I make no apologies for what may seem like an iPhone plug, but the fact is that the only camera many people own is the one included in their mobile phone. Acknowledging that reality, it won’t do any harm to point them towards software and techniques that can improve their experience with these cameras.
I have been using an app lately called ‘PureShot’. The beauty of this app is that it does exactly what is said on the tin. There are no fancy filters or textures. Instead, PureShot concentrates on the aspects of photography that might be found in more serious cameras to improve picture quality. White balance for example. How many times have you taken a photograph with your mobile to find it is too blue, magenta, or green because you are in fluorescent lights? Being able to control this before shooting is an aspect that no one seems to have considered on a mobile until now. The technique is simple. First point your camera at something that gives the colour balance you want, then lock it with the app WB button.
Something I like to do with my photos taken with a compact or mobile is to give them the format likened to 35mm. In other words 3 x 2 the format of old 6 x 4 prints. Most mobile’s standard is more akin to 4 x 3. PureShot gives you 3 formats, 4 x 3, 3 x 2 and 1 x 1 square, the format popularised by Instagram.
Let me tell you about some of the other features of this app. There is a spot meter. Just touch it and a spot appears that can be moved around to give you the exact exposure you want regardless of where the object is in your composition. A night time mode. This gives longer, and hence less noisy exposures. You need a steady hand or an phone tripod, but the results are worth it. You can also get some creative results. A static night time townscape for example with blurred moving people. There is a self timer. Coupled with the aforementioned mobile tripod, this will give a new class and quality to those ‘selfies’. There are Auto Exposure and Auto Focus lock buttons like those found on serious DSLRs. The latter is very handy, especially when you find your camera is constantly searching for the best focus point. Now you can choose it and lock. There is a flash button that lets you either leave the use of flash on Auto, Off altogether, or On, regardless. Useful for shadow fill in in harsh sunlight!
There is a two position ‘Display’ button. The first displays a grid, very useful for aligning verticals and horizontals, and for aiding composition. The second press displays information of all the settings your camera is using. ISO, shutter speed, GPS co-ordinates, picture quality, focus and exposure points, even a histogram if you want it! There is also a button that takes you to a 30 page Help book. 30 pages sounds a lot, but the author has gone to detailed lengths to help you understand all and any advanced program feature.
That covers the instantly visible controls on the app but there is much more. I left out the Menu button. Click this and you are taken to some advanced options. First and foremost you can choose the copyright info that is included in your Exif data. How cool is that on a mobile? It is something usually hidden deeply in the menus of expensive DSLRs’. The Menu options are two and sometimes three layers deep. The first layer options are Image Quality, Grid, Shutter settings, Focus and Exposure settings, Artist and Copyright settings, Advanced settings and About. Tapping any of these leads you to the choices offered. Image Quality offers Hi-Quality JPEG, MAX-Quality JPEG and wait for it – dRAW TIFF which essentially is a RAW quality that you can later reap the benefits of in Photoshop. An important part of image quality is our images can be saved at maximum size and resolution, something often diminished in other apps. Viewed large, they won’t put a 27 inch computer screen to shame. The Grid set options are Rule of Thirds, Architectural and Off.
The shutter settings are two layers deep, allowing you to set advanced options such as Burst Mode and Burst Bracketing. The Self Timer delay times can be set, shutter release behaviour with AE/AF-L chosen, and enabling of a hardware shutter release, in other words setting the + button on your iPhone as the shutter firing button.
Focus and Exposure settings are also two layered, the highlight feature of which is the Histogram. This can not only be turned on or off, but the display mode can be set too! You can set illuminance only, or RGB, Y-RGB and exploded Y-RGB giving a detailed view of how each colour is affected. The histogram is displayed along with other shooting info in the main app. Other settings covered in F & E are AF/AE-L session persistence, Tap-to-Focus, Night Mode exposure limit, High ISO support, Session to Session flash persistence and the Advanced Exposure Information that is revealed via the ‘Disp’ button in the main app. For ultra technical lighting geeks this covers ISO, Dynamic Ev (responsive to ISO), Luminance measured in candelas per square meter, and Illuminance measured in lux. A bit over the top maybe, but this illustrates the extraordinary detail that the author of this program has gone into.
All in all, this really is an amazing app that is beautifully designed and programmed. It is obviously written by a keen and highly knowledgeable photographer, and he has concentrated on the features that go to make picture quality, rather than employ fancy filters and effects. I have found that this app can produce great pictures straight out of camera. Oh, I almost forgot, the author in his wisdom has left it for you to decide what program you would like to use for any creative enhancement. All you need do is touch the share button in the image review mode and you will be taken to a vast number of share options that include your other apps. On my phone I am offered Open in iPhoto, Open in Paper Port, Open in PCL Pro, Open in Revel, Open in Adobe Reader, Open in Evernote, Dropbox, PhotoToaster, Snapseed and WhatsApp. In IOS 7, the new Airdrop is also enabled. Needless to say, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Yahoo have not been left out.
If you are a casual iPhone snapper, this will improve your pictures, knowledge, and enjoyment of photography. If you are a serious amateur or pro, who yearns for high end features in a mobile app, you will absolutely love it. This has become my default iPhone camera, for the simple reason it includes everything that I want or am likely to need, in the camera I always have with me.