People often ask me “Without breaking the bank, what are the best accessories to help me make professional-looking smartphone videos?”Well, as a self-confessed lover of gadgets and gizmos, I’m definitely the right person to ask. Forget all that nonsense about splashing out crazy money on flashy camera gear, and let’s think about modest individual items that give you the maximum bang for your buck!
Having road-tested each of these myself (and many more), I have compiled a list of essential smartphone camera gear, which will take your videos from poorly-lit-shaky-cam to silky smooth, gloriously clear and perfectly sounding masterpieces. Of course, it does really help if the content of your video is good too.
Let’s get this out of the way first – any smartphone manufactured in the past 2 years will have a tremendous built-in video camera, with terrific lenses; great software which stabilizes your shots and automatically balances for the available light.
That’s why smartphone cameras are perfect for filming. They have processors specifically designed for managing video files and all the storage you need. There are hundreds of mobile apps designed to help you optimize and edit your content—and most importantly—your mobile phone has direct access to the social media platforms you want to share your video content on.
The latest iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S10, and Google Pixel 3 are all exceptional devices.
Essential smartphone camera gear
A good tripod is essential, and provides complete flexibility in mounting your smartphone. The VideoMyJob hardware kit is the perfect combination of tripod, phone holder, and LED light, all in a very compact package.
If you are looking for a strong tripod that can take some knocks, and be used in every situation, then I’d strongly recommend the Manfrotto Element Big Traveller Tripod with Ball Head. Manfrotto are the choice of many professional photographers and filmmakers, so you know the quality is there, and these tripods are selling for around half the price they used to. Small enough to fit in a laptop backpack (mine does) and they can extend to over 6 foot in height.
From relatively expensive, to an absolute bargain, gel sticky pads, like these ones, are brilliant for mounting your smartphone on any smooth surface, and perfect for small rooms. Fix your smartphone on one of these, and then at the best height on an exterior window, and you not only have a perfect mount (making the room look bigger), but you also have the perfect angle to make the most of the external natural light – which is always the best kind. Estate agents use sticky pads to take the most flattering shots of their properties.
To accompany any tripod, you’ll need a mount with a clamp or bracket to hold your smartphone securely. This aluminium mount from Ulanzi, is not only very strong, but also folds flat, will attach to any tripod, and has a hot-shoe mount on top for attaching a light, or other accessories. At only £16, it’s perfect.
One of the most common mistakes made by video producers and vloggers is bad lighting. Natural light is great, when you can get it, but even with natural light a well-placed LED light will make all the difference. Making the people in your video look their very best is one of the most effective ways to convince them to get in front of the lens. Here’s a selection of LED lights for under £100 that I’d recommend:
- Lume Cube Very tough, very bright, and even waterproof!
- Manfrotto with Lumimuse This gives a lovely warm light
- Godox LED64 Amazingly powerful, and a bargain price
- Neewer Soft Box Lighting Kit Great if you have a regular spot for filming your videos
The good people at TED Talks say that the quality of the audio is probably more important than video, when it comes to filming engaging speakers. And they’re right! Bad audio can kill an otherwise terrific video. Thankfully, the built-in mics in smartphones are first class, so long as you are within a metre of the device, and not in a noisy environment.
If you are contending with background noise, wind, or you’re filimg in an environment where you cannot control the audio background, then these clip-on mics from Rode are the most reliable solution. Remember, if you have an iPhone, you’ll need this adapter, and can then connect two mics for recording.
Now I could go on all day about the relative merits of these and other accessories which I have tried … but instead, I will be maintaining a longer updated list here of the smartphone camera gear I have tested and I think represents good value.
As I am always gadget-curious, I would love to hear about any filming accessories you have found which help make your videos much less shaky-selfie-stick and much more Scorcese.