Being a good photographer, and I mean a really good photographer, used to be achievable for the most dedicated and affluent. You needed the very best cameras and plenty of free time to learn how to get the most out of it.
Then, the smartphone arrived, and with it the world of photography changed forever. It didn’t look like that would be the case at first. Whilst the future of Polaroid looked to be in doubt (and indeed it was), smartphone photography initially only looked like it would catch-on for taking those quick snaps of a night on the town or some keepsakes of special moments with the kids.
But as the quality of smartphone cameras improved, so did their uses. Today, pretty every smartphone comes with a top of the range built-in camera as standard. And smartphone photography is now challenging the very best that professional photographers can deliver with the most expensive equipment on the market.
Where once top-of-the-range fashion photographs were the domain of Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber or Steven Meisel, now anyone who has a smartphone and the right software can create pixel-perfect pictures. And by anyone, we do mean anyone. But the question people ask is always ‘what exactly do I need’ to get my pictures to that level.
The simple answer is ‘not much’. A smartphone is of course necessary, but most of us carry one of those in our packets anyway. If you are thinking to invest in a new one, looking for one with a camera with as many megapixels as possible is the best advice.
And once you have a smartphone, you can start to download the right apps and software. There is a lot of photography software available, and whilst a lot of it is very good, there is plenty of rubbish out there too. So, this article proposes the 5 essential apps for optimal photography on your smartphone.
VSCO has become the go-to app for anyone who loves taking pictures and showing them off, but doesn’t want the hassle of having to spend hours making them just right.
VSCO – which stands for Visual Supply Company – is the app which pioneered straightforward photo editing on smartphones. They offer a full range of editing tools in a user-friendly platform which allows you to edit your image as much or as little as you like.
Using the in-app camera is the best way to get great results. It has a toolbar with all the core tools you need to take a great photo. If you do need to polish it a bit, VSCO has no fewer than 15 different editing tools letting you do things like adjust exposure levels, colours, and contrast, saturation, sharpening, cropping, as well as more complex things like changing the tint of shadows.
It has filters and plenty more options besides, and of course there are the obligatory paid-for optional extras as well.
Everyone knows that Adobe Photoshop is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of image editing software, so it should be no surprise that this app is also one of the very best.
It allows you to do a powerful range of image editing functions right there on your smartphone including liquefy, heal, lighten, and colour your photos. You can do all the standard image editing functions as well as play about with making additions to images, restoring bits that might not be how you want them, the list goes on and on.
And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also free. High-end photo editing for no charge – you can’t argue with that.
If you are in the habit of taking great photos on your smartphone, then the last thing you want to be doing is losing them. Yet, losing your smartphone, or worse still having it stolen, is far from unusual.
So, you will want to have a reliable cloud storage solution which ensures that even if you lose your phone, you won’t lose photos. Dropbox is probably the market leader in this area. They offer a great service which is also compatible with many of the other editing and social media apps you might be using to show off your pictures.
If you are security conscious, which you should be, I would recommend an encrypted cloud storage provider like Boxcryptor. But for usability, it must be Dropbox.
4. PS Express
We’re back to Adobe again and their PS Express App. It may come as no surprise that the PS stands for Photoshop, their flagship product.
PS Express is a Photoshop Lite programme which again allows you to make all the usual edits to your photos on your smartphone. But I am particularly recommending it here for what it can do to photos taken at night or in poor light.
It has some great features for reducing the graininess of these images and making a poor night picture into a great one. And for that alone it is worth downloading.
5. A VPN:
Last, but by no means least, I am recommending a VPN. It won’t help to edit or share your photos in a new or exciting way, but it will help to ensure that the photos stored on your phone are secure.
A VPN funnels all your online traffic down an encrypted pathway to an external server. This means all your data is securely encrypted and safe from prying eyes and hackers. Whether your photo has financial value to, or just because you value your privacy, a VPN is worth having.
And they have plenty more benefits besides. For example, you are able to access potentially restricted online services no matter where in the world you are, meaning you can share your photos on social media even if you are in a country like China, where access is blocked.
There are benefits to all smartphone users from having a VPN, but for keen photographers especially, they should be essential.