I saw a post from Chris Brogan a while back, talking about how it’s ok to not be an expert and, in fact, we shouldn’t wait until we’re experts at something to do it.

Sounds about right to me. After all, I never trained in public relations (fuhgeddabout social media), and my background is in Economics (probably why I like numbers so much) and drama, but I think I’m doing ok.

To me, non-experts doing things very well is one of the beauties not just of our profession, but a gift that the social Web has given to us.

After all, you don’t have to be an “expert” to blog well, to excel at online marketing, to take great photos and/or videos… right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m drawn more to the “non-expert” versions of these things (and so much more), because they have a “realness” (I don’t know if that’s a word, and if it wasn’t, it is now, and it is so much easier to say than verisimilitude) to them that a lot of “expert” content doesn’t.

So.

Being a non-expert at much of this stuff, I recently got a bee in my bonnet about finding a way to build my own, iPhone-ready DIY photo/video studio, that would let me take/create not great, but good enough visual/multimedia content (Project 366 is proving to be great testing ground for this).

After a month or so of trial and error, finally all the pieces have fallen into place. And I did this on less than $200 (excluding taxes and shipping). Here’s how you can too, with six terrific iPhone accessories that will give you a mobile [sic], “good enough” photo/video studio.

1. Olloclip 3-in-1 lens ($69.99)

This little gizmo is very cool. It’s a fisheye, wide and macro lens all in one. It clips onto your iPhone and gives you the ability to take some really neat photos.

For example, this is a photo taken during yesterday’s personal training session (I got Grant Hill to be my guinea pig, heh!) using the regular iPhone camera/lens:

photo from a regular iPhone camera

This is the same photo taken with the Olloclip’s wide-angle lens:

Olloclip's wide angle lens in action

See how it’s pulling extending the visual to the sides, not to mention top, and maybe bottom?

And this is a photo using the fisheye lens:

Olloclip's fisheye lens

This is a photo using the macro lens (not from the training session, since it’s of a really fab wine glass – with its own sock! – that Rachael Seda gave me), but it’s terrific for really, really close photos:

TGIF

By the way, the Olloclip is also available via Apple.com, but I had an Amazon gift card that was crying out to be used, so that’s where I bought it from.

There is also a cheaper version of this, i.e. the same three lenses that come with magnetic rings that you can stick onto the back of your iPhone, but when I tested it, they kept falling off. Not good.

Downsides:

  • It won’t fit over a fancy iPhone case, if you have one
  • The iPhone’s inbuilt flash and the Olloclip don’t play nice together… but I have a solution for that! Read on…

2. iFlash ($12.99)

So now you’re all excited about the 3-in-1 lens solution, but what happens if you want to use these when you need a flash?

iFlash to the rescue. This is lovely; it fits to the “30 pin” on your iPhone (i.e. where you plug your charger in), and it works great.

It will not fit if you have a fancy iPhone case. Yes, again.

3. Joby GorillaPod ($29.95)

Joby's GorillapodOk, so now you have your lenses and your iFlash. What if you tend to, er, shimmer when holding your phone/camera, and need something to hold it steady?

Enter the GorillaPod Video tripod. Now, I originally bought this for my Flip camera, but I found a way to repurpose it for my iPhone.

Before I get to that, though, what is so neat about all Joby’s Gorilla products is the way the legs bend, which means you can attach them to shelves, branches, doorknobs… just about anywhere you need to, even if you don’t have a flat surface to stand them on.

And they also have magnetized “feet,” so if you’re near a surface that will work, you can literally just stick it on there.

It’s a plastic yoga studio!

Joby has a ton of products, including a tripod specifically for the iPhone, but I don’t like that, and I’ll tell you why…

4. Glif ($20.00)

The problem with using Joby’s iPhone tripod is that you have to use the case that comes with it, in order for the tripod to hold your iPhone securely (it fits on other cases as well, but the point is, it won’t fit on just the iPhone).

So if you want to take, say, photos/videos while using your 3-in-1 lens, or iFlash, and still need the steadying influence of a tripod, you’re SOL.

This is where the Glif iPhone stand and tripod mount (I bought mine on Photojojo) comes in. It’s a small piece of plastic – when mine arrived, I kept peering into the envelop to see what was missing – but it fits beautifully onto your phone (without a case), and has this hole thingy into which the Joby Gorilla Pod screws beautifully.

I’m sure I will regret leaving that last phrase unedited. But whatevs.

Also, Photojojo has a killer website which is pure fun to go through, and just wait until you get their order confirmations/packages… I got a teeny weeny dinosaur with mine!

5. Audio-Technica ATR3350 Lavalier Mic ($22.34)

ATR 3350This is just a lovely little lavalier mic (not wireless), that you can use, with an adapter, to enhance your audio. So, say you want to do video interviews, or recordings, from your iPhone, it’s terrific.

But wait! It won’t work on your iPhone unless you buy the…

6. KV Connection 1/8″ iPhone microphone adapter ($23.06)

You have to get this along with your lavalier mic, else it won’t work. Trust me on this one. Better yet, trust Jeff Geerling, whose site I found this from.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found, and then ordered, these last two. And I was shattered – absolutely shattered! – when they didn’t work.

Turns out the KVC adapter was faulty, as Jeff suggested when I wrote to him. So KVC sent me a new one at no cost, and everything worked perfectly. I can’t give their customer service a big enough shout out.

Let’s recap, shall we?

  • Olloclip 3-in-1 lens: $69.99
  • iFlash: $12.99
  • Tripod/stand: $29.95
  • Glif: $20.00
  • ATR 3350 mic: $22.34
  • KV Connection adapter for mic: $23.06

Less taxes (if applicable) and shipping, that comes to $178.33.

So for less that $200, you can:

  • Take photos (and videos) that don’t shake
  • Take photos (and videos) from weird, crazy, funky angles, should you be so inclined [sic]
  • Give new depth, and angles, to your multimedia
  • Get extremely decent audio for videos/interviews
  • Produce fun, possibly funky photos/videos for your clients/organizations
  • Avoid gnashing your teeth when you want to record something on the fly, since you have your studio-in-a-bag
  • Make sure the pros you do hire do a really good job (I mean, they’ve got to top you, right?)

Add in $0.99 for Camera+, $1.99 for Photosync and $4.99 for iMovie – all great apps for the iPhone for effects, cropping and whatnot – and you got yourself a cryin’, talkin’, sleepin’, walkin’, livin’ doll of a mobile studio… still for less than $200.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

How about you? Have you tested great accessories that will let you take “good enough” photos/videos on the fly? Do share, I’d love to know… and maybe upgrade my own mobile studio!

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke