By Steve Thomas | 25 January 2022
Smartphones are the cameras we always have with us. Here’s six useful apps to help you plan, shoot, edit and share better images with yours.
iOS, Android: A$14.99
It’s easy enough to find sunrise and sunset times anywhere in the world, although the PhotoPills app goes a lot further in that it allows you to see where and when the moon, the sun and even the milky way will be at any given time, and as far in advance as you wish.
The app allows you to virtually check out locations and to find the best compositions for light in advance, giving you the best chance of being in the right place at the right time to get that perfect image.
The app can prove invaluable once you get to grips with the basics, and it’s a whole lot easier than fumbling around in the dark guessing where the sun will rise.
2) First light
iOS, Android, A$12.99
Firstlight is a fairly recent app, and is marketed as an alternative camera app by FiLMiC, who also produces the best mobile filmmaking app there is (FILMiC Pro). The app allows you to shoot in DNG/RAW format to allow for a little more dynamic range in processing your mobile photos. It also gives a good degree of manual control, which is great in difficult lighting situations.
Like many apps out there it also offers filters, which are applied at the time of capture (in JPEG modes only). This is perhaps its best feature, although do be sparing with the weird looking options, as they soon get old.
3) Lightroom Mobile
iOS, Android: Free
From its sluggish beginnings the Adobe Lightroom Mobile app has come a long way in the past year or so, and now offers many of the features of Adobe’s industry standard Lightroom desktop image processing software, which many photographers subscribe to through the monthly CC package (with this the app’s premium tools included).
There is fully functional camera control with a DNG shooting option built into the app, although I would still advise on shooting outside the app and then processing it to keep things separate from the Adobe ecosystem.
Lightroom Mobile is a good stand-alone processing app, which comes into its own when used with an iPad to process batch images on the go, either transferred to the device from a separate camera or shot on the device. Images and the edits can then be synced via WiFi and the Adobe Cloud to your Lightroom desktop computer, which is a very slow process but useful for travelling.
iOS and Android: Free (in-app purchases)
There are a number of apps out there for creating panoramas and image sequences for posting on Instagram, and most are a little lacking.
SCRL is a very easy to use and free app (no watermark) that allows you to spit panoramas or regular images and to create really neat and slick photo collages for posting image galleries and sequences on Instagram without glitches, giving you maximum screen space to display your photos and collections.
iOS, Android: Free
Snapseed is the original and quite possibly the best and most user-friendly mobile image-processing app out there. The app has been around since 2011, and regularly gets updated. Snapseed is so easy to use.
You can process regular camera images if transferred to your phone by WiFi or from drives and cards as it now also works with RAW images and allows you to output at high resolution, which is ideal for posting your best regular camera shots on the go too if you transfer them to your phone.
There are many intuitive processing tools within the app. The ‘tune image’, ‘curves’, ‘selective’ and ‘brush’ tools are particularly advanced, and not far off the capability of more expensive desktop software options, although recovering shadows can get a little muddy with JPEG files.
iOS, Android: A$2.99
This is widely considered as the best app for removing those unwanted objects from your images. Whether its people cramping your picture, an unwanted sign or ugly power lines, this app can remove them easily and to a high level of accuracy usually only found in desktop software such as Photoshop.
Using the Lasso Tool, Brushes, and other options in the app you can clean up pictures with ease. This is a good app at a great price.
It’s all too easy to get drawn into purchasing and subscribing to photography apps, and although many are really great at what they do, you will most likely end up falling back on a handful at the very most.
Camera 645 Pro is a solid app for capture, with DNG and film simulation options included. Hydra is highly rated for low-light imagery – but personally I’ve never taken to it.
The Photographers Ephemeris is a great tool for planning, although it can be somewhat bewildering. A nice basic and easy to use app for tracking sunrise and sunset is Sun Seeker.
On the processing side there are several excellent paid options, including Darkroom, a subscription app with huge potential as a mobile (and iPad) alternative to Lightroom, especially worth considering if you don’t have an Adobe CC subscription.