Top iPhone Camera Apps for Mobile Photography

Every since the very first iPhone came out I have been trying to find ways to make the camera on the iPhone a viable photography choice when a DSLR was just too big, bulky, and basically unavailable. Most photographers would have scoffed at the thought of using a cell phone for any kind of serious photography, but as has happened with the field of photography over the years, things change.

I took my first photo with an iPhone on December 15th, 2008 at 9:23am, and from that point I have since taken a little more than 7,000 images with an iPhone in one version or another. With the release of the iPhone 4 Apple made realistic photography an option. The screen resolution and the over abundance of really cool camera and photography apps has made mobile photography legit (most posts on this blog that have iPhone photos are tagged iPhone).

Being a photographer that actually was around when we were shooting 35mm and transparency film, I have been a little slow to jump totally on the mobile photography platform, but with so many great apps out now it’s made iPhone photography fun. My top three of all those apps on the app store are listed below. You can click the image just below to see a full size screen shot of all three apps in an example progression.

With all these apps I would highly recommend shooting an original and working with a copy to preserve the original image. Many if not most of these apps will completely alter the image forever and you can’t go back, so be sure to have that original image saved.

Best iPhone Camera Apps

  1. Camera+ – Great all around photography editing app
  2. Camera+ is probably the most versatile app available. It has been around quite a while and has a very large number of adjustment-post editing possibilities. It has several shooting options for focus, a grid (standard on DSLR’s), a better zoom than the basic iPhone app has, and several ways to adjust the image before you shoot. The image editing features are more flexible than any app I have tried. It allows for the most filters, and gives you a large number of “effects” which are basically overlays on the image.

    One of the best features of this app has nothing to do with the way it edits photos but with the fact that it doesn’t “require” a square crop to be taken. That allows the full 5mp camera depth to be used. It allows for sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Cost $.99 (at this posting it’s on sale). Download Camera+ on iTunes

  3. PicFx – Best app for filters, and textures
  4. The PicFx app is basically an app you can apply cool filters and textures to your images. The biggest drawback to this app is the fact that you must use a square crop on the image which reduces the image size significantly. The best part about this app is the textures. It has a large number of choices and it gives you an easy to use opacity meter allowing for even more unique looks. Will allow you to share on Twitter and Facebook. Cost $.99. Download PicFx on iTunes

  5. Instagram – Best social networking photo sharing app
  6. This app has exploded in popularity like many things that have an element of social networking attached to it. The cool thing about Instagram is it’s quick and easy ability to share quick and quirky edits with friends. The negative aspects of this app is that it’s limited to basically people with an iPhone.

    It has no web application, which means it has no way to see a full stream of photos, no url to give to someone, no profile, no rss feed, or any of the things we take for granted with most other applications (like Flickr). It is also quirky to add new friends, but all info and sharing take place within the app. You can share to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, or email.

    This app would be fantastic if it had an app available for Android and a web presence. I have read that both are on the way but with the main focus of this app being a social networking app it needs to be available outside the iPhone. Cost: Free. Download Instagram on iTunes

Printed Books vs iPad or Kindle eBooks and the Future of Books

I love having this conversation with my paper book loving friends, maybe because I am always in the minority when it comes to eBooks over paper books with the IRL friends. Even if you don’t read my post below, go read this comical view of the debate from TheNextWeb called Product Review: Will ‘Paper’ Replace E-Readers?. This is a great look at the debate, which is sure to rage on for years, but digital is gaining ground every day. Amazon even announced last year that Kindle eBooks started outselling paper books, but that’s old news now (see also What Amazon Didn’t Say About eBooks by CNET). I even wrote this: Amazon Kindle 2 iPhone App and the Future of Books? almost two years ago now when the Kindle 2 came out, it’s interesting to see how eBooks have changed since that post.

I do think that the physical paper printing of books will always be with us as long as we have trees left to use. There is value in each platform, but it is hard to deny the future of books is in a digital form, just like analog LP’s made way for MP3’s. There are many today who still swear by vinyl records, saying the sound quality surpasses a Compact Disc (which from what I understand, it does), but LP’s are now a niche in the digital world of music.

The history of an LP is far far less in time than the historical life span of the printed book by some two thousand years or so, so it may take a long long time before we see paper books reduced to the level of vinyl records. Good or bad though, it seems inevitable at some future date that eBooks will far outsell and be the preferred platform to read a book. This two lists below is an extremely small snapshot, it could easily have been a list of 20 plus, but for sake of being long-winded, here are a few.

