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Gadget Bag: iPhone Apps

Instead of always hauling the Big Boy D-SLR, get creative with the iPhone’s built-in camera and these apps. Low cost and often free, they let you break away from the constraints of your “serious” photography and stay fresh.
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Best Camera, PanoLab Pro


Tilt/Shift Generator

We’ve largely ignored camera phones in OP because they just haven’t been part of the nature photographer’s main photo-shooting toolkit. Some recent discussions with various contributors, including Basic Jones columnist Dewitt Jones, have sparked a lot of interest. If you read Jones’ column in the October issue, you got some perspective on how a particular camera phone, the Apple iPhone, has kindled some new creativity within him. What it comes down to isn’t so much about what the iPhone’s built-in camera can do; it’s about the wealth of iPhone Apps that make it possible to really have some fun with the images.

Like any camera phone, the iPhone won’t replace your D-SLR anytime soon. It won’t replace your compact camera yet either. But it’s a dazzling piece of technology that relieves you from the burdens of sometimes overwhelming equipment choices and lets you extend your creativity.

Pixel Perfect

Think of the iPhone and the apps at your disposal as a sketchpad—a really powerful sketchpad. As we write this, more photo-centric apps are coming online in the Apple iPhone App Store almost daily. Some are refinements of previous apps, but some reimagine the use of the iPhone as a photography tool.

One of the most exciting new apps is called Best Camera—the brainchild of professional photographer Chase Jarvis. Jarvis is a global pro who’s as comfortable shooting adventure sports in the mountains as he is photographing in a Seattle pub as local bands perform for intimate crowds.

Crop For Free

His new book, The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You, is a collection of images all taken with the iPhone. In the book’s introduction, Jarvis describes the yearlong project that led up to the book’s, and the app’s, creation:

“It is said that Rodin molded hundreds of hands in preparation for creating the hand of The Thinker, as he explored musculature, the folding of fingers, and on and on. Undoubtedly, each of those hands merits the label ‘art’ in its own right. It’s in this same vein that I consider the images in this book. While each iPhone picturecertainly contributes a thread to the overall fabric of my creativity, it’s of a deeper or, perhaps paradoxically, simpler interest to me that each iPhone image ultimately stands on its own. Two megapixels at a time, each photograph reveals how I process the visual information around me, how I see the world.

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DSLR Camera Remote Lite

These images remain a visual journal, but gathered and bound together this book becomes a stake in the ground. With it, I hope to underscore—perhaps help legitimize—the idea that an image can come from any camera, even a mobile phone. Inherently, we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range, or anything technical. It’s measured by the simple—sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical—effect that it can have upon us. If you can see it, it can move you.

“For me, the iPhone has been a dream come true. One button. Always with me. Incredibly accessible. There’s no losing sight of the work at hand by way of more complicated gear. Writers have notepads, painters have sketchbooks, and I have a camera that’s always with me. Chances are, you do, too.

“As an artist, I feel more free with the little camera built into my iPhone than I ever have with any other camera. I somehow recovered an innocence I’d lost, and I was able to see the world again for what it is: a beautiful, funny, sad, honest, simple, bizarre, and wonderful place. If taking pictures helps you see this, then keep shooting. The best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Mill Colour

Following is a brief list of some cool iPhone Apps that will help you get more out of your iPhone and have more fun experimenting with photography.

Best Camera from Chase Jarvis lets you simply edit and share your iPhone images. There’s a set of filters and effects that can be easily applied. Virtually infinite creative possibilities are possible with your iPhone photos. Using Best Camera, you can share images directly via Twitter, Facebook, and other sites. At, there’s also a new online community that allows you to contribute to a constantly evolving gallery of iPhone photography from around the world. $2.99

HDR For Free

HDR For Free from Michael Moon has nine presets for making HDR images from your iPhone shots. While a “real” HDR image is built from several individual exposures that are brought together into a single photo, this app builds the HDR image from one exposure, so it will be limited and there will be noise issues. Still, you can have some fun experimenting with the effect, and it’s a free app, so what do you have to lose? Free

Crop For Free is also from Michael Moon, and if you guessed that it crops the photograph and it doesn’t cost anything, you’d be right. What’s so earth-shattering about being able to crop? Nothing, but being able to do it fast and easy on the phone is a nice feature to have. Free

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PhotoForge comes from GhostBird Software. It’s a powerful app that lets you create painter effects and gives you a host of digital darkroom capabilities. You can adjust image curves, levels, unsharp mask, noise reduction, simulated HDR and more. There are a number of filters that let you create a variety of special effects like oil painting and black-and-white conversions. $2.99

Code Monkeys At Work makes Pixel Perfect. As we write this, it’s still free. Using Pixel Perfect, you can add a range of effects like sepia, brightness, saturation and hue, and invert effects, and once you have the picture set the way you want, you can quickly upload it to Facebook through Pixel Perfect. Free

PanoLab Pro from Originate Labs is an advanced multi-frame panorama stitching tool. While the iPhone isn’t the ideal camera for panorama creation, this app lets you experiment and create some cool images. You can combine up to 30 images and stitch them together vertically and horizontally, and you can save the image as it’s in progress (a good idea if you’re stitching a lot of frames together). $2.99

Award-winning visual-effects company The Mill has entered the app game with Mill Colour. If you’re a Photoshop user, you’ll be comfortable working around Mill Colour’s interface. The app emulates some of the functions of a high-end digital-imaging program. You can use preset “looks” or strike off on your own, or a combination of both. Mill Colour is a great app for creating wild effects or simply fine-tuning your photo to make it look as good as possible. Free


Nature photographers make good use of polarizers whenever we shoot, and Polarize from Christopher Comair simulates the effect with your iPhone photographs. No simulator is perfect for polarizing, but this one does a good job, and since using an actual polarizer is difficult with the iPhone, to say the least, give this app a try. You can frame the image in a Polaroid-style white border and title it in the white border just like you would on an actual Polaroid. Free

DSLR Camera Remote Lite from onOne Software has generated a lot of interest as it lets you remote-control your Canon or Nikon D-SLR when the camera is connected to a WiFi-enabled computer. It’s the most expensive app here, and while it’s perhaps better suited to studio work than in-the-field nature photography, it’s definitely worth a look. You can fire the shutter, review images, control camera settings and even get a live viewfinder preview. $19.99

Takayuki Fukatsu’s Tilt/Shift Generator is part of his Toy Camera series of apps for the iPhone. The app has saturation, brightness and contrast controls, plus vignetting control. The coolest feature is the tilt/shift function; called Blur, it allows you to adjust the point of sharpness with a circular effect or a linear effect. You can rotate the linear focal plane for full control. Very cool. $.99

There are more than 75,000 apps in the iPhone Store, and the list here is by no means comprehensive. Instead, we’ve given you an idea of the range of available apps. The iPhone is becoming ever-more ubiquitous, and the rumors of a camera-capable iPod Touch are circulating on the Internet. As we said, it won’t replace a D-SLR anytime soon, but the little camera does give you the chance to break free of what Dewitt Jones calls the “Big Boy Camera” and do some fun experimentation. Give it a try.

Contact: iPhone App Store,