I’ve had my iPhone for a little over 2 months now and have been experimenting with its photographic capabilities. I love the instant availability the iPhone gives me to be able to snap a picture wherever I am and easily share it via various social channels such as Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. While the built in camera in the 3Gs is decent and the “touch to focus” functionality is a step closer to the control I’m used to with my digital SLR, the raw images from the iPhone camera ultimately leave a lot to be desired. Unless you’re in bright daylight and are usually a fair distance from your subject, your images end up looking flat.
Clearly one of the greatest strengths of the iPhone is it’s application environment and the thousands of developers busily working to get in on the action and on your phone. Many very talented developers have produced some amazing applications built to take the iPhone’s photographic capabilities to the next level by giving us tools to enhance our images. Some of the favorites are Camera Bag, Quad Camera, Best Camera, Toy Camera, and TiltShift Generator. All of these apps are essentially post-processing tools that edit the photos hue, saturation, contrast, exposure (kind of), and maybe offer a couple of other specialized effects like vignetting and framing.
CameraBag for example gives you style presets such as Helga, Infrared, Fisheye, and Lolo, but with no option to fine tune those styles. Best Camera is from professional photographer Chase Jarvis and features custom, stylistic filters that you can add to an image and then rearrange their order for a little more creative control. That level of customization is really nice and the results generally look good, but again the filters are essentially “hard coded” and lack individual editing control. Best Camera does have amazing social integration with the ability to publish your images to Facebook, Twitter, and to The Best Camera community.
After more experimentation and an inspirational tweet by Kory Westerhold, I came across the magical combination of using TiltShift Generator and Mill Colour. TiltShift Generator is an app that at it’s core gives you tools to simulate the look of tilt-shift photography, but as you experiment with the controls you can easily move beyond the typical “miniature” look that’s synonymous with a tilt-shift lens. What I love about this app is that it helps simulate a stronger depth-of-field than the native “touch to focus” feature gives you and you can also get creative in where that focal point exists. From there the app provides color editing for saturation, brightness, and contrast which, regardless of being only 3 sliders, can dramatically alter the look of your photo. Lastly you have a slider for adding a vignette and then the option to save your photo to the photo library or export (I presume to twitter, but I’ve never used it).
At this point I move the photo over to Mill Colour, which I’m convinced is one of the best image/photo apps available on the iPhone. Plus, it’s free. Mill Colour is a color grading application built by the ridiculously talented people at The Mill. I usually start with one of the color presets and then adjust the saturation, lift, gamma, and gain from there. These kinds of tools are what professional color graders use in the entertainment industry. Granted, I’m not saying this app and an app like Autodesk Lustre or Apple’s Color are equal, but, in principal, you’re doing the same thing to an image. You’re creating mood.