The Photo Basics: iOS Essentials

Yesterday we covered the basics of getting to know your iOS device (better late than never). Today, we’re going to cover photo basics. The essential photo apps for every iPhonographer. This topic is part of Hodgepodge Week, and part of my endless obsession with and hoarding of photo apps.

Essential Shooting

For the uninitiated, there is no simpler camera app to use than Camera+. Camera+ for the iPhone is not only a great camera, it has a great built-in editor as well. And, the most coveted feature in Camera+? That’s easy. It’s called Clarity, and it will make you an instant photo rock star (or at least expert), with the touch of one button.

There are many name imitators in the App Store, but the real Camera+ is currently on sale for 99 cents and features 16 different scene modes, including Clarity. The scene modes are similar to the ones on your digitial point-and-shoots. If the light is coming from behind, try Backlit. If you need Flash but didn’t use it, add it afterward. And so on, and so on.

You can even load photos shot with another camera into Camera+’s Lightbox and edit them from there.

There are simply too many features to list here. But, no matter what type of photographer you are (or are not), and no matter what type of photo you are taking, Camera+ will improve that photo. Crop your photo into many popular shapes (including the Golden Ratio), add amazing filter effects, stabilize against blurry photos, line them up so they’re not crooked. I could go on and on. For 99 cents, you will have no better camera friend than Camera+.

Pro HDR is an art.

The next app takes HDR (high dynamic range) and elevates it to the art it really is. And, it makes it easy to do, too. Pro HDR, a universal app, is the only HDR photo app you’ll ever need.

True HDR photos are made up of three separate photos taken to capture the highlights, the shadows, and then an alignment shot (that’s my tenuous grasp on this, so please correct me if I’m wrong). Pro HDR does all of this automatically, which is a first for HDR apps. Most HDR settings that you see are “fakes.” They take one picture and process it to look HDRy, but they are not actually HDR.

Pro HDR does have an assisted manual mode for people who really know what they’re doing, but the automatic mode is pure genius and absolutely perfect for the rest of us.

In addition to taking beautiful HDR photos, Pro HDR lets you take normal photos quickly (true HDR does take a little longer), supports both cameras, digitally zooms, crops, has a self-timer, a flash, many editing features, and a grid overlay (so you can follow the Rule of Thirds). There are also some very beautiful filters to make your amazing HDR photos astonishing. Add a frame and text caption if you wish, and you’re finished.

And, just so we’re clear. Neither of these apps will load on an original iPad. They do need a camera (I hate that I have to say that).

Essential Editing

Snapseed makes editing a snap.

Two apps spring to mind. The first and by far the easiest photo editor for non-editing types is Snapseed. I see some of you nodding your heads yes. And some others are asking why not iPhoto. I’m not including iPhoto because, as great as it is, it takes forever to update my library because I have so many photos. Until that speeds up, It doesn’t become essential.

So, Snapseed actually was the iPad App of the Year last year. And, Apple chose well with this app. This is my go-to app for every type of cropping, tweaking, and more and more so, all around editing. Whether you just want to press one button and have your photo autoadjusted, or the photo needs a full tune-up, Snapseed is the gesture-based app to do it.

The reason Snapseed is so great for non-photo type people is because of its elegant simplicity. There is no jargon here. No curves or lines or anything else that will confuse you. There is just absolutely nothing flawed in this app. Especially since they added sharpening, and more and more creative enhancements, like tilt-shift.

You will not go wrong with this universal app. It’s fabulous on the iPad, but it’s just as great on the iPhone, too.

PhotoForge2 is a little more advanced.

If you need something more advanced, the only logical app assumption to make is PhotoForge2. When my photos really need some work, PhotoForge2 is where I head. This universal app is absolutely the best app to do any heavy lifting. It can do the simple jobs too, but I usually use Snapseed for that because it is quicker.

PhotoForge2 may be a little too much for the casual editor, but it is just what any iPhotographer on the go needs to fully edit their photos. Whether you want full resolution editing, layers, curves, levels, a channel mixer, etc., or you just want some really cool filters and effects, PhotoForge2 has it all. I highly recommend getting the Pop! Cam in-app addition to add even more cool filters and effects! Add a frame, and you’re finished.

The classic menu set-ups are there when you need them and enough out of the way so as to not hamper your editing abilities. PhotoForge2 is the little black dress of photo editing apps. Everyone needs one.

