Next Level Smart Phone Pics

With the explosion of social media and the continuing improvement of smart phones, everyone is becoming better and fussier at taking good pictures.  You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get a hero shot anymore. As a result, I am continually getting messages from people about the equipment I use and asking questions about how to improve their own photography.  And it’s great.  I love that we are able to capture memorable moments and treasure them forever through a frozen moment in time and I’m especially all for getting the best image you are able to create.

Unfortunately, we can’t all afford expensive camera equipment. My camera bag currently has over $25,000 worth of equipment that has taken me years to build up.  I earn money from my photography, so I can easily justify the expense.  But I’m finding there are times where I don’t want to drag around a heavy bag full of equipment, particularly when I’m not working, but I still have high expectations from the images I create, even if they are just happy snaps that I am keeping for myself.

The latest smart phones have pretty decent cameras these days and their images fine for social media and happy snaps, however if you want to go one step further, without forking out for a camera, I have recently been testing out the range of lenses from Black Eye that attach to your camera. Don’t mistake these for the cheap $10 clip ons you see at discount stores.  The first thing I noticed when I opened the box, actually even from the packaging itself, was the quality.  Made from high quality optic lenses, these attachments will take your images to the next level.  They are light and small and fit into a small carry bag that comes with the lenses and pops into my handbag.  Just quietly, I’m obsessed with them at the moment.  I find myself going out and leaving my camera at home to test out and play with these, particularly as you can see by the results, the images I am getting are pretty impressive for a phone pic.

 Black Eye HD Macro

This is my favourite lens. Probably because to achieve the results this lens gives, you pretty much either need a professional Macro lens attachment for your camera, or one of these.  The macro options are endless and lots of fun.

Here’s some things you need to know about Black Eye lenses and pretty much my first impressions:

  • When I first started using them, to be honest, they can be a bit fiddly. You need to line up the small lens at the back of the attachment with the camera on your phone.  But I have definitely found that the more I use the lens, the easier it gets to place accurately.   One trick is to look down on your camera from above when lining up the lens, it makes it easier to use.
  • Fits any phone, I-pad, even lap top, any case – very versatile. There are other options on the market that are specific to certain phone models but these will fit anything.
  • It is easier to use without the case at first until you get used to it. This can also help reduce the vignetting.
  • Doesn’t even compare to cheap $10 lens attachments.High quality optics with hand polished glass to give clear natural colours and minimise lens flaring and reflections.
  • I have an I-phone 8 and I-phone X – both with duel cameras which I do find a bit tricky to line up.However, I have been advised there is a Duel lens option coming September 2018.  If you have a duel lens phone, I would suggest waiting for the update.
  • There is also a tripod that you can purchase for long exposures, time lapse, selfies etc. It even comes with a detachable blue tooth shutter remote

Black Eye 3 x Telephoto

I love the way this lens pulls the image in and creates a shallow depth.  I have been using this quite a lot for flat lays and product shots.

Finally, can I say that this is not a paid or sponsored blog.  I feel like they are something that could really revolutionise phone photography as you are achieving a much better result at a fraction of the price of a camera. So far, I have found them really fun and useful and want to pass this information on to the people who ask my advice about cameras and photography.  The lenses are not “cheap” but when you consider you are spending upwards of $1000 on a phone, you can get a 3 lens kit including hard case for $200 which I thought was pretty good value, especially considering the results I have been able to achieve.  This is the “Pro Kit” which comes with a full frame fish eye lens, 3 x telephoto and a HD macro.  The other lens that I have been using is the Cinema Wide.

Black Eye Cinema Wide

Great to widen a shot without the distortion of a fish eye

Note that with all images shown, initially the mentioned lens was attached to a smartphone, a shot was taken (shown on the left of screen) and immediately after, the lens removed and another shot taken with the phone in exactly the same position (shown right of screen) to demonstrate what effect the lens attachment achieves.  No images were edited or altered in any way.

Black Eye Fish Eye

Always great for a selfie and capturing a really wide perspective.  As with all fish eye lenses, you do get the distortion and I found getting the focus right was tricky.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Most of us have travelled to Sydney, but if you’re anything like me, every trip has been for a purpose – work, or an event.  The cosmopolitan capital is not somewhere that I would usually go for a “holiday”, yet there are so many things on  my bucket list that I just never seem to find the time to tick off.

