Improved year after year, today’s smartphones have excellent camera systems. But sometimes the camera apps they come with can be restrictive.
The iPhone 12 Pro, for example, has a great camera capable of taking great photos in almost any situation. But, as has always been Apple’s way, the iPhone’s camera app is pretty basic. Aperture, ISO and shutter speed are not adjustable, and although very good, the phone’s night mode is automatic.
Apple relies on artificial intelligence that recognizes what you’re trying to shoot, then invisibly adjusts camera settings to take the shot it thinks you want. This usually works and makes taking great photos almost effortless. But for those who want more control over the iPhone camera, there are plenty of third-party apps to help them out.
Some of these apps are free, some cost a few dollars, and some are free to start with and then charge for additional features or to remove ads.
Here, we’re going to look at four apps to up your smartphone photography game. But instead of sticking highly artificial filters on your selfies, we’ve chosen apps that bring useful manual control and powerful, exciting photography features to your phone.
Focos – Free, with options for in-app purchases
Focos Photography App for iPhoneXiaodong Wang
The first application I chose is called Focos. The app is free to download, but some features are only unlocked by paying $0.99 per month, $7.99 per year, or $12.99 for lifetime access. But don’t be put off by this payment structure, as the free version comes with a good selection of useful and powerful photography tools.
Most important is how photos taken with Focos can have their focus point and depth of field adjusted after they are taken. Smartphone fans might remember this feature from the HTC One (M8) from 2014, which had a depth sensor to add 3D data to photos.
Focos lets you move the focal point anywhere in the photo, wherever you tap to focus immediately. There’s also a slider to adjust the lens aperture and therefore the depth of field of an image – again, after it’s taken. This way you can select only a small area for focus or for the entire photo to be in focus. This montage works with captured images. the Focos app itself, but also by any photo you have taken using your iPhone’s portrait mode, as the data Focos needs to manipulate the images is retained.
Another powerful and free tool from Focos is how artificial light sources can be added to a photo after it has been taken. You first see the image in 3D, where the app accurately plots the depth of the image, with subjects farther from the camera appearing behind those in front of the shot, all in a deep 3D model. You can then add a light source, such as a light bulb, flashlight, fluorescent tube, or softbox, to illuminate any part of the shorts. The position, direction, brightness and color of the light source can all be adjusted.
All the usual photo editing tools are available in Focos, including exposure, brightness and more. But the emphasis is, if you will forgive me the pun, on adjusting the focal point of your photographs.
Focos is a powerful photography app best suited for those who have at least some experience with aperture, focal length, and other advanced camera settings. Because focus is manual, this is not a camera app for taking quick photos without a second thought, or you’ll end up with them mostly blurry.
night camera – Free, but $0.99 to remove ads
Night Camera Photography App for iPhoneNico Schröder
A simpler photography app, Night Camera does exactly what you’d expect – it lets you adjust ISO and shutter speed to take brighter night shots. With the iPhone’s own camera app sometimes eager to show off by over-brightening low-light images, Night Camera can help serious photographers capture exactly the shot they want, with just the right amount of light. light.
I can see this app being particularly useful for astrophotography and for capturing nighttime images with a deliberate amount of motion blur, perhaps of a campfire.
There are plenty of settings to tweak, and even a live histogram, but there are also automatic options for those who trust the app to do the right thing with their shots. There is a bit of lag when moving the phone around and setting up your shot, but only because the app is trying to show a live preview of what your shot will look like, so naturally the processor of the ‘iPhone works hard.
The ISO can be adjusted from 50 to 2000 and the shutter speed can be set from 1/30th of a second to one second. That means very long exposures aren’t possible with this app, but a second with a high ISO sensitivity and the app’s “low-light enhancement” setting enabled helps bring more light to your shots. Exposure and white balance can also be adjusted or left on automatic.
Night Camera is free but displays an advertisement for three seconds each time it is opened. To remove this, the app asks for a one-time payment of $0.99.
ProCam 8 – $6.99
ProCam 8 iPhone camera appSamer Azzam
Moving up a gear, we have ProCam 8. This app is priced at $6.99, which puts it above many others, but I think it’s still an acceptable price. White balance, focus, ISO and shutter speed can all be adjusted, while lossless RAW image capture means your photos retain significantly more data than those taken with the app’s own from Apple – at least until Apple’s new ProRaw file format comes to the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max later in 2020.
Shooting in RAW format means photos can be edited more fully in an app like Lightroom, and without causing damage or reducing the quality of an image. Lossless TIFF image files are also supported by ProCam 8, and there’s a smart HDR mode that takes three photos at once to help balance out shadows and highlights.
There are also options to choose the aspect ratio (including 1:1 for Instagram fans) and four grid overlay options, including one that helps you hold the phone exactly level (or 90 degrees ) when taking a photo. Other settings let you turn the iPhone’s image stabilization system on or off, show or turn off a live histogram, and even add copyright to your photos.
ProCam 8 is equally adept at shooting video, with the choice to shoot with H.264 or H.265 codec, and choose from a wide range of Full HD and Ultra HD video formats, with many frame rates to choose from, including many not offered by Apple’s own app.
There’s also a time-lapse mode, burst mode, portrait mode, and the ability to set a slow shutter. Along with this, there are presets for shooting in low light, shooting images with deliberate motion blur, and lastly shooting with an artistic light trail.
photoshop camera – Free
Photoshop photo app for iPhoneAdobe
Finally, a bit of photographic fun in the form of Photoshop Camera. Much simpler than the name suggests, this is a free app that uses the power of Photoshop to apply a bunch of fun filters to your images.
I’m not talking about beautifying selfie filters here, but so-called lenses that show what Adobe is capable of. We add an artificial blue sky to your photos, replacing what the sky actually looks like with startling realism. Another adds a nifty, Vincent van Gogh-esque look with cleverly added paint swirls to your photos, and one adds a pop art theme.
I recognize that these have a limited use case, but they work very well and are far more impressive than the many portrait enhancement/ruin filters that otherwise litter the photography section of the App Store. Adobe is also adding more lenses every week, for free. The key here, of course, is to remember that you have all those lenses – and the app itself – and not just defaulting to the iPhone’s own camera app.
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