App roundup: Accessory apps for the mobile photographer
Whether you’re a DSLR shooter who uses a tablet and smartphone as an on-set accessory or a dedicated mobile photographer, your mobile device can be a valuable aid when you’re out in the field or on the go.
Perhaps more than you realize, thanks to some trusty apps.
There’s plenty of apps out there to enhance your photos or help with editing, but there are also some that can help you print photos, take light measurements or sign photo shoot contracts and more. We examine apps that aim to enhance your business activities, help you take better shots and find other pros with whom you can collaborate. Once you try them, you might wonder how you ever got along without them.
Price: Free; Requires iOS 4.3 or later, or Android 2.3 or later
Kicksend is the ultimate personalized photo sharing app. Unlike Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you won’t be sharing photos with the social web. Instead, Kicksend lets you create curated lists of contacts to whom you can more privately send photos stored on your device. These contacts are stored in “Friends” lists. These friends can also send you photos, which are then stored on your device. Consider the app for quickly sharing a set of proofs from a shoot or editing session.
Kicksend’s interface is intuitive: from the main menu, swipe to the right to access the photos stored on your device. Swipe to the left to see your list of stored contacts. Once you’ve accessed your photos, you can checkmark multiple photos for sharing -- up to 30 at a time. After you’ve made your selections, you have a variety of options: images can be shared with friends, emailed to contacts or sent to a Walgreens pharmacy for printing. Yeah, we’d rather choose our own printing service, too. But the functionality here works well if you’re in a pinch: it takes just a few taps to add Kicksend photos to a Walgreens print queue that you can physically access and print at one of the store’s locations.
What we like: An intuitive UI and private photo sharing lists.Kicksend also offers access to your device’s native camera and video recorder from most menus within the app, in case you need it. All in all, this app is simple to use and offers functionality that sets it above the competition. The ability to send up to 30 photos at a time is also a major plus.
What we don’t like: Photo printing from Walgreens.
Price: $4.99; Requires iOS 3.0 or later, or Android 1.6 or later
Photographers who shoot outdoors and on the go need to take a serious look at LightTrac. The $4.99 app gives you a robust outdoor photography tool that can track where the sun will be at any time of day in any location.
Once you input a location, the app tracks exactly where you’re standing. Then, users input a desired date and time for custom light readings. LightTrac displays a yellow bar that shows the angle of the sun at sunrise and a blue bar that displays the angle of the sun at sunset. A third red bar shows the sun’s angle at the time of day that you’ve selected.
The app is fast: in the blink of an eye you can calculate complex light settings for any location and date. LightTrac also offers a bevy of supplementary information via a bar at the top of the app menu. It will show you the phases of the moon (as well as moonrise and moonset times) for the date and location you’ve selected. It will also display sunrise and sunset times, as well as twilight dawn and dusk times. Other information includes elevation and azimuth charts for your location, as well as a height meter that will help you judge the length of shadows.
LightTrac is an incredible addition to your arsenal. The UI can seem cluttered at times, but once you wrap your head around the sheer wealth of information, you’ll be judging optimal shooting conditions in no time.
What we like: Fast and useful functionality; a one-stop shop for light tracking features.
What we don’t like: A cluttered UI that takes some getting used to.
Price: $1.99; Requires iOS 5.0 or later
Putting a simple watermark on your digital photos has never been easier. Open Impression and select a photo from your device’s album. Tap the watermark text and type your personal watermark. You can select from dozens of fonts, rotate the watermark 360 degrees and drag the watermark to any place on the photo.
Impression also offers a few further manipulation functions to modify your watermark, including opacity, brightness, saturation and hue settings. Once a photo is watermarked, you can save a separate copy of the photo to your device or email it. The app does exactly what it advertises and does it well.
What we like: This app does just what it should, with a few basic editing features as well.
What we don't like: It's too bad we can't apply our watermark to numerous images at once.
Android alternative: Add Watermark, $1.99 from Google Play
Price: Free, ad-supported version or $0.99 ad-free version; Requires iOS 4.2 or later
Pocket Light Meter packs a lot of functionality for a free app. It gives you all the benefits of a traditional light meter in a portable, digital package. Download the app and you’ll be able to toggle various functions like shutter stops, aperture stops and ISO settings. When you tweak the time or ISO settings, the aperture setting adjusts to cope. You can also tap anywhere onscreen to take light readings.
Pocket Light Meter also lets you lock individual settings configurations. Another big plus here is Dropbox integration. Link the app to your Dropbox account and you can save various readings and setting configurations directly to the cloud. The mobile Dropbox app is also handy for sharing and storing images.
