Viewing entries in

7 Awesome New Gadgets to Shoot Better Smartphone Photos + Videos

Here are seven super cool new gadgets on display at Photokina 2016 that will help you shoot better photos and videos on your smartphone. Do you need them? No. But you'll probably want one or two of them...

Lenses, lights and mics, oh my!

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Photokina, just down the road from my office, in Cologne. Photokina is the world’s largest tradeshow for the photography and imaging industry. Although I was there to report on virtual reality for, the mobile journo in me just had to stop and see some of the coolest mobile photography tech.

Here’s the list of my favorites:

Ztylus LED Ring Light

Ztylus LED Ring Light ($54.95)

Ztylus LED Ring Light ($54.95)

There’s a reason I put this as number one. It was seriously cool! This LED ring light ($54.95) attaches to your smartphone to add a boost of soft, appealing light to any photo or video. It comes in three different diffusers—cool, warm and nature—each with a “best use” case. For example, one setting is made for portraiture (i.e. selfies!), while another is perfect for taking food photos.

Although you’re supposed to use this ring light with Ztylus’s iPhone case, for those of us (i.e. ME) who really like our existing smartphone case, you can either connect it with tape, Velcro, or (my favorite) superglueing a tiny and super-powerful neodymium magnet to the ring light to magnetically snap it on and off your smartphone. In my case, a neodymium magnet was strong enough to stick to my phone through my leather Shieldon phone case. #DoubleWin

When in use, simply slide the ring light into position—with your camera lens in the middle of the ring—and turn it on (it’s powered by 3 AAA batteries).

Ztylus also makes some pretty interesting lens kits, too. I got to see and test out the 4-in-1 lens attachment ($99.95), with a macro lens, wide-angle lens, fisheye lens and circular polarizing filter lens. Unfortunately, you do actually need the Ztylus case to effectively use their lenses. The lens has to be perfectly placed—not approximately placed, like we can do with the ring light. Their best-seller, though, is the Z-Prime lens system ($129.99), which comes with glass lenses (rather than the plastic ones from the 4-in-1 kit). The super wide-angle lens and 2X telephoto lens really do improve your photo quality, with minimal vignettes.

Pilotfly SP1 Smartphone Gimbal

Pilotfly SP1 Smartphone Gimbal ($314)

Pilotfly SP1 Smartphone Gimbal ($314)

No matter how much I moved, danced, shook, ran, whatever, my footage consistently came out insanely shake-free with the Pilotfly SP1 ($314). This gimbal comes with four settings to allow you the movement types you want, like panning, without any sort of unwanted movement.

Even though it’s pricy for a smartphone accessory—especially coming from someone like me who talks about getting started with NOTHING—this particular accessory is so worth it in so many different scenarios. For quick interviews, there’s nothing better. Rather than having to set up a tripod, you can just hold the gimbal by hand, and your video will still be really watchable. For shooting b-roll, gorgeous pans, or even shots where you need to follow someone or out the car window ;)

I’m also going to be demonstrating and reviewing the Pilotfly on, so keep an eye out for that!

Rode VideoMic Me

Rode VideoMic Me (Price TBD)

Rode VideoMic Me (Price TBD)

Rode Microphones showcased a pretty impressive lightweight directional mic for smartphones at Photokina, the VideoMic Me. It plugs into the audio jack and still provides you with a headphone jack so you can listen to your audio as you record. You can mount it to use with either the front or back camera recording, and it comes with a windscreen (AKA “Dead Cat”).

Although the mic isn’t actually available for purchase yet, you can at least dream about it when you listen to this clip after 4:10.

Rode VideoMic Me sample audio comparison after 4:10 (via

Sandisk Connect Wireless Stick

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick ($25-$87)

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick ($25-$87)

Most of the chatter surrounding Sandisk from Photokina was about their 1 Terabyte memory card, but I want to talk about the Connect Wireless Stick. Now, this one isn’t new, but it’s still awesome. I actually picked up one of these back in May at Mojocon and I use it all the time!

