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5 Great Accessories to Improve Your Phone's Photos

Smartphone cameras are better than ever — but not perfect. These gadgets can help

spinner image close up of a woman holding a smartphone taking a picture of a sunset
Westend61/Getty Images

Anyone who has reached for a smartphone to capture an awesome sunset may have experienced this annoying issue: the dreaded green dot.

Pointing your phone at the sun often causes the uninvited eyesore that shows up in your sunset, hence the reflection. And it's something that can easily be fixed with a photo accessory.

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Most common smartphone photo problems can be solved with a small investment. Consider these.

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A six-pack of microfiber cleaning cloths can cost less than $10 if you shop around.

1. Keep a lens cloth handy

Problem: Your images look blurred or spotted and you don't know why.

Solution: Clean your lens!

The phone that has been banging around your pocket or purse will produce way better photos once the lens has been wiped off and cleaned. An inexpensive microfiber cloth ($5 to $12 for a pack that contains several) also can be used to get the smudges off your tablet or laptop.

2. Shade your lens from direct sun

spinner image a j c c lens hood attached to a smartphone
This lens hood was designed to reduce glare when shooting through a glass window, but the same principle will eliminate the annoying green sunset dot, too.

Problem: That green dot appears every time you try to photograph a sunset.

Solution: The JJC Anti-Reflection Camera Lens Hood for iPhone and Android phones sells for $20 and can block out the sunset dot to save the day. To use it, slide the phone into the chassis, so the gadget window covers the phone camera and provides shade. You can use it handheld, but it will work even better with the addition of an accessory below.

3. Mount your camera for stability

spinner image a movo accessory attached to a phone
Get steadier videos and panoramic still photos with a tool that can give you a better grip on your smartphone.

Problem: Panoramas aren't level, and videos shake.

Solution: A mount or grip, such as the $30 Movo PR-3, can help with panoramic shots, which are expanded wide-angle photos. These require you to pan the camera from left to right on the straight line displayed in the phone camera.

Better yet, a grip can help eliminate camera shake for steadier videos. It also doubles as a light mini tripod, with legs that extend from the bottom of the unit. And it has a “cold shoe” that lets you connect an accessory light or microphone to the top of the unit. That's helpful for taking pictures of products but probably not so for a family-history video. It won't reach the eye level needed for interviews. For this, you should consider purchasing an additional mini tripod for $20 to $30. Screw the bottom of the grip to the tripod and you'll be closer to eye level.

4. Click your shutter remotely

spinner image a cam kix
Using the Bluetooth wireless technology that's built into your phone, a camera shutter remote control can allow you to take your selfie from farther away.

Problem: Selfies are too hard to set up. Your arms aren't long enough to hold the camera far enough from your face.

Solution: How about a remote control that saves you from having to snap the shutter from the phone? Instead, it uses a little remote clicker that can attach to your keychain.

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You can buy one for as little as $7.50. To operate, just open the Settings app on your phone and Bluetooth to pair the gadget, then start snapping away.

5. Use additional lighting

spinner image a Lume Cube light attached to the top of a smartphone
The under 2-inch Lume Cube 2.0 may make you think of retro flashbulbs, but the water-resistant LED light can function mounted on your phone or positioned nearby.
Lume Cube

Problem: Your inside shots are too dark.

Solution: Buy a little accessory light. The Lume Cube, $90, is tiny but very powerful and will produce more pleasing results than your built-in smartphone camera flash.

You'll need a mount to attach it to the top of the phone, but if you buy the Movo mount, mentioned above, or a tripod mount with a cold shoe (available for $10 to $15), you'll be in great shape. The Lume Cube connects via Bluetooth and will respond as a flash when you snap the camera phone shutter or as a continuous video light.

And make sure you've thought about these

The tools below are also must-haves before you leave the house for any photo shoot. They won't improve your photography, but they will ensure that you can take the picture.

• Power bank: Would you leave on a family trip without fueling up? You won't want to arrive at Yosemite or Zion national park with a phone battery at 20 percent. For those instances when you either forget to charge or have taken so many photos that you've exhausted the battery — unlikely, but just saying — it never hurts to have a pocket-sized power bank at the ready. These credit-card-sized gizmos sell for around $20 to $30, and after a charge, can plug into your phone and give you another 8 to 10 hours of battery life when you're out and about.

Just be sure to also have a phone-charging cable on hand, so you can connect the phone to the bank to get the charge.

• Online backup: In the same category as arriving to a shoot with a dead or nearly exhausted battery is having a phone with little to no storage left for your photos or videos. Take the time before you leave to make sure you have room.

On an iPhone, go to Settings, then General. On an Android phone, go to Settings and straight to Storage.

If you don't want to delete any files, move them to an external hard drive or a portable thumb drive for smartphones, or use online storage. Members of Amazon's Prime entertainment and shipping program get free unlimited photo storage to Amazon's photo app, and Google, Apple and Microsoft offer limited free online storage — in a bid to get you to pay for more.

Jefferson Graham is a contributing writer who covers personal technology and previously was a technology columnist for USA Today. He hosts the streaming travel photography series Photowalks and is author of Video Nation: A DIY Guide to Planning, Sharing and Shooting Great Video.

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