The Pros About eBook and eReaders

  1. Price :: It’s almost always cheaper
  2. It is almost always the case that eBooks are cheaper than paper copies, sometimes drastically cheaper. This is just the realities of the manufacturing process. Paper is expensive, uses natural resources, and you are taking a digital original (I am guessing no author writes by hand, but all use a computer to write) making it into paper. An eBook you don’t have that conversion.

    There are still publishers that just don’t get it, or are overly greedy. I would love to see one give a side by side comparison of profit margins for an eBook over a paper copy that has to make its way into the distribution network. An eBook is overwhelmingly cheaper to produce and distribute than a paper copy, so “most” publishers pass that savings along to their customers. If the eBook is close to the same price, it shouldn’t be. DRM is always trying to rear its ugly head as well.

  3. Weight :: No matter how many books, they all weigh the same
  4. I can carry 10 books, or 100 books on my iPad 2 and their combined weight is still going to be 1.33 pounds (601 g). This is a bigger deal, at least to me, than it sounds. If I am going on a trip, especially on a plane, I can literally take as many books as I can possibly read, that just isn’t physically possible with paper.

  5. Features :: instant searching, highlights, bookmarks, notes, and more
  6. This in an incredible feature of owning an eBook. You have instant access to search all aspects of the book, your notes, highlights, and you even have instant access to a dictionary, Wikipedia search, or even a google search on a selected area (try searching the bible for one single word or phrase by paper). Amazon takes this one step farther and offers all highlights, notes, and bookmarks for each book on your Amazon account at From there you can access everything associated with each kindle book.

The Pros About Paper Books

  1. The Physical Smell and Feel of Paper?
  2. This seems to be the biggest hang up with those who love paper books, you can’t get that musty smell of the paper and ink with an iPad. I know this smell well. Deb and I owned our own book business for several years (see We are No Longer Selling Books as Amazon Marketplace Sellers) and we had a house filled to the brim with tens of thousands of books. It is a smell that lingers with you for a long time. Personally, I love the smell of solder and computer boards in the morning, but it’s true, you don’t get that connection with nature without the paper.

  3. Paper is Art :: it is created only when reading is complete
  4. I understand this one too, but I would think a hand written copy by a scribe would be more art than a bulk made printing press, but yes, you the reader make the book into art as you read the book. If you highlight, underline, scribble, you are free range on the book and when the book is finished, you have a new “work of art” unlike anyone else. Of course if you are one who never highlights or makes notes (and if you are, I don’t get that either), then the book is not art, but just the same book that still sits on a Barnes & Noble shelf.

  5. Comfort Factor
  6. For some it’s just the comfort, like that of an old slipper. A book, by definition, is paper. If it’s digital, call it an eBook, not a book. Some say it just isn’t the same to curl up with your iPad eBook in front of a warm fire and drift off into the greater beyond of reading. I will say on this point that there is a distraction factor with a digital device that is totally removed by a paper book. Your paper book won’t pop up with a Tweet  or news alert while you are in the middle of a deep chapter, and this adds to the comfort level.

Processing Life in a Digital Age of iPads and Tablets :: Friday Feet

I remember when we use to marvel at the power we had at the tip of our fingers on those big clunky desktop computers. You always use to hear things like this computer is more powerful than the one that was used to launch the Apollo rockets, and it was, but today, in the world of tablets (Android or iPad), it truly is amazing how much power we have at our fingertips. Combine an iPad with a wireless bluetooth keyboard and you have something that is mightier than both the sword and the pen.

I understand, realize, and recognize, this isn’t for everyone. I know some don’t even have Internet access and don’t miss it, which is perfectly fine. Those who have chosen to use the technology that comes with being alive in 2011 know that what you are starting to be able to do with tablets is amazing. The lines between being tied to even a laptop have diminished with every passing month, and I equate it to what it must have been like when the car was invented and suddenly people could travel far greater distances than they ever could before.

This is not an Apple thing or an Android thing, this is a means to communicate, to reach and connect with other people, and in many cases a means to change the world. Some may think that is a stretch, so, ok, today, it is a means to read Paul’s words in the book of Acts, and my Friday Feet.

Top 10 Best Apps for the iPhone or iPad iOS 4.3

Since the new iPad2 and the Apple iOS 4.3 was released last week I have had several people at church ask what “Christian” apps I would recommend for their iPad or iPhone, and I finally just decided to do a blog post about it. Since there really was only one app I would call a “Christian” app that applies to a lot of people that I would highly recommend (YouVersion), I have included an overall top ten I would recommend for people just starting to use an iPad or iPhone instead.