So, with the help of some friends, I headed off for a “Girls weekend” to find some hidden gems in this city that has been Instagrammed, photographed and written about countless times.

I’m talking about a bunch of girls, leaving the husbands, partners, pets, kids behind and taking off for an easy escape.  With Sydney just a short and fairly cheap flight away, it’s as viable a plan as any road trip.

My favourite thing about Sydney is the beach side suburbs. So our first stop had to be Bondi Beach.

Hotel and Airbnb options abound, but with traffic and parking so hectic, finding somewhere central should be a priority.

My top pick is QT Bondi located on Beach Road, with a Woolworths and liquor store right beneath high end, luxury hotel style apartments  In true QT style, the service is first class and the venue quirky and fun.  From here, you can pretty much explore the Bondi area without any need for a car. QT even have bicycles if you want to venture a little further.

With warm sunny winter skies, first activity on the list is the Bondi to Bronte walk.  It seems inconceivable that I’ve never done this before as it’s one of Sydney’s most iconic walking trails.  Starting at Bondi Beach, you walk along tall sandstone cliff tops with spectacular panoramic views of the ocean as well as taking in the luxurious homes that fringe the track.

The walk around to Bronte is about 1.5 km and takes very conservatively about an hour, however this includes a really easy walking pace and plenty of stops to take in the panoramic views and time for pictures along the way. Passing Tamarama Beach, this is also a great coffee stop with a cute little café on the beach.

Bronte beach is one of the more famous beach baths in Sydney, however did you know there are actually 44 in total, so plenty to choose from. Almost every beach in Sydney has a natural rock pool for those who want a more protected ocean swim and the best part is, most are free.  Whilst these ocean pools provide a calm ocean experience with the waves crashing over the rock walls, they also make for spectacular images, iconic to Sydney.  It always amazes me that other beach locations like the Gold Coast don’t create tourist attractions like these, especially with the vastly better weather.

After a good walk on the Sydney walking tracks, it’s time to hit the streets and back streets of Bondi and experience some of their great cafes and restaurants as well as boutique shopping.  The Markets held at Campbell Parade every Sunday from 10am to 4pm offer fresh flowers, food, fashion and local crafts.

Finally, if you are staying in the Bondi area, another great ocean walk is to Hornby Lighthouse.  About a 15 minute drive via the exclusive Sydney suburb of Vaucluse and parking at the cute little beach at Camp Cove, these are well known locations to locals, but not as overrun by tourist crowds. Hornby Lighthouse is impressively painted in red and white strips making it a striking landmark on the entry to Sydney Harbour and Watsons Bay.

From Bondi Beach, you can’t visit Sydney without a stay in the city. One of the beautiful things about Sydney is its age and history and there’s plenty of historic and heritage buildings including the old Sydney Water building in Pitt Street which has been converted to the luxurious Primus Hotel and was second stop on my visit.

Steeped in history, Primus have stayed true to their heritage which is obvious as soon as you enter the building. Opting for “wow factor” over maximising use of space, a huge voided entry with impressive eight-meter high columns of red scagliola marble greet you on entry. Beautifully appointed, opulent rooms and a great roof top pool and bar, although this is central for all the Sydney city locations, it’s also a great place to just stay inhouse and enjoy the ambiance of this great historic building.  A true hidden gem of the city.

Once in the city, Sydney is full of hidden laneways, underground venues and bars and arcades with unique treasures.  There’s no need for a map or guide, get lost discovering this great city with friends and with no set plans.

Finally, my number one tip when travelling with friends. Believe me, you’ll thank me later. It avoids all the messing around with who pays for what, who owes what etc.  At the start of the trip, everyone put in say $100 to a kitty.  Then, every time you have to pay for a taxi, Uber, coffee, meal etc, it comes out of the kitty.  Otherwise, someone ends up paying more than anyone else, and it gets really messy to sort out.  Top up equally as necessary and at the end, split evenly what is left (or like us, buy a lotto ticket to share and keep your fingers crossed)

For more information or images, go to my Facebook or Instagram pages at Jules Ingall Photography or @Julesingall