In the world of cell phone photography, the iPhone is unique because of the thousands of photo apps available for it. Not only can you take pictures on your iPhone, with the help of these apps, you can crop them, adjust contrast, fix colors, add cool effects, and much more—and when you're finished you can share them online or by e-mail.
In this article, I review ten of the best iPhone camera apps available. The selections are based on my experience as an iPhone photographer (a.k.a., "iPhoneographer"), and if your favorite app isn't listed here, it isn't necessarily a reflection of the quality of the app. However, all of the apps I describe are great to have in your virtual camera bag. (Note that a number of these apps have iPad-specific versions that let you edit photos you import to the device. All should work on the iPod touch or iPad, but the photo-taking function is limited to iPhones with cameras.)
Camera+… the ultimate photo app
This full-featured camera app works great on any version of the iPhone with iOS 3.1 or later. The interface is simple and uncluttered, and the app is well thought out and powerful. The app features a good, digital zoom feature. The viewfinder features rule-of-thirds guide lines to help you with composition. There is an anti-shake stabilizer that helps minimize blur and create sharper images by waiting until your hands are steady before releasing the shutter. Camera+ takes full advantage of the iPhone 4's new features, including flash and front camera.
Camera+ is one of the fastest camera apps available with the ability to quickly take multiple shots. Images are saved in the app's "Lightbox" where you can preview and edit them using a variety of powerful image editing tools. The app includes a comprehensive set of preset filters to help you quickly fix images taken under a variety of lighting situations (sunset, backlit, beach conditions, etc.). The app also has dozens of effects, filters, and borders to choose from, including toy camera, black and white, and a number of color and saturation effects. It offers a better selection of filters and effects than many of the dedicated effects apps available.
Camera+ is one of the most versatile photo apps available—it's a great camera replacement and an excellent way to start exploring the capabilities of iPhone photography.
Hipstamatic… recreating the look of analog camera photos
Supposedly inspired by a plastic camera from the early 1980's, no other app (or Photoshop plug-in) creates such organic and analog-looking images as easily as Hipstamatic. Using different combinations of "lenses," "films," and "flash," Hipstamatic gorgeously recreates the look of stressed, vintage, analog film complete with noise, digital light leaks, smears, and vignettes. Its user interface even looks and works like one of those cheap plastic cameras (a.k.a., "toy cameras").
Hipstamatic produces some of the nicest analog film effects found in any iPhone app. It really does a great job recreating the imperfections found in photos taken by cheap, plastic cameras. It's fun to use, and it can create some stunning photographs. Along with Camera +, Hipstamatic is one of my favorites.
Photogene was one of the first image editors in the App Store and is still one of the best. This app performs more advanced photo corrections than most image editing tool and is a standard app in many an iPhoneographer's toolbox. Photogene lets you take photos from within the app and adjust the images' color, gamma levels, saturation, and brightness as well as crop, rotate, and straighten them. Photogene also has some basic effects, filters, and frames. In addition, it lets you add text, starbursts, and other symbols to an image. Photogene is a powerful image editor that can make nearly all the fine color adjustments you'll need—fast and easy.
Although other apps have this capability, MonoPhix Lite is one of the best ways to convert color images to black and white. It's simple, easy to use, and free. A slider provides control over image contrast and can make photos look like they were shot with a very fast black & white film. The commercial version of this program is MonoPhix – Black & White ($0.99, app2.me/2589). It offers even more precise controls with separate sliders for light and dark shades; it's definitely worth the cost. However, even with its single slider, MonoPhix Lite creates better looking black and white conversions than many other commercial apps.
The iPhone's camera reproduces color better than many phone cameras in its class. However, images can sometimes look a little flat and gray. Perfectly Clear is one of the best apps available to compensate for this. It quickly and easily optimizes your photos' sharpness, exposure, saturation, and contrast. It's a good first step for any photo you take with your iPhone.
CameraBag was one of the first photo filter apps available for the iPhone. It features a reasonably comprehensive set of "lo-fi" filters that add classic mood and texture quickly and easily. My favorites are the Helga and Lolo filters. Helga is an implementation of the classic Holga lo-fi camera, complete with de-saturated colors and a subtle vignette. Lolo creates one of the better Lomography effects by supersaturating colors and adding a plain, white border.
This app not only lets you add tilt-shift effects to your photos, it's also great for creating focus and depth-of-field effects. It allows precise control over blur shape, size, and positioning—better than other apps in its class. TiltShift Generator has a soft, natural-looking focus. By creating varying levels of focus, it's possible to really draw attention to elements of a photo. The app also adds really nice saturation and contrast to an image. Although it was designed to add toy camera effects to images, TiltShift Generator is a versatile app that does much more.
Photo fx features an impressive set of over 75 filters organized into eight different groups, many of which are not found in any other app. The app contains lens effects, light effects, natural looking analog film recreations, and a number of great filters that add gentle blur, color, the tint and texture of vintage films, or the distortion of a wide angle lens. There's very little "fluff" in the filter set.
The app is very powerful, and the interface is well organized. Each filter is clearly marked and controls are easy to figure out.
AutoStitch Panorama allows you to quickly and easily create stunning panoramas from images in the iPhone's camera roll. They can be as large in scope as a sweeping view of an entire canyon, or as close and personal as the inside of a room. Images first need to be shot in an overlapping sequence using any good iPhone camera app. Unlike most other panorama, AutoStitch lets you reshoot individual panels of the panorama, if needed, and substitute them for photos in the original sequence. It is also the only app that stitches images both horizontally and vertically, creating panoramas with a larger canvas.
Among the more popular photo apps are those that take fake instant photos or "fauxlaroids." ClassicINSTA is a fun app that creates real-looking, fake instant photos. What sets it apart from similar apps is its ability to let you choose from 10 "film cartridges" to give your photos different appearances. In addition to the slightly de-saturated look of an instant photo, ClassicINSTA also renders great looking black-and-white images, color saturated looks, and even damaged, grungy instants. The textured borders are well-done, further adding to the instant film effect.
Experiment with photo apps!
The App Store is loaded with photo apps. Explore the Photography section, read the user reviews, and have fun experimenting. Try processing a photo with several apps. With iPhone photography, taking the picture is only half the fun.