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Everything You Need to Take Better Photos on Your Phone

Woman using an iPhone 11 Pro for photography.
Aleksandrs Muiznieks/Shutterstock.com

Phone cameras are incredible. They’ve got cutting-edge hardware and software and are highly convenient since they’re always on you. But like traditional cameras, they work best with tripods, lights, and editing software. Here’s everything you need to push your phone photography to the next level.

Update, 9/21/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links. Replaced links for four out-of-stock items.

Before Buying Photography Equipment

The tools that we’re covering in this article can help push your photos to the next level. But if you want to make the most of this equipment (and avoid buying stuff that you don’t need), then you need to understand some of the basic rules and practices of photography.

We can’t cover the rudiments of photography right now (our man Harry Guinness has that covered), but we can review some photography basics that should be useful while shopping for equipment.

  • Learn Your Camera: If you want to get the most from your phone camera, then you need to understand how to navigate and control different photo settings. We’re not saying that you need to use manual exposure controls, but you should know how and when to use your Portrait, Nighttime, or Live Focus modes. YouTube can be a useful resource if you’re just getting started with a particular Android phone. Or, read our article on the iPhone’s various photo modes.
  • Lighting and Exposure: It’s hard to take good photos in bad lighting. Even in well-lit settings, it’s good to have a dimmable light on hand that can help the subject stand out. A dimmable light source is necessary for most indoor photography, like portraiture, selfies, or product photos. It’s a lot less necessary when you’re outdoors.
  • To Flash or Not to Flash: A camera flash isn’t a replacement for good lighting or a controllable light source. You just can’t get a lot of dimension or control out of a light that’s a millimeter away from your camera lens. There are a time and a place for camera flashes—like concerts or vintage-styled shots. But in most situations (especially portraiture), dimmable light is a much better option.
  • Stabilization: A stable photo is a sharp photo. While tripods aren’t always convenient to use, they provide an incredible amount of stability and control.

Alright, now let’s get into it. Here’s everything you need to start taking better photos with your smartphone.

A Phone-Ready Tripod: Victiv 64-Inch Tripod

The Victiv tripod with a phone adapter.

Tripods are precision instruments. A good tripod can stabilize your shots (which reduces motion blur, especially in night photography) and provide you a level of compositional control that you just can’t get with your hands.

The Victiv 64-inch tripod is perfect for most situations. It’s an affordable, adjustable tripod that’s lightweight and easy to use. Plus, it has a standard tripod mount and comes with a phone adapter, so you could technically use it with a DSLR or a piece of lighting equipment in the future.

If you aren’t interested in bulky traditional tripods, then consider using the JOBY Gorillapod. It’s a  flexible tripod that can hang from rails or fold into a makeshift Steadicam. And if you already own a tripod, then you could just buy a phone tripod adapter.

A Phone-Ready Tripod

64-inch Tripod, Ultra Stable Aluminum Tripod Stand for Camera & Cell Phone with Phone Tripod Mount and Remote Shutter, Ideal for Videos, Vlogs and Social Media Live - Black

The Victiv 64-inch tripod sports a traditional tripod mount and is sold with a phone-to-tripod adapter. It's a great investment, especially if you plan to use DSLRs or mountable lighting in the future.

Tweakable Lighting: Kshioe Dimmable LED Ring Light

The Kshioe dimmable LED ring light

Lighting equipment is essential for some forms of photography, especially portraiture, selfies, and still-lifes. And while there’s a ton of lighting equipment on the market, we think that the Kshioe dimmable LED ring light is a good first investment. It’s a lightweight, height-adjustable, and dimmable light that doesn’t get too hot and can easily fit into a small bag. It even has a built-in phone adapter, so you can mount your camera right to the Kshioe light and avoid buying a separate tripod (although a separate tripod would provide more control).

Tweakable Lighting

Kshioe Ring Light, 14'' Dimmable Continuous Circle Lighting Kit Photography Photo Studio Light for Makeup, Camera Smartphone and Tik Tok Video Shooting

The Kshioe dimmable LED light is perfect for getting your portraits or selfies just right, and it doesn't weigh nearly as much as other popular lighting options.

