It seems to be increasingly more popular for people to use their smartphones and tablets for taking travel photos. I’m not one of those people, but for my annual review of travel apps, I am going to focus on those that enhance the picture taking experience with mobile devices.
I have been an Apple user for decades, so I am featuring iDevices and apps, although much of what I mention is also available for Android. Since I don’t take a lot of photos with my devices, I have not used all these apps. Before downloading and using any of them, I’d advise reading their user reviews.
The iPhone and iPad by themselves are decent devices for capturing travel photos and videos. There is a flash that can be set to auto or manually turned on and off as well as front and back cameras. While front cameras aid in taking those now famous “selfies,” be aware that the front facing camera takes a lower quality photo than the back facing one. Manual focus by tapping, and HDR composite photos are built in features. You can even zoom by pinching out, although that will affect the quality of the photo.
The panorama shooting mode on an iPhone is good; I like it better than the one on my newly purchased Panasonic camera. There is a square shooting mode for anyone interested in posting to Instagram. Filters allow for some creative fun.
The organizational system used on iDevices is decent and includes albums, timelines and “moments.” In-app sharing via text message, email, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and iCloud’s Photostream is available for photos; sharing of videos is easy via YouTube or Vimeo.
There are probably hundreds of apps in the Apple App Store to enhance the photo taking experience. Two highly rated ones are Camera+ and Pro Camera 7. My husband uses Camera+ on his iPhone for its enhanced 6X zoom and likes it. If my husband likes it,that means that it is easy to use. It offers more involved features including a stabilizer, white balance control, enhanced clarity, widescreen shooting, the ability to set focus and exposure independently, burst mode, timer, front flash and scene modes. The $1.99 app has editing capabilities including cropping, borders, text, color correction, and some filters and effects.
There is a learning curve for the many options offered by ProCamera7 for composing photos which include separate settings for focus and exposure. Useful features are a Night Camera setting and Rapid Fire Mode for shooting as many as 10 photos per second. There are 76 filters and effects.
Procam 2 is another app that offers various shooting modes such as night, facial detection, anti shaking, burst and different flash settings, as well as exposure compensation; photos can be saved as TIFFs, a lossless format. A nice feature is the fisheye lens option, and there is a 6X video digital zoom. Editing tools as well as a multitude of filters are available.
On all these photo shooting apps, the many icons and options can be a little overwhelming at first. If you decide to use one, try “Googling” it. There are many YouTube videos available that demonstrate how to use these apps.
While the organizational system available on the iPhone and iPad iOS 7, including the option for personalized albums, is sufficient for my use, for those who might want additional choices, there are many apps available. Tidy, which also has filters and some editing tools, can organize photos by time, place or shape. Search filters help locate the photos you want from the jumble that may on your device.
Earlier this year, Dropbox introduced Carousel to help organize as well as back up and share photos. It organizes them by date and can automatically back them up and then share by sending a link to friends and family.
Flayvr automatically organizes photos and videos into albums and sorts them by time and location which thencan be shared with others. Other organizing apps that have received favorable reviews are Photoful and Photo Manager Pro, which also offers photo editing, slideshows, wireless transfer of photos from a device to a computer, and the ability to password protect individual folders.
There are some editing options built right into the Photo app on iDevices, including rotation, cropping and red eye removal. The auto enhance feature applies automatic color, brightness and contrast corrections.
For more refined editing, I like both the iPhoto app and the free Photoshop Express. Apple, however, will be replacing the iPhoto app with something called Photos. Photoshop Touch at $4.99 has more advanced options, including selection tools and layers. Other popular and well rated editing apps are Filterstorm, iDarkroom and PhotoPal. Snapseed and Litely are simple filtering and editing apps A good editor for portraits is Facetune, which helps perform virtual plastic surgery such as softening wrinkles and whitening teeth. If applying filters is desired, PowerCam has more than 60 filters and special effects and affords the opportunity to make photo collages. FX Photo Studio is another popular app that adds filters, textures and text. Other collage apps include Mixel, Diptic, Fuzel and ProCollage.
If all you want to do is correct perspective or lens distortion, then SKRWT is for you. Vhoto helps find and produce still shots from within a video and also has some editing tools. Tadaa SLR helps focus photos and has received great reviews.
There are also apps available that turn photos into artistic creations. My favorites are Waterlogue, Aquarella, and Mobile Monet. The first two add watercolor effects, the latter painting, sketch, and selective coloring effects. They are simple to use. For black and white photos with just a splash of color, try the appropriately named apps, Color Splash or iSplash.
I’ve written before about the many apps that turn photos into postcards that can be emailed and/or sent through regular mail. These include Postino, Photogram, Postagram, HazelMail, PhotoCard and Postcard onthe Run. With SodaSnap and Current Postcards, the postcard you create can be emailed or shared on Facebook.
For sharing a group of photos with others, I have used Apple’s built in iCloud Photostream as well as Dropbox. I don’t use Facebook, but there is also a built in option on iDevices to share multiple photos with Facebook. My preference for sharing is Flickr. It’s easy to upload, and the result looks very good. Apps that create slideshows include Story (by Disney) and Slideshow Builder.
As the camera on iDevices has improved, so has interest in developing peripherals such as lenses and tripods. Among the increasingly growing options available, the Olloclip Quick Connect lens for fish-eye, wide-angle and macro shooting is popular, while Sony makes expensive telephoto lenses. Vtec and USB Fever have more reasonable alternatives. Kogeto Dot has a 360 panoramic video lens. There is even a device, the iPhone SLR Mount by Photojojo, that allows you to attach a Canon or Nikon SLR lens to your iPhone.
There are numerous tripod type peripherals to help stabilize an iDevice, including the ever popular GorillaPod and handgrip options, also for stability. For anyone interested in improving the quality of videos, a new product, the iOgrapher for the iPhone and iPad mini improves the stability of videos and allows for attachment of a tripod as well as additional lenses and microphones. It retails for $50 for the iPhone and $70 for the iPad mini.
I’ve not tried any of these peripherals. To me, the main reason to use an iDevice to take a picture is its ease and convenience. If I’m going to be bothered with lenses and other paraphernalia, I might as well use my point and shoot camera. The only add-ons that intrigue me are snap grip shutter controllers. Once the grip is placed on the phone, picture taking is controlled by a “fast fire” shutter button located on the grip. Snapgrip offers some for about $70; East Coast photo sells a more reasonable alternative on Amazon.