With the quality of mobile phone cameras approximating that of yesterday's point-and-shoots, you can take some amazing photographs on your iPhone. It gets even better with the right apps apps. Here are our favourite photography apps for your iPhone.
Your iPhone's default Camera app is pretty great, but it doesn't do much to solve the problems that are inherent with mobile phone cameras. Camera Plus adds a few helpful features that do. Two of the most notable are burst mode and anti-shake. Burst mode lets you take a series of photographs quickly to help you get the best possible shot, and anti-shake lets you know when the camera is stable so you can avoid taking blurry photographs. The regular version is free, and the pro version will set you back a reasonable $2.49. [Camera Plus / Pro; iTunes App Store]
One of the biggest cameraphone annoyances — frankly, it extends to consumer cameras in general — is poor low-light performance. Darkroom is an app that seeks to alleviate this pain. It's specifically geared to take photos in low light. While that's pretty much all it does, it does it well. Darkroom will wait until your iPhone is steady before it snaps the picture, leaving you with the sharpest possible image. When you're done, you can save your photo or upload it to an online album.
[Darkroom; iTunes App Store]
Hipstamatic is a blast and can be very addictive (so don't say I didn't warn you). It's a camera app that simulates a bunch of analogue cameras (mostly of the plastic variety) and creates some pretty stunning effects (check out the HipstaMatic Flickr group for some evidence). While the $2.49 app includes some starter lenses, flashes and film stock, you'll quickly find yourself buying new ones from the in-app store if you're not careful. While HipstaMatic is, by far, my favourite camera app on the iPhone, do not buy it if you're not prepared to either restrain yourself or sink at least an extra $6. The fun of HipstaMatic is in making your own camera configurations, but you'll end up with beautiful pictures no matter what configuration you choose. [Hipstamatic; iTunes App Store]
CameraBag makes photographs look like they were taken with a variety of different cameras. Some of the filters are similar to what you'll find in Hipstamatic, but there are a couple of key differences. First, CameraBag offers a more diverse range of effects. Second, you can take a picture within the app but preview the effects before saving them. While the entire process takes a bit longer and doesn't have the quick-snapping fun of HipstaMatic, CameraBag ultimately provides you with a lot more control. It'll run you $2.49 to give it a go. If you're looking for something between Hipstamatic and CameraBag, take a look at lo-mob. It's very similar to CameraBag in functionality, but provides numerous types of film stocks and camera effects that are closer to what you'll find in HipstaMatic; it's also $2.49. [CameraBag. / lo-mob; iTunes App Store]
DSLR Remote is a pretty amazing piece of work. It lets you use your iOS device to snap photos with your DSLR. You can control all its functionality and even access live view mode on certain cameras (note: this is only available in the pro version). It works by connecting your DSLR to your computer via USB and running a server application. Both your computer and and iOS device connect to the same network, letting the server accept instructions from the client. Photos are saved where you specify, and there's very little lag between shots since everything's transferred very quickly over USB. For a walk-through of the whole process, be sure to check out our how to on DSLR and iOS wireless photography. DSLR Remote is an affordable $US2 for the lite version, and a considerably less affordable $US20 for the pro version (although I'd argue it's worth it). [DSLR Remote Pro / DSLR Remote Lite; iTunes App Store]
Taking photos with your iPhone is great, but they're kind of useless if they just sit on your phone for the rest of eternity. While the built-in iPhone camera app offers a few sharing options, if you want to get your photos on photo-sharing sites, you may want to give Photo Scatter a try. Photo Scatter works with Flickr, Shutterfly, PhotoBucket, Picasa, Twitter and Facebook (although, at the time of this writing, Facebook isn't working so well). You set up all the services in advance, and then you can upload photos in your camera roll to any of them with just a few taps. Even better, you can use the app to take photos and upload them immediately after. Photo Scatter is free and is a great app, but it's worth noting that they're having a few issues with Facebook and the developers are currently overwhelmed with fixing the issue. It might be a little while before things get resolved, but it's a free app so it's not as though you'll be losing anything by giving it a shot. [Photo Scatter; iTunes App Store]
Specialty Camera Apps
You'll find far more than three "specialty" camera apps in the iTunes App Store - some of which you'll find in the honourable mentions, but Pano ($2.49), ProHDR (Free) and Tilt Shift ($2.49) are the three we'd download first to bolster our phone's camera chops.
Like its name suggests, Pano takes a series of successive photos, then stitches them all into a panorama. As you take your series of photographs, it'll guide you to help you make sure the edges overlap. While the results I got were better using Autostitch, another panorama-making app, Pano's stronger feature is that it allows you to take the photos and helps you throughout the process. [Pano; iTunes App Store]
ProHDR brings HDR photography to more than just the iPhone 4, allowing 3GS users to get in on the fun. Even if you're an iPhone 4 user, ProHDR provides you with a lot more control than the default options offered natively in iOS. You can adjusts brightness, contrast, colour and more after taking an HDR photo, often allowing for better results. Plus it's free, so there's no harm in giving it a try. [ProHDR; iTunes App Store]
TiltShift is a little less practical than Pano and ProHDR, but if you like tilt shift photography, it's a fun choice for your iPhone photography collection. If you're not familiar, tilt shift photography is made possible by special lenses that use tilt to achieve a selective focus. This usually results in a miniaturisation effect that's much easier to see than explain, so check out this Flickr group for some examples. While TiltShift isn't a proper substitute for the exceptionally expensive lenses you need to create official tilt shift photography, for a much cheaper price of $2.49 it comes close enough. TiltShift gives you plenty of effect options, like choosing different shapes for your bokeh (the rendering of out-of-focus areas of the photo, sometimes referred to as "background blur" even though that's not fully accurate). [Tilt Shift; iTunes App Store]
There are too many awesome photography apps for the iPhone to list here, but we want to give a few more their due. Here are some honourable mentions worth checking out if the short list isn't enough to satiate your photographic hunger.
- Adobe Photoshop Express - Not the best of mobile photo editors, but it's free and can handle a few important tasks.
- Blendcam - Blendcam is a photo app that lets you combine multiple exposures easily. It's simple, focused and free.
- OldBooth - OldBooth is a $2.49 app that takes old-fashioned photos. Beyond the aging effects, you can add new hairstyles to make your subject appear to be from a given era.
- Comic Touch - Comic Touch is a photo manipulation app that lets you distort faces in funny ways, add comic-style captions, and email your creations to your friends. $4.
- PhotoCurves / Free - PhotoCurves adds the popular curves colour and tone alteration tool to your iPhone. The free version only allows you to work in the RGB colorspace. $2.49 for the full version will get you CMYK and CIELAB as well.
- Polarize - Polorize is a free app that generates Polaroid-style photos on your iPhone. You can write on them too!
- PhotoCalc - If you're more of a pro, PhotoCalc won't actually take or manipulate photos, but it will help you calculate exposure reciprocation, depth of field and flash exposure for your D/SLR.
- Animoto - If you're looking to make photo slideshows, Animoto is one of the best apps for the task. The app is free, but you can do more with a pro account.
Did we miss any great photo apps you love? Let us know in the comments!