Best lens kit for phone camera
September 18, 2019 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I need to step up my game in taking photographs with my phone. What is your favorite lens kits for phones and books on being a better photographer?

It is the 21st century and I realize that I do not really take good photos with my phone. First, what are my fellow mefites favorite/recommended lens kits for phones? Second, What are your recommended books on being a good photographer, in particular with the constraints of the phone camera?

I travel light, so nothing too heavy and I live like a grad student. What kind of photos? All kinds but I admit I have the quirk of photographing my hand puppets in awkward poses in famous places. Don't judge.

All suggestions welcome.
posted by jadepearl to Shopping (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've enjoyed using the Moment wide lens on my older iPhone (7, which has just the one camera lens). You have to also buy the proprietary case to attach the lens, but it's a pretty simple system - align the lens, screw it on, take pics with your camera app as usual. The case is lightweight, and the lens is a little weighty but barely noticeable in one's pocket or bag (it's about the size of a couple rolls of washi tape).

The lens makes everything a little sharper than you'd get with your usual phone camera and you generally get "more picture" into the picture, permitting wider angle shots of just about anything. It looks a little silly on the phone, but the weight of the lens as attached to your phone case is kind of pleasant, and I personally think the bizarre appearance of a big ol' lens on my phone has made myself appear like less of a target for people interested in swiping phones for whatever reason.

The case also has an opening at the bottom for attaching a wrist strap to keep the phone more securely on your person (less worries about dropping the entire thing). It's another additional cost, but tbh it's been reassuring when I've taken some casual landscape pictures while hiking or standing on bridges. As for carrying around the lens itself, it comes with a little cap (easy to take on and off) and a microfiber pouch you can toss into your purse, pocket, or other bag of choice. The build quality is solid and you can easily clean the lens with a little lens cloth or camera pen if needed.

Whenever I've posted pictures I've taken w/ the lens, various people I know (friends, relatives, coworkers) end up getting the system for themselves, and they invariably take some baller pictures with it regardless of previous photography skill level.

Btw, for simple adjustments to your phone photos (or other photos you have on your phone, sometimes I wirelessly upload non-phone camera pics to my phone for editing), Instagram has some decent controls & filters (the usual tip is to not max out the filters, otherwise the effects look too harshly artificial - move the slider towards something like 50-75%), and I also like the VSCO and RNI apps. You do have to pay to get more filters in VSCO/RNI for adjusting your pics' looks, but you can still play around with the freeware versions and experiment with seeing how adjusting the contrast, brightness, shadows, etc affect your photo's look. My fave VSCO filters are 04, E1, and K3. For filterless editing (basic sharpening and contrast/lighting adjustments), Snapseed's another handy app. Have fun playing around until you figure out which adjustments/looks you like!

For tutorials, I think it depends on what you consider a "better" photograph - do you have examples of the kinds of photographs you enjoy the look/composition of? Also, what kind of phone do you have?

There's a ton of photographers on Youtube who have posted tutorial videos for phone cameras and regular cameras of all sorts, try searching for [your phone model] + better + shots/pics/photos + tutorial, there will likely be some helpful results. For basic composition info, start with rule of thirds or aiming for symmetry as if there was an invisible center line down the middle (neither are mandatory, btw, just reliable basic composition techniques). For nicer natural lighting, try to take pictures during golden hour (when the sun is partially rising or partially setting).

Whoops, this got long. To conclude, I'd rec checking out this Popular Science piece, Seven tips for shooting nature photos with your smartphone camera - there's some good basic advice you can apply to non-nature photography as well.
posted by rather be jorting at 5:39 PM on September 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

My best tips for phone photography are to consciously think about light and framing, and to default to square aspect ratio. Learn how to use the tap-for-focal depth on your camera app and consider investing in a small tripod or mount. Roughly in that order. I’m also curious to hear about lens kits, but you can get a lot better without any new lenses too.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:42 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

It is the 21st century and I realize that I do not really take good photos with my phone.

Well does your phone take good photos? I have a Huawei with a stock Leica lens and it is the bomb. (My next phone will be the Pro Huawei, assuming I can still buy one.) I assume most phones have touch aperture control; do you use yours? I love me some blurry background!

Instagram filters are fine but I prefer a native app on my phone; I use A Color Story and the free filters alone are great.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:08 AM on September 19, 2019

The first step is making sure you have a good camera on the phone to begin with. I have a Galaxy 8 and I 'm pretty happy with it; by and large I feel like the Samsung phones are better than the iPhones but YMMV. If you don't like yours, maybe try a camera app before you sink a lot of money into a phone lens - I know a lot of people who swear by VSCO but there are a lot out there. Secondly, learn how to use it: a quick google for Take Better Pictures with your phone will give you lots of tips and tricks. My main tip would be never use the zoom - phone zooms are horrible, no matter what they say. Change the aspect ratio to square. Use the composition overlay that your phone camera almost certainly has - the rule of thirds or the golden spiral -either will give you an idea of what's going to look better. Don't just center things. Learn about light. You don't really need a book, I'd just read articles and then go take pictures. Now take more. And more. And more - the more pictures you take, the more you will learn about what works and what doesn't work for you. Also, what SaltySalticid says - a tripod will really help, especially if you're doing still life type stuff. Gorillapods are great for phones and very portable.

As far as post processing, while I have Photoshop and Lightroom and so on that I use for my "real" camera - on the phone I use Snapseed and I love it. It's got just about everything you might want for almost all editing purposes - I keep trying to use the Lightroom app because it's my go-to on the computer these days (I rarely bother with photoshop anymore, I mostly use it for design stuff) but I really prefer the Snapseed app.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:25 PM on September 20, 2019

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