There are many, many great apps in the App Store, allowing you to do many, many things. There are also many, many apps in the App Store that are rubbish and no good for anything. There is yet a third category of apps which serve no real purpose but are really really good anyway. I have a folder on my iPhone dedicated to apps like Fluid that serve no purpose other than to show off the screen and graphics processing power of the device.
This is no different for the photography apps I have on my iPhone 4. Some of the apps I have for this purpose are really useful for the photographer on the go, others are a bit cheesy and some are just for showing off.
I keep my Photography folder on my main home screen where I can always get at it (although I do keep the default Camera app out of the folder for even quicker access). Some of these are for snapping, some are for post-production, all of them are really pretty good (all prices correct at time of publishing; links take you straight to the iTunes Store).
I love Instagram. I’ve sung its praises numerous times on this blog, and have posted several collections of images from the app.
If you’ve not heard of Instagram, it’s basically Twitter for images. You take a snap, add a filter, add some faux tilt-shift blur if you feel the need, and post it to a feed. You follow certain people, certain people follow you. If you do Twitter, it should all be familiar to you.
I have found it to be more than that, however. Firstly, looking through trying the filters to find the right one is interesting, and it is quite a feeling when you find the right one. The right filter also adds a finish to the photograph that you don’t often see, especially in what would otherwise be quick, disposable photography. The fact that I feel proud enough of the results to dedicate multiple posts to the final images shows that it’s more than just throwaway images. For this reason Instagram is one of my favourite apps on iOS.
360 Panorama may do what it says on the tin, but it does it very very well. It makes full use of the gyroscope in the iPhone 4 to take a very well stitched together panorama of where you happen to be. It doesn’t just stop there, of course – what good is a 360° panorama if it ends up squashed flat on a page? So, 360 Panorama lets you upload the end result to their servers to have a full interactive 360 view, as in this example I took in Bushy Park a a month or so ago. Best of all, they offer this service free, with some limitations.
TiltShift Generator is a nifty little app designed to mimic the ‘miniature’ effect achieved with tilt-thift lenses (which, for the real thing, are really rather expensive). It does this by emulating the shallow depth of field and lop-sided focal plane of a TS lens. It has some pretty impressive results, although it should be noted the tilt-shift option in Instagram, although not as fine-tunable as this app, does still produce some good results, and I’ve found myself using this app less since the feature found its way into Instagram.
I should also note, as the pedant that I am, that this app doesn’t emulate the perspective correcting features of tilt and shift lenses. A couple of examples of images from this app can be seen in this post.
You Gotta See This!
You Gotta See This performs much the same function as 360 Panorama, however the end result is quite different. Whereas 360 presents you with a smooth panoramic image which you can view and interact with in a web browser, YGST creates a photo collage with a variety of display options including marble, tan leather and black or white background options.
The end result is something quite different from your usual panorama, and as the app creates a relatively small jpeg it is very easy to share with multiple people – which is its main purpose.
Slow Shutter Cam
Slow Shutter Cam is another one of those ‘exactly what it says on the tin’ apps. It is designed to emulate a slower shutter speed on a ‘real’ camera (as in one that actually has a shutter), allowing you to capture motion blur or light streaks which is beyond the abilities of the traditional iPhone camera app. To be honest, I’ve not used it much because most of the time when such a photo op occurs I have my SLR on me, but it is nice to know it’s there.
However, this app does offer control beyond what you’d see in an ordinary motion blurred shot from an SLR. You can adjust the level of motion blur after taking the picture, fine tuning the image to get the result you were after. However in my experience the results, as you’d expect, look a little processed compared to obtaining the same result traditionally.
Camera+ is a camera app that usually comes quite highly recommended from many tech blogs. I can see why, but this is another app that I never seem to use as much as I should.
The name should give you a clue as to the purpose of this app. It takes the idea of a basic camera app, and adds a bunch more features. It seems to allow for quicker consecutive snaps than the built-in camera app, and adds a host of post-processing options including exposure adjustment, filters, cropping, rotating and borders. It also puts up a nice rule-of-thirds grid when taking a photo, if that’s the sort of thing that appeals to you. It also has a handy feature to minimise blur by only snapping the photo when you’re actually holding the phone still.
