One of the few disappointments in the Apple iPhone is its camera. It’s just 2 megapixels, has no video capability, and performs poorly in low light and with moving subjects. Add to the list of missing features zoom, burst mode, timer, and white balance. You could argue that the camera’s very simplicity is a virtue, but we always want more from our technology products, not less. Luckily, there are apps that address most of these issues, and some picture-taking techniques that also can help you mitigate the iPhone camera’s shortcomings.
Even if you are waiting for an iPhone that has a 3.2 or 5MP camera, the tips and apps that follow will come in handy for improving your image collection on Apple’s handheld marvel.
One final note: A couple of the absent features of the free iPhone camera can still only be righted by using apps that require your iPhone to be jailbroken. Capabilities like video, digital zoom, and grayscale are possible only with such illicit apps as Snapture and Camera Pro.
Tips for Taking Better iPhone Pictures
1. Learn a bit about photo composition. Putting your subject smack-dab in the centre of the image isn’t always the way to get the most compelling photos. The “rule of thirds” dictates that the points of power lie on the intersection of lines of a three-by-three grid on the screen. Try putting the centre of your subject in one of those intersections, instead of dead centre.
2. Don’t take pictures in direct sunlight. A little shade can soften hard shadows. Shooting on cloudy days can actually make for better portraits than sunny ones.
3. Check that the lens is unobstructed and clean. Some iPhone cases block the camera, even if they’re designed with a hole or windows for it. Use a lens-cleaning tissue to clean the lens, not your finger.
4. Switch to landscape orientation occasionally. Actually, that’s how you’d take pictures most of the time with a dedicated camera, and it makes sense for anything other than formal portraits.
5. Mind the background. Since the free iPhone camera doesn’t have variable focus, objects in the background will be just as in focus as your subject. Avoid signs, power lines, vehicles, and the like if you want the subject to stand out.
6. Hold the iPhone still with two hands. Don’t take the picture until your grip feels steady. Two hands are far steadier than one, and less camera shake means fewer blurry pictures.
7. Get close to people you’re photographing. This will help with number 5 and create more interest in the result.
8. Take several pictures of your subject, varying the angles and poses. One picture uses only about 400K, so even with a bunch of apps loaded the free iPhone has enough memory to hold a couple hundred. Wait till you see how they look on the PC before you delete.
9. Get the light right. The free iPhone’s auto-exposure metering is very sensitive. If you frame your picture so that there is a lot of bright sky behind your subject, the result will often be a picture in which the sky looks great and the subject is completely dark. Just angle your iPhone down a bit so there’s less of the sky in the frame. The camera’s auto exposure will have less bright sky to compensate for, and your subject will be correctly exposed.
Apps for Shooting Better Photos
10. Camera Genius 1.3
Antishake and a voice-activated shutter are Camera Genius’s main contributions to iPhone photography. The app also adds guidelines over the screen (including a rule-of-thirds overlay) to help with composition, and a timer. A nearly full-screen shutter button (which makes it easier to take pictures when you can’t see the back of the iPhone) makes the app even more appealing.
11. Fast Tap Camera 1.3
This app fills a void in the iPhone camera’s repertoire: burst mode. Though Fast Tap in burst mode reduces the resolution of pictures, it’s neat to be able to take a sequence of images in rapid succession. It also includes a full-screen shutter button and a timer.
12. Phanfare Photon
Photon just gets better and better. The app now includes an auto timer, image stabilization, and the ability to tap anywhere to snap a pic. Though Photon’s primary goal is to get your pictures up onto the Phanfare Web galleries, it also includes a surprising number of tools that can help you both before and after taking pictures, including brightness, contrast, special effects, and even geotagging.
13. Real Cam SP
This app’s claim to fame is that it adds to the iPhone’s limited camera a way to adjust white balance. But it falls short in several ways, not the least of which is an interface that needs lots of work.
Apps for Improving Pictures You’ve Already Shot
Making your iPhone pictures look great doesn’t end when you snap the shutter. A good eye for composition and solid technique are only half the battle; any great photographer will tell you that a sizable portion is fought in the darkroom (the digital darkroom, nowadays). At the very least, most photos can benefit from brightness and contrast adjustments. And you’ll want to do all the usual tweaks like rotating and cropping.
Of course, you could always offload the pics to your PC and fix them up in Photoshop Elements. Okay, stop laughing: I know that virtually no one edits their cell-phone pics on a PC. The apps below let you perform basic image-fixes right on your free iPhone. Some go even further, letting you apply special effects like black and white, frames, and captions.
14. CameraBag 1.4
Whether you’re a nostalgia buff, a photography student, or just someone who wants to spruce up your iPhone photos, the easy-to-use CameraBag lets you remake your images to imitate various photographic styles, ranging from vintage snapshots (using the 1964 and 1972 filters) to techniques used by noted photographers (the Ansel filter, for example).
ColorSplash does just one thing but does it well. It lets you easily create a striking image by converting the photo to black and white and then adding touches of color to different areas.
With PhotoArtist, you can create stunning renditions of your iPhone photos and share them on the Big Canvas PhotoShare site. Unfortunately, the low resolution of the app’s finished product isn’t well suited for printed art.
PhotoCanvas lets you combine iPhone images, adjusting their transparency, and adding text, drawings, and clip art into fun collages.
18. Photo fx
Famous lens filter maker Tiffen has gotten into the free iPhone photo filter business, and some of the effects are good looking, even professional. But a lack of really fun effects, as well as printing and sharing, makes it less than stellar.
The scope of its editing tools—which include many that other iPhone photo-editing apps lack, such as histograms—makes Photogene a very appealing after-effects-only app.
20. Photo Lab 1600
Sudobility’s Photo Lab provides a solid combination of photographic and artistic effects, though implementing them can be frustrating due to interface problems.
Apps for Sharing Your iPhone Pictures
After you’ve taken and edited pictures, you’ll want to share them with acquaintances. Online photo hosting and sharing services like Phanfare and Photobucket offer their own iPhone apps, with varying degrees of help with capturing and optimizing images.
Why no listings for image hosting giants Flickr and Picasa?. Because they’re not really set up for iPhone sharing. With Flickr, you’re better off simply going to the service’s mobile Web site—the easily finger-typed m.flickr.com. Unfortunately, Flickr is geared more toward viewing your online galleries than toward uploading, which you do via e-mail. Picasa, too, forces you to set up an e-mail address to send your pictures to. These apps, however, make uploading from your iPhone a snap.
12. (again) Phanfare Photon
In addition to giving your iPhone some cool picture taking and editing abilities, it’s also the best photo-sharing app available for the Apple device. It offers batch uploading, off-line viewing of Web albums, and instant uploading and sharing of pictures right when you take them.
21. Photobucket for iPhone
A simple app for getting your free iPhone pictures online, sharing them with friends and family, and viewing your Web galleries from the iPhone It doesn’t offer anywhere near the capabilities or ease of use of Photon.
22. Facebook for the iPhone
Of course, its main goal is to check on friends and add your own status, but the top social network’s iPhone app lets you upload photos taken from the iPhone, either directly through the app or from your Camera Roll.
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