Pocket Light Meter is ad-supported, hence the price tag, but for $0.99 you can score the ad-free version.
What we like: Easy to quickly and accurately take light readings, Dropbox integration.
What we don’t like: The ads in the free version become annoying quickly.
Android alternative: beeCam Light Meter, free from Google Plus
Price: Free; Requires iOS 3.2 or later
Looking for a qualified assistant? Need another pro photographer to pair with on an upcoming project? Just looking to broaden your professional network? When you need to get in touch with other qualified photographers, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has you covered.
ASMP has created a free digital resource for those looking to hire the organization’s members. The Find a Photographer app allows you to search for qualified photographers by city, state or country. Once you choose a location, you’ll be able to broaden your search up to 300 miles around the location of choice.
The ASMP app also lets you search by specialty: the photographer profiles list everything from automotive and conceptual to fashion/beauty and sports as specialties. Once you search, a list of results displays all the photographers registered with the ASMP that meet your criteria. Each photographer lists their contact information, specialties and locations they serve. You can also delve deeper into their work history by tapping “View Portfolio” or save photographer profiles to a favorites list for later viewing. For a free app, there’s a lot of value here: it’s great to have location- and specialty-based searches for photographers that you know have some sort of pedigree to back up their skills.
Though we couldn't find a direct companion app for international photographers' associations, Find a Photographer does work worldwide.
What we like: Takes the work out of finding qualified, reliable professionals.
What we don’t like: It would be nice to see a version for Android users.
Price: $2.99; Requires iOS 5.0 or later
SoftBox Pro turns your phone or tablet into a portable mini lighting accessory.
The UI couldn’t be more straightforward: set your device’s brightness settings to maximum, fire up the app and select a lighting pattern, color and shape, then prop your device up or use a tripod to light your subject. The app works better on a tablet, with more screen space to light larger subjects (there is also a dedicated iPad version of the app). You can select a square, circular, diamond or hexagonal pool of light (among other shapes). You can also toggle the brightness levels of the light, as well as display different patterns of light, such as a checkerboard pattern or a grid of light and shadow.
The app also offers a range of colored light, aside from the standard white. Once you’ve tweaked your settings, simply point your device toward your subject and start snapping. For those who want more lighting options, you can also augment the $2.99 app with a $0.99 expansion pack that offers more lighting grids, new shapes and more light colors to choose from. To quickly transform a device you have with you into a varied, controllable light source in a dark setting, SoftBox Pro serves a specific purpose well for $2.99.
What we like: Easy to use and offers tons of lighting options.
What we don’t like: At $2.99 for the app, why is there a need for a $0.99 expansion pack?
Android alternative: SoftBox, $1.99 from Google Play
Price: $2.99 for iOS version, or $9.99 for Android version; Requires iOS 5.0 or later, or Android 2.1 or later
When you need legal documents on the go, Photographers Contract Maker has you covered.
Photographers can choose from four different contract templates: a standard photo shoot contract, a model release form, a copyright release form and a work-for-hire contract if you’re using a second photographer on your shoot. Each contract template has fill boxes for the client (and witnesses, if necessary), as well as entry fields for the shoot date and time.
You’ll be able to pre-load your information and that of clients’ into the app, as well as upload your contact list from your device. Once clients are loaded and the contract’s fields are filled out, the app displays a preview of the completed contract with standard legalese that you can edit with the tap of a finger. You can then email the contracts to yourself and the client after they sign them right on your device. The app lets you pre-load your own signature for even faster contract signing.
This app features a minimal interface, but offers some great functionality for photography business owners. At $2.99, it’s a must-have for photographers who want to take the business end of their shoots digital.
What we like: Great functionality for the price; serves a real business need for photographers.
What we don’t like: The user interface could use a face lift.
Price: $9.99; Requires iOS 3.2 or later, or Android 1.6 or later
Whereas Photographers Contract Maker drafts simple contracts that are perfect for straightforward jobs, Easy Release gives you several more options for drafting contracts, namely the ability to add your own custom logo to contracts and support for multiple languages. However, the app seems more daunting than Photographers Contract Maker: you’ll be required to input many pieces of information to create a contract when you begin from scratch. The Easy Release UI just isn’t as easy as you might think. I liked Contract Maker’s ability to upload and save contact information, and the UI when filling out information fields made a lot more sense.
Easy Release does address just about all of a photographer’s contract needs. But with a hefty price tag for an app at $9.99, photographers who need straightforward, easy-to-use digital contract functions might want to look to this app’s cheaper competitor.
What we like: Support for contracts in multiple languages and branding options for each contract you create.
What we don't like: The price tag.
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