Matt’s 5 must-have photo apps

While it’s true that the camera on the iPhone is never going to replace your dSLR, it’s far more likely to be the camera that you have on-hand. I don’t know about you, but when a flying saucer hovers above the middle of Time Square, I’m probably going to reach for my iPhone to snap that shot, rather than shout out “Hey, aliens! Can you hold on for a few minutes while I run home for my 40D? And my tripod?”

That being said, there’s quite a bit we can do to improve the quality (and fun!) of the photos we take with our iPhones. Nothing can replace good composition and lighting, but with the help of some awesome apps, your iPhone camera photos can turn into masterpieces of artistry. Or, at least, something you might consider posting on Flickr, as opposed to just Facebook.

Photoshop.com Mobile

The granddaddy of all image manipulation programs is indisputably Adobe Photoshop. In fact, the very name of the product has become synonymous with photo editing. Fortunately for iPhone users. Adobe has released a smaller version of this beast, without the painful Photoshop price tag (it’s free!). No, you can’t use this app to put George Clooney’s head on your husband, but you CAN use it to adjust the exposure, saturation, and tint of your photos. I find it especially useful when I need to quickly crop a photo I took with my iPhone. The app includes a few presets for special effects, although those functions are better served by other apps. In a nutshell, you NEED to have PS Mobile on your iPhone for small, subtle fixes to just about every photo you take.

FREE. Click here to buy. (Link launches iTunes)

TiltShift Generator

While it can be really fun to use this app for its intended purpose (which is to make “real” photos look like miniatures), I find it can be a lot of fun to take photos with the iPhone, and then use TiltShift Generator to make them look like I took ’em with my fancy-pants dSLR with it’s super amazing lens. True story. With this app, you can take an iPhone photo (where the entire picture appears in focus), and pick a new “focus point”. This will apply that cool “part of the photo is out of focus effect”, which photo-nerds call “bokeh”…which adds to the artistic flair of the picture. And you will instantly receive 35 “Photographer Points” and will make all of your friends jealous of your professional looking picture. This app is a staple for any iPhone photographer because, used in moderation, it will give your photos a new look and feel that definitely doesn’t scream “cameraphone!”

$0.99. Click here to buy. (Link launches iTunes)

Pano

The iPhone doesn’t come equipped with a wide-angle lens, but you shouldn’t let that keep you from taking amazing photos of sweeping vistas. With the aid of this handy-dandy app, taking panoramic pictures is dead simple. The app will guide you through taking several photos that overlap, which are then “stitched” together into one super-wide picture. The biggest problem is that since there’s a bit of a lag between each capture, if there are items in the photo that are moving, it can be difficult to get everything to line up properly. The results have been great every time I tried it though.

$2.99. Click here to buy. (Link launches iTunes)

Camera Genius

The iPhone has a pretty good camera for a phone. But it could be a LOT better. This app adds some great features, such as a timer, guides (for composition) and image stabilization (which is very useful if you’ve been pounding the caffeine to stay up for an extended photo shoot). Add a zoom feature, a timer, and a burst mode (which lets you take multiple shots at once, which can be VERY necessary when photographing a moving subject, such as a dog or a child), and you’ve got yourself a whiz-bang extension of the iPhone camera. This app is a must-have for anyone who uses their iPhone camera more than once a month.

$1.99. click here to buy. (Link launches iTunes)


Mill Colour

If you ask any pro shooter what they spend most of their time on, they’re likely to say “eating Ramen noodles for dinner since I’ve spent all my money on very expensive lenses”. if you ask them for the second most common activity they perform, the answer will be “color correction”, which is basically taking an image and tweaking the color to look most like what the photographer saw with their own eyes (or what they imagined). The Mill Colour app allows an iPhone photographer the ability to either apply cool presets (the example above is the “Bleached” look) or get super-color-nerdy and make minute adjustments to settings with mysterious names like “gamma” or “gain”). If you really want to get your photo processing geek on, look no further than Mill Colour.

FREE. Click here to buy. (Link launches iTunes)

There’s certainly no lack of fun and useful photography apps in the App Store, and while the five apps listed above may not cover every single area of iPhone photography, they will provide you with the tools you need to get remarkable results from your iPhone’s camera. Just add an artistic eye and plenty of inspiration, and soon enough, you will be shooting photos with your iPhone that will make your friends and family cheer. And, eventually, they may even ask you to shoot a wedding with your iPhone. My advice? Respectfully decline.

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  • Max North

    Pano is a great app. It works suprisingly well, even on the original iPhone.

    • Matt Stratton

      I really do think that Pano is super fun. I agree with you on the “surprisingly well”; there have been plenty of times where I assumed that it would have nothing to work with from what I took…and a great panoramic photo resulted. I like happy accidents like that!

  • Adriana Lee

    The Photoshop app is a must. But I haven’t tried Camera Genius yet. Looks like it has a lot of interesting settings. Will have to check it out. Thanks, Matt!

  • PhotoGene is a great app to for image editing on the phone … there is also Format 126 that applies some pretty cool effects as well.

    Will definitely check out what you suggested though … Thanks for the heads up

  • I am SO interested in Pano now that I live in the mountains :) Great post, Matt! These tips are really useful. Have you used Camera Bag? It’s got some really fun effects you can add to your iPhone pics :)

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  • I’m sort of in love with AutoStitch. It does a pretty amazing job of stitching pictures already in your library, which is nice because you can take them with Camera Genius or tweak them with your own favorite apps, then stitch them into something cool.

    BTW, Scout rules.

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  • the camera that you have on-hand. I don’t know about you..
     
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