Tips & Tricks
With so many photography apps currently available, yet so few of them of pitched towards serious photographers, it can be tricky to work out which ones are worth installing. Check out our guide to the best photography apps and discover which ones are right for your shooting style.
Photography has never been more popular than it is right now, consequently there are plenty of apps catering for this market. The thing is though, most of these are designed for those taking snaps for social media, not shooting high quality images for demanding clients. Unsurprisingly then, the majority of photography apps available are geared towards making fairly average photos look more interesting by processing the living daylights out of them.
There's nothing wrong with that of course, but if you're a serious photographer, another app full of dubious presets is unlikely to be of much interest. Surely there must be some apps out there that are designed to make life easier for pro- and semipro-level shooters?
Indeed there are. But in reality, even among these, only a very few are likely to be of genuine use to the serious photographer. Take for example the crop of apps intended to help with location scouting, such as Panoramio, ShotHotspot, Spot a Spot, Map-a-Pic and Stuck on Earth. These all offer fairly similar resources, allowing you to search for a geographical location by means of overlays on Google Maps, then see what other photographers have shot there, and finally upload your own photos and location tips.
Sure, it's often wise to check out a new location before you get there, especially if it's on the other side of the world. But a combination of Google Maps and a quick Flickr search already allows you to do this without the need to choke your smartphone with yet another app.
What's more, after composition, use of light and people skills, it's details such as casting, props and location that set a good photographer apart from the competition. If you've found a great "secret" location, why would you want to share it with every other photographer on the planet? Conversely, what's the point of traveling half way around the world just to shoot the same view as everyone else?
Thankfully, though, not all apps available are quite so redundant. Given that we pretty much all walk around with smartphones now anyway, it makes little sense to carry unnecessary hardware if our phone can do these same tasks for us just as efficiently. To save you the hassle of sorting through all the dead wood and useless gimmicks, we've rounded up 8 of the best apps for professional photographers:
1. The Photographer's Ephemeris
Earlier, we may have dissed on all the apps using Google Maps for location scouting, but that's because they generally don't bring anything new to the table that you can't already achieve by other means. The Photographer's Ephemeris also uses Google Maps - overlaying them with information as the location apps do - but this is an entirely different kind of beast and provides a service that can't be reliably achieved any other way.
In the past, if you wanted to know roughly where the light would fall on a location at a particular time of day, you would look at a map or check a compass (tip: you likely have a compass app on your smartphone already); establish the direction of east and west; and then make an educated guess as to where the sun would rise and set, tracing an imaginary arc between the two. The results were likely to be pretty hit and miss though, and while you might get the position of the sun more or less right, an unforeseen shadow from an inconveniently positioned mountain, building, or even lamppost could easily ruin the shot.
The Photographer's Ephemeris takes all the guess work out of this, detailing not only the direction of light at any time of day (or indeed night), but also the precise angle at which light will fall and the length and position of the shadows it will cast. Now that's a useful app!
Triggertrap effectively replaces several different pieces of remote trigger gadgetry for DSLR s with one simple app. Offering many highly advanced and novel settings for timelapse photography, this is an ideal tool for those shooting the night sky. Triggertrap also works via a sound sensor, so you can release the shutter by means of a shout, clap or other noise.
In order to use this app you'll also need to purchase a Triggertrap Mobile Dongle.
Register the serial numbers of all your gear in the Lenstag database, and should some items ever be stolen from you, you can report the theft on the app. This way, anyone who is offered the items for sale will be notified that they are hot goods and can let you know their whereabouts.
Clearly a service well worth paying for. Only you don't have to, because Lenstag is free!
4. Pocket Light Meter
Shoot film? Light meter on the blink? Batteries dead? Or just forgot to bring your trusty old Sekonic? Pocket Light Meter will do the job nearly as well, and cost's almost nothing.
5. Photographer's Tools
As the name suggests, this is a multipurpose photographer's toolbox combining the ability to perform various common photographic tasks in one handy app. For example, you can calculate depth of field and hyperfocal distance; determine the necessary degree of ND filter compensation for a correct exposure; check out precise times for sun/moon rise/set; and pinpoint blue and golden hours for a location, so you'll never risk rolling up too late for the pre-dawn glow again.
The app even throws in a digital gray-card for good measure. However, owing to your smartphone's lack of precise screen calibration, this is not a foolproof replacement for the real thing. Nonetheless, it's a handy feature that could certainly come in useful in a pinch.
Once upon a time, if you only download one single photography app for your smartphone, it was likely to be Photographer's Tools. In fact if it wasn't for the fact that it hasn't been updated in quite a long time, this app would have made our number 1 spot, as it is essentially the only cross-platform app to provide all the technical calculations a photographer might conceivably have need of on the job. The lack of updates may reflect the perfection of the app, or could alternatively be a sign of dwindling interest from the developer. For those who would feel more comfortable with a greater degree of support, the iOS apps Hyperfocal and SetMyCameraPro, and Android's DSLR Tools, offer many similar features.
6. Lightroom Mobile
Need to edit your images on the move? Even RAW files? Then this slimmed down version of Adobe's industry standard editing software is for you.
7. Easy Release
No, not another remote release app, but one for quickly generating model-release forms on the go.
If you're a street, fashion, portrait or stock shooter, then you're likely accustomed to pulling half-crumpled model release forms from out of your bag and sticking them in a bulky file on the shelf. Easy Release will allow you to dump the paperwork and put together professional release forms that your models can sign electronically before you email a PDF copy to all relevant parties.
Strangely, this is the most expensive app we feature here. But what you'll spend on the download you'll likely save on ink and paper.
8. 645 Pro MKIII
All the apps we've looked at so far are geared towards serious photographers taking photos using DSLRs or other professional cameras. But for those occasions when you don't have access to your regular equipment, 645 Pro MKIII is an app that will transform your iPhone or iPad into a powerful shooting tool, giving a much higher degree of control over the built in camera's functions.
For example, 645 Pro allows you to manually control exposure; shoot in Shutter Priority and ISO Priority modes; or use full auto-exposure spot and matrix metering options. Focus too can be controlled in ways not possible by means of your device's native camera app, and you can capture in a variety of formats including JPEG, TIFF and even RAW. Lastly, the developers have included an array of vintage film stock simulations along with emulations of several classic analog camera formats.
Technology should make your job easier, not slow you down with unnecessary distractions. All of the apps we feature here perform genuinely useful tasks, so whether you're a busy professional photographer shooting editorial and commercial commissions, a hard-working artist putting together gallery shows, or simply have a website and a blog on which to showcase your photographic talent, there's likely to be a app or two among our list that will save you time and money (not to mention a bad back from all those overloaded camera bags!).