Photography has changed a lot in the last decade. Gone are the days when a Canon EOS camera and a version of Photoshop were required to make everyday photographs into enduring images. With the proliferation of smartphones and the now-ubiquitous inclusion of hi-resolution cameras as a phone feature, rarely is a person without a camera wherever they go.
Many who hear the term “photo app” immediately think of the ever-popular Instagram, particularly after Facebook’s high-profile acquisition of the app maker for $700 million earlier this year. While the app is easy to use and a host of filters give photos a professional touch, it is only one app in a burgeoning business that is just getting started.
Following are six apps that will have photographers of any age and skill level capturing stunning pictures without the heavy equipment and software. A smartphone with a camera, an app, and a little imagination is all it takes to snap photos like a pro.
- Snapseed: Nik Software has long been a recognized name in photography due to its contributions to the consumer and professional photography markets. It should be no surprise that Nik’s foray into the photo app market is a significant one. Dubbed Snapseed ($4.99), the app is incredibly versatile, allowing users to make classic adjustments to their photos (color, grain and brightness) or enlist the help of an extensive suite of filters (Grunge, Drama, Vintage and Selective Adjust). Nik has taken Snapseed beyond the Smartphone, too. While the app is compatible for the iPhone and iPad, it is also available for Mac OS and Windows.
- AutoStich Panorama: The lens of a smartphone camera is clearly a limitation when it comes to wide angle shots. But Cloudburst Research has overcome this hurdle with AutoStitch Panorama ($1.99). True to its name, the app allows users to snap multiple photos, tap “Stich,” and create a panoramic picture worthy of the Golden Gate Bridge. To make it easier to match up the photos that make up any panoramic view, there is a new feature, dubbed “StitchGuide,” that displays the positions where the previous images were taken.
- Mattebox: Ease of use is exactly what apps are intended for, so it makes sense that Ben Syverson sought to replicate the iconic Konica Hexar point-and-shoot camera with his photo app. The Mattebox ($3.99) is intended to provide photo software and features, but without complex settings. Users will find intuitive controls and a crystal clear viewfinder that deliver high quality pictures. Features like flexible exposure settings, one-touch white balance, and dual-stage shutter release further elevate the user’s photographs. Mattebox isn’t relegated to smartphones either, and an online app allows photo ingenuity at home, too.
- Hipstamatic: For those looking to replicate those old pictures found in Grandma’s attic, Hipstamatic ($1.99) and its family of apps may be the perfect fit. The app offers a variety of free and for-purchase lenses and flashes that can be mixed and matched to create nostalgia with every snap. The right combination in the right setting can deliver extremely gratifying results that will make yesterday’s Polaroid snapshots proud. In addition to the primary app, Hipstamatic offers SwankoLab ($1.99), a virtual dark room where the user can choose chemicals and process their own photos, and IncrediBooth ($.99), a photo booth in your pocket. Hipstamatic succeeds in allowing users the ability to paint the present like the past, and it works.
- TiltShift: Hobbyists toil for hours at miniature-making, aiming to replicate real life in the form of a miniature world. With TiltShift, you can take your life and observations and bring them to life as miniatures in a matter of seconds. Michael Krause created the app in an effort to simulate a tilt-shift camera lens, and he has succeeded. For $1.99, your reality can be morphed into miniature art, bolstered by aperture controls and blur type.
- Camera+: If you are really looking for an app that offers more-than-ample support in creating quality photos, look no further than Camera+ ($.99). While it offers the standard features that you would expect – intuitive interface, efficient workflow, sharing capabilities – the true value is in the app’s post-processing that can save low-lit shots and make daylight photos pop. Professional quality photos for iPhone and iPad are a touch away with Camera+.
Instragram may be the big name in smartphone photography apps these days, but they’re still just one in a growing market of inexpensive photo apps boasting a broad range of styles and features. This is clearly the dawning of a new age of photography, and even beginners can join in the fun.
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in custom pens and other promotional items such as calendars, laptop bags and T-shirts. Christopher regularly contributes to Amsterdam Printing’s blog.