There are probably enough apps in the world today that if one were to compile a list it would rival the average encyclopaedia for size. You do remember what an encyclopaedia looks like, don’t you?
I honestly have no idea how many Android apps are available for photographers, and I admit to using only a few of them myself, but I thought I’d start with a couple of suggestions and those who are interested can add their own recommendations in the comments. I prefer my digital images ‘uncooked’ so to speak so that I can use the processing power of my computer to tweak them rather than the processing power of my camera (or phone). Even .jpg images can be processed better in Lightroom, so I tend to start with as few processing options in the camera as possible. Making images with a cell phone camera poses its own challenges, in part because the files tend to be small, flat and low resolution. Still, it’s the one ‘camera’ I have with me almost all the time, even when my camera is at home. So, here are a few of the apps I appreciate (all available from the Google Play Store). Some are free, and some are a few dollars. Some offer both versions (with and without advertising).
The one app I use the most is Camera 360 Ultimate. I first went looking for a photography app because, while the built in Camera app worked well enough for me there remains a bug that if you don’t press the ‘Home’ key to exit the app it crashes the phone to the point that it must be shut down and restarted. Camera 360 has an easy exit and some very nice features, but one thing it doesn’t do is capture video. For that I still use the default Camera app. In Camera 360 I leave the white balance setting to auto, but I do use the exposure slider with some frequency. One of the features of the app is that it has a very large number of ‘effects’ which may be applied to an image (the original image is saved separately). As mentioned, I prefer to do most of my processing on the computer, but I have used the mirror effect on several images (some examples) and I’ve also used the ‘sketch’ effect on a few images, like this one. It can be fun! I should add that when the Instagram app for Android became available I downloaded it and tried it out, but for me I found the Camera 360 app so much better that I uninstalled the Instagram app as soon as I looked through it.
Light Paint Live is an app that can provide some really intriguing results. Basically one sets a light threshold using a slider, and then the app takes a series of exposures, overlapping one over the other to create one image. It’s very simple to use, comprising Start, Stop, Save and Reset buttons. One could think of it as a series of stacked images, and any movement between exposures is also translated to the final image. In my experience it works best in subdued light (otherwise the frame quickly becomes washed out and useless.) This image, for example, was made while traveling down a highway at night (no, I wasn’t driving). It can be fun to play with.
Photo Tools Pro is not a camera app but it is a very comprehensive photography app, of use to those shooting both digital and film. The list of tools it has is quite exhaustive, and includes a DOF/Hyperfocus Distance Calculator, Exposure Reciprocity Calculator, Multiple Exposure Compensation Calculator, Bellows Extension Calculator, Time Lapse Calculator, Graycard, Colour Wheel, Exif Reader and a lot more. The Pro version is by donation; there is a free version as well for those who want to try it out.
One program I have on my computer, but for which I haven’t yet tried the Android version, is The Photographer’s Ephemeris. For landscape photographers, TPE provides very detailed information about sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset, overlaid on top of a Google Maps layout. What I do have on my phone instead is Sundroid, a free app that provides much of the same information.
That’s pretty much the list of photography-specific apps I have, but I do have a few others that I use with regard to photography as well.
In our “Lightroom, Geolocation and .GPX files” post I explained about the new Map module in Lightroom 4, and how one can use .gpx data from a GPS device to provide geolocation data for images. There are two apps for this that I know of; the one I use is My Tracks from Google, and the other is GPS Tracker. If you do use the My Tracks software, I’d suggest reading the other blog post to read about a bug in the app that (to my knowledge) has yet to be fixed.
As anyone who has done night photography knows, light at night is both a blessing and a curse. It’s necessary to be able to see what one is doing, but too strong a light can impair night vision. The app Color Flashlight HD turns the entire phone screen into a flashlight, but it also allows the user to set a colour (red is good for night vision), and an intensity level that makes it possible to see without being blinded.
There’s no question when traveling that a good map makes all the difference, and Google Maps has more than done its duty for me. However, the only challenge with Google Maps is that it requires an internet connection in order to update itself and if one is traveling in even a semi-remote area it can be easy to get out of range. Granted, a cell phone is not a serious GPS device and shouldn’t be considered such, but for an occasional hike it has its uses. What to do? An app called Maps (Maps- is the free version and Maps+ is $3) allows the user to create a cache file on the phone’s SD card that will display the maps even when the phone is offline. Obviously this is something that requires forethought as the maps must be downloaded to the phone, but the app will work with maps from several different sources.
When making panoramas, a level tripod is most often a base requirement. There are several apps that provide bubble level capabilities (all must be calibrated), but the one I have is called Smart Tools. In addition to the level it can measure angle, distance, noise level and much more. It’s a great app for a number of purposes (even leveling picture frames).
As I am primarily a landscape photographer (who lives near an ocean), I find the Tide Prediction app very handy – both for where I live and also for when I travel to other places. A simple app, it shows graphical high and low tide charts for any area in the world. One note of warning, which is that if you should choose to go out making photographs in a storm during the King Tides, this app will not prevent you from being swamped by a rogue wave. 😉
Okay, that’s it! If you have any favourite photography apps, please feel free to share by leaving us a comment. Now go out and make some photographs!!