Having a camera in your iPhone really is a great thing. No more fumbling around with an extra device in your bag, easily take photos on the go, and share every snapshot with the touch of a few buttons. But the iPhone camera is far from magical: Photos can easily turn out a blurry mess, the iPhone’s awkward shape makes it difficult to hit that small capture button when taking a self portrait, and, of course, there’s no flash, leaving you mostly out of luck in dark scenery.
But with a few extremely reasonably priced apps, you can become a semi-professional iPhone photographer. Here’s a look at a few of the top-selling photography apps from the App Store.
More suited to the iPhotographer looking for the simple things in life: zoom and flash while you’re taking a photo. What this app lacks in its number of features, it makes up for in quality and price (it’s free!).
- Zoom: It may sound like a “well, duh,” but this zoom actually uses a touch feature instead of a dragging bar. Touch the screen where you want to focus your photo, then hold to zoom in. It gets impressively close to your subject, and although it may look unrecognizable before your capture the image, it develops surprisingly crisp. When you have a touch screen like that on the iPhone, it would only make sense to be able to literally touch where you’d like to zoom. But it seems like this app is the only one to realize utilize this ability. Leave this feature turned on at all times, or just turn it on and off as you wish.
- Flash: Although we didn’t notice much of a difference with this flash turned on and off for the same image, App Store reviewers praise the app for its fantastic ability to brighten your photos. But just to forewarn you, we did notice a great difference that flash made in a few other apps we tried (coming up here in a second). Also turn this feature on and off as you wish.
- Camera Roll: View your camera roll on your iPhone through this app. That’s great, but no flipping through them? This might sound like a minor complaint, but when you’ve become accustomed to doing so through the crappy iPhone camera, it’s kind of a big deal. Hard to imagine this would be a difficult feature to include.
- Saving: The biggest issue this app has is with saving and processing your image. Your standard iPhone camera takes about three seconds to process and save your photo, then return back to your camera. Camera Plus takes a whopping 15 seconds to do so. Not such a good thing when you’re, say, at an event or in the process of catching something big happening at the spur of the moment.
For someone looking for the basic flash and zoom without all the bells and whistles, this is probably your best bet. The zoom feature is incredible handy, and the flash does just fine. However, the slow saving was enough to make us remove the app from our iPhone. It is, however, a free app, so go ahead and give it a try yourself. Then report back to us when you’ve missed a great photo opp because of the sloth-like saving.
Our Grade: C+
Availability: App Store
Camera Flash Deluxe
Regular ol’ photos a bit boring? Add a dash of color—or take it away—with Camera Flash Deluxe. Along with the standard flash feature, this app has effects to add to photos taken through the app or older photos in your camera roll.
- Effects: This is the real draw to the app, although we’re not sure those who are constantly using their iPhone cameras are all that interested in making their photos look old-timey with a sepia effect or flip and distort a photo to their wishes. However, these effects (black and white, sepia, burn, flip, invert) each do their job with the exception of one: the ocean effect. What’s supposed to make your image look like it was taken underwater (we’re assuming) basically just looks like you dipped it in some bright blue watercolor paint. Neat?
- Flash: We were incredibly impressed with how much this app brightened up our old photos. We were, dare we say, enlightened! But seriously, this app earns an A+ just for the flash editing. However, the flash cannot be turned on while taking a photo through this app, but only added afterward. We’re not quite sure of the reasoning for this, as it just seems like an unnecessary extra step to us.
There aren’t a whole lot of features to this one, but the ones Camera Flash Deluxe does have seem to work fairly well. It would be great to see a few more effects that the basic user would like (rotate?) and to be able to implement the flash while you take a photo. Overall, not a bad effort and not a bad price.
Our Grade: B+
Availability: App Store
We hinted earlier that we found a really fantastic photography app, and this, Camera Genius, is it. This app is at the utmost professional level while still being accessible and usable by everyday users. Let’s just cut to the chase and break down these amazing shooting features.
- Big Button: If you’re one of the many having trouble hitting that small capture button while taking a self portrait, this is a fantastic feature that frankly should be on the iPhone camera and every other photography app. Turn on the Big Button and just touch anywhere on your screen to capture your photo.
- Sound Capture: Still can’t quite get that capture right? The Sound Capture command allows you simply say something (“cheese!” “boogers!” “take it!”) loud enough for the app to pick up, and it will do the work for you. It’s definitely not ideal in a semi-loud setting, as we tried it with some music on in the background and were able to fake it out. But if you’re in a indoor-voices setting with friends, this is quite the handy little feature.
- Timer: Set the self-timer to give yourself anywhere from five to 30 seconds to snap your photo. The timer has an amazingly loud beeping in succession to let you know that the clock’s ticking. We kind of wish the beeping would maybe speed up or something of the sort as the clock winds down, but we’ll take what we can get.
- Location/Timestamp: Add your location and a timestamp to all of your photos to let everyone you share them with know where in the world you are. The app asks for you to allow it to track your location when you turn this on—say, “Yes!” We can see hardcore travelers loving this feature, and we just thought it was a nice way to give your snapshots a personal touch.
