Tonawanda News

August 30, 2012

Art of the camera phone: Best photo apps

By Anne Farrar
The Washington Post

— Flowers, family, found objects. If you have an iPhone, chances are you've started to explore the world of iPhoneography — shooting images with your phone and, if you choose, processing them using various applications.

There are hundreds of apps out there for the iPhone photographer — some great, others less so. But just as with coffee, it's all a matter of taste. The fun thing is, it's only your own taste that matters.

Here are some ideas on how to go about taking iPhone photos and selecting apps that will work best for you.

It's all in the picture. A great photograph is all about content. Just because you shot it with an iPhone doesn't mean that concept has to go out the window. No stress, though: The content only needs to mean something to you. If you have an Instagram feed or a Twitter or Facebook account, it's easy to share the image with the world. But kids also grow up fast, so you have the option of keeping a shot hidden away for future blackmail purposes.

Take the photo first, process it later. When you're taking a picture, apps practically call out to be used: Add some color here, drop in some scratches there and after a bit, the sky is purple and your child's face is green. Upload and voila, it's art! But I'm a big proponent of capturing the image first and processing it later. Just because your favorite app is at your fingertips doesn't mean that you'll like the processed photo a year from now. So take that cute baby picture with your iPhone, save it to the Camera Roll, then add your flair later. This way you'll always have the original to go back to.

Not all apps are created equal. You may be seduced by the word "free," as I am. Getting something for nothing rocks; just make sure that it'll meet your needs. The free app often lacks functionality and may prevent you from saving the final processed image or may not allow you to export it in a size any larger than a thumbnail. Free is a great way to see whether you like an app, but if you do like one, invest a few dollars to get the full version.

Now on to the fun stuff. Washington Post staff photographer Michael S. Williamson rocks iPhone pics! The following are five of his favorite apps, along with a few of mine and one from Washington Post social media producer T.J. Ortenzi.

100 Cameras in 1 (99 cents)

This app does, in fact, offer 100 filters. The clever folks who produce it have given the various filters moody names that read like a post-modern Hallmark card. One is called "Waking up on the beach." Another is "Surrounded by pillows." My favorite: "The ghosts came back." There are lots of textures as well as brilliant and soft colors (also black and white). As with most of the better apps, you can either shoot with the app or add its various effects to an existing photo from the Camera Roll.

— M.W.

645 Pro ($2.99)

This one's for serious camera phone users. There are as many dials, knobs and controls on this app as on an actual film camera.

It helps to have experience with a sophisticated film camera to understand most of the app's features. But if you want to make a classic portrait with a quality-film look, this is your app. It has exposure lock as well as focus lock features with touch-screen simplicity.

— M.W.

Hipstamatic ($1.99)

Most iPhone users are familiar with this wonderful app. It offers several different "film" types and lenses that distort in a colorful, exaggerated way. It's fun and makes everyday snaps look artsy and retro. Some of the Instagram filters seem to mimic the look of Hipsta, but the real deal is still the king for funky street photography.

— M.W.

Old Photo Pro (free)

One of several apps that give images that turn-of-the-20th-century faded photo print look. Not only does it give the pictures a weathered texture, but the edges also have a burned and damaged look.

— M.W.

ShakeItPhoto ($1.99)

One of many apps that simulate the shape and look of a Polaroid Instant photo, but taking it one step farther: When you click the shutter to take a photo, it actually makes the "click . . . whirrrrr" sound of an instant picture exiting the Polaroid camera. And if that's not cute enough, you actually have to shake your phone back and forth for 30 seconds to develop the photo, just as in the old days. I like the old Polaroid look, but I'm still deciding whether I find it silly or clever that the designers went to all that trouble.

— M.W.

6x6 (99 cents)

I post to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the functionality of Instagram. But my preference is to take the original photograph using 6x6, which keeps the square Instagram dimension but doesn't force me to process and upload immediately. It lets you shoot and automatically save to your Camera Roll. It also gives you the option of color or black-and-white, it offers a grid so that your horizons don't tilt, it gives you the option of manual focus and exposure control, and if you prefer, it doesn't add additional processing to your images.

— A.F.

Snapseed ($4.99)

This is one of my favorite apps and the most expensive one that I own. It's robust and offers many ways to enhance, tone and manipulate images. The auto-correct option is a one-touch way to quickly add contrast/sharpening and vibrancy to any image. If you have more time, it offers pinpointed tone adjustments, cropping, sharpening, selective focus and additional options to grunge it up. If you're familiar with photo-toning software for your computer, this app is similar in its robustness and options.

— A.F.

AutoStitch ($1.99)

Great for capturing panoramics of the settings around you. It's easy to use, saves high-resolution images to the Camera Roll and offers the option to crop the final image. If you have a Facebook page, then you've seen pages with a panoramic image across the top. AutoStitch is the perfect app for creating an image for this design.

— A.F.

Diptic (99 cents)

Allows you to combine multiple photos into one image using any number of pre-loaded layouts. If you took three beautiful shots, consider combing them into one image and using each frame to highlight the different details that caught your eye. You don't have to use separate pictures; you could use the same photo but zoom in on different details in each frame. With a little bit of creativity, you can use Diptic's multiple frames to tell a story or show action the way a comic-book artist might. To use it, first select the layout you want, then tap each frame to load your photo. Zoom in by pinching or stretching the picture.

— T.J.O.