It's summertime and for many of us, that means travel. For the photographer on the go, this can mean lots of heavy gear and sometimes even whole bags just for camera equipment. But for those times you want to travel light, we're sharing our favorite gadgets for taking great photos with the camera that's always with you: your smartphone.
1. Smartphone lenses
A few tiny smartphone lenses in your pocket can give you more creative control over your photos and more unique results than the rest of the tourists snapping shots of the Parthenon with their phones. iPhone users have the most options for high-quality lens accessories: Olloclip and Schneider Optics both offer iPhone-exclusive smartphone lenses. All smartphone owners can try out a few of the more universal lens options: Photojojo's Phone Lens Series and Jelly Lenses will attach to almost any smartphone cameras while the Mobi Lens clips onto phones with cameras that sit flush with the back of the device.
2. Phone wrist strap
When Kevin Kuster came back from shooting 40 weddings in one day with his iPhone, he had one major piece of advice: get a wrist strap. Kuster, who spent his trip navigating the remote islands of the Philippines, often had to use his phone over water — a scary prospect when you are using a non-waterproof smartphone. Some smartphones have a tiny hole that a wrist strap can slip into. Others, like iPhones and newer Android smartphones need a special case that has a hole for a wrist strap. The iPhone Wrist Strap from Photojojo attaches via the 30-pin dock connector or lightning port.
3. Optrix case
Users of Apple's flagship smartphone can protect their device while improving its camera with the Optrix case. The super rugged accessory guards the iPhone from drops, dust and even water, all the while providing a super wide angle lens for the camera. Non-iPhone users can find Optrix-level protection in cases from Otterbox but so far we have not found an Optrix equivalent with a wide-angle lens for Android or Windows phones (let us know if you have).
4. External batteries
With large screens, demanding software and signal-searching, smartphone batteries drain fast on vacation. If you're going to be using your phone for calling, texting, emailing and taking photos, you'll probably need a little extra juice to get you through the day.
There are plenty of options for portable chargers that pack enough power to keep your phone running. Some, like the Mophie Juice Pack, are integrated into a case that can remain attached to your phone so you don't forget your back up power at home. Others, like the Tylt PowerPlant, are separate units that connect to your device via a normal USB charger. If you are going to be far away from electricity all together, consider getting a hand-crankable or solar charger.
5. Model releases in 13 languages via Easy Release app
Whether you are shooting with your smartphone or a DSLR, if you want to sell a photo commercially, you need to make sure you have the model's consent. At home, this may not seem so hard, but when you are trying to get someone to sign a model release in a foreign language, things can get a little tricky. For $9.99, iOS and Android users can use the Easy Release app to get model consent in 13 different languages. The model releases on the app are the same ones that are currently in use by a number of reputable photo agencies and it even collects compensation data for taxes.
6. Cloud storage
Arguably the worst part about misplacing your camera is losing the pictures. With smartphone photography, you can leave your device on the metro and still have full access to your cloud data. Before you leave on your next trip, take a moment to set up a cloud back-up service so your photos will automatically be saved as you take them. There are a ton of options currently offering cloud storage for photos: Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Flickr just to name a few. Pick your favorite and shoot away, unafraid of losing those precious memories.
7. Travel apps
The days of travel notebooks and post-trip slideshows are well behind us. Join the 21st century by recording and sharing your trip with a dedicated travel app. Trip Journal for Android, iOS, Bada and Symbian systems allows users to document their trip by automatically collecting geotagged photos and blog entries. For more active travel logging, Jetpac for iPad allows users to share photos from around the world. If you can't wait to get home to share your vacation photos with friends and family, send them a personalized physical postcard with Postagram for iOS and Android.
8. Tiny tripod
Whether you want to take a selfie or a slow-exposure, tripods are a useful tool for traveling photographers. The trick is finding one that won't take up too much space in your bag. For portability and stability, we like the Joby Tight Grip Micro Stand. The small stabilizer can hold any size smartphone and can fold down to fit in a pocket.