The Top Ten iPhone Apps for Photographers


NOVEMBER 27, 2009

By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Editor

Photography apps for the iPhone abound. Last we checked Apple's App Store there were 88 pages of them including everything from Photoshop.com Mobile to an app that allows you to paste a CENSORED label over your photos. (Who wouldn't want that?)
For the most part though, these photo apps are slight variations on the same thing—a basic, often unstable program that will let you tweak the cruddy little images you captured with your iPhone.

Granted, this isn't such a terrible thing. We've spent many fun hours adding vignettes and blurred backgrounds to the spontaneous on-the-street images we captured with our iPhone's 2-megapixel camera. (So the iPhone 3Gs has a 3MP camera. Big whoop.)

After a while though, these apps get kind of boring and don't do a lot to help your career as a photographer. There are, however, a few photo apps out there that seem to have the pro in mind. We've chosen the cream of the crop in our "Top Ten iPhone Apps for Photographers" list below.

(If you have any other quality photo apps aimed at photographers you'd like to suggest, please email me at dhavlik@pdnonline.com for a follow-up story.)


1) DSLR Camera Remote Professional Edition
When we first saw onOne Software's DSLR Camera Remote app which lets you wirelessly trigger a digital SLR from your iPhone, we thought: "Whoa." After we got a chance to play with a pro edition of the app and discovered it does a lot more than just let you remotely trip the shutter, we revised our opinion and thought: "Holy Smokes! This isn't just cool, it's actually useful."

First off, some caveats. This app isn't free nor cheap. But while DSLR Camera Remote will set you back $20—there is a "lite" version for $2—it offers a fairly robust feature set for an app. Along with the shutter, you can remotely control camera settings including shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and ISO. You can also view the images you captured right on your iPhone (or iPod Touch). Meanwhile, LiveView mode lets you see through the DSLR's viewfinder right on your iPhone's screen. We also really like that you can trigger the camera's burst mode in the latest version of the app.

The other major caveat is that that app requires your DSLR be connected to your laptop by USB and have the app's Remote Server software running on that computer. You also need to have access to a wireless network. True wireless connectivity means you need to have a wireless transmitter connected to your DSLR.

Far from perfect, but it's a start. Also, while the app was initially only for Canon DSLRs, it's now compatible with some Nikon models. But check the list of supported cameras before you buy.

More info here.

Get it here.


2) Best Camera
When commercial photographer Chase Jarvis set out to create the Best Camera app, he wanted to build more than just a piece of software for the iPhone, he wanted to start a movement. Though that's rather ambitious for a $3 app, in some ways he's succeeded.

Jarvis spent six months developing the software with Seattle-based technology firm Übermind using one of his favorite iPhone slogans as the starting point: "The best camera is the one that's with you." While many photo apps offer filters, Best Camera has 14 of them including stylish one-touch tweaks such as "Jewel" for a warm and textural look; "Paris" for a high-contrast B&W look; and "Candy" for a highly saturated look. There are also more classic photo filters including Light, Dark, Contrast, and Vignette.

The app also lets you automatically upload your iPhone images to Twitter, Facebook, email, or any online photo sharing service that allows uploading of images via email. Most fun, to us, is the The Best Camera photo community website (www.thebestcamera.com) itself which lets you share images and filter "recipes" with other photographers. You can also see a live gallery what other iPhotographers are shooting by touching the globe icon in the corner of the app.

More info here.

Get it here.


3) f/8 DoF Calculator
The standard bearer for photo calculator apps out there, f/8 DoF Calculator ($4) seeks to provide a quick solution to that age-old question for photographers: how do I get the optimal depth of field in my images?

With f/8 DoF, a single screen on your iPhone provides all the adjustments you'll need including sliders for aperture, and focal length variables which update the total Depth of Field in real time. Meanwhile, the app will also give you live readings of the near and far limit of focus and how much it extends to the front and rear of your subject.

Though this all might sound a bit wonky for an iPhone, it's important to note that these calculations are meant to be used while adjusting your traditional or digital SLR, not the phone's built-in camera. And that's also why we like this app so much -- it takes photography seriously.

The app comes with a database of pre-sets for over 800 camera models from Canon, Nikon, Leica, and most of the major companies. If you're still shooting film, there are also pre-sets for various formats including 35mm, 6x4.5, 6x6 and others. You can store the cameras and lenses (and teleconverters!) you regularly use in the app's Camera Bag screen for quick retrieval. Though depth of field calculation can be tricky business, f/8 makes it fast and logical.

More info here.

Get it here.


4) Exposure Calc
This app once bore the odd name iKspozher (sound it out phonetically) and we're happy they've changed it to the more prosaic Exposure Calc so it can be more easily found by photographers.

Like f/8 above, Exposure Calc ($1) is a calculator app for making adjustments on your non-iPhone camera. The design of this app is slightly different than f/8 though, using a "picker wheel" interface as a simulated incident light meter to help you get the right exposure no matter the conditions.