- Burst: Need to snap a few shots back-to-back? The Burst feature can be turned on to shoot two photos quickly for the iPhone 3G and three photos for the iPhone 3GS. The series of shots then pop up on the side of the screen as mini-insets after they’ve processed, and you can easily delete all of them right then and there. These didn’t take as long to process as we predicted, and they turned out just as we had hoped. Excellent idea for those of us always on the lookout for something fishy to capture and send off to those media mongers.
- Guides: According to the Camera Genius Manual (we’ll explain in a second), positioning the subject of your photo a little off-center is great for adding interesting to the image. So turn on the Guides feature to add a few different choices of grids to your photo to better position your image. The manual says to position the subject in one of the intersections in the grid, so this is an amazingly easy way to get more compelling photos on your less-than-compelling cell phone camera.
- Anti-Shake: We’re admittedly guilty of horribly shaky hands and less-than-stellar blurry photos as a result of this. So with the Anti-Shake feature, we can literally see how shaky the hand is with a sensor bar at the bottom of the screen. Tap your capture button with this feature on, then the sensor will wait until you’ve calmed down a bit to take the photo for you. Could this really get any easier?
- Zoom: Yes, the standard zoom is also included. It gets impressively close to get the job done, and blurriness is not a factor. Nicely done.
- Camera Roll: View your photo history (not just from this app) with the Camera Roll. Also, during each new session that you’re in the app, a small red bubble in the top righthand corner of your screen tells you how many photos you’ve taken. Not sure if this is necessary, but it’s nice to have. And, like with the other apps, we do wish you could flip through the photos in your camera roll as you can with the iPhone Camera Roll. But it’s definitely a small price to pay for everything else you get with the app.
- Camera Manual: The developers really drive home this “genius” idea by providing you with a manual for how to improve the quality of your iPhone photos. Open the manual to read how you can get better photos by working on everything from your lighting and perspective to your focal points. Get tips from the experts on how to get better group shots and portraits in layman’s terms—no photogspeak here. The tips aren’t about technical skills, but more like, “Shooting a toddler? Shoot from his level on the ground.”
This is, hands down, the best photography app in the App Store. You won’t exactly become a genius by using all of these features and tips from the manual, but you’ll get pretty close. Camera Genius incorporates all of the things amateur iPhone photographers need to get better photos with their sub-par cell phone camera, and it does it for only a buck. This is going on the home screen and staying there.
Our grade: A+
Availability: App Store
If you’re just looking to have a little fun with your photos and dress them up a bit, the ShakeItPhoto app pays homage to the old Polaroid instant cameras and makes actually capturing your photos a fun experience in and of itself. The features here are limited and are nothing to gawk at, but they make this a cute, quirky app that can add a little fun to your photoshoots.
- Shake it: After snapping a photo through the camera in this app, sound effects produce the sound of an old Polaroid camera processing and spitting out your photo. The image also slides down your screen as an actual Polaroid would out of a camera. Watch the image develop on the screen, and you can also shake your iPhone to make it develop a little faster. We didn’t really see a faster result with the shaking, but it’s the thought that counts.
- Polaroid treatment: After your image has “developed,” the border edited around the image makes it look like an actual Polaroid instant photo. You can also edit older photos to get the Polaroid treatment, and we like that the app lets you save the original photo without the border, as well.
Like we said, not a lot of features here. But if you have a buck to spare and have a thing for nostalgia, the ShakeItPhoto app isn’t a bad way to go.
Our Grade: A-
Availability: App Store
When it comes to where to go to finally share all of the awesome shots you’ve taken with your newfound photo app, we’re admittedly huge Flickr geeks. It’s always fun to sift through others’ photo sets and search for the “show me something interesting” feature on the photo-sharing website. But, sadly, we’ve fallen miserably behind on updating our personal profile. And this Flickr for iPhone app has inspired to get back into the game, as its ease and simplicity leave no more excuses for not updating that bad boy.
- Design: Okay, this may not technically be a feature, but we’re completely in love with the homescreen of this app. It stays true to the whimsical feel of the Flickr website with a slideshow of your contacts’ recent photos that move in motion as you ponder what to do in the app. As each photo floats by, the contact’s name sits in a tab at the bottom of the screen, which you can touch to go directly to his or her profile. Oh, the ease!
- Search: Do a search of Flickr for a specific photo or user. That’s about all there is to say about that, but, still, it’s great to have that trusty search option that takes up so much of our time on the website.
- Social: See any recent photos your contacts have uploaded by hitting the Recent tab at the bottom of the homescreen and also view your contact list in full with the Contacts tab. Your profile is also easily viewed with the Profile tab.
- Take a photo: If you don’t need any of these silly features we’ve talked about throughout this post, you can snap a photo directly through this Flickr app and cut out the middleman. Capture your image, then move onto the info page where you fill in a description, date, and whatever else you’d like about your photo. Then, poof!, you’re done. Also upload older images you shot yesterday or a year ago.
What’s the point of shooting all of those photos if you’re not going to share them with anyone? Call us Flickr snobs, but the photo-sharing website and its app are the fastest, most streamlined, and appealing ways to get your tricked-out photos on the web for all to see. And the price is right for, well, nothing. Excellent!
Our Grade: A
Availability: App Store