iPhone Apps for Photographers
Most photographers love gadgets, which is why most camera bags have more than just cameras in them. Now you can add the iPhone to your bag. There are hundreds of applications for photography in the App Store. While many of these iPhone apps center on taking photos with your iPhone, I’ll restrict this article to the ones that help you shoot with a separate camera. Unlike most camera gear, iPhone app prices are low — about $1.99 on average — yet they can turn your iPhone into one of the best assistants you’ve ever used.
Because there are many apps that perform similar functions, I’ll break them into categories and choose my favorite in each category. I’ll also tell you of worthy alternatives in each category.
Calculators for Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Length
Once you take your camera off auto-focus, these calculators can help you control your depth of field for either maximum sharpness or a nice, creamy bokeh. For example, I use hyperfocal distance techniques when shooting landscapes. While it’s hard to choose a favorite from this crowded field (there are at least 25 apps in this category), I like Simple DoF Calculator ($0.99) because the wheel interface is easier to use than the sliders in some other apps.
If you don’t like a wheel interface, check out Focalc ($0.99), DOF Master ($1.99), and Bokeh (free). (Note that this is not the same app as Alien Skin’s Bokeh.)
Whether you’re using a manual camera without a meter or want to get closer to a good exposure in a tricky situation, an app that can estimate a proper exposure for your scene type can be a big help. Exposure Calc ($1.99) lets you scroll through a list of lighting situations and gives you optimum exposure settings for each.
Photo Wise ($0.99) is also worth a look.
Some photographers say that the best light for outdoor photography occurs only during a half-hour window just after sunrise or just before sunset. Trying to catch the magic hour can be tricky, but there are many iPhone apps to help you plan. One of my favorites is Sol: Daylight Clock ($0.99). I like the simplicity of this app, which you can set to show dawn and dusk as astronomical, nautical, or civil time notations. You can also save locations and refer to them quickly.
If you prefer more detail or want to see multiple locations at one time, try VelaClock ($3.99), which has a world clock; iEphemeris Pro ($1.99), which was built with astronomers in mind; and Focalware ($9.99), which is a very well-done but pricey app.
When you want to save your pennies or simply dislike bouncing around from app to app, consider the Swiss Army Knife photo helpers. My favorite in this category is Photo Buddy ($1.99).
It’s a terrific app with a well-designed interface that includes sunrise and sunset times; exposure calculations based on scenes; an interactive depth-of-field and hyperfocal calculator; flash exposure calculations; a grayscale ramp to help set white balance in your photos; and more. If I could only have one of all the apps mentioned in this article, Photo Buddy would be my choice.
Another good all-around app is PhotoCalc ($2.99). Its calculators for depth of field and hyperfocal distance are good (though not as nice as the stand-alone apps), and it also includes flash exposure calculations; sunrise and sunset times; exposure calculations; and a reference section with information on films, filters, the zone system, and a glossary of photography terms.
GPS Taggers and Notebooks
Many photographers keep notebooks to record important information about photos they’re taking. In analog days, for instance, we’d record exposure information, although embedded EXIF data makes that a non-issue for digital shooters. But it can still be hard to remember the name of that medieval town in the south of France where you shot an amazing photo series. Or what if you find the perfect location for an upcoming shoot and, certain that you’ll remember where it is, don’t write down how you got there?
With the iPhone and one of the apps in this category, you no longer need a paper notebook. My favorite, EveryTrail (free), records your movements and adds geotags to reference shots you take with the iPhone. You can caption the reference shots, but even better is that EveryTrail uploads your path to www.everytrail.com, which then overlays the path on a Google map. You can even export the trip to Google Earth and fly directly to the geotagged locations.
Click on the image below to see a larger version.
EveryTrail works best with a 3G iPhone but is surprisingly good on a first-generation iPhone, also.
iAtlas ($3.99) places one of your iPhone reference shots on Google Maps, which is good when you’re scouting locations. If you don’t like typing, you can record a voice note linked to a geotag and an iPhone photo with Photojot Notebook ($2.99).
The iPhone doesn’t come with screwdrivers (yet), but it can take the place of some unexpected tools. iHandy Level Free (free) is a level that is indeed handy for aligning your camera on a tripod. To see an example of an older iPhone level in action during a photo shoot, go to “The iPhone as Photo Accessory.”
When you need to stay alert during a long period of time — for example, during a nighttime exposure — try INoSnooze ($0.99), which vibrates at set intervals.
Also for nighttime shooters is myLite Flashlight (free). You can set the intensity and the color. (I choose red so I retain some night vision.) It’s great for checking the settings on your camera — and for finding the lens cap you dropped somewhere!
If you’re feeling experimental, use myLite Flashlight to light your subjects, as Jeremy Amaral has in this wonderful Flickr set.
For Canon Shooters Only
Handi Canon guides ($0.99 to 1.99) are quick reference guide for Canon models 30D, 40D, 50D, Rebel XSi, Rebel XS, 5D, and the 5D Mark ll. Not only can you quickly get to the information you need, but you can take that dog-eared manual out of your camera bag.
I hope someone also creates iPhone guides for the most widely used Nikon models.
All That and Dinner, Too
The iPhone is a worthy replacement for many camera gadgets. Plus, you can use it to call for pizza delivery while on a shoot. Try that with more traditional gear!
Have I missed any apps you depend on when shooting with a separate camera? Click the Comments button below to share your favorites.