I guess I don’t use this as often as I use the built-in camera app simply because of the familiarity and single-purpose functionality of the default camera option (plus, the default camera will soon move to be instantly accessible with the next major release of the iPhone OS).
Yet another of those apps that only serves a limited function, but does it well in a nicely polished package, ColorSplash allows you to selectively colour (or decolour) elements of an image. Now, obviously this is best used if you’re a wedding photographer, but I still think there’s a place in the world for this sort of technique if used creatively. That isn’t the point of course, as this sort of processing can be done in Photoshop easily. The point is that this app allows you to do it on a phone. The app makes it easy to do as well, and you can zoom in to the image and adjust brush sizes to colour some really fine detail. You can also at the push of a button invert which sections are colour and which are black and white.
PhotoFactory is a ‘keep it around in case I need it’ type app; simply put it contains a selection of filters and effect to apply to your photos, including ‘traditional’ ones such as black and white, and slightly more unique options such as reflections and selective saturation ones which seem to do a good job at automatically achieving what ColorSplash can do, but only on certain images such as flowers against grass.
Probably not worth the price they’re currently asking for it, but I picked it up at a discount.
Now this app is pretty amazing. If you’re familiar with the Content Aware Fill option that Adobe introduced into Photoshop CS5, the concept of this app shouldn’t be that new, but the fact that a phone can now do what big-boy computers only started doing this easily a couple of years ago should still impress. And, if you’ve never heard of content aware fill, well then you’ll enjoy this.
Say there’s is an unsightly element in a picture you want to remove. Normally this would require breaking out Photoshop and the clone tool. It would also, normally, require a touch of skill or a relatively delicate hand.
All you need nowadays is this app. Take the next photo, for instance. There appears to be an unsightly bird swimming across the middle of this otherwise picturesque water scene.
All you have to do to remove it is load the image into the Retouch app, and draw a circle round it:
Hit the go button, and after a few seconds of contemplation, it’s gone:
Now this obviously doesn’t have the fine tuning capabilities of Photoshop, but for a quick, on-the-go alternative that is as quick if not quicker than CS5, you really can’t go wrong with this one. And speaking of Photoshop…
Slightly disappointing for an app with ‘Photoshop’ emblazoned all over it, this is nevertheless a nifty app, although there is not much it does that some of the other apps on this list don’t do.
That said, it does crop, rotate, straighten or flip your images, allow adjustments such as exposure, saturation, tint and contrast, and familiar Photoshop filters as sketch, soft focus, sharpen and reduce noise. You can also add effects and filters.
As you’d expect from a company with a lot of experience at this sort of thing, it does do it in a slightly more friendly way than most of the similarly-featured apps, and for free you can’t go that far wrong with it.
Notable not least for its correct spelling of the word colour not often seen in the App Store, this is an app dedicated colour correction app offering much finer-grained controls for tweaking the colour of your images on the go. You can adjust the lift, gamma, gain and saturation independently in the red, green or blue channels or all together, or pick from a variety of presets. Pretty powerful, although something you’re probably going to rather do at home on a bigger screen.
Finally, Halftone. Much like ColorSplash it serves a single creative purpose, but a fun one: it’ll take any picture you have, and turn it into a comic book frame, complete with on-screen actions, speech bubbles and tag lines. All you need, in fact:
You have a choice of paper and frame styles, and all sorts of action lines you can add too. It’s also really quite easy to use, and unlike many of the other apps on this list doesn’t serve a purpose that is better done on a desktop computer.
Well, these are the dozen apps that currently reside in my Photography folder on my iPhone. As I said, some of them are great in a pinch if you’re out and about and need to upload something to your blog or extended social network without a computer, but do things you’d otherwise rather do on a desktop system. Some are genuinely like nothing you’ll see on a desktop machine, like Instagram or Halftone. Most of them let you experiment with your images in a way you might not have if you were sitting at a PC.
What about everyone else? Any photography apps you enjoy on the iPhone, iPad or Android? Let me know in the comments.