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Useful Photography iPhone Apps

Posted in Advice, Blog, Reviews | 3 comments


I know what you’re probably thinking, “OH GOD! Not ANOTHER top 35143651435 photography apps!!! Why god, why???? Why are you doing this to me!?!?!”. You know what I’m thinking? “Melodramatic, much?”. Seriously, I know there are hundreds of these posts out there, maybe even thousands. BUT since this is a photography on a budget kind of blog, how could I not touch on the subject of easy photography for $1.99? Because all those other list posts out there usually recommend the same apps and even apps that do the same damn thing as other apps on THEIR list, I am going to try my darndest to bring you something different. I want to provide you with photography apps that are actually useful! I’ll also chuck in some fun ones for good measure. Just a heads up, I will be mentioning Hipstamatic, sorry.

So first off, what’s with all the photography apps that make your pictures look like they were taken with crappy cameras? Well I’m glad I asked that. You see in the 1960’s the Japanese made a camera called “The Diana” and they were often made entirely out of plastic, even the lens. As you can imagine they were VERY light, Very cheap and had varied results. For these reasons they were intended as toys, cheap gifts and novelties. Interesting detour: Here is what I have noticed, people like cameras that take really good quality pictures (such as DSLRs) or really bad quality pictures (such as Holgas). They will not stand for anything in-between. End detour.

Anyway, these little “toy cameras” took weird and unpredictable pictures and used this thing called “film” which you can imagine was dirt cheap at the height of the digital camera revolution. So there you go, you’ve got cheap, weird and retro, it’s the hip kid college student with an arts major trifecta.

There are debates about where this phenomenon started (Japan, Hong Kong, Russia and Austria are the main contenders) but most agreed it was around 1982. In the early 90’s the cool kids had gotten their hands on these cameras and armed with a “shoot from the hip” attitude produced some pretty cool/bizarre looking results. In 1994 the first international LomoExhibition is held in Moscow and New York simultaneously and their popularity spreads like wildfire. New companies started to make these cameras with the sole intent to mass market them to photographers chasing these results, arguably the most popular being Holga. Of course now that they are popular, they start to cost a mint. Now you can get accessories that can cost up to $150 and complete kits that cost well over $200. For a plastic toy camera? Come on people! The cool appeal of film is also their downside though and the people that jumped on the bandwagon soon got sick of having to pay for, store and get film developed. They missed the instant results of their digital cameras and Tada!!! Some genius realized that there WASN’T and app for that and made one. Then a few hundred other people did the same thing and that brings us to today.

So apps, eh? I’m just going to say it now, I don’t have an iPad and unless you want to buy me one, I won’t be including any apps that are iPad specific. I will, however, split the apps into two sections. “Useful For Photographers” and “Fun And Funky”

Useful For Photographers

Pocket Light Meter – free, with the option to buy the developer a beer!

It’s not like a real light meter, but it is kind of useful. You open the app, and point it at whatever you’re going to take a photo of and it tells you what shutter speed, aperture and ISO to use. You can also lock in parameters if you have a specific ISO you want to use. It’s pretty handy…if your camera doesn’t have this built in…which it should.


Strobox – free

Strobox is a really useful website and now they have an app! Basically at strobox you upload lighting diagrams and the results they produce so that other people can learn from your work. Aces. Now the app lets you keep track of your own lighting set-ups so you know what you did for next time!


Magic Shutter – $2.99

I saw this video for Magic Shutter and I thought, man that’s cool. Unless you’re into light painting or dragging your shutter then you probably won’t be into this app, but if you are then you’re going to love it! There are lots of neat things you can do with a long shutter speed, so check it out. Just a heads up, you’ll probably need a tripod for this one.


Pano – $1.99

Pano is a panoramic app that lets you take up to 16 shots and joins them together for you. I had a Sony Ericson many years ago could do this with three pictures, but this new software has algorithms and equations that sound awful fancy to correct for lens distortion etc. You can even take a 360˚ photo, which interested me because if you can export that then this piece of software might make polar panoramas MUCH easier. Unlike the apps where you just move your phone around and hope for the best, this actually takes a picture then gives you a guide to take the next picture. Sounds good to me!

Pixelpipe – free

Pixelpipe is all about uploading content from your phone to your blog/twitter/microblog/online storage place/other places. They have a list on the app page, just click the link and see if your desired destination is on there, then download it.


