My go to iPhoneography apps. I normally blog my end to end process from capture through processing to the end result with all of the images shown at each stage. My concern is that I tend to share my more complex iPhone photography. Perhaps therefore the apps that I use day to day get ignored. This is certainly true for a handful of apps.
My previous article looked back and listed my iPhone photography highlights from 2013. For this article I wanted to look at the present and the future and correct what has long concerned me. List the photography apps I use the most but rarely detail in my workflows. The iPhoneography apps that in my opinion should be in all iPhoneographers virtual ‘camera bag’.
If you are new to iPhoneography and looking to cover as many bases as possible with as few apps as possible then these iPhone photography apps come with my recommendation.
10 essential iPhoneography apps to cover all the bases – plus maybe a bonus or two
I’m going to spend most of the article focusing on the iPhone camera replacement app. There are potentially many issues to consider and I don’t propose to discuss them all but the one thing you want to do is capture the best possible shot and the limitations of the standard iPhone camera app can easily be overcome.
The built in iPhone camera is basically fine but app developers have demonstrated that the iPhone lens and sensor are capable of so much more. My replacement app of choice is ProCamera8 but there is much heated debate about which is best. I recommend switching to a camera replacement app purely for the ability to set and lock individual focus and exposure points. There are many other benefits but all cameras should have the ability to set focus and exposure independently. I touched on the reasons why I like ProCamera8 in my article analysing all the apps featured in my iPhone photography tutorials.
Update: With the launch of IOS 8 in September 2014 the ability to adjust and lock exposure independently of focus was introduced into the native camera app along with various other improvements. The native iPhone camera app is much improved but still lags behind specialist camera replacement apps even before they have reacted to the additional manual control afforded by IOS 8. 1
A couple of other replacement apps that I’ve used quite a bit are Camera+ and 645 Pro Mk II. Both have the same ability to set separate focus and exposure points.
Camera+ also has the ability to fire the shutter remotely via the headphone volume control. This is a capability Apple originally shared with many apps but seem to be withdrawing. If you use Camera+ be careful to read Camera+ update detail before updating if you value that functionality.
645 Pro Mk III like Camera+ does have the remote shutter capability and according to the blurb on the latest update there is an ability to set a minimum shutter speed at 1⁄30th of a second. It does caveat that by stating ‘where supported by hardware/OS’. I can’t set that minimum speed on my iPhone5 running IOS7 but perhaps it works on the latest iPhones.
Jaggr the manufacturer of 645 Pro Mk II advise ‘[re 1⁄30th of a second minimum shutter speed…] (iOS 7.x) certainly iPhone 5s, maybe 5C (don’t have!). iPhone 5 is 1/20, iPad mini 1/24, etc. All iOS 6.x: 1/20 sec’.
Shutter speed and blur
General photography principles recommend that the slowest shutter speed to minimise the effects of camera shake (i.e. blur) should in fraction terms be equal to the focal length. The equivalent focal length of an iPhone is around 30mm. If I were carting around a DSLR with a 50mm lens I’d be looking for a minimum shutter speed of 1⁄50th of a second – you can see why this would be a great feature to have functioning on the iPhone. Something to keep an eye on.
That said, I’m not in the anti-blur or anti-grain camp. I like them both. In fact I sometimes purposely add or encourage blur either by shooting in poor light (see the iPhone image at the head of this article which was shot in poor light at 1⁄20th of a second) or by moving the camera rapidly whilst shooting. I also often add grain for atmosphere.
Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.
Other factors to consider
File formats. TIFF is regarded as the best possible file format but also results in large file sizes. High quality JPEGs in practical terms are almost identical.
User interface. Consider impact on usability, can interface functions be turned on and off, impact on battery drain.
Added extras. In app purchases or shipped as standard? Filters. Film emulation. Other capture methods such as phone volume control, full screen capture, headphone volume control. The potential list goes on.
Above all – it’s not about what the app provides, it’s about what YOU need to suit YOUR style to capture the best image YOU can.
For those of you on Android phones, Jacob Dix has an excellent list of Android Camera Replacement apps at his ‘Definitive List of Camera Apps for Android‘.
Hipstamatic and Oggl are both inventions of the Hipstamatic team.
They have the tag line ‘digital photography never looked so analog’.
Hipstamatic is bundled with a small selection of lens and films. Others are available via in app purchase. You either select the lens and film combination manually, or if you feel spontaneous, you can shake to randomise and let Hipstamatic select the combination for you. Within Hipstamatic this is done before capturing the shot and can’t be changed afterwards.
Oggl changed the game. Via Oggl, provided you sign in with the same Hipsta account you can import all the lens and film combinations you have purchased and then import any image captured either directly via Oggl or via your favourite camera replacement app and apply the lens and film combinations in retrospect.
Filterstorm / Filterstorm Neue
Filterstorm has been replaced by Filterstorm Neue. Workflows to the end of 2013 are with the original Filterstorm. This is a very powerful editing app with ‘desktop’ style editing functionality. It is an essential part of my workflow providing my favourite cloning and image sizing tools (essential to boost resolution either when using iPhone4 or working with a heavy crop). That just scratches the surface though with curves, layers, filters and a vast array of other functionality.
Help with social media
I also use Filterstorm to resize canvas if I have a landscape or portrait image that I would like to share via Instagram (i.e. center image on re-sized square canvas which automatically adds bars either horizontally or vertically).