This list can easily apply to anyone wanting to get a lot of good use out of their new iPad, I say that above only to show that this app list is from a Christian perspective on currently available apps and I would consider all of these safe to download, and would also provide some productive value in your daily use of these two devices.

If you are new to the iPad or iPhone App Store then these might be a good place to start. For those who have been around the iPad for a while now these may seem old news, but I still like to evaluate the apps I use periodically to determine if they are still worth keeping. Most of these below I have used now for more than a year. I tend to find a good app and stick with it while the developers continue to improve it’s performance and features.

I will have an in depth review of a few of the apps listed below in upcoming blog posts, it was just too long to list right here. In the mean time, here is the brief overview of each of the top 10, plus four extras that almost made the cut:

Top Ten Best iPad / iPhone Apps

  1. YouVersion – Bible app
  2. Rating, 9/10 :: Best bible app available, period. It’s free, has tons of translations and is constantly updated. Most heavily developed app (possibly ever), has both iPad and iPhone formatted versions, and you can download some translations for offline reading. Access to live events, post to Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email, loaded with features and still be developed. The best of the best. Price, free. (app info)

  3. Official Twitter app – Social Networking
  4. Rating, 8/10 :: If you are on twitter this is the first (but not only) app to have. Price, free. (app info)

  5. Facebook – Social Networking
  6. Rating, 4/10 :: Still included because of it’s siginificance but no official iPad app available, only iPhone app, which is awesome. Still, you can bookmark the Safari homepage but surely Zuck is working on an iPad exclusive app for Facebook. After almost a year, we still only have impostors available. (app info)

  7. MaxJournal – Journaling or Diary
  8. Rating, 6/10 :: Best journaling app available for iPad (no iPhone) but has room for improvement. If you’re not a big fan of MaxJournal, try iJournal for $4.99 with a higher rating but has less features. MaxJournal has far more features and options like fonts, import-export abilities (though somewhat limited), and the ability to create multiple journals. Price, $3.99 (app info)

    UPDATE: According to the developer they are possibly handing off this app to someone else, best to keep an eye on development if you are a heavy users of this app. Hopefully they will work it out. Another option (a few here too) is to use MacJournal from Mariner, which has a long running desktop app to sync with. They then added an iPad/iPhone app, so it’s not just a mobile app developed, it’s full fledged. The reviews are all over the map but I have used MacJournal Desktop app for years and love it.

  9. Amazon’s Kindle app – eBook Reader
  10. Rating, 8/10 :: Best eBook app reader, recommended over iBooks, Nook, and several others. I picked Amazon’s Kindle app over all the others for 3 reasons; (1) total books available, (2) price of available books, and (3) features. In depth review coming soon. Another GREAT feature of Amazon’s Kindle app is that you can access your highlights and bookmarks via the cloud at, that alone got me to switch from iBooks. Price, free. (app info)

  11. The Daily – Daily News and Current Events
  12. Rating, 8/10 :: New to the app store but has great content, always updated, highly interactive. This is the future of newspapers or online news in general. Complete review available, see Pros and Cons of The Daily app for iPad. Price $9.99/Mth or $40/year (app info)

  13. USA Today – Daily News and Current Events
  14. Rating, 9/10 :: Best overall rounded source for news with a dedicated app for the iPad. Not as feature or design rich as The Daily but more in depth news and constantly updated. Price, free. (app info)

  15. Pandora – Music
  16. Rating, 9/10 :: Best music streaming app available, at least until Spotify can get out of the UK and over to us here in the United States. If you like music I would highly recommend the paid version at $35/year, you get commercial free music with higher bit rates. Price, free. (app info)

  17. Evernote – Notes/Archiving of All Kinds
  18. Rating, 8/10 :: Best app for saving and archiving notes of all kinds, syncs across all platforms including a desktop app. This is the archival app, scan, scrape, email, text right into a cloud based note program that integrates with a host of other apps and programs. They offer a free service but once again I recommend the premium version of their service (app is free) as they give you much more for a small price. Price, free. (app info)

  19. Netflix – Movies
  20. Rating, 7/10 :: Online steaming movie app for both iPhone and iPad. Title selection needs improvement but it’s getting better every month. Most new releases are delayed and not all titles are available for streaming, some you still have to get the DVD mailed to you. Netflix has led the way in movie streaming and I suspect delays in titles or other issues like that are not their doing but the movie industry. Price, app is free but service will cost $7.99 per month. (app info)

Other Apps That Almost Made the Cut

The iPad 2 and Actually Waiting in Line :: Friday Feet

Yes, for the first time ever, I (and Deborah) actually stood in line for an Apple product release. We weren’t even planning to do so but yesterday on a strange set of circumstances, I sold both my iPad and Deborah’s iPad within a few minutes and couldn’t give them to the new owners until we picked up the new one. I have a host of reasons for upgrading this particular device at this particular time but I will save those for an actual iPad 2 review in a later post.

