As a photographer, I want every advantage I can get to create great images. I buy the best equipment I can afford, practice my lighting skills until the wee hours of the night and log 18,000 road miles a year searching for great images. I try to practice what I preach in my workshops; you have to get out and shoot to become a better photographer. And one tool that really helps me be a better photographer is my iPhone.
I can already hear readers gasping! Does that mean we should all leave our 35mm SLRs at home and just shoot with the iPhone? No! I look at my iPhone as a camera that can capture spontaneous moments and produce decent files. It’s not my 36-megapixel Nikon D800 that captures incredible detail and produces massive files. But the iPhone is more than a camera. It’s a personal computer that helps me create better photographs no matter what camera I use to get the shot.
iPhone apps fall into a few different categories. First, and most popular, are editing apps that allow you to capture and adjust the images in your phone. How could the world survive without Snapseed? But editing apps are just the beginning. There are apps that actually help you find, predict and get the image. Do you want to know where the sun rises? Then use The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Where’s the best lightning to photograph? Check with RadarScope. There are even apps to help with the business aspects of photography.
There’s an app for just about anything you can imagine to do with your photos, but the 10 apps here are the ones I use the most.
It’s rare that I’ve found a photographer with an iPhone who doesn’t have Snapseed on his or her phone. Why? Because the effects it creates are really cool, and the interface can be mastered in minutes. Everyone can create stylistic images right on the phone without complicated Photoshop techniques. Snapseed offers basic adjustments like cropping, straightening and sharpening, but I really like the creative effects. The vintage, drama and grunge effects really spice up a shot. Snapseed also offers a tilt-shift effect and frames for your image. If you just want one editing app on your phone, Snapseed will keep you entertained for hours.
This is the best overall app I’ve used for processing my images. It’s similar to Snapseed with its preset actions, but Photogene2 goes much further. You can do a wide variety of image editing, including dodging, burning, noise reduction, cloning and healing. Photogene also offers controls similar to those found in Lightroom, including clarity, brightness, color balance and curves. I love the simple wheel interface that allows you to choose what adjustments to make. After installing Photogene2 on my phone, I was editing photos in minutes.
Wouldn’t it be great on your next vacation to include the entire tropical beach stretching out in front of your hotel? Install Pano on your iPhone, and you’re ready to go. This app works by hitting the icon, then shooting the images you want to seam together in your panoramic shot. Click the Checkmark icon, and your pano is created and saved to your camera roll. As with shooting panos with DSLRs, keep your camera in the same spot for each shot and photograph distant scenes for the best results. A handy image overlay helps you line up your shots.
FX PHOTO STUDIO
If you’re looking for a classic or unusual filter to apply to your image, this app will have it. Created by Tiffen, who you probably know best as a maker of optical filters, FX Photo Studio has over 190 effects you can apply to your shot. Simply scroll down the FX effects window and choose the filter you want to apply. Better yet, you also can use brushes to apply the filter where you want in your image. The filters are grouped into categories, which helps you narrow down your search for the right effect.
INFORMATION & UTILITIES
THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S EPHEMERIS
As a landscape shooter, knowing when and where the sun rises is critical to getting a good shot. The Photographer’s Ephemeris will tell you where the sun is rising and setting at your location, and the exact time. Also, this app shows where the moon will be and what phase of the moon is occurring. Imagine trying to predict exactly where the full moon will rise in Arches National Park. If you want to know where the moon will rise relative to Delicate Arch, you better have The Photographer’s Ephemeris loaded on your phone.
THE NIGHT SKY
I shoot a lot of star trails. One of my favorite techniques is using the North Star as a rotation point for the star trails during an hour exposure. And unless you’re an astronomy buff, chances are, you can’t tell the North Star from planet Mercury. The Night Sky solves this issue by using your GPS location and generating star maps at your location. Just hold your phone above your head and aim it at the part of the sky where you want to identify the constellations. Choose the night-visibility mode to see a red version of the map and keep your night vision intact. And turn off the music unless you want to relive Star Trek!
I log so many road miles each year that sometimes I think I live more in my car than my house—there are just too many great photo locations to explore! I don’t own a dedicated car GPS system; I use TomTom on my iPhone instead. Where TomTom really shines is how fast the maps appear on your phone. TomTom installs all the map data at purchase (a big download), so it doesn’t need to wait on a weak phone signal to download information. Using your phone’s GPS, TomTom instantly shows you what road you’re on and where you need to go. You can type in a destination and use voice GPS with 3D views similar to a car GPS. The app comes with U.S. maps ready to go. If you travel abroad, you can download maps for your destin
ation. We used TomTom in the Atacama Desert in Chile, and it rendered amazing detail. TomTom even showed small creeks we were crossing over!
Simple, free and very informative, WeatherBug tells me in seconds everything I need to know about the weather. Wind direction, the high and low temperatures, and the three-day forecast all pop up on the main screen. Tap the Sun/Cloud icon, and you instantly know the sunrise and sunset times. Tap the Camera icon, and the closest webcam image will appear. Very cool! Be forewarned that you’ll get banner advertising at the bottom of your screen.
If your fantasy is to be a storm chaser, RadarScope is your answer. RadarScope taps into NEXRAD radar in your area and gives you raw uncompressed data to use. You can detect a tornado’s hook echo or a supercell generating lightning with this app. RadarScope refreshes every few minutes as radar scans the area. National Weather Service alerts are displayed, as well. It’s like watching the live weather map on TV, except it’s on your phone. At $9.99, it’s a little more costly than most apps, but it’s worth it.
On assignments, I often shoot with models, and many times the images will be used in advertising. This means I’ll need the models to sign a release before I can offer those images for advertising and commercial uses. Instead of bringing "old" paper releases with me to the shoot, I use Easy Release on my iPhone. Easy Release is a model-release app that your model can sign right on your phone. Models fill in their contact details, read and agree to the release, and then sign using their finger. The signed release can be emailed from your phone to your office or printed directly from the phone using a compatible Wi-Fi printer. Headed to Mexico to photograph mariachi bands? No problem, Easy Release comes in Spanish and many other popular languages. And in case you’re wondering, Easy Release is a legitimate release—even big stock agencies like Getty accept it.