by Andrew Heinzman on
Are regular tripods bending you out of shape? Flexible tripods can inspire you to take photos and videos at impossible heights and angles. They’re a great (and tiny!) addition to any camera bag.
Smartphone cameras have gotten incredibly good over the last few years and the iPhone’s camera is among the best—if it’s not the actual best. Let’s look at some tools to make it even better.
While the image quality of smartphone cameras has gone through the roof, they still aren’t very flexible: you’re limited to, at most, two fixed focal lengths, the built-in flashes aren’t great, and they have pretty poor low light performance. The good news is that there are accessories that can give you more options.
JOBY’s GorillaPod line of tripods are fantastic. They’re light enough to toss in a bag without thinking about it and, because of their flexible legs, can attach to almost anything. They’re even stable enough to use for long exposure or timelapse photography, as long as it isn’t too windy.
The GripTight GorillaPod XL—which is designed specifically for large smartphones like the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus—is no exception. While it’s short on its own, you can attach it to rails, trees, or just balance it on a table if you need more height. It’s my go to tripod for smartphone photography.
Manfrotto are famous in the photography world for making great tripods for DSLRs; the Manfrotto PIXI shows they can make great tripods for smartphones too. At a little under 7” long, you don’t get much height with the PIXI but the tradeoff is that it’s easy to keep in a pocket. There’s no point having a big tripod for your smartphone that you leave at home.
While I personally prefer the GorillaPod’s flexibility, if you want a more traditional (or more stable) tripod, the PIXI is the way to go. It’s perfect for timelapses.
At $21, AMIR’s 3 in 1 clip-on lens set offers the best bang for your buck if you want to use additional lenses with your iPhone. In the set you get a fisheye lens, 25x macro lens, and 0.36x wide angle lens.
While AMIR’s lenses are certainly affordable, the downside is that the image quality isn’t great. They’re completely useable, but you’re unlikely to have your photos chosen for Apple’s #ShotOniPhone campaign.
To get better lenses for your iPhone, you need to jump up in price by quite a bit. The olloclip Core Lens Set also has a fisheye, a wide angle, and a macro lens but, at $99.99, it’s almost 5 times the price of AMIR’s offering. If you’re serious about image quality, it’s the way to go, but if you’re not sure whether or not you’re going to use additional lenses, stick with the cheaper option.
Note: olloclip’s lenses are phone specific. The one linked above works with the iPhone 6, 7, 8, and their Plus models. If you’ve got an iPhone X, check out this similar set instead.
The built in flash on your iPhone is fine for casual party pics but pretty useless for anything more serious. If you’re using your iPhone to record video blogs or want to use a light to take portraits, you need something better.
We like the Manfrotto LUMIMUSE 3 LED Light for a couple of reasons. The LUMIMUSE 3 is small enough to fit in a pocket but powerful enough to light up a subject standing a few feet away. It’s also dimmable, rechargeable over USB and, at less than fifty bucks, very affordable.
While you can just hold the LUMIMUSE in one hand while you hold your iPhone in your other, for video it’s probably worth getting something like the Ulanzi U-Rig Pro ($11.98) to clip it on to. You can also mount it to a Manfrotto PIXI if you want to position it for portraits.
While selfie sticks have fallen out of vogue, there’s no denying their usefulness if you’re trying to take good self portraits. You might feel like a tit using one but trust me, your pictures will be better for it.
At less than ten bucks, the Mpow iSnap selfie stick with Bluetooth hits the sweet spot. It works with any iPhone and, at that price, you won’t be too put out if it gets confiscated by concert security or a museum guard.
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