To calculate exposure, the wheel lets you scroll through over 70 scene selections—hazy, cloudy, full sun etc.—and ISOs ranging from 3 to 3200. Users simply dial in the ISO of their shot and the scene condition they're shooting in, and the app will provide the correct shutter speed and aperture combinations. You can also pick between aperture and shutter priority modes.

If you like long exposure photography, Exposure Calc also has settings for photographing star trails or lightning.

More info here.

Get it here.


5) iFolio
The iPhone is starting to be used as a self-promotion tool by photographers and one of the best apps we found to showcase your work is called iFolio. This free app -- yes, free! -- lets you create an attractive portfolio of your work on your iPhone which you can share with photo editors, art directors, and clients.

The app also serves as a database of photographers' portfolios which potential buyers can browse and search via their own iPhone or iPod Touch. If someone is interested in a specific image, they can directly contact the photographer about it with one click using the Send button. There's also a way to make a Favorite list of images to return to later. The more a particular photographer's work is chosen as a Favorite, the higher he or she will rank in the Top artist list in iFolio.

Even if you don't have an Internet connection on your iPhone or iPod Touch, the Cache feature lets you make a list of images that you can browse when your Wi-Fi or 3G is down. And because changes to a portfolio in iFolio are made in real time, photographers can update their work at a moment's notice.

More info here.

Get it here.








6) Find a Photographer (ASMP)
Also in the self-promotion vein is the free Find a Photographer app from ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers). Where iFolio is more image based, Find a Photographer focuses on data to help photo editors and art directors track down photographers for assignments.

Since there are lots of ways to find professional photographers on the web, we assume this app will be used more as a last minute resource—"Hey, does anyone know a dog photographer in Duluth?"—than a go-to directory. But who knows, with the iPhone taking over our increasingly mobile lives, it might be easier to search Find a Photographer on the fly than browse portfolios back at the office.

Along with providing all the basic contact info for a photographer and a brief profile with their photographic specialties, a button on the app lets your view their portfolio. Unlike iFolio which is global, Find a Photographer is only for U.S. users and you must be a member of ASMP to be entered in the directory.

More info here.

Get it here.


7) Athentech Perfectly Clear
Ok, so we bent the rules a bit since Perfectly Clear ($3) is based around the iPhone's camera and is not, necessarily, aimed at pros. However, if you've captured an image with your iPhone and want a quality one-click fix, Athentech has created a very effective little app here.

Perfectly Clear is an apt (pun intended) name for this software since it automatically removes that flat, grey, haze from your iPhone shots to produce bright, crisp, and colorful images. Not sure what Athentech is using in its special sauce—Perfectly Clear apparently employs several patented technologies—but the before and after slider in the app produces dramatic results.

There are two presets—Default and Fix Dark—but if you want to tweak your image further, a slide-out tool palette lets you adjust algorithms for Exposure, Contrast, Color Vibrancy, Sharpness, and Tint Removal. Other than that, there's not much more to say. Perfectly Clear just works.

More info here.

Get it here.


8) Flashlight
Suddenly realize you need a little light to illuminate a scene? Get one of the half dozen Flashlight-type apps in the app store and crank it to the brightest setting on your iPhone. We've positioned our phone on a table to add light to moody portraits. Meanwhile, a friend swears by these Flashlight apps for "cocktail photography." (Hint: put your phone under the glass.)

If we had to pick our favorite, we'd go with the "Original" Flashlight app from Exact Magic which offers a variety of bulb styles and colored speciality light choices. It'll cost you a buck.

More info here.

Get it here.






9) PhotoBuddy
PhotoBuddy ($2) packs a ton of photography features into one app. Along with offering Depth of Field and Exposure calculators—which can be found as slightly more robust standalone apps listed in this story—PhotoBuddy also lets you calculate Sunrise and Sunset times along with the phases of the moon.

The app can also determine the maximum distance a flash can light a scene using a given aperture or ISO; calculate the minimum distance to fit objects of a given size in a photo; help you pick a white balance setting; and determine correct shutter speeds for HDR bracketing. And that's just to name some of the highlights. With all these functions, PhotoBuddy is like having a personal assistant in your pocket.

Get info here.

Get it here.












10) Handi 5Dmk2
If you're a Canon photographer and don't want to carry the manual around in your bag, the Handi series of apps from Y.O Design gives you the info right on your iPhone's screen.

Though there are Handi apps for eight different Canon digital SLRs, we picked the Handi 5Dmk2 app ($2) since the 5D Mark II is the most advanced camera to get a companion app in the group. (At the time of this writing, there were no Handi apps for Canon's pro EOS Mark series of DSLRs.)

The Handi 5Dmk2 app doesn't cover everything in the 5D Mark II manual but it does have most of the important features including all Custom Functions and menu settings. There's also a Quick Help section with tips for shooting with the 5D Mark II in different conditions.

When we first heard about the app back in February, we though it might overkill. Finding another way to ditch the paper manual though has been a welcome relief.

Get info here.

Get it here.

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