Vanity-Styled Selfie Lighting: QIAYA Portable Ring Light

The QIAYA selfie light

You can’t take a good selfie without good lighting. If you want to push your selfie game to the next level, then you need the QIAYA portable ring light. It’s an adjustable LED that attaches to your phone, so you can get perfect selfies with vanity lighting wherever you go.

The QIAYA ring light is rechargeable and can be used as more than just a selfie light. You could use it on your frontward facing camera for low-light shots, assuming that your subject is close enough for the light to make a difference. And since the light is wireless, you could even hold it in your hand like a flashlight.

Vanity-Styled Selfie Lighting

QIAYA Selfie Light Ring Lights LED Circle Light Cell Phone Laptop Camera Photography Video Lighting Clip On Rechargeable

The QIAYA ring light is like vanity lighting in your pocket. It's perfect for selfies, and you can even use it on your front-facing camera.

Get Your Lens Game On: Moment Lenses

The anamorphic and macro Moment lenses.

Camera lenses open up new avenues of creativity—they’re really wonderful. One lens might make your photos wider and more cinematic, while another might increase your camera’s ability to take clean, detailed macro shots.

Some people don’t take them seriously, but phone camera lenses actually kick ass. You just have to buy a good lens that works with your phone. We love Moment lenses because they produce shockingly good photos and mount directly to a special Moment phone case (they aren’t clip-on).

They’re also sold in a ton of flavors. Moment has an anamorphic (cinema) lens, a fisheye lens, a macro lens, a wide-angle lens, and a telephoto lens. Of course, these lenses are only compatible with the big-name phones (iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, and OnePlus).

If you want a clip-on alternative to Moment lenses, then Xenvo Pro Lens Kit are your best bet. These are some high-quality lenses, and they can clip onto just about any phone.

Get Your Lens Game On

Moment Blue Flare Anamorphic Lens - Attachment Lens for iPhone Pixel Galaxy OnePlus Phones

Moment lenses work with most major phones, and produce photos of startlingly high quality.

Look, No Hands!: CamKix Bluetooth Shutter Remote

The CamKix bluetooth shutter remote

Some situations call for hands-free photography. And while your phone has a built-in timer, it’s inconvenient to use. The obvious solution is to buy a cheap Bluetooth shutter remote. Just connect this bad boy to your phone, stick your phone on a tripod, and let the hands-free photo shoot begin!

Look, No Hands!

64-inch Tripod, Ultra Stable Aluminum Tripod Stand for Camera & Cell Phone with Phone Tripod Mount and Remote Shutter, Ideal for Videos, Vlogs and Social Media Live - Black

The CAMKIX Bluetooth shutter remote allows you to take photos without setting a timer. It's great for family photos, selfies, or portraits.

For Full Indoor Control: SH Backdrop Stand

The SH backdrop stand.

Indoor photography is like working in a laboratory. Everything has to be just right, especially if you’re taking portraits or professional photos. If you already have a tripod and a dimmable light, then all you need is a photography backdrop.

Now, photography backdrops can get pretty expensive. To keep costs down, we suggest buying the affordable (and easy to disassemble) SH backdrop stand. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, although the bigger sizes will give you a lot more freedom. You can use this stand with any backdrop (including washable muslin backdrops, raw fabrics, or sheets), but we suggest that you start with paper backdrops that are affordable, disposable, and easy to clean up.

For Full Indoor Control

SH Backdrop Stand, 6.5 x 10 ft Adjustable Heavy Duty Photography Background Support System Kit with Spring Clamp, Sand Bag, Carry Bag, for Photo Video Studio1

If you want lab-level control of your photography, then you'll need to set up a backdrop. We suggest that you start with the SH backdrop stand, as it's affordable, adjustable, and will work with most fabrics and backdrops.

Edit Those Photos Like a Pro: VSCO

images from the VSCO app.

Even the best photos could use a little editing. And since you’re taking pictures with your phone, you may as well edit those photos with VSCO. It’s a powerful, popular, free photo editing app with detailed controls and powerful pre-made filters. VSCO also offers some premium filters, which you can buy if the spirit moves you.

Of course, VSCO isn’t the only photo editing app. Adobe Lightroom (iOS/Android) is great if you feel like paying for it. And Google Snapseed (iOS/Android) provides a lot of straightforward photo editing features (and Google integration) for free—it’s a great option for anyone who isn’t into VSCO’s style of editing.

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Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »