They say the best camera is the one that you have with you. Even though I love my digital SLR, quite frequently, I shoot with my smartphone. This is why mobile phone photography is so popular.
There is a collection of stunning oak trees near where I live. Each time I go there, the trees look different based on the weather and time of year. Did I need an expensive $5,000 camera to get these pictures? No, because I know some tricks for shooting with my smartphone.
For these types of images, it doesn’t matter what type of camera you have. If you’ve got a camera, the inspiration, and the time, you can create some great images with your smartphone. Great images come from a good eye and a basic knowledge of composition and light. If you practice with these elements, you can take awesome pictures with any device even if it’s a phone camera. In this article, I will give you some of my favorite apps that will inspire you to have some fun with the camera that is always with you.
Is the era of the compact camera coming to a close?
Either people shoot with their smartphones or they use an advanced digital SLR. There’s not much in between. Why is this happening?
For the general public, smartphones have more capacity and are easier to use than the current lower-end point and shoot cameras on the market. People are getting better results with less effort. When someone asks for a recommendation on a camera and they only have a couple hundred dollars to spend, I usually recommend that they use their cellphone.
As a photography educator, I find my iPhone to be easier to use and more consistent across multiple models. Some Android models work differently and don’t have the same capabilities as other phones. Some apps don’t work on all Androids, so please take that into account when trying out the apps mentioned in this article.
The current compact cameras are more menu-driven than most people can handle. And if their photography skills are not up to snuff, it is hard to get past the automatic modes on those cameras. I have had clients in my classes with these lower-end compact cameras where the manual modes do not work at all. These little gadgets are almost as complicated as the advanced digital SLRs, but without the quality results. The only things that are of benefit are their size and price point, but even then it means a smaller lens, a smaller sensor and diminished results.
I discovered smartphone photography after attending a professional photographic trade show. I took a little seminar on an app called Hipstamatic for iPhone and I was hooked. I was no longer a photo snob! All of a sudden, I realized I could create stunning photos in moments that would take hours in Photoshop.
Over the next year or so, I shot thousands of pictures on my smartphone and I got really familiar with the ins and outs of this type of photography.
I also realized this was the future of social media and photography for the general public. You could create little masterpieces that were appreciated online. They were not high resolution and the use of these images was limited, but that works just fine for most people. As a photographer, you don’t want to post images that can be stolen and easily used somewhere else, so the smartphone low-resolution image size is perfect.
I knew then there was a huge future in this art form for the general public. I continued to research new apps, reading everything I could and staying updated. Here are some of my favorite apps for mobile phone photography.
Camera+ for IOS
This app allows you to control separate focus and exposure points, one of the secrets to good mobile phone photography. You can also use additional features such as selective focus, exposure compensation, and exposure lock. I use Camera+ on every picture I take.
Unfortunately, Camera+ is not available for Android.
ProShot – for IOS and Android
This app has all of the auto, program and manual modes that Camera+ has and is available for both IOS and Android (as well as Windows phones). With ProShot you have full manual control over exposure, ISO, and shutter speed. The most important aspect here is the ability to separate focus and exposure like you can with the Camera+ app.
My go-to editing app
This app is a must for both IOS and Android users! Snapseed is a go-to app for processing photos. It has such an easy interface, that you can make it part of your normal workflow and literally do your editing in seconds when taking a shot with your mobile phone. There are so many options in this app, but my favorite is the selective contrast and exposure settings. It allows you to go into the image and change exposure, contrast, and saturation in specific parts of your picture. Other settings such as grunge, HDR and Retroux let you create a variety of special effects.
Snapseed is available for both iPhone and Android.
Wordswag – for IOS and Android
Are you looking for a simple text app where you can create text overlay or a watermark? Wordswag will help you create professional looking graphics like this in just seconds!
Hipstamatic – for IOS
This app allows you to select “film” and “lenses” in the “classic mode” before you shoot to create the perfect effect. Hipstamatic also added a modern interface with the ability to change your “lenses” and “filters” after you have taken the shot. Find one combination you like to create your own shooting style.
Retro Camera – for Android
With Retro Camera you can take Hipstamatic-style images with five cameras, five sets of vintage vignetting, film scratch and cross-processing options.
Creative art apps
Prisma – for IOS and Android
Here’s a fun app that will turn your images into works of art in seconds. Lots of different options to create in this app. Each option in Prisma is preset and instant with very little custom editing needed.
Diana – for IOS and Android
This app is an easy way to create double-exposure images in seconds. You can create images by selecting specific photos to combine, or you can randomly let Diana select for you. It works better if you have a vision in mind before working with this app, but sometimes a random selection works as well!
Waterlogue – for IOS and Windows 10 devices
Create beautiful watercolor style images with Waterlogue. Select from a number of different styles to create your own masterpiece!
The beautiful thing about photography with the smartphone is that it expands your creativity and can even help with your Digital SLR photography. You can use more than one app to create even more customized effects. Take each image through a series of apps before getting the final look you want. You never know where you’re going to end up, and you might just like that.
What are your favorite Smartphone apps? Has it changed the way you shoot with your Digital SLR? Which of these apps is going to become a regular part of your smartphone photography workflow?
Table of contents
- 9 of the Best Apps to Help You Do Awesome Mobile Phone Photography
- Is the era of the compact camera coming to a close?
- Smartphone photography
- Shooting apps
- Camera+ for IOS
- ProShot – for IOS and Android
- My go-to editing app
- Graphic Apps
- Wordswag – for IOS and Android
- Retro Apps
- Hipstamatic – for IOS
- Retro Camera – for Android
- Creative art apps
- Prisma – for IOS and Android
- Diana – for IOS and Android
- Waterlogue – for IOS and Windows 10 devices
- ADVANCED GUIDES