They say the best camera is the one you have with you.
A year ago I got into mobile photography. Having a pretty decent camera on my smartphone with ‘pro’ options, I started to watch tutorials on mobile photography and photography in general. I leveled up my Instagram game too and I have now proudly reached the 1000 followers milestone.
People start to ask me how I did it and what I use to enhance my smartphone’s camera. So here is my mobile photography starter pack: the phone I use, the ones I would like to try, the tutorials I watched, the apps I use and the lenses and tripods I own.
I use a Samsung Galaxy S7, which had the best reviews in mobile photography when I bought it. (Thanks to Julie for advising me back then!)
If I could buy a new one today, I might have a look at the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+, but as far as I have read, the camera of the S8 is very similar to the S7. I hope Samsung will have major improvements to show us with the upcoming S9.
If you are not an Android fan, I would recommend the new iPhone 8. Apple made considerable improvements on the iPhone 8 and on the now famous iPhone X.
What I recommend
To start comfortably with mobile photography, I would recommend having a smartphone with a ‘pro’ mode, similar to the DSLR options. These often include the possibility to play around with ISO parameters, automatic and manual focus options, white balance, exposure and shutter speed controls.
Sometimes using just your smartphone won’t take you where you want to be creatively. You might want to have a little extra fun with lenses or tripods.
I started off with lenses. I mainly wanted to try out macro photography and see what I could do with a wide angle.
Adapting a lens to a smartphone is very easy. Manufacturers brought plenty of solutions to the market: special cases, clip-on lenses, etc. I prefer clip-on lenses, as they tend to be easier to switch around and will adapt to any phone.
The very first pack of lenses I got were the Mpow one. This kit contains a Macro lens, a Fisheye lens and a Wide Angle lens, all packed in a little pouch. They adapt very well on my smartphone even with a case on. I can have them in my handbag and pop them out whenever I need.
Later this year, I also got another pack of lens with more options. At first I was really searching for a CPL filter and a ND filter for smartphone, and since this other pack had many options for cheap, I got it.
ND filters and CPL are very useful for long exposure photography and for dealing with reflective surfaces. They really helped me up my game and get those gorgeous sea shots!
If you want to try out long exposure photography with your smartphone, or simply filming a recipe in the making, you will need a tripod.
The first tripod I got was a classic one, that could be used both for smartphones or DSLR. I wanted a tripod I could take around with me, especially in a small cabin luggage. So i had to be light, reliable and 50 cm long once folded. And it had to be a small investment because I had no idea what to do with it yet!
So the first one I got was an Amazon Basics one. An ultralight 127 cm tripod, pretty cheap, that I could take around with me.
I tried out filming and photography from high up, but the feet of the tripod were always getting in the field. So I found a… selfie stick! One I could adapt on the tripod, and thus film from high up with my smartphone.
It’s not the most efficient way of doing, nor the most reliable, but it works out for what I need to do.
I soon found this tripod was a too big to be carried around for me. I could take it on vacation, but it was still too big to be left in my handbag. So I tried another out, the Manfrotto pocket tripod. This one is so small it fits in every handbag I own.
This very small tripod is very useful on plane surfaces. I use it when I use a table or the floor as a support. Unfortunately, it is not very steady on other surfaces, and the angle setting is a bit light for me.
The last one I acquired is the one I use the most today, as it is small enough to fit in my handbag, small,light, and with flexible feet. That way, I can make it hold op to anything and use it as a support for my smartphone.
Taking lots of pictures requires battery and, let’s face it, our smartphones are not always good at that. I have one external battery I always take with me. It’s an Aukey 20 000 mAh Battery with Quick Charge. It has never let me down and charges my phone in no time!
Apps & Softwares
I’m a bit of a beginner when it comes to editing. But I’m getting better at it and learning new techniques each day. On my smartphone, I use:
- Google Photos for storage and synchronization
- Lightromm CC for quick editing
- Snapseed for editing too
- Golden Hour, that send me a notification before golden hour where I am each day
- Instagram, of course
- Boomerang and Layout from Instagram when I want to have some fun
- Plann to organize my Instagram feed (more on that in another article)
- Focalmark to find the right hashtags to use on Instagram
- Followers Assistant to follow my followers count
As for softwares, I use:
- Photoshop to correct photos and do montages
- Lightroom to edit my photos
When you start getting into mobile photography, you sometimes need inspiration or help with learning new filming, photo or editing techniques. My go to place for that is YouTube.
Peter McKinnon is great at teaching photography skills and has tons of videos for both mobile photography and editing.
This channel if more about shooting better and travelling. Great tutorials here too.
Basically, each time I need help with something, I go to YouTube. Someone there has probably done a tutorial on what you are struggling with. 😉
What’s your starter pack like?
What does your workflow look like?
What mobile photography accessories do you recommend?