There are number applications developed to empower the camera of the smartphone with features not native to the original camera. Some of these apps add features such as manual control, post-process, raw capture, while others have less to do with photography and more to play around the captured image. Below I review some of the photography apps providing major features helping to further the concept of photography.
iOS and Android
Developed by Google. Free.
It offers somewhat advanced post-processing tools. From tone to crop, vignette, and curve which is a very powerful tool to alter highlights, shadows, and contrast. In addition it offers brush for targeted processing, detail to increase (or decrease) the sharpness. It has raw capture, making the processing more manageable without the challenge of introducing digital artifact. Another important tool is selective which works like NIK filters on PC or Apple. Placing the selective tool, a circle, on any area of the image, creates a mask for the remains of the image, changes will be confined just to the area of the circle, phasing out outside the circle. Sliding up and down provides four tools, brightness (B), contrast (C), saturation (S) and structure-sharpness-(S). With any of the above icons highlighted, sliding left will reduce and right increase the respective feature.
As with other apps contains several different filters
Snapseed offers targeted adjustments, by sliding up the screen various options of Brightness,
Saturation, Contrast, and Sharpness can be chosen; sliding left or right will increase or decrease the chosen adjustment on a limited area.
The adjustment is limited to the selected area within the circle; it gradually phases out outside of it.
Camera zoom fx
In addition to zoom as the name suggests, sliding up on the left side of the screen, it offers other features, including image stabilization, burst mode, time lapse, timer, collage, and voice activated. There is a grid as a guide for composition, and level to keep the camera straight. It contains series of filters. Touch focus helps with the sharpness and exposure. Its editing tools are limited, crop and rotation. It does not offer HDR or panorama.
A “light” version is free.
It adds features of controlling exposure, focus, as well as stabilization. To optimize the manual control, the recent update includes a wheel to let the photographer control the focus and exposure in small increments. It has a grid to guide for composition. A preset for white balance was introduced in a recent update. Capturing a raw image, however, make it possible to change white balance as well as exposure, highlights and shadows in post-process. With touch focus, the focal point can be brought to the desired area on the screen. Another new feature is “Lab” to process the image after capture. Now one can add vibrance(increasing saturation of parts of the image with low saturation), clarity(midtone sharpness), sharpness, and blur. Taping the plus sign next to shutter button raw capture becomes possible. Does not have a preview for filters.
iOS and Android
Lightroom has been available as a desktop app for a very long time. In addition to having the raw reader program for Adobe, what makes it so distinct is the sophisticated catalog system enabling the photographer to access any particular image among thousands of images cataloged in LR in a short time. Lately, Adobe introduced a version of LR for smartphones. Although one could achieve multiple tasks with this app, the free version, in order to use the entire extent of the functionality of the app, one should be a subscriber to Creative Cloud (CC) which includes LR for the desktop. You can use all the capture, organization, and sharing features in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC for mobile for free. Most of the editing features also are available without subscription.
Subscribers, however, have the ability to edit the raw file, including access to the editing tools not available on free version. The subscription also provides syncing ability between the smartphone and desktop. Lightroom and its sister product, Adobe Camera Raw are the most used raw reader and post-processing programs by professional photographers. Although Photoshop offers far more advanced tools to be used in conjunction with the two above programs, there is a number of photographers who do not use Photoshop, as the capabilities of the above two programs often provide what they need.
Raw capture out of the camera, before taking it to Lightroom.
The same image after making adjustments for shadows and highlights, bringing just enough contrast to make the image live.
iOS and Android
Some of the features of desktop apps are available here. You may capture raw or jpeg with the app. PNG format, a lossless compression of raw file, also is available. There are six modules on the bottom of the screen for post-process. Looks, series of filters, crop, includes a tool to straighten the image, red eye, border, healing brush, to remove unwanted objects in the image, and finally the most important of all, correction, containing multiple sliders for highlights, shadows, sharpness, temperature, and clarity.
While to have all features of Lightroom app, one needs a subscription to Adobe CC, Photoshop app works independently, to take advantage of all the features, no subscription is necessary. The app is free, comes in with a set of filters, to have a wide array of filters, there is another pack one may purchase for $5.
iOS and Android
The app provides full manual control for the photographer, of course since it adds complexity to photography one may not wish to use a completely manual mode.
The same setting is available for video. The resolution for video can set up to 4K when the iPhone is 7 or higher is used. The frame rate can be set up between 20-30, and for a finer movement, 50 and 60. For slow motion one has to increase the rate to 100.
To have control over the photography one may wish to use a manual mode. In this case shutter speed of 60(50 in Europe). Other factor impacts the brightness is ISO, the lower the ISO the darker the scene, although as noted previously, the downside of high ISO is noise which essentially is a digital artifact. By and large, one wants to keep the ISO as low as possible with adequate brightness. For white balance, as long as the image is raw, the temperature may be tweaked in post-processing. Auto white balance, in general not recommended, one may opt to use shade when available, it brings slight warmth to the image often is pleasing.
For still photography, the interface is organized and clear. To zoom one should touch the screen and slide up. On the bottom of the screen, there is a exposure compensation, moving the finger to right or left will increase or decrease the brightness. To change the mode of the camera, on the top right there is a menu to select various modes, auto, program, and manual. In the auto and program modes camera decides about exposure. One can create a custom mode when ISO, shutter speed, and white balance can be set manually to optimize the exposure. On the right and lower of the screen there is a drive mode menu, with bracketing, time lapse, and video. To create HDR, one needs at least three images with a different exposure. Although with changing aperture, shutter speed and ISO one may reach such objective, one should keep the aperture constant, otherwise depth of field varies from one image to the next. Variable normally is shutter speed. ISO, seldom used, since it may need a very high ISO, to capture darks, which introduces a fair amount of noise compared to the base image. The app provides three focus mechanism. Autofocus which camera uses the focal point, in a difficult situation to focus, the photographer may move the focal point and bring a specific point into focus. The app also has manual focus. To activate it, touch along the dial next to the shutter button. Pulling the dial to the center of the screen, it turns into focus assist with zooming in for better identification of the focal point.
Another feature of the app helpful for beginner photographers is the list of tutorials one may review particularly when attempting manual exposure.
I was hoping to wrap up the smartphone photography with the third part. Since all the apps deserved to be discussed could not be covered here, I will complete the discussion in the fourth part.