Basically, it allows me to store extra media files on my flash drive and access them wirelessly from my phone, my computer and my tablet. This is immensely helpful when, say, I’m shooting an interview with two cameras—my iPhone and my tablet—and I plan to edit on my computer. Not only that, I can I set it to automatically backup my photos and videos, when connected, so I have them stored in two places, just in case.

It comes in lots of sizes, from 16GB ($25) to 200GB ($87).

Shoulderpod R1 Pro Rig

Shoulderpod R1 Pro Rig ($100)

Shoulderpod R1 Pro Rig ($100)

If you actually end up buying half of the things on this list, your phone is going to get…overencumbered? I mean, there are only so many plug-ins and places to attach things to your phone. Enter Shoulderpod’s R1 Pro Rig ($100). It can hold your smartphone and a couple additional accessories, like lights and mics. Plus, the adapter to hold your phone is much more reliable than those spring-loaded ones. Shake and run all you want, your phone isn’t falling out.

Full disclosure, Shoulderpod did give me an R1 Go Rig, which is super handy if you need to shoot with one hand and want to add an extra accessory. But, I’ve seen a lot of gadgets like this and I really do think they have among the best in quality and, IMO, the cutest.

BrightCast Variable 15

BrightCast Variable 15 ($199 or $299)

BrightCast Variable 15 ($199 or $299)

This one isn’t as much “new” as it is “new to me.” The entire Newsshooter crew was using BrightCast Variable 15 to light their review videos, and plenty of camera lovers passing by were so intrigued by the light they had to touch and play with it (invited or not)! The product was actually announced at NAB earlier this year.

They’re flexible, waterproof, and you can attach the battery pack with Velcro to the back of the light. They come in both a daylight version ($199) and a bi-color version ($299).

Not to mention, the quality is really, really good for how light-weight and durable it is!

Kula’s Bebe 3D smartphone lens

Kula Bebe 3D Smartphone Lens ($79)

Kula Bebe 3D Smartphone Lens ($79)

This was the perfect blend of VR and mojo for me! The Kula Bebe 3D smartphone lens uses a series of mirrors to capture stereoscopic (i.e. 3D) images. It can clip onto any smartphone, and is basically the baby (get it, bebe?) version of Kula’s Deeper 3D lens for DSLR cameras. Once you’ve taken the photo, you can convert it using Kula’s free app to watch on any VR headset, View-Master, cheap-o 3D paper movie glasses or 3D TV.

The Kula Bebe is available for presale now at $79 and ships in November.

About the Author

Sarah Redohl is a new media journalist, focusing on mobile storytelling, 360 video and storytelling for good.

Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Travel Channel and National Public Radio, among others, and she has presented on TedX stages, MoJoCon, the What If... Conference series and more. Redohl has won regional and national awards for her visual storytelling, and is recognized as one of Folio: Magazine's 15 Under 30 young professionals driving media's next-gen innovation.

She's passionate about bringing storytelling tools to small businesses and nonprofits, and is part of a journalism collaborative that aims to bring the power of storytelling to nonprofit agencies in developing countries where stories might otherwise go untold. 

Connect with Sarah on TwitterInstagramPinterest andLinkedIn.

20+ Mobile Storytelling Apps, Tools + Tips From Top Experts

We're constantly sharing our own top apps, tips and tools, but with the international mobile journalism conference (MoJoCon) just around the corner, we’re sharing top apps, tools and tips from 11 of our favorite mobile journalists. Here are the best!


Andy Butler


Favorite App

"Snapseed is my go-to photo editing app,” Andy said. His favorite features include tune image, tonal contrast for improved clarity and the vintage filter.

Top Tip

“Editing is to enhance a photo, not hide flaws in a bad one.”

Bernhard Lill


Favorite Apps

JamSnap for iOS and Foundbite for Android. Both JamSnap and Foundbite allow you to add sounds to still photos to capture and share a moment.

Björn Staschen


Favorite Apps

Björn recommends either FilmicPro or CinemaFV5 for shooting videos, and either Pinnacle, PowerDirector or KineMaster for editing. He also likes Hyperlapse for timelapse videos.

Judd Slivka


Favorite App

ChartMakerPro allows you to input data to generate pie charts, line graphs, scatter plots and more to print, save to camera roll and share.

