I have to admit, I’m a smartphone convert. I had an old-school flip-phone for years, and only made the switch recently when I was due for an upgrade and needed a phone with international calling. But I have converted. Now I don’t go anywhere without my smartphone, including on photo shoots. There are a few smartphone photography apps (I use the Android system by the way) that I find extremely helpful for digital photography and the digital SLR.
Let me start off this article by explaining that I’m not talking about anything related to taking pictures with your phone or editting pictures on the phone. Instagram et al need not apply. Despite being a photo hobbyist, and an avid one at that, I rarely if ever take pictures with my phone. It might be considered heresy at this point, but I’m not a big fan of the built in camera. Though I was once told by someone (who probably hasn’t visited this site) that the camera in her iPad was better than my 6D with a 24-105 f/4L lens, I maintain that other than snapping a quick picture of whatever is sitting on your dinner plate, adding a sepia tone and calling that “photography,” the camera-phone has little use.
So, let’s get back to the smartphone photography apps that I use and find helpful for more serious photography…oh, and are FREE!
1. F-Stop Calculator. Also available through Apple’s App Store.
This app gives you information about your depth of field for any given aperture, f-stop and focus distance. It will also give you the hyperfocal distance, which is helpful for landscape photography. The hyperfocal distance is the distance with which if focused on, everything behind it will be in focus. You can see how that might be helpful for landscapes. I also find it helpful when composing a shot where I want to maximize bokeh (background blur). This app can tell me just how wide (or narrow) my depth of field will be. Even though most cameras have a DOF field button, I find them difficult to use as your viewfinder will often darken.
I have this app and a similar one, called DOF Calculator which I find slightly less user friendly. There are multiple other similar apps and any one of them is a must!
2. ND Filter Calc. Similar Apps available through the Apple App Store include Long Exposure Calculator.
This is a must have if you have a 10-stop ND filter. Sure, anyone can calculate a 10-Stop shutter speed from an initial shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second. Multiplying by 1000 is easy…except when it’s not. Remember, the camera gives you shutter speeds in fractions, not as decimals. What’s 1000 x 1/160th of a second? I don’t know either and instead of taking out a calculator and then converting the calculator’s number into a seconds and minutes format, this app does it all for you. The interface is very user friendly.
3. Golden Hour. Multiple Apple Apps are available, a free one is called Magic Hour.
The golden hour is a term coined to represent the time when the angle of the sun is low, casting off softer light with a warmer hue. When this occurs, harsh and direct light is elminated and landscape photographs look better. Though it is called a golden hour, and usually is about an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset, the angle of the sun varies by geographic location and season. This app will tell you based on location when that golden time is no matter where you are!