As I’ve continued to improve my photography and videography skills, I regularly receive questions: what gear are you using to make this photo? and what camera are you using? and how did you shoot this video?
Many people are surprised to learn that everything I’ve produced in the last 12 months was shot on my iPhone 6S. Yes, you read that right. Every photo on this blog and on my Instagram came from an iPhone. Even this one. Every video – including the super-popular Transylvania one, and my series on Facebook Live – was shot with the same iPhone. At roughly the same time Mr. Valise and I decided to travel long term in 2016, I downsized my camera collection.
Previously, I owned four cameras (including my iPhone): a Diana F+, a Pentax Q10, and a GoPro Hero3 Silver. I had bought each in high hopes (read: my excitement about my new Q10) but found I either couldn’t master the tool to create great visuals or just didn’t give it a fair try. All I knew was that, as I packed for 7 months in a 33L backpack, I couldn’t bring four cameras, three of which I couldn’t even use.
I downsized, and it was the best choice I’ve made. I’m by no means a “professional” iPhone photographer, but my work is now good enough that people assume it’s not entirely shot on an iPhone.
Why iPhone Only?
If you’re considering investing in a new camera, I will always recommend you try mastering the camera (iPhone) you carry around every day first. First, you already own it. Second, it fits in your pocket.
Third, and this is from my experience, you will potentially waste a lot of money buying a new camera you may never figure out how to use well. Unless you’re committed to practicing every day to figure out settings and presets and the actual technique of pointing and shooting, you’re probably not going to see a significant improvement in your final product.
Instead, if you start with your iPhone, you can practice all of the basic techniques without spending very much money or adding a lot of gear to your bag.
As I said, I don’t regret my choice to focus on iPhoneography at all. I think you’ll agree, my practice in the last year has significantly improved my technique. Compare my New Years Day photos from 2015, 2016, and 2017 for proof.
So let’s get to it then – here’s the full list of iPhoneography accessories I use to create the photos and videos you see here.
To start, as I mentioned, I shoot on an iPhone 6S. It’s capable and lightweight, and not significantly worse than a more expensive and/or bigger and/or newer iPhone. I’m part of the cult of Mac/Apple, and not ashamed to admit it.
I have also shot on the Samsung S6, as part of my trip to Jordan. I really enjoyed the quality of photos, but am not an Android user. If you are, I’d recommend this phone (or one of their later, non-exploding models).
My camera bag is an ONA bag. Many travelers/travel bloggers rave about ONA bags… my endorsement is tepid, but not because I don’t like my Bowery bag. It’s a good size and fits all of my gear… But at the end of the day, it’s just a bag. It carries my stuff. It looks pretty good. Nothing breaks when I drop it. I’m not a bag/purse gal, so I can take it or leave it with any given bag.
I carry an external battery with me whenever I’m shooting. The particular one I’m using doesn’t seem to be on Amazon, but it has multiple adapters and holds two charges. It kind of looks like this Mophie battery, but with iPhone and Micro USB adapters.
iPhone Photography Accessories
I have three primary accessories I use to improve the basic photos my iPhone can take.
I recently invested in a clip-on rechargeable ring light. Ring lights improve product photography, food photos, and general lighting. I really like mine, and it’s got multiple settings for different lighting situations.
I often get asked about more unusual photos, like my underwater photos or ones that clearly have an additional lens I’m using. Before leaving the U.S., I invested in a waterproof case because I knew I planned to swim in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas at least a few times. I chose the Optrix by Body Glove waterproof case. This case comes with four interchangeable lenses: a 0˚ (no change) lens, a Macro lens, a Telephoto 2x lens, and a wide-angle 165˚ lens. Mr. Valise also bought me the Fisheye 170˚ lens for my birthday, so I have their whole set. The combo of having a waterproof case and interchangeable lenses was a great fit for me and the adventures I had last year.
I also just invested in my first tripod. Though I’ve heard advice that it’s better to invest in a great tripod up front, I chose the Acuvar 50″ aluminum tripod for two reasons. First, it’s lightweight and collapses down to a 15.5″ length, and can fit in every bag I own. Second, I hardly ever shoot with a tripod so wasn’t going to spend a lot right off the bat. This particular tripod also came with a Bluetooth remote which is freaking awesome for improving stability when I do use the tripod.
iPhone Videography Accessories
I also have some videography specific accessories I use from time to time.
For stability, I chose the Movo VS01-SP handheld stabilizer. I’m still getting the hang of using it, but it’s a massive improvement over my own attempts to stabilize while shooting; I wish I had it during our trip to Europe whenever I look at the clips I shot walking around!
I also just added a lapel mic to my accessories, because sometimes I want to shoot video with me in it (like while in Kotor, Montenegro) and audio quality is hard to guarantee when shooting outdoors, in crowds, or with any background noise. The microphone I chose is Miracle Sound Deluxe Lavalier Lapel Clip-On. I’ve been using it in my Facebook Live readings, and am pleased with the quality so far.
All in the Bag
If you can believe it, all of this gear fits in my camera bag. It all fits in my valise and weighs about 10lbs (if I had to guess). The total cost for all of this gear (excluding my phone) is in the neighborhood of $300. That’s roughly the same you’d pay for a basic DSLR body with no accessories.
There are plenty of photographers who will tell you that the quality of photos you can take with an iPhone will never match what a DSLR can do. For certain things, I completely agree: I can’t shoot great night photography, and don’t have RAW photos to edit.
For most people – most travelers, and even most semi-serious travel bloggers – your iPhone and the right accessories are more than enough. Hopefully this list helps you identify which accessories are best for you.