As we mentioned in our first roundup of photo apps, the mobile photography app market for both Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS has expanded in ways few could foresee. The convenience and ease with which images can and are being shared as well as the incredible diversity of features that apps offer, has made the smartphone one of the most popular picture-taking devices of recent times.
But, with almost 12,000 photography apps in Apple's app store all vying for your attention (and cash), finding the most suitable one to fit your particular need can be taxing to say the least. A similar issue faces prospective purchasers of apps for Google’s rapidly expanding Android Market, too.
In our last article we focused on apps that enhance picture taking on smartphones. This time we've chosen to look at and highlight apps that serve to enhance photography with any camera, not just your mobile device. None of the apps we’ve looked at here add functionality to the handset’s camera, instead they exploit the wide-ranging capabilities of the smartphone, or tablet, as a mini computer to aid photographers as tools.
This roundup is not meant to be exhaustive, and is intended only as an introduction to the variety of apps that are currently available. Where an app isn’t offered for both Android and iOS platforms, where possible, we’ve included a rival with similar functionality.
The Photographer's Ephemeris - $4.99 (Android) $8.99 (Apple iOS)
|The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) is a sun and moon calculator, which integrates with your phone or tablet's geolocation functionality to show you where, and when sun and moonlight will fall on the scene in front of you.|
The Photographer's Ephemeris harnesses the power of Google maps to show the position of both the Sun and Moon as they rise and set for any given date (past or present) and location. This allows you to plan your shoot based on the direction of the light - something that is hugely beneficial for landscape and architectural photography.
That doesn't just mean where to set up for the best sunsets. Knowing the track of the sun and moon allows you to work out what will be bathed in light and what will be in the shade, days, weeks or even months in the future both during the day and at night. The Photographer's Ephemeris is available on both iOS and Android, and while you can't beat smartphones for portability and convenience, because TPE only displays a 2 x 1 3/4 inch map on the handset's screen it works best with the greater screen real estate of a tablet.
Sun Surveyor - $6.49 (Android - Apple iOS underway)
|Sun Surveyor's map view offers similar functionality to its main
rival, The Photographer's Ephemeris (see above), while the 3D
compass module (shown here) with its predictive paths for the
Sun (and Moon as an option) is a rather neat extension.
Sun Surveyor offers similar prediction and tracking capabilities of both the sun and moon as The Photographer's Ephemeris and more besides. Indeed, there’s quite an assortment but the 3D compass option, complete with a handy slider to alter the position of the Sun, for a given time of the day, stands out as a helpful way of predicting and visualizing the shadows throughout the day. There’s an option to show the Moon as well and the feature is available offline.
You can’t overlay the 3D compass over Google maps but you can in 2D, complete with the sun and moon positions for the finding the best locations to take photos, much like TPE. You can even email a screen-grab along with a summary of the details (ephemeris) to a colleague or client maybe.
A novel but handy Augmented Reality option combines the 3D spherical compass with the handset’s built-in camera image. This gives a view of the Sun (or Moon) along with the predicted path so you can check to see if obstacles might affect the light. Our only slight concern during our time with this app was that the overlaid grid oscillates a fair bit even when the phone handset was held steady. In all other respects, though, this app is as equally compelling as its more expensive rival The Photographer's Ephemeris.
iScoutLocation $9.99 (Apple iOS)
|More suited to professional than casual users, iScoutLocation is a fully-fledged database app that allows you to create, organize and share location-specific information, notes and photos.|
iScoutLocation features a large number of customizable fields suitable for offline input but also boasts the convenience of adding location data directly from the web. Constant Wi-Fi or cellular access can quickly drain batteries, but this app conserves power by only periodically accessing the web for GPS coordinates. If you're organizing a complex photo-shoot with models and assistants or even scouting for a movie, the option to share a highly detailed account of the location is a formidable asset.
We were slightly dismayed at first by the sheer volume of data that can be added. At first glance it might look like you're facing a lot of work, but actually many of the fields can be populated from pull down lists. And, of course, you need only elaborate as and when required.
iScoutLocation is one of the more expensive photography tool-type apps in the App Store, and obviously has very specialist appeal. As this app is currently only available for the iPad it has a limited audience, too, but it is good value nonetheless and definitely worth considering if you're an imaging professional working on location.
