With so many people carrying phones with them almost everywhere, and with these phones having better and better cameras, and with these phones having the ability to run applications that use these cameras, Mobile Phone Photography is a genre worth recognizing.
(I’m mainly going to touch on iPhone related stuff, but other platforms have their own apps and features.)
The iPhone camera is simple as heck, you launch it, you frame your shot on the screen, and you push a button. It’s probably the simplest camera you’ve ever used, and with good reason. There are numerous iPhone apps that allow you to use the camera to take a photo and immediately upload it to some online service such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m not going to cover every iPhone photo app out there, but I’m just going to outline a few of the apps I’ve used on the iPhone.
Best Camera from well-known photographer Chase Jarvis is a step-up from the basic camera app with a set of effects you can apply to your photos. You can shoot the photo directly in Best Camera (or open a photo from the library on your phone) and apply a number of effects and then choose to just save it or email it, or upload it to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, or thebestcamera,com.The upload feature is simple to use, and I like it so much I often use it even when I’ve take a photo and modified it with other applications. Best Camera also lets you view images other have uploaded to the site. (Best Camera is $2.99 at the App Store.)
Hipstamatic is, well, how do I describe it… it’s like an old-timey 1970′s cheap plastic camera that turns your iPhone into a toy. Sort of. I first heard about this app when a co-worker mentioned she knew the guys behind it. If you’re a design-nerd, there’s a lot to love about this one… and if you’re just interested in an interesting camera experience, you’ll find that too. Hipstamatic is this “virtual camera” which hints at a future where more and more of the camera will be customized using software. I’ve heard the guys on TWIP talk about this idea of “a camera with a sensor and a lens mount, where everything interesting happens in software, possibly from 3rd parties” and this is like an early view of that. Hipstamatic also features the ability to swap (virtual) lenses, film, and flashes, which, when combined, create unique images. (Hipstamatic also features the ability to buy more lenses and accessories directly in the application, which is brilliant from a software developers point-of-view.) One annoyance about Hipstamatic is that you can’t open an existing image taken with other camera apps and apply effects to them, it’s sort of an all-inclusive affair where you take the photo in Hipstamatic and you process it there. (To the developer’s credit, I think this is intentional, but it annoys me.) Also, like many of these apps on the iPhone, it can’t easily work with the full resolution image, but often uses a scaled-down version, due to memory constraints and what not. (These are things that should go away in the future, as hardware/software advances.) Hipstamatic also has a community, and contests, and if you really want to get into, well, you can really get into it. See? Here’s a cat photo I took. (Hipstamatic is $1.99 at the App Store. Base-price, without additional accessories.)
Photoshop.com Mobile is a great little free app that lets you do minor edits (contrast, saturation, crop, straighten, etc.) and apply effects to your images, and save them to Adobe’s Photoshop.com web site. Personally I really don’t care about the Photoshop.com web site, but Photoshop.com Mobile is a free app with a few nice features, so if you want to install it and try it out, it’s pretty painless. (Photoshop.com Mobile is FREE at the App Store.)
Plastic Bullet is a great new app from Red Giant Software that lets you take a photo, or select one from your library, and apply effects. Again, we’re going after that “plastic toy camera” idea that is all the rage (See Hipstamatic above.) Plastic Bullet is simple, simple, simple. It shows you 4 completely random variations of your original image, and then you can either choose one, or generate 4 new ones. It’s never the same twice, so if you see one you like, save it! Stu Maschwitz is the main guy behind Plastic Bullet, and while it doesn’t do all the fancy uploading and sharing stuff, there’s a Flickr Group, and maybe keeping it simple like that is good enough. (Plastic Bullet is $1.99 at the App Store.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look at Mobile Phone Photography on the iPhone. It’s an interesting future, and I’ve got a few follow-up posts planned, so stay tuned!