5 Paid iPhone Photo Apps Guaranteed to Add Pizzazz to Your Shot

You might feel overwhelmed with the number of photo apps in the iPhone App Store. I know I was, so I did some research and downloaded some (okay, a lot) of photo apps in my quest to search for the perfect photo app that has everything I wanted and needed. After some time I realized there is no such perfect photo app. However, there are some which can do only a few things but do them extremely well. Here are five paid iPhone photo apps which I tested and now can’t do without. They are well worth the price of a few dollars for they greatly boost the bland shots I’m getting from my iPhone 2MP camera.

1.  SwankoLab ($1.99) – long before anyone could conceive of the idea of digital processing, the photographer’s darkroom existed. It was a place of alchemy where images appeared from blank paper or plastic film with the use of chemicals. Darkroom magic has been recreated with the SwankoLab app. The visuals are very appealing with the rich dark wooden shelf that holds various chemicals which you can mix unto the processing tray below. Experiment with eight various formulas and watch your images materialize in different effects depending on which chemicals you chose. Nine more chemicals are available with an additional one time $1.99 subscription fee. Not bad at all considering the number of combinations you can use.

2.  Hipstamatic ($1.99) – From the creators of SwankoLab is a camera replacement app which allows you to imitate vintage toy lenses such as the John S lens and the Kaimal Mark II lens. You can also choose from a variety of lenses and flash settings, all with just a flick of your finger. When you open the app, the screen displays an image which simulates the back (or front, if you press the flip icon) of an analog camera, including a small square viewfinder. This viewfinder is not precise, so what you see is not usually what you get. The experience of this randomness adds to the appeal of the app. You will have to take a picture for the app to be used, unlike some photo apps where you can use images already saved in your photo library. Hipstamatic saves the images in a square format and the results from the filters can be very moody and unique. More filters and lenses are available in what is called ‘HipstaPaks’ which you can purchase from within the app.

3.  Photo Forge ($2.99) – if you’re looking for a photo editing app which will answer most of your needs, then this could be it. This app packs quite a punch, having extensive features to help tweak your image to your satisfaction. It offers very useful adjustment tools such as the unsharp mask, crop tool, levels and RGB curves. It also has several effects such as Lomo, Dreamy and Vignette. On top of that, it provides illustration tools as well such as brushes with color and transparency options.

4.  CameraBag ($1.99) – this camera replacement app simulates several effects that you would get from various cameras and lenses.  These presets vary from Helga, to Colorcross to Fisheye. You may take a picture or get one from your camera roll or photo library. To change the effect, just swipe your finger left or right and you’ll immediately see the various results. What could be easier than that?

5.  Best Camera ($2.99) – what better iPhone photo app developer than a professional photographer?  When Chase Jarvis decided to make an app, he wanted to make sure it did everything an iPhoneographer was looking for.  You can use Best Camera to take a picture, edit it using 14 presets, and then upload it straight to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, thebestcamera.com website or to your email. That’s quite a lot of features in one app, which makes this one of the top rated photo apps in the App Store.

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iPhoneography, The Fresh Medium of Expression


When the iPhone came out in 2007, most people ignored its camera feature in favor of tinkering with the more exciting capabilities such as podcasts and internet surfing through Wi-Fi. It was difficult to get animated over a 2MP camera that hardly had any adjustment settings. Then along came the camera apps which opened up a world of potential and the new hobby dubbed as ‘iPhoneography’ was born.

The concept is very simple. iPhoneography is taking pictures using your iPhone. Some people choose to also post process the image in the iPhone using photo apps while others prefer to upload the image files in their PC or laptop and post process using photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop. The rest don’t bother post processing at all and just upload them directly into the internet. Purists believe that once the image has been processed outside of the iPhone, that it can no longer be considered iPhoneography. Others maintain that one should strive for image quality and intended result which may need to be achieved using PC programs instead of iPhone apps. It all boils down to personal preference and I say just do whatever works for you.

One major appeal of taking pictures with the iPhone is that as long as you have Wi-Fi connection, you can upload your images straight into the internet (right after you take them!) without having to pass through a computer. You can add them to your online photo album or share them in your social networking site with a few flicks of the finger. How much more convenient or quicker can it get? Another asset is being able to edit those pictures straight from the iPhone through the use of photo editing apps. Also, since the phone camera is very limited in its built-in adjustment settings, it forces you to become more imaginative in creating the image to make it look more than just a regular snapshot. Add all these to the attraction of cellular photography in general, which are portability of device, discreet and unobtrusive capturing of everyday life, and easy access, and you get a very powerful photographic tool.

With all these advantages, it is easy to ignore the fact that these cameras have a low megapixel count. The 2G and 3G iPhones have 2MP cameras while the 3GS has a 3MP camera. The latest version, the iPhone 4, has a camera with 5MP. The difference in quality between 2MP and 5MP is astounding but that doesn’t mean you can’t create great photos with an iPhone 2G.

Of course, a major part of the fun for iPhoneography is to take advantage of the many photo apps that are available in the App Store. A lot of them could be improved, but there are also apps which can inject a good dose of WOW! into a dull shot with just a flick of your index finger.  If, like me, you are just discovering the world of iPhone camera apps and what they can do for your shots, you might find out there are so many of them! You might feel overwhelmed with the number of apps that you might get confused as to which to choose. There are free apps and usually the paid ones range from 99 cents to $4.99. A lot of the camera apps have very similar functions. My advice is to read the reviews first before buying the app.There are sites devoted to iPhoneography. Flickr, for example has huge groups at http://www.flickr.com/groups/takenwithiphone/ and http://www.flickr.com/groups/iphoneography/. They have group pools where members share their photos and also discussions where members can share their latest app finds or tips. One of the leading blog sites is http://www.iphoneography.com/ which is a treasure trove of informative reviews about the latest apps. Time to time, it also includes write ups about people who have become dedicated to this medium (called ‘iPhoneographers’).

If you have an iPhone and haven’t yet experimented with its camera capabilities, try doing so now and don’t be surprised if you get hooked faster than your finger can tap on the upload button.

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