Top Tips

Be sure to hold your phone horizontally when you’re shooting videos—and put your phone in airplane mode to avoid interruptions.

Marc Blank-Settle


Favorite Apps

FilmicPro to shoot video, Ferrite to collect and edit audio, and ProCamera8 to take photos.

Top Tools

Marc recommends buying an external mic. “iRig and Røde make decent mics,” he said, but “it all depends what sound you want to capture and how much you want to spend!” He also recommends buying something to stabilize your device, like a tripod or monopod.

Top Tip


Neal Augenstein


Favorite Apps

For audio editing, Neal recommends Ferrite, a multitrack recorder that displays tracks very similarly to Adobe Audition. He also suggests Clips for video editing.

Top Tools

Neal’s most important accessory is a $3 windscreen for your microphone.

Nick Garnett


Favorite Apps

Ferrite for recording and editing audio, and either Pinnacle or iMovie for video editing.

Top Tips

“Sort out your sound,” Nick said. “Get a cheap personal mic and use a second (old) iPhone to record it on,” so your source can put the second phone in their pocket during the interview. Then, sync the high-quality audio with the video. That’s the $40 solution, Nick said, but another option is to get the Røde VideoMic Me, a mini shotgun mic.

Philip Bromwell


Favorite Apps

FilmicPro for filming video, Camera+ for taking photos, iMovie for editing videos and Adobe Voice for social video. Adobe Voice allows you to make simple animated videos with narration and music.

He also likes PicPlayPost for combining videos and stills into a collage, Diptic for adding text to photo collages, Gravie for adding text and graphics to video and Replay for unique video filters and effects.

Although Philip recommends a lot of apps, he said all apps should be used to polish your work—doing simple things (like taking good photos and videos from the start) is also key.

Top Tips

Having a good smartphone and a good eye are key. Philip also recommends taking a lot of photos, getting plenty of video close ups and a variety of shots, and be willing to practice. “[Another newbie mistake is] forgetting that social video has to work on social,” Philip said.

Sandra Sperber


Favorite Apps

FilmicPro for shooting video, iMovie for editing video, Video Compressor to save space on your device and WeTransfer to share up to 10 GB of photos and videos to friends’ emails (no sign-up required). “iMovie is a good tool for basic editing,” Sandra said. “It lacks a few functions, like audio transmissions but it’s great for a quick rough cut.”

Top Tips

Sandra’s top tip is to keep it simple. “For beginners, the variety of apps and gadgets can be confusing. Don’t spend too much time on picking your tools,” Sandra said. She suggests experimenting with your phone’s basic camera app, and then add a selfie stick or tripod and a mic, even if it’s just your iPhone headset. “You’ll be surprised what’s possible with a simple set up, and then dig deeper into the App Store.”



Favorite Apps

FilmicPro for filming videos, but if your Android device won’t run Filmic, try Cinema FV-5. He also recommends iMovie for iPad, because of the ability to “expand audio” to help with audio transitions. For video editing, he recommends KineMaster (for Android). “It’s even more powerful than iMovie, but just as easy to use.” He also uses FeemWifi for file transfers and Storymaker as a learning tool.

Top Tip

“Don’t let anybody tell you that you need an iPhone. Android and Windows phones work as well.”

Wytse Vellinga


Favorite Apps

Wytse uses Ferrite for audio recording and editing. He’s also a fan of Storehouse for video and photo collages, albums and stories.  In addition to FilmicPro, Wytse also uses MoviePro for filming videos and Proshot for taking photos. “Proshot has everything a professional photographer could ask for in the controls department.” Wytse also likes VideoScribe, a whiteboard video animation app, for explaining complicated procedures and numbers.

Top Tips

“Analyze Hollywood movies and fiction TV shows,” Wytse said. “The editing techniques are basically the same as in a good TV report.” He also recommends shooting a lot of material, and thinking in sequences. “And make a storyboard in your head. It makes editing a lot more fun.”


About The Author

Hey, I'm Sarah!

I love teaching small businesses and solopreneurs to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Your Video Camera + Gear ARE NOT as Important as You Think (and Here's Why)

video, gear, video gear, videography, smartphone, tripod,

When I was a kid, I wanted to learn how to juggle. So, I began saving my allowance to buy all the things I would need: 3 bean bags and a book on how to juggle.