Also worth a look: Pocket Scout $2.99 (iOS)
Easy Release $9.99 (Apple iOS / Android)
|Easy Release is an application designed to replace paper model and
property release forms using a customizable interface and 'tap to agree'
This app simplifies the management as well as the distribution of model and property release forms by replacing paper. As you might expect, it has some rather clever additional functionality, including using the iPhone’s touch-sensitive screen for photographer, model and witness signing, as well as the option for the T&C’s to be displayed and output in several different languages (Android has some restrictions), an invaluable feature if travelling abroad. We also like how the app forces parental consent for minors.
But, while this app can import details from the contacts list, add a company logo and even take to snap using the iPhone’s built-in camera, we are not so keen on the photo being automatically cropped into a square. We found it’s a bit restricting when photographing various forms of ID, such as a driver’s license or passport (though that’s not so bad for portraits).
Fortunately, the model and property forms can be customized and, by copying and pasting from an email attachment, you can even import a made-to-order contract. As the name suggests this app is easy to use (albeit easier still on the larger screen of a tablet), has few real shortcomings, and is an essential purchase for any working photographer looking for more protection than the usual 'editorial' or 'private/personal' rights use.
MediaPad Pro $14.99 (Apple iOS iPad only)
|MediaPad Pro is a portfolio application that allows photographers to quickly create a fully-customizable portfolio of images and audio/video files.|
This elegant app differs from the more typical portfolio apps out there currently by virtue of support for a wide range of media content, including (obviously) stills, but also video and audio clips. Not only that, but you can also display websites, with the idea being you can highlight your web-presence from within the app without having to exit and use a browser.
As well as the customizable interface, which allows you to upload and use your own branding if you have it, MediaPad Pro has a rather neat Guest Book - this registry can be turned off if desired but it allows those visitors to add comments as well as their email, which could come in handy.
Files are added via iTunes but it’s recommended to resize images first, limiting the usefulness of the app’s zoom option. Unlike some rivals, there’s no limit to the number of uploads or categories and you can’t add sub-sets but arguably this isn't a serious limitation. If you’re making a high value pitch MediaPad Pro’s tightly integrated control can help keep you and your client focused on your content. Unfortunately, there’s no support for Flickr (or similar services), which seems like an oversight.
Portfolios created using MediaPad Pro look great on the iPad, but we'd love to see a version compatible with the more portable iPhone, and indeed for the Android platform.
PhotoBuddy $1.99 (Apple iOS)
|Photobuddy is a useful general-purpose photography application which is
designed to help you master depth of field, exposure and white balance,
amongst many other functions.
Something of a 'swiss army knife' photography app, Photobuddy is a very useful little application with a lot to recommend it for both novices and professionals alike.
Photobuddy has a well-designed modular interface that includes a wheel-type selection of exposure values, a great graphic for depth-of-field calculations and all important hyperfocal distance settings, plus a handy Sun and Moon phase calculator showing the time and duration of sunrise and sunset for any given time and location.
We also like the Diffraction Limit and Angle of View calculators. You need to be a bit nimble with your digits on the iPhone, but with a proliferation of sensor sizes both of these are essential reference for professionals using a variety of camera formats. Most popular models are included (as well as some unexpected additions), and there’s an option to add a user-defined model.
There are some simple tools as well. We like the Bulb Timer with its countdown feature (of up to 14 hours) and sound prompts, though we would have liked to see an option to display the timer in red or green to limit the brightness at night. If your math is poor, the app includes a simple Flash Calculator and if extreme close-ups are your thing, this app will even determine the exposure factor required for bellows extension - handy if your camera’s meter doesn’t work in stopped-down mode. There’s a lot to like about Photobuddy, and at just $1.99 it's a bargain.
Photo Tools Pro $2.80 (Android)
|While the user interface isn’t quite as slick-looking or perhaps
quite as easy to use as the iOS only PhotoBuddy, Photo Tools
is a useful equivalent for Android users.
