Friday, June 15, 2012

The Wide Lawns Guide to the Best iPhone Photo Apps

Last week, while on vacation, I received one of the best compliments of my life. My friend, who directs actual movies (and a Bugles commercial of all things) called me, ME, the "iPhone Photo App Guru." 'Tis true that I love my photo apps and I certainly have plenty of them, so I decided to write a post to share my favorites with everyone, though ironically I hardly ever share my pictures on this blog. Luckily, I've resolved to work on that. The Blogger app on my phone actually makes posting photos significantly easier and faster, though I haven't yet figured out how to move them around. They all appear at the end of posts and I prefer them at the top. Work in progress though. Anyway...

I started really getting into taking pictures with my phone back in 2010 when I downloaded Hipstamatic, my first photo app, and I was instantly hooked. I loved how easy it was to take really cool looking pictures.

Having a baby made it hard for me to be as creative as I used to be. I used to paint, sculpt and craft a lot in addition to writing and having a little one in tow made those things virtually impossible. I really missed that part of my life.

But I still had my phone and it became my creative outlet because I could easily still take pictures while caring for the baby. I could go on walks or play in the yard and conveniently photograph my world without any effort at all and playing around with photo apps made it all the more fun, interesting and unexpected for me. I loved seeing how the various effects worked on the things I snapped and photographing my life helped me see my surroundings as exciting and beautiful when I was slogging through some horrible bouts of depression. The lens of my phone helped me gain a more positive perspective.

Two years later, I'd even call it a hobby. Laugh if you must, but taking pictures with my phone is one of my greatest little, daily joys.

Most often, I find out about cool apps from friends posting unique pictures on facebook. I see something I like and I ask them how they did it. Every few months I google search "best new photo apps" or something to that effect and I actively seek articles on the subject. There aren't usually that many unfortunately, so once again, I see a need and I write my own. Sorry if I've been writing a lot of how-to's and guides lately. I like to share knowledge. I miss teaching or something.

Here are my current essential photo apps for the iPhone:

1. PhotoStudio - If you could only have one photo app, this would be the one to get. I particularly like that you can import photos, save the original and then apply the effects to a new version of the picture. You have a lot more freedom that way. PhotoStudio has an unbelievable amount of tools and filters. There are 189 effects alone, plus you can crop, add frames, text and edit. It's all easy too. I figured it out by playing around and it only cost me $1.99. Best two bucks I ever spent.

2. PicFrame - I like this app because it lets you make your own photo collages and has sixty different templates for how the pictures can be positioned. Once you choose which photos to collage, you can choose from a variety of frames and adjust their colors, widths and styles. Ridiculously easy and I love the look of tiling several pictures together. I'd like to use this one to illustrate blog posts. Pic Frame is 99 cents. Well worth it.

3. Pic Grunger - I have a friend who is a photographer and she turned me on to this one. It only has four effects but they are unique and aren't effects found on Photo Studio, so I enjoy it. Pic Grunger really makes your photos look old and damaged. The effects are called Aged, Bleech Spill (sic I know how to spell bleach), Scuffed and Streaked. Depending on your subject you can do some cool things with this app. I got the free version but there's an upgrade that does more. Didn't figure I needed it though.

4. ShakeItPhoto - This is my favorite app and it turns your phone into a Polaroid, except better. I don't really care about the old camera sound effects or having to shake the phone to make the picture appear. I like the contrast and resolution, which are way better than in a real Polaroid. The colors you photograph come out beautifully saturated and sharp and I just love it. I use ShakeIt probably more than any other app I have. Sometimes I wish the pictures didn't come with the white Polaroid style borders, but ultimately I don't really mind them either. They can always be cropped out in Photo Studio if need be. ShakeIt is also $1.99.

5. Hipstamatic - This is an old standby and I don't use it as much as I used to. The app has gone through a lot of upgrades and frankly, they aren't improvements. I liked the original a lot better. I like the grizzled edged film (Kodot XGrizzled) with the John S lens. I rarely use any of the other film and lens combos because I don't like the washed out 1960s, yellowish look very much. It makes everything look like the cover of a bad folk album from the early 70s, which is not my preferred aesthetic. One great upgrade though is that you can now order prints from this app. Since the photos are square I haven't had any luck printing them from Walgreens or Costco where only rectangular prints are available. My version of Hipstamatic was free but you can buy more lenses and films. I haven't found them necessary.

6. MarbleCam - I just got this one last week and it was free, which is good because it doesn't do a lot. Mainly, it turns your phone's camera into a macro, or fish-eye lens and makes it look like your subject is seen through a glass marble with a blurred background. It's not something you'll use a lot but it's fun to play around with since it doesn't cost anything and you might come up with something neat.

7. Walgreen's - Are you shocked? I know. I love the Walgreen's app. It makes uploading photos and ordering prints insanely quick and simple and that's a task I normally hate. This app really saves me time though because now I don't have to get the pics off of my phone and onto my laptop before uploading them to Walgreen's photo. I can do it on the phone and have my pictures in an hour. I love it. And then I can refill my prescriptions from the same app at the same time. You can't beat it. The joy this has brought me. You have no idea.

I have several other photo apps, all free ones, that I've collected in the past couple of years but I've found that a lot of them are redundant, so in this list I've tried to include the essentials and the ones that are unique to themselves. For instance, I don't need my black and white camera app anymore because I can make any photo black and white with Photo Studio.

I hope my list has been helpful. Please let me know in the comments what your favorite apps are and if I'm missing any that I should try out. All of the apps I've listed can be found in the Apple App Store, naturally.


Dawn said...

I will definitely be checking out your apps. Thanks for the suggestions (and the fact Instagram isn't on there makes me trust your taste). I love my Camera+ app.
Check it out if you haven't already. I am in Paris now and I find myself taking more iPhone pictures than real camera pictures. So convenient, and truly great quality. p.s. Laughing about bleech (sic)!

Anonymous said...

My husband loves PhotoStitch. You take several pictures and stitch them into a panoramic view. It's pretty awesome.


Wide Lawns said...

Dawn I'm really really not a fan of Instagram. I tried it and found it very limiting, plus I hate the little icon it puts on all your pictures. Annoying. Instagram just didn't allow me enough creative freedom. People love it though and many praise the sharing aspect but I don't care about that part.

Emily said...

I like a lot of the apps listed here: , especially PicFX. And MoreBeaute, because I am super super vain. Oh well.

Headant said...

I love, love, love Fotolr PS.

Jan said...

Pano- Love this app for out door and stadium shots. It lets you take 4 shots together to make cool panoramic photos.

Anonymous said...

I have to correct myself. My husband uses AutoStitch, not PhotoStitch. So for anyone searching, I wanted to let you know. My bad!


Gwyne said...

I resisted even getting Instagram for so long because I didn't want people to call me a hipster. But screw it. I'm addicted.

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