I’m not one who typically takes my phone photography particularly seriously. But since I started using Instagram I’ve found myself growing increasingly enamored, not only with that service in particular (especially for the way it brings me the work from great photographers around the world) but with my cell phone camera as a legitimate visual communication device. So here are five photo and video apps that are real game-changers in their own right.
1. Snapchat (Free, for iPhone and Android). Ask anyone under 21 and they’ll tell you everything you use is, like, so 2010. Apparently the younger crowd prefers communicating via photograph. We learned this last year via Instagram, and we’re learning it now courtesy of Snapchat. This app is less about the particular quality of the photographs (although the ability to write and draw on them adds a unique communicative twist) than it is about the sharing. Snapchat has the potential to reinvent sharing simply by giving every image an unequivocal expiration date—usually just a matter of seconds. It’s just crazy enough to be the next really big thing.
2. 8mm Vintage Camera ($.99, for iPhone). Do you remember the quirky low-fidelity warmth of a vintage 8mm motion picture camera? If so, you’ll love the 8mm Vintage Camera app, which brings that charming low-fi quality to iPhone videos. A little bit like Instagram for video, this app’s claim to fame is its use in the Oscar winning documentary, “Searching for Sugarman.” A neat app that makes video a little more fun and a lot more interesting, at least for me.
3. Glitché (Free, for iPhone). For the avant-garde among you who aren’t happy with crystal clear high-res images, but who also aren’t particularly interested in filtering photographs for a nostalgic feel, there’s Glitché. This quirky program offers seriously funky filters that are totally customizable by painting them on any image. It’s easy to turn snapshots into wild digital art that looks like it came from far off in the future.
4. VSCO Cam (Free, for iPhone and Android). Camera photographers in the know might say that VSCO Cam’s greatness is old news, but its simple interface and elegant editing and sharing features just might make it the de facto image-making standard for smartphones going forward. It’s a literal one-stop shop for shooting, editing and sharing images, which gives it an advantage over the typical suite of apps for achieving the same results. The last app that mastered so many things so well went viral enough to be bought by Facebook.
5. Pro Capture ($3.99, for Android). I hesitate to elevate camera phones to the status of serious photographic tools, but the fact is they certainly can be. (Need proof? Just look to the growing numbers of professional photojournalists using these subtle devices to cover the world.) For photographers who long for the manual controls and ease of use they get from their “real” cameras, Pro Capture puts direct control quickly and easily at their fingertips. A more camera-like camera app.