professional videos.
The Movi from Freefly Systems is our top pick for stabilization systems. The company introduced gimbals to the video industry and are releasing their first smartphone gimbal before the end of 2018. While on the more expensive side for mobile gimbals, we found that this gimbal had many attributes, like the form factor that allows it to stand on its own, that lead us to favour it over others currently available on the market.
The DJI Osmo Mobile has access to a host of accessories from DJI such as suction cups perfect for mounting to car windows to help you get a smooth rolling shot.
The Smooth Q from Zhiyun Tech does not offer the bells and whistles of our other choices, but is a good choice to start without breaking the bank.
Two mobile LED lights on the market—the LitraTorch and the Lume Cube—are waterproof to at least 9 metres and are very durable. The Lume Cube has more light levels and a higher overall brightness. The LitraTorch has daylight light temperature, additional mounting spot, internal magnet for quick mounting, and a more diffused light due to the multiple LED chips.
The GorillaPod Mobile Rig from Joby outshines other tripods. This all-in-one, modular system is comprised of a set of flexible GorillaPod legs, allowing for it to flex, grip, and wrap onto objects. Once the legs are in place, you can mount the clamp that allows for rapid changes between horizontal and vertical orientation, as well as tilting. Two flex arms can be mounted to the clamp allowing for additional of accessories such as lights or microphones.
The Manfrotto Pixi tripod is an affordable tripod with a built-in ball head and features a sleek exterior, perfect for slipping in and out of pockets.
Using an external microphone is one of the best things you can do to increase the quality of videos on your mobile phones. The Rode VideoMicro is an inexpensive microphone that is compatible with your cameras and smartphones. While you can mount it with a phone calmp, we recommend keeping it unattached to the phone to reduce vibration-induced sounds being recorded.
The Rode VideoMic Me mounts directly on to a mobile device and shares the same microphone cartridge as our top pick the VideoMicro. This unit clamps directly to your phone.
Tom O'Brien is a mechanical engineer and the photo engineer for National Geographic magazine. He designs and builds custom equipment for the photographers of the magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @Mechanicalphoto.
Lead Image: The tripod, lens, microphone, and other accessories pictured here are some of the best in the industry. Learn more about how each of them can improve your smartphone photography and videos. Explore some of our favorites.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK THIESSEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC