In the introductory lesson of PT Mobile Photography School, we explored a few benefits of shooting photos with your mobile phone. But shooting photos with your phone and shooting good photos with your phone are two different things. Sure, you can pull your phone out and easily take a picture, but having the right apps and tools that will facilitate the best possible photos will help you take your mobile photography to a whole other level.
In part two of our mobile photography series, we explore some must-have apps and tools.
The makers of VSCO - Visual Supply Company - are well known throughout the digital photography world for their excellent film emulation presets that are available for post-processing programs like Lightroom.
Fortunately, VSCO has made similar presets available to mobile photographers in their excellent app, VSCO Cam.
The app is extremely powerful, offering dozens of highly adjustable presets that give your mobile photos a distinct analog look. VSCO Cam also offers many customization possibilities, including contrast, sharpening, highlight and shadow adjustments, and a host of other powerful tools that give you the ability to customize your mobile photos. It’s got a smooth, easy-to-use interface, an integrated camera app, and is available for iOS and Android devices. You can download it for free, but some presets require an in-app purchase.
Where VSCO Cam gives you presets that will give your mobile images a classic look, Mextures is all about grit, grain, and grunge.
Mextures has all the basic editing tools you’d want to adjust contrast, temperature, saturation, tint, highlights, shadows, and fade. But beyond that, Mextures’ claim to fame is the large collection of pre-made formulas that you can apply to your images. The formulas, by and large, include lots of texture, including graininess and light leaks, that give your images a very graphic look and feel.
What’s more, the textures can be layered so that you can develop your own highly-customized look for your images. You can save the formulas you create for future use or for sharing with others. Saved formulas can be opened later, applied to a new photo, adjusted to suit your tastes, and saved again under a new name. The same situation applies for the pre-made templates that come with the app.
Mextures is available on iOS and Android devices and sells for $0.99.
Slow Shutter Cam
If you thought long exposure images weren’t possible on your phone, you’re wrong. With the Slow Shutter Cam app, you can use one of three presets to capture light trails, motion blur, or take photos in low light situations. The app includes a time-lapse intervalometer, freeze and blur strength control, easy tap-based adjustments for exposure and focus, and real-time live preview of the images you take. It’s like having DSLR capabilities in the palm of your hand.
The light trails function of the app essentially gives you the ability to paint with light. The function is completely preset - you don’t have to fuss with a lot of intricate and complicated settings. Just point and shoot and the app will take care of it all. The motion blur setting is similar in that you don’t have to make tons of adjustments. It’s a lot like shutter priority mode on your DSLR, meaning you can blur the movement of water, people, vehicles, or other moving objects with ease. In low light situations, Slow Shutter Cam allows you to manually adjust the length of the exposure, and then, once the image is captured, you can fine-tune the image using the app’s exposure compensation feature.
Slow Shutter Cam is available on iOS devices and sells for $1.99.
LightBox Photography Cards Mobile Edition
When it comes to mobile photography tools, it’s handy to have something that will help you in the inspiration department. That’s where LightBox Photography Cards Mobile Edition comes in.
There are 52 cards in the set, one for every week of the year. The cards offer a specific subject on which to shoot, provides tidbits of mobile photography advice, and gives you insight into some tips and tricks for better shooting or highlights a piece of mobile photography gear that you might utilize to improve your photos.
Each card also includes an image to give you a little inspiration. The images are accompanied by a statement of what device was used to take the photo and what editing tools were used to create the final product. You can take this information to guide your gear choices, or you can go in a completely different direction. The beauty of these cards is that they are intended to get you thinking about how to take better mobile photos, rather than demanding that you approach it in a particular way.
LightBox Photography Cards Mobile Edition is currently in progress on Kickstarter, with estimated delivery in September of this year.
OlloClip has been around for years, and as mobile photography has become more sophisticated, so have OlloClip’s lenses.
OlloClip offers a whole line of lenses for iOS devices and select Android devices. One of their most popular products is the 4-in-1 lens that features a wide-angle, fisheye, and two macro lenses. The lenses are designed to be easy-to-use and quick changing for situations in which you need to move from wide-angle to macro in a jiff. The lenses are constructed of high-quality products and result in sharp images that greatly extend the capabilities of your phone.
The OlloClip is small, lightweight, and will fit easily into your pocket. It’s also designed to work on front-facing and rear-facing cameras, so you have the capability of taking better photos no matter if it’s a landscape or a selfie. There are also several versions of the OlloClip, including the Active Lens, which has both an ultra wide-angle and a telephoto lens, and the Macro Pro lens with 7x, 14x, and 21x macro lens variants.
Prices vary depending on the product, with the Macro Pro lens being the least expensive at $69.99. Check out OlloClip’s products at their online store.
Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand
Handholding your mobile phone isn’t always an option, so having a tripod for your device is certainly an important tool to have if you want to expand the capabilities of your phone’s camera.
One of the premiere mobile phone tripods is the Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand. With three highly adjustable legs, you can set your phone just about anywhere. Place it on a tabletop with the legs extended out for maximum stability, wrap the legs around a tree branch for a tight grip, or use the flexibility of the stand’s legs to position your camera safely on an uneven surface.
The tripod comes with a universal adapter that tightly grips your phone no matter the make or model. The rubber feet on the stand’s legs ensure that your phone won’t go anywhere, even if you place it in portrait orientation. At just over 5 inches tall and a mere half-pound in weight, the tripod won’t take up much space in your camera bag either.
The Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand is available for $29.99 on the Joby Website.
Just like taking photos with a DSLR, the strength of your mobile photography won’t be in the tools or apps you use, but in your creativity and your ability to develop your photographer’s eye. Having said that, creating incredible photos with your mobile device can be much easier if you make use of some of the powerful apps and tools available today that expand the capabilities of your phone. While this list is certainly not inclusive of all the tools at your disposal, considering those we’ve mentioned here will certainly get you on the road to taking better photos sooner rather than later.
Next up, we’ll explore essential composition tips for taking landscape photos with your mobile phone.