Mobile Phone Photography

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 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 web site. Personally I really don’t care about the web site, but 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. ( 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!


Steve Jobs Hates Freedom

Look, I know that Steve Jobs wants nothing but the very best for his customers, and he thinks the only way to provide the “very best” is to create unnecessary restrictions on what’s allowed to run on his platform (the iPhone and iPad.) Steve wants you to have a great user experience… but to me, the removal of freedom is a bug, not a feature, and less choices negatively affect my user experience.

Maybe Steve underestimates his customers… See, I’m fine with cross-platform development. Really, I don’t mind it. In fact, I think it’s a good idea and I’m very much in favor of it. Let the best application win… Not by being the only application, but by being the best among many.

I’m happy to hear that there will not be an app store for the Mac OS X platform, but really, I think the reason for that is that the genie has been out of the bottle for so long (30 years?) that it would be impossible to put back in.

And as for the iPad, I have this to say about that… if it helps bring the death of Flash, and the rise of HTML5, bring it on! Apple has been responsible for the death of technologies in the past that were meant to die, and this is one more. I mean, you all miss that built-in floppy drive on your MacBook, right?



I took a look at the iPhone when I stopped by the new Apple Store at Bayshore. It’s a nice device. I’m not about to replace my Nokia 7610 and 5th Gen iPod with it, but I can see the appeal of this device.


Sadly, as with many location-based services, we in the Midwest have some, uh, issues. The iPhone was easily able to locate San Francisco, but couldn’t find Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I know we’re not in Silicon Valley, but we still exist out here. I know at least one person in Milwaukee with an iPhone. I should ask him how the location stuff works here. He’s already mentioned that he’s aware that it’s a 1.0 device, but it’s still freakin’ amazing.