Photo Tools Pro for Android (not to be confused with its namesake Photo Tools Pro for Apple iOS, a different app from a different developer) offers at least as much functionality as the iOS-only Photobuddy, if perhaps not in quite so attractive a package. Depth of field and hyperfocal distance calculators are included as is a tool for calculating field of view, however the latter works for a given subject distance instead of at infinity.
There are plenty of other useful tools available within the app including a moon phase and exposure calculator, stopwatch/timer and multi-exposure and time-lapse calculators to name just a few. Amongst the most appealing are thoughtful touches such as location data (via GPS or network), weather forecasts, and check lists - there's a particularly extensive wedding shoot check list preinstalled as an example. Photo Tools might be a touch buggy and not as attractive-looking as some rivals but it more than makes up for that with useful features. If you don't mind looking at a few ads, a free version, simply called Photo Tools is also available.
ShutterSnitch $15.99 (Apple iOS)
|ShutterSnitch allows you to transfer images from an Eye-Fi card,or wireless file transmitter attached to your camera, using your wireless network.|
Although most DSLR photographers won't need to use wireless transmitters (such as the Nikon WT-4 or Canon WFT-E series) day to day, there are a few compacts with this wi-fi built-in, and you can of course add wireless functionality to a huge range of cameras using an SD memory card-based Eye-Fi card.
After setup (which can be time-consuming) ShutterSnitch can be used to view and, more importantly, zoom into images as they’re taken (albeit with a slight time delay, depending on resolution and file size). For that reason, smaller JPEGs work best but ShutterSnitch can accept raw files too, if you’re prepared to wait.
Geo-tagging incoming photos is a nice touch and support for Apple’s Bonjour makes transfer between iOS devices simple. We'd love to see an update to allow ShutterSnitch to control your camera as well, but for the meantime ShutterSnitch is a great app for remote viewing and image transfer.
MoPhotos $2.99 + $5.99 Pro License (Android)
|MoPhotos allows you to upload images captured on an
Eye-Fi memory card to your Android device, geotag them
using your phone or tablet and share them on Facebook and
Unlike ShutterSnitch, MoPhotos only works with an Eye-Fi card, but you don't need Wi-Fi to transfer images to your Android device - you can can also upload files directly using Eye-Fi's tethered 'Direct Mode'. Once you've imported your shots, options include geotagging, viewing EXIF data and sharing images via numerous social media sites (Facebook, Flickr, Google+ and more) as well as via email or Bluetooth.
Although this app is aimed at casual users it does include some tools that would appeal to professionals and photojournalists. Of particular interest is the option to view and edit IPTC data. The editable fields are extensive, and to save adding text there’s a neat 'Copy to Next' image option. Yet more versatility can be added with an optional (paid) Pro license allowing transfers to multiple Dropbox and FTP sites.
There are a few shortcomings though. You can transfer raw and JPEG files to your Android device but you can’t zoom in to confirm focus and raw files can’t be viewed by the software. As always when wireless networks are involved, setting everything up can be tricky as well. For all that, MoPhotos has plenty of potential, and we look forward to see it develop.
MovieSlate $24.99 (Apple iOS)
MovieSlate is not a photo app as such, but a tool for videomaking. Now that HD video is becoming standard in compact, mirrorless and DSLR cameras more and more photographers are shooting movies and if you're serious about it, MovieSlate is well worth a look.
As well as the essential clapboard feature, with its visual and audio cues, the slate has multiple fields for logging the production data (some of which can import data from the iPhone's address book) and time coding which allows wireless syncing with other iOS devices. At $24.99 it's a little pricey, but considering the amount of functionality we don't consider it overpriced.
Of course, the average HD video enabled DSLR or CSC user is unlikely to have a need for the majority of the advanced features this app provides but if you want to get serious about video, you'll love the depth of functionality that MovieSlate offers. MovieSlate runs extremely well on the iPhone, though it operates - and looks - better on the larger screen size of the iPad.
Joanne Carter is the Founder and Editorial Director of TheAppWhisperer.com, a Professional Photographer and Associate of the British Industry of Professional Photographers, BIPP, as well as a Professional Journalist, specializing in Technology.
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