Camera+ – $0.99

Not all apps are about adding effects to your pictures. Oh wait, this one does it too. Ok, maybe they are, but this app also improves your camera when it comes to taking regular shots too. It’s got a stabilizer, exposure control, white balance (I think I read that somewhere…), scene modes and a whole heap of other features aimed at making regular photos even better, then if you want you can add effects.


DSLR Camera Remote Pro – $19.99

I first heard of this around the time the iphone 3GS came out and thought it was awesome, and now that the iPad is out, it sounds even better. OnOne has made an app that allows certain Nikon and Canon cameras to transmit their live view over a wifi network to your phone and trigger your shutter remotely! Neat huh!? Ok, I guess it’s a little gimmicky because the only time I could ever see this being useful is when you’re doing self-portraits, but you know…it could be handy. At the $20 it’s pricey for an app, but when you think about it, not for software. There is also a free version which allows you to turn your phone/ipad into a wireless shutter remote, but that’s about it. Check the website here to see a list of compatible cameras. and to try the free version, just follow the link! DSLR Camera Remote Free

PhotoCalc – $3.99

If you’re one of those oldé timey photographers who likes to take a mathematical approach to photography, then this is the app for you! If not, then get it anyway because it’s really useful for keeping track of your shooting info such as lights, time of day, settings etc. If you’re a casual photographer then you might want to give this one a miss, plus I have heard that it’s not compatible with the latest iPhone update.


Fun and Funky

8mm vintage Camera – $1.99

While everyone was making lomography photo apps, this company thought “Hey, what about video?” With this app you can choose lenses, choose film, you can even choose if you want to record the real sound, no sound or add the old projector sound! Another plus, you get a live preview on your screen, so what you see is what you get.


Instagram – free

I don’t have Hipstamatic, (although since it’s on special right now I’m seriously considering it) I have Instagram. The plus of Instagram over Hipstamatic is that you take the photo, then you apply the effect to the picture. This is good news because not all effects look good on all pictures. Also it’s free and there is a little Instagram community to give you plenty of inspiration. Plus you can take photos you have already taken from your library and add effects to them! There’s quite a few pluses actually. You can share your photos on a number of social media sites, but they both do that.

Hipstamatic – $1.99

One of the most popular iphone apps, hipstamatic is another one of those make your picture look like an older picture app. You choose a lens, choose your film, you can even choose a flash and then take your picture. You can even buy additional lenses and film in things called “hipstapacks”. The problem with it is that you don’t know what your photo is going to look like until you take it. I guess this keeps it closer to the original film toy cameras, but this can also be annoying. Also all the feedback on the front page  while I’m writing this are one star with nothing but bad things to say about the app from bad effects to crashing their phone. Not so good, but I have seen the results and you can produce some amazing looking shots. If you don’t want to go the hipstamatic route there are plenty of other apps such as the free Instagram. Try PictureShow for HEAPS of effects or if you’re lazy, go for Plastic Bullet Camera which chooses effects for you and you say yea or née. Both are just $1.99.

Pudding Camera – Free

This little gem is a well hidden secret, mainly because it’s in Korean. If you can read it, then awesome, but if not then it’s still pretty easy to use thanks to lots of pictures! You choose the camera, choose the film and then shoot away! Just like Hipstamatic, you don’t see the result till afterwards, but it’s still fun and free.


100 cameras in 1 – $1.99

I know this is another camera filter app, but it’s a little different. This isn’t aimed at making your shots look like they were taking with a retro camera, more like just filters for you to play around with. I had to include it in my list because I am a huge fan of the developers website, Stuck In Customs, which is a travel photography blog with AMAZING shots. This is where I learnt how to do HDR photography which is something I’m going to get back into once I get a new camera.


Adobe Photoshop Express – Free

It’s photoshop! You know it, you might love it, I moderately enjoy it. I can’t see this being overly useful on iPhones, but probably useful on the iPad. Either way, it’s currently free in the app store. I could see the noise reduction being really useful though.



So what do I use? Well for my more creative pictures I use Pudding Cam and then if I want to take the editing further I import the picture into Instagram and add a little more editing. If I’m just taking regular shots then I just use the built in software =)


  1. This was useful! Another app that is cool is bits. Bits allows you to add frames, filters, text and drawings to your photos, and then share them via text message, email or social media.

  2. Great post, thank you for gathering all up! I wanted to add one for analog photography, which I find really useful for light metering and quickly taking positive of films. Have you tried PinholeStore App? it’s free.

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