There is no greater truth in photography than the old idiom, “the best camera is the one you have with you” – or in other words, for most people in the present, their smartphone. Whether down at the pub, or at home on the sofa, they are ever-present in pockets, hands and handbags.
That isn’t to say that even the best shots from our pocket powerhouses are going to trouble the likes of the medium-format monsters from the likes of Fujifilm or Hasselblad.
But by simply being there for the average Joe, they provide a great deal of flexibility, and as a result there’s arguably never been a better time to get into photography.
There’s no greater evidence for this than the explosion of Instagram in particular, as amateur sprogs and “pro-togs” alike clamor to share their shots and gain their fair share of likes and comments.
To cash in on this craze, there is an entire new world of accessories available. We’ve taken our pick of what we think are the ten best gifts holiday picks for budding mobile photographers, read on to find out more.
External lens kit
Whether the iPhone with either its single or dual sensors, or a Huawei multi-ocular mutant, cameras on smartphones are defined by their fixed focus nature.
This means that any zooming takes place via the moving of feet, something not possible in every situation.
An easy way to solve this is with a set of clip on lenses. Various options exist, and for a relatively small outlay it is possible to get telephoto lenses, fisheye lenses, wide-angle lenses and more.
All of these make it possible to completely change the way one shoots with their mobile device, we particularly like these options for the iPhone from known manufacturer Olloclip.
Portable power bank
No matter the smartphone, anyone heading out for a long day of shooting on the go will need to top up their energy reserves at some point.
A variety of external batteries of varying quality are available on the market, however this particular option from well-known Amazon vendor Anker packs a lot of juice into a relatively svelte frame.
With 20,100 mAh in the tank, it’ll be possible to keep going for days, should the mood take you.
Sometimes the best shots are those taken on the fly, in the moment. Others require a little more set up, and a steady hand.
The popular GorillaPod tripods from Joby are light, tough and provide a lot of flexibility in setting up shots, whether at home on the desk, wrapped around a fence post or dangling from a light fixture (don’t ask).
For portraits in particular, this is a must-have accessory, but those shooting landscapes and generally at night will also benefit from the longer shutter speeds allowed.
External light kit
No matter the marketing claims, any flash attached to a smartphone is little better than an assortment of tiny LED bulbs, good for little more than serving occasionally as a inadequate torch.
In a pinch, these will cut it, but for those looking to up their game, particularly in a quasi-studio setting, having an external light kit will greatly expand the range of shots it is possible to take.
For example, the Diyife Ring Light kit is aimed at budding fashion photographers, those looking for a more flattering glow in which to bathe their mugs. As a stocking filler, it is hard to do worse, especially for the emerging ‘influencer’.
Mobile stabilization gimbal
In addition to being powerful stills machines, smartphones are highly capable of taking detailed and more than usable video footage. Indeed, if the iPhone is good enough for Steven Soderbergh it is certainly good enough for the rest of us.
Smartphone filmmakers looking to take the next step should go no further than the DJI Osmo Mobile 2. This little device holds your smartphone, adjusting for any movement, keeping it deadly still, even when walking, running, jumping and more.
As such, it is possible to get the kind of beautiful tracking shot that it would previously take a complicated rig to achieve, and as such could be worthy investment for the right person, certainly those who like to ‘vlog’.
Although the memory offerings in smartphones are ever increasing, so too are the sizes of the jpeg files produced. It doesn’t take long for one innocent outing to capture a few lovely snaps to end up as a 1000 image jaunt, with gigabytes of files to wade through as a result.
For those who find themselves in this position, a solid MicroSD card is an important purchase, and this particular option from Sandisk has a nice combo of known-name plus low price. This is almost a no-brainer for any mobile phone owner.
Sometimes just viewing a photo on a screen just isn’t enough. Especially for those old enough to remember, actually holding a physical photograph is something quite evocative, maybe of a simpler time.
For romantics and normies alike, comes the HP Sprocket, a palm-sized printer which connects to your smartphone, using packs of paper to print on the fly.
Pretty much the modern equivalent of the Polaroid, this brings a new dimension to mobile photography.
A rugged case
Especially when venturing out into the wilderness for just the right shot of the morning sun, it is easy to be unpleasantly reminded of how fragile our glass and metal handsets really are. One tumble towards the earth/concrete/carpeted-floor is enough to earn a spiderweb of cracks, and a lot of regret.
The best way to avoid this is by of course buying a tough case. Some options, such as those from Moment, even come with slots to add accessory lenses.
Various options exist, however Spigen is an old player, and provides cases for almost every make of phone imaginable – a real necessity even outside the context of photography.
A snap-on camera
Sometimes, even the very best snapper isn’t quite enough, for although smartphone cameras do what they can, their tiny size is their main weakness. Most sensors fitted into smartphones are barely larger than a pinky nail.
Enter the DXO One – a camera with a much larger one-inch sensor that plugs into lightning-equipped (Apple) devices. Once added, it increases the imaging power of the device considerably, capturing shots with greater dynamic range, detail and low light performance. This comes at a cost however.
A photography book
Sometimes the best ideas come with a little ‘creative inspiration’ – no man is an island and no one can really improve without first learning a little. What better idea then, to pick up the work of the masters?
There is a slew of options available in all different genres, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson for street photography. To look for the creative muse and find a little inspiration, there is little better than taking in the classics – modern and old.