To get started, I read the book cover to cover before even picking up my bean bags. By the last page of the book, I knew all about the earliest jugglers, the history of the art and the geometry of juggling knives, but I still didn’t know how to juggle.

Furthermore, now my little brain was overwhelmed by the concept, too busy contemplating angles and grip methods rather than doing what I really needed to do to learn: PRACTICE.

Later in life, I would get distracted by the same old stuff. I’d buy art supplies, but never paint. I’d buy language software, but never practice. I would choose stuff over skill. Style over substance. I would dress the part, but I wouldn’t play the part.

I’m not alone. We all do this. It’s not that our intentions are bad or that we don’t really want these skills, it’s that we’re afraid to get started and want an easier way.

And so, we choose stuff over skill.

In my mobile storytelling circles, I get asked the same question over and over again: What gear do you carry in your kit? People are always surprised when I can pull everything I need out of my pocket while they fiddle around with a mobile video setup that looks more like Disney’s Wall-E than it does a smartphone.

I'm here to tell you that gear will not make you a good videographer. Practice and good ideas will.

Do I have some pretty kickass gear? Absolutely. But I try not to let the stuff distract from the skill, especially when I have everything you need to get started in my pocket. Your iPhone shoots 1080p, and your headphones have a decent mic. What are you waiting for? If you’ve never shot a video before, that $300 microphone and that $200 lens won’t help you.

If I could bet that $500 on a videographer with the best gear or a videographer who’s practiced a lot, I would absolutely put my money on the guy who’s practiced more.

If I had just picked up three of my Beanie Babies and gotten started, I’d probably know how to juggle by now. Stop allowing yourself to be held back by stuff. The stuff will postpone you. The stuff will distract and confuse you. You just need to get started.

Apple or Android?

storytelling, mobile storytelling, apple, android, apps

I am an Apple maniac. I'm on my third MacBook Pro and my fourth iPhone, and I have two iPads that I keep on hand. I'm also a graduate of and adjunct instructor for the University of Missouri, where dimly lit classrooms are illuminated by hundreds of soft, glowing Apples.

But during my training sessions, I almost always have a mixed audience of Apple users and Android users, all of whom want to make the most of their devices. As I learn more about the capabilities of Android devices, I've developed a list of pros and cons for both.


Apple devices shine when it comes to simplicity of app interfaces and variety of applications.

Even though I have three full-featured editing software options on my computer, I often find myself using apps to edit short videos anyways. Compared to software, video editing apps on the iPhone have just the basics. They make it easy to choose the right settings and difficult to screw up by making edits you don't understand. Learning Steller or any other short and creative storytelling apps is also very user-friendly.

Another area in which Apple products shine is the sheer variety of storytelling applications. I have no legitimate rationale for the number of storytelling apps available on Apple devices compared to Android, but my best guess is the type of people who utilize each family of devices. Apple products are often used by videographers and designers who would be likely to utilize these types of apps.


Where Android shines is as a middle ground between full-featured software and basic apps. Although the design and use isn't as streamlined or easy to learn as Apple apps, there are many more features in most of the comparable Android apps I've seen. There's also, of course, more variety in camera quality and capability on Android phones, and a variety of larger-screened options (yes, I know of the iPhone 6 Plus) that make editing easier. They're also often more affordable, and one part of smartphone storytelling is that it's a more budget-friendly option.

The conclusion?

Work with what you have and what you're used to. Just know the limitations of what you're working with and find a creative solution that works for you.

DIY Tripod Mount for your Phone

tripod, tripod mount, iphone android, tutorial, video, smartphone, video smartphone, content marketing, mobile storytelling, videography, storytelling, audio, apps, applications,

When I was teaching a course for the American Society of Business Publication Editors, the Social Media Club of Kansas City and a few other groups, everyone was in awe of my homemade tripod mount.

I'd only manufactured it out of desperation--I misplaced my own mount and needed one for the presentation--but people love anything that's free, or close to it.

Sure, there are plenty of tripod mounts for your phone available for about $10, but you can build this one in less than a minute with $5 worth of materials you can find at any hardware store.