Smartphones will only ever be so smart. As much we’d like it, and as helpful as it would be, our phones will never take charge of every aspect of our lives. We may watch television on our handsets, play games and listen to music — but these pocket-sized gadgets will never match up to 4K flatscreens, gaming consoles and bassy, subwoofered speakers when it comes to hardware.
And the same goes for cameras. For all the bluster about megapixels and telephoto zooms, modern smartphones still can’t hold a candle to a real DSLR — even if their built-in flashes can blaze at an impressive 50 lumens. So that got us to thinking; how many attachments and accessories would it take to turn your phone into a genuinely handy piece of photography kit?
From stands and printers to lenses and lights, we’ve rounded up a snapshot of the best below…
Start with a good, reliable stand
While taking time to set-up may feel like you’re draining the spontaneity from your photography, the whole ‘point and click’ approach is best saved for the professionals. If you want a showstopper of a shot, but you’re still an amateur, the best way to upgrade your smartphone is to furnish it with a good stand. Image stabilisation systems and anti-shake mechanisms are nowhere near as good in smartphones as they are in standalone cameras — so every bit of balance will help.
And there are several different types of stand you could invest in. First up, we’ve chosen the Adonit PhotoGrip. A multi-purpose stand, this grooved grip slips onto your phone to allow you to hold it like a camera. But that’s not all. It also has a self-standing mode, mini-tripod and a Bluetooth shutter remote — with which you can take photos from up to 10 metres away. For a more professional option, the Manfrotto Twistgrip is ideal for supporting on-the-go photography, offering a rig to which you can connect multiple accessories. Or, for a simpler, subtler stand, Joby’s Standpoint Case features aluminium tripod legs that fold discreetly away.
An external lens will help you take long-distance, high-quality images
Now you’re feeling a little more stable, let’s bring things into focus. Most smartphones have spent the last year battling it out over zoom specifications. The hot new stat has overtaken megapixels in the prestige stakes, and now every main manufacturer is inventing and innovating to ensure they can see further than anyone else. Currently, the Huawei P40 Pro is widely regarded to have the best zooming capabilities, with 5x optical zoom, a 10x hybrid zoom, and a 50x maximum digital zoom.
But, even if you’re not packing a P40 Pro, there are external conversion lenses available to buy to zhuzh up your existing handset. From Beastgrip, this Pro Series lens adds 3x fixed zoom for a new perspective and beautiful bokeh (an aesthetic blur) on close up shots. Moment’s Tele Lens is similar, with optimised optics for the new larger sensors on the iPhone 11 Pro, Google Pixel 4 and Samsung Galaxy S10. Or, for a cheap-yet-effective option, Ulanzi’s telephoto lens has a universal clip — so you can transfer it from phone to phone with ease.
Let there be adequate lighting
Alongside image clarity and stability, good lighting completes the holy trinity of a good photography set-up. And smartphones, despite some having fierce torch functions, just don’t cut it when it comes to professional-grade lighting. There’s a reason full-time photographers carry around vast LED panels and softboxes to minimise light loss and maximise light spread. So, if you’re serious, it’ll pay to invest in some extra lightning.
You won’t get much better than the Lume Cube 2.0; the perfect combination of size and power. It’s Bluetooth-enabled, waterproof to 30 feet and comes housed in a durable aluminium body. For a cheaper option, the iBlazr 2 is a Kickstarter success story — and the only flash on the market that works with a smartphone’s native camera app. Of course, for the selfie market, this Godox LEDM32 is ideal; a lightweight lithium-powered lightbox that clips onto your phone and bathes you in a warm, Insta-ready glow.
Finally, flaunt your photography with an instant printer
Lastly, we come to sharing your photographs. True, now your camera and phone are one, it’s easier than ever to post and boast your shots across social media — but occasionally it’s nice to return to the old ways. There’s something affirming and nostalgic about a physical photograph, and it’s now fairly easy to pick up a gadget or gizmo to attach to your smartphone that’ll print out your shots immediately.
One of the most successful is Prynt Pocket. Not only is this retro-flavoured printer incredibly easy to use, but it also allows you to bring your photographs back to life — scan the print using your phone, and it will play any videos or live photos you took of the same event or occasion. Polaroid’s offering is reliably innovative; using what is essentially a tiny darkroom to turn digital moments in your phone into real-life Polaroid photographs. Or, for a wireless, high-quality option, Fujifilm’s INSTAX Share SP-3 will give you an impressive printing resolution of 800 x 800 pixels and 318 dpi.
Polaroid Lab Instant Printer
Fujifilm INSTAX Share SP-3