In short, the iPad really is a revolutionary device that has changed computing for good (and for the good). The time I spend on my computer gets less and less all the time because of the iPad, which is great, but the number of books I have read over the last year more than paid for the iPad (books which cost $14.99 to buy at the store cost $1.99 on the Amazon Kindle app). Those are just two reasons among many, I’ll follow that up with a review some day.

All in all in our little town there were about 60 or so people in line for the 15 iPad’s Apple decided Best Buy should have. We got to talk to and get to know several people over a few hours, and take a break from our normal routine, which was nice. All of the consumerism issues aside, I have addressed those many times before, like Apple and AT&T Set Another Round of Innovation in iPhone 4, it was a fun afternoon, and today, is my Friday Feet.

Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Launch and the iPad NASA App HD

Yesterday the world finally got to see STS-133 launch after months of delays. It’s the 39th mission of Discovery and the 133rd flight of the Space Shuttle program, and was originally slated to launch on September 16, 2010. I went down to the cape with my Nephew in November hoping to see the launch then, but came about 4 hours shy is getting to see it live.

This time around however I watched it on the iPad NASA App HD. The app is also available for the iPhone but if you have an iPad you basically have an HD TV to watch the launch live. Not even DirectTV right now is offering NASA TV in HD (which is ridiculous). Besides being able to watch NASA TV live in HD you have a host of other information, photos, schedules, and everything you might want NASA-wise.

I wish other companies like Fox News, CNN, ESPN, and the like would look at this app and see how easy NASA made it to watch their broadcast. I understand with the others is a money thing, but the technology is there and the other broadcast companies are only going to gain viewers by offering a mobile platform for their customers. Kudos to the NASA tech guys for making this one of the best free apps for the iPad.

Pros and Cons of The Daily app for iPad

I have been using The Daily app for the iPad for about a week now since it came out and this being the first subscription based daily newspaper type of publication I thought I would do a quick review here. If nothing else, this is going to open the flood gates of countless newspapers and other subscription based publications to release similar formats.

Any company who is in the business of producing paper for the purpose of it being read by a consumer should take close notice to The Daily. If these companies continue to ignore the digital age, as many newspapers and even book publishers have done, their long term viability (or profitability) will get more and more difficult. No question about it, they are going to have to try to find a way to produce a digital product or leave the market.

For those who many not know, The Daily is a daily newspaper type (I say type because it isn’t printed so it’s not a “paper”), delivered each day to your iPad. Subscription prices are very reasonable at $.14 a day, $9.99 a week, or $39.99 a year. With the flood of tablets now coming on the market like the Droid based Galaxy Tab and the Motorola tablet, it’s only a matter of time before The Daily is produced in multiple digital formats, but for now, it’s only available on the iPad.

The Daily Pros

  • New and fresh content delivered daily from professional journalists
  • Price is reasonable and month and yearly subscriptions are available
  • Format and design is outstanding and continues to improve
  • The daily publication can be updated throughout the day with live info
  • A true multi-media format that allows for video, high-def pics, caption pop-ups
  • Integration with Facebook and Twitter, local comments (with voice)
  • Portability and ease of reading on the iPad platform

The Daily Cons

  • Can’t access archives, if you don’t “clip” the article there is no way to access the previous day’s content, hopefully this will change
  • The app still crashes a bit but I’m more than willing to use an imperfect app now
  • Each day’s issue takes a while to download
  • Content is somewhat limited. There is no “TECH” section or “Business” section per say (although the Sports section is huge); too much “Gossip” section reporting and not enough hard news
  • The app is a bit slow to respond.  Although I like the carrousel view, it’s slow

Over time many of the issues I listed above will no doubt be addressed as they always are with new apps. The second generation iPad, the iPad 2 set to come out sometime around April to June should also have a much better processor and will speed everything up as well.

Jordan-Hare Stadium on Gameday as Seen from a Macbook

The photo of the day today comes from just outside Jordan-Hare Stadium about an hour before kickoff for the Auburn vs ULM game.  It was such a beautiful day that Deborah decided to try to get some of her work done outside before we went in for the game.  I love reflections but this one, taken with my iPhone, shows one of the good functions of high reflectivity on those Apple screens.