A+ Phone Photography Widgets

Confession : I am a very bad photographer, and the fact that I’m a pretty competent photo editor renders me completely unmotivated to actually buy nice gear and learn how the hell to use it. (In the immortal [paraphrased] words of Insane Clown Posse, “Fuckin’ cameras, how do they work?”) (I feel the same way about the entire concept of “lighting.”)

HOWEVER. I’ve got two little accessories for my beloved elderly iPhone (which I won’t part with because it’s SMALL and it has crisp slab sides instead of the loathsome rounded edges) which make a huge, huuuuge difference! One I’ve had for well over a year, and one I just got this week … and the best part (aside from the fact that they work really well) is that they’re both stupid cheap. LET’S LOOK.

Pocket Lens Clip-On Macro + Wide Angle Lens ($15.99 at Amazon) : This little guy is AMAZING. It has a simple tension grip and will fit most smartphones easily — you just slide it on and position the lens over your camera’s lens and shoot as usual. I never use the wide-angle lens attachment, but the 10x macro is powerful enough to get great detail on all kinds of stuff — the sparkly finish of  your makeup or nail polish, sure, but you can also just go around the house and look for interesting small things.

My faves are “look at this cool stick with moss and shit on it” and “holy crap the ice crystals on this tupperware lid are like the Bauhaus movement rebuilt the Fortress of Solitude” and “alien landscape! PSYCH, it’s a red cabbage which is actually purple, why do they even call them ‘red’ that drives me crazy.”

As with all images, right-click and “open image in new tab” if you need to see it huuuuuuge.

The only downside to the macro lens is that you’ve got to get it about an inch from your subject for it to focus properly, which means you’ve also got to be careful you’re not blocking the light with your phone. HOWEVER, I’ll also tell you I tried another similar model (this one, which is $11.99 on Amazon, because it’s 15x and I thought the spring clip might be easier to put on) and it wasn’t NEARLY as good. I had to get absurdly close to the object I was shooting — like, half an inch, practically touching it — and the photo quality wasn’t as nice and at that distance it’s almost impossible NOT to block all the light.

Auxiwa Clip-On Ring Light ($13.99 on Amazon) : My newest prize, just acquired a few days ago, and I already love it. It’s got a simple spring-action clip, with little rubber pads front and back to help it grip your phone, and a single button which, with repeated presses, will turn the light onto low, then medium, high, and off. (It also comes with a short charging cable, USB A to Micro B.) This is basically a miniature version of the big fancy ring lights that a lot of beauty bloggers and such use, and which I am not interested in because A) see “meh to serious photography gear” above, and also B) the point of those seems to be “make my face look as inhumanly perfect as possible” which I am 100% not into and am in fact kinda against. I mean I guess it’s okay for Artsy Portraits, but sometimes y’all need to see that I’ve got pores and lines and wrinkles and that yeah this eyeshadow WAS hard to blend and here’s the evidence.

However! This miniature version doesn’t have NEARLY as strong an effect in that regard, but it is turning out to be terrific for improving your photos in shitty lighting situations. Which, my bathroom has a bank of two fixtures over the main mirror (two bulbs each, and I’ve got them with alternating warm white and cool white LEDs), AND a small recessed fixture over the commode, AND a flush-mount fixture near the shower that also has the vent and heater crap on it. So my “hey I’ve gotta take photos of this makeup” routine = me wandering around the bathroom and spinning in circles and turning various lights on and off and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But with the clip-on light? SO MUCH EASIER, OMG. Also, since it’s got cool-white LEDs, it’s hugely helpful in color-balancing your lighting situation if you’ve got little natural light and a lot of warm-white / incandescent-style bulbs in your house, which most people do because the cool white and daylight ones can be unflattering AF.

Here’re some example shots : in all of them, from left to right with no ring light, ring light on low, medium, and high. Top row is just bare (actually freshly-washed this time) skin with my Algenist oil stuff, a little brow fill, and a quick coat of mascara, so that you can see how Actual Skin reads in this light. Second row has foundation and powder, and I DID airbrush out a few zits because y’all don’t need to see that. (Yeah, I foolishly tried a sample packet of BB cream without looking up a translation of the ingredients, which were in Korean, and which ingredient #2 was of fucking course my arch-nemesis cyclopentasiloxane, damn it.)

Which light setting is best to use seems to be dependent on both your current available lighting AND your distance from the subject — if you’re doing a closer, tighter shot with a good bit of ambient light, the lowest setting is probably best. But for full face from a greater distance, or in much lower lighting, then yeah, you may want the medium or high settings. But all in all? HUGELY helpful, super easy, and so cheap! LOVE IT.

Got either of these, or another fave accessory? Share!