I just want to add a note here again to tell everyone who is suspicious of photo apps for needing location services information, just cool down. This is Apple policiy. None of the apps listed give a crap about what happened at your birthday party or where it all took place. Location Services must be enabled for photo apps to access your Photo app. I repeat, it is just Apple policy. So, cool your conspircacy jets.

Essential Filters

Pixlr-o-matic PLUS is awesome!

My absolute favorite way to add pizazz to my photos using filters is through Pixlr-o-matic PLUS (there is a free version that is called Pixlr-o-matic that has many fewer options). You can upgrade to PLUS through the free version.

What makes Pixlr-o-matic PLUS so special is the fact that it has more than 2 MILLION different combinations, when you factor in all of the filters. I can just sit and hit the shuffle button on the top, right-hand corner all day and never get bored.

You can take a photo, load a photo already taken, or even try one of their sample photos (as I did in this picture), with this wonderful universal app.

This darkroom app lets you add effects, overlays, and borders, which when combined, can create photos that are retro, grunge, clean, stylish, or out of this world (literally, with the Space overlays). Add them one at a time, or hit shuffle and see what happens.

Stunning photos are just a click away. And, the catalogues for each of the three categories are ever growing. Right now, Pixlr-o-matic PLUS is only 99 cents. I’d grab it if I were you!

Lumiè is my newest "essential."

The next app is new to me, but I can already tell it will become an essential in my book. Lumiè uses the Bokeh effect (which means “blur” or “unfocused” in Japanese) to create some simply splendid shots on the iPhone. I, of course, am also using it on my iPad.

The story goes that the Bokeh effect was an accident that occured because an out of focus lens captured the light of a candle, making a blurry image with octagonal-shaped diamond dots. But, I have heard many Bokeh origin stories, and they’re all a little different.

Whatever the origin, the Bokeh effect can create some really cool images, and Lumiè has 27 different formats of this effect. Once you select the one you want, you can move it around the photo you have either taken or loaded until you’re satisfied with its location. You can also alter each effect to make it shinier or darker than the normal effect.

There are the normal diamond shaped dots, stars, hearts, and even space and cityscapes.

You can share your final images on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, or open it in other apps, like Instagram.

Essential Instant Photo Albums

Souvenir album

There are possibly more ways to store the photos you take than there are ways to take them (this statement is not backed up by any actual facts or numbers). However, most of the albums you can make take a little to a LOT of time to create. They take even more time to add any amount of style.

Souvenir album menu

That’s where Souvenir comes in. This iPad app came out in late March and makes the act of creating photo albums as simple as can be. It lacks a certain amount of finesse (and is a little cheesy in parts), but it is very young and I am certain that it will get better with time.

Souvenir opens on a “room” with bookshelf of photo albums. The albums are exact replicas of the albums you have created in your Photo app. This room also has a few frames on the wall, a working lightswitch (you can look at things by candle light), and a music box.

When you open a Souvenir album, you see something akin to the bigger photo above. The colors and photo corners are dependent on the theme you choose for each album. There are currently only eight themes (seen in the other photo), but they are quite smart. Not only can you flip through your already put together photo album, but you can pick different music that plays when you open each individual album. There is a very limited built-in library, or you can choose music from your Music app.

You can add captions and/or dates to photos, or you can just leave them as they are. Either way, it is by far the easiest and neatest solution I have seen to view your photo albums.

My wishlist for this app includes different styles of rooms, or at least bookshelves for the main view, additional themes for the albums (even if I have to pay extra), and the ability to set a photo as the cover of the album.

But, for 99 cents (the theme price for this post), you won’t find a better bargain than Souvenir.

So, that’s it for my version of iOS photo essentials. What are your essential photo apps?

Come back tomorrow, or later today, and see what else I’ve cooked up in the Hodgepodge Week extravaganza (I feel like Bob Barker). Until then, push more buttons …

10 thoughts on “The Photo Basics: iOS Essentials

  1. Great blog and thanks for liking my “insomnia apps” post. I’ll be sure to follow regularly. I’m going to be launching an iPhoneography podcast in the near future as an adjunct to my iOS blog at Stay tuned. Cheers.

  2. I don’t have an iPhone but I find your post very interesting because am following some iPhone artists and at time I was wondering what they were using to get those results. Thanks for sharing. :)

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