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A photo app for every occasion

I’m a big fan of the camera on my smartphone because it means I’m never stuck without a camera nearby. Whether I’m watching a band live on stage or having coffee at my local hotspot, my cellphone is always there to capture and maybe even share the moment. And now with all the photography and videography applications available for smartphones, it has become even more exciting to take photos with my phone and broadcast it to the world via Facebook and Twitter.

Cameras have been included in the hardware of cellphones for many years now but mostly used for the occasional photo because of the poor image quality. It has only been in recent years that the image sensor quality on cellphones have allowed them to compete with the quality of the average happy-snap or point-and-shoot camera. Now I am in no way suggesting that the final product from a cellphone’s camera will be better than that of a point-and-shoot camera with Carl Zeiss optics but it comes in at a close second. It is this increasing image quality and the processing power of smartphones these days that are making mobile photography and videography so popular.

To understand why there are so many apps, we first need to see what is available.

A collection of photography apps for the iPhone

On the iPhone there are apps that offer improved camera functionality, such as, image stabilization, timer mode and burst mode. Camera+ is top rated with regard to this and alternatively for the Android OS there is Camera ZOOM fx.

There are apps that apply filters or post-processing to the original photos. These filters include vignetting, sepia toning, black and white processing, Polaroid framing, film scratching and cross-processing. Apps that have these features include, Retro Camera, FxCamera, Hipstamatic, Instagram and picplz.

There are apps for taking panoramic photos. These apps allow you to take multiple photos and then stitch them together to create panoramas. Some apps take it further and allow you to create 360° photographs by photo stitching. Most notably is the iOS application Photosynth by Microsoft.

And finally there are video applications that allow you to create time-lapse or videos that have a vintage feeling to them. Typical post-processing includes frame jitter and frame displacement. Examples of these apps include 8mm Vintage Camera and Super 8.

Photo taken with Instagram

Photo after an Instagram filter has been applied

So why are there so many photography and videography apps and why is it so popular?

The first reason is social interaction. We have become an online social generation and we either have a Facebook account, a Twitter handle, a Google+ profile or maybe all of them. It is because of this online social interaction that we need to share what we doing in order to stay connected. Sharing photos is far more interesting than merely updating a status and as the adage states; a picture is worth a thousand words.

Some apps create social platforms around the app itself. The best example of this is Instagram. Here you are able to follow people, much like Twitter, with the difference being, the only thing you share are photos. With Instagram you have the option to take a photo with the app or upload any other image and then apply effects and processing to the image. This image is then shared on your feed to the people that follow you. You need to be an Instagram user to view the image in your stream but the publisher has the option to share the image to most other social platforms. Instagram is currently only available on the iOS platform but despite this, has 7 million users. Some believe Instagram achieved what Flickr should have achieved in the mobile space. picplz is another platform on its own that is similar to Instagram but is available on both Android and iOS platforms.

Original photo taken with an iPhone

Photo processed with 3D Camera

Some people love photography apps not because of their social interactions but because of pure convenience. If you take photography seriously you will most likely have digital single-lens reflex camera or DSLR for short. Now no smartphone or point-and-shoot camera will come near to a DSLR but the problem with a DSLR is it is usually a big camera and you will most likely have more than one lens for it. This means it doesn’t always travel with you. Here is where smartphones have the edge. Because you always have your phone wherever you go, you are able to take photographs at a moments notice and with apps you are able to touch-up the photos on the go. The same can be said for people who love to take photographs with apps that replicate lomography but don’t want to hassle with old cameras or film. This is because film photography and lomography is an expensive hobby. This is where apps like Hipstamatic, Retro Camera and Instagram offer a cheap and easy alternative to shooting with film cameras.

So whether you want to take photographs for the fun of it or you want to take photographs to share your experiences online, there are numerous apps available for your smartphone to help you achieve this. With Apple’s iOS 5 plans to introduce many filters and effects with Core Image and Facebook to introduce filters (much like that of Instagram) to its mobile app, these photography applications are going to become even more popular.

Follow me on Twitter: @qstorey

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