EyeEm is probably the next most popular alternative to Instagram and supports non-square formats.
You could probably get the worlds finest iPhone photographers (and Android photographers) together in a room and ask them to list 5 apps they wouldn’t be without and very few if any would exclude Snapseed.
Snapseed was originally created by Nik who are now owned by Google. It has an outstanding pedigree and it shows.
Its interface is second to none and its ‘actions’ whether you want to add structure, drama, grunge, focus, tilt-shift, retro effects (the list goes on), manipulate image details such as brightness, contrast, etc, or convert to black and white with various presets and colour filters are first class.
Very few of my images if any don’t touch Snapseed at some point in the edit process.
I was first attracted to Handy Photo for its textures. It sat in my pile of iPhone apps being used sporadically pretty much just for that purpose.
One day I was playing around and I discovered a feature in Handy Photo that is as far as I am aware unique in iPhone photography apps – the ability to ‘uncrop’ an image.
Within the app it is known as ‘Magic Crop’ and in fact I did a short video tutorial to demonstrate it.
For this reason it has to be included in 10 must have apps.
For me, at first glance Superimpose was an intimidating app BUT for me and my style it has become a critical app. In fact I bet it sat untouched in my iPhoneography app folder for the best part of 12 months.
I had seen so much wonderful work attributed to it but just couldn’t understand how to use it.
The problem in the end was simply that I failed to spend enough time understanding and playing around with the user interface.
Superimpose is one of the few apps that I had to learn with a little help. I watched a couple of videos and soon it became clear that many of the controls I was looking for were hidden behind icons or needed swiping across the screen to make visible.
This is my go to app for almost all layering, masking and blending processes ranging from the most simple to the most complex.
The big advantage with Superimpose is the ability to save masks either for repeated use in a single image or for use in other projects.
If like me you like this style of iPhoneography then my Superimpose Video tutorial may be helpful.
Visual Supply Co (VSCO) has established a reputation for top quality Film Filters and other effects which integrate in to desktop processing software packages. VSCOcam is an iPhone and android Camera replacement app with separate exposure and focus points and white balance lock incorporating many of these effects. Additional filters are available via in app purchase.
I use VSCOcam purely for its filters by importing images captured via ProCamera7. Each filter can be manually adjusted across a number of variables.
Minimal personal online gallery with custom URL
VSCOcam also features VSCO Grid, a minimalist publishing platform enabling images to be viewed online in a sleek web environment. My own VSCO Grid can be viewed at http://skip.vsco.co
Glaze is a fantastic app for creating a painterly style version of images. It has a number of built in filters as standard with more available via in app purchase. I like to use its output as one layer in a composite of multiple versions of the same image. By ‘app-stacking’ in this way it is possible to get painterly and / or texture blended images but maintain your own signature style rather than that of any singe app.
CameraBag 2 and / or Alt Photo
Pre-defined actions and filters to simulate analog images from different eras, films, technologies, and styles. CameraBag 2 examples include film styles developed in years ranging from 1930s to 1980s, contemporary film simulation, Helga, Instant, Pinhole, SLR and many others. Alt Photo splits its styles into categories such as color film, toy camera, B&W film, B&W vintage amongst others. Styles include Old Kodachrome, Agfacolor Neu, Expired, Agfa Optima Toy Camera, KodalithA, Agfa APX, Panatomic-X, Cyanotype, Tintype, Daguerreotype, and many others
FrontView and / or Perspective correct
Correct perspective distortions. This is the ‘shift’ element of tilt-shift photography and works to correct the convergence of parallel lines. For example to realign the vertical lines of buildings. Very handy for architectural photography / cityscapes.
The other aspect of tilt-shift photography is tilting the focal plane (aka freelensing). My preferred app for this function together with simulating a narrow depth of field (aka depth of focus) is AfterFocus often combined with Superimpose. Both of these aspects are the subject of several tutorials.
Using these apps it is easily possible to capture quality iPhone photography images and edit them in the style of the genres I split my tutorials in to:
iPhone photography articles involving only these apps
To see an archive of my iPhoneography tutorials and articles involving these apps exclusively please visit my essential iPhoneography apps archive.
Many of my iPhoneography tutorials feature many others apps but the purpose of this article was to highlight apps that may not feature in my tutorials too often, apps that I frequently use and at the same time provide the maximum range of functionality as a package.
Full app index
The list of all apps detailed in my iPhoneography tutorials can be viewed at my iPhone photography app index.
The iPhone photography apps detailed here are in my opinion a great foundation. That’s not to say that these are the best 10 apps I have but if I limited myself to these 10 apps I believe I could fulfill 99pct+ of my capture and editing requirements.
My recommended starting bundle for any budding serious iPhoneographer.
Note: I don’t claim to be an expert on every manufactured app and there are many I don’t use. This is strictly a personal list based on my own usage and my own iPhoneography requirements and style.
- ‘Separate focus and exposure: The iOS camera always had a tap-to-focus and an exposure-focus lock feature, and it still has those features. However, with iOS 8 you can independently tap to set the focus and then adjust the exposure separately. Swipe up or down on the focus box, or pretty much anywhere on the screen, to change the exposure of photos when shooting on the iPhone, and use it in conjunction with any other camera feature available.
‘iOS 8 breathes new life into your older iPhone Camera and Photos apps‘ by The Next Web ↩
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