Many of you have asked over the years what gear I use and what apps I use. I’ll add to this page as I add/subtract gear from my workflow. The links are affiliate links, so if you buy the application or device, it will support this site. I don’t expect that anyone will purchase an expensive camera or lens, but I thought the links might help with product descriptions and reviews. Since I’ve been posting photos from my iPhone, I figured that most of you will want to get to those apps first, so I’ve structured the page for you. Any mention of price is as of the publish time/edit time of this page. Your mileage may vary. I usually take my iPhone photos with the basic Camera app (the one included when you buy an iPhone) or with Camera+. I’ll get to Camera+ in a bit. Onward.
I had heard about this one and ignored it for awhile before it was on a special and I decided I could have yet another iOS photo editing app. The beauty of this is that the interface allows for extremely fast tweaking of photos. It does not save full resolution files back to the camera roll, but for most applications (Instagram, flickr, blog posts) it’s just fine. I have gotten great results very quickly and the app combines the best of some of the other apps (texture overlays, sharpening, etc.) as well as making simple tonal adjustments very easy. This is my favorite image editor for the iPhone (as of 12/2011). The company that puts this out also does Photoshop plugins that amp up drab images, so these folks have experience and it shows. This app was voted iPad App of the Year, 2011. WORTH IT. Yes, it’s $4.99. Before you gripe, that’s about the cost of a latte. Skip the latte one day and buy this app. You won’t be sorry. The controls are a little weird at first, but you’ll be doing things you never thought possible to photos in no time at all.
Photo fx is made by The Tiffen Company, a long time maker of physical filters for SLR and other format camera lenses. They’ve taken their $299 Photoshop plug-in/desktop app and smashed it down into a $2.99 powerhouse. If you want to experiment with a range of filtering options, this is the app for you. It will do some textures, but this app is more about tonal work, heavy color tweaks and simulating looks from analog film. Sometimes I stay in this and complete all the edits and sometimes I’ll save the image from here and keep working in another app. Regardless of how far I get, this is usually the first app I start working in after taking an image. Examples of images I’ve edited using Photo fx:
The one on the left I used a color gradient overlay (you can edit the colors and amount) to go over the top in terms of effect. On the image on the right I did a single Neutral Density (ND) filter across the top after I applied some vertical streaky blur and then applied a fake tilt-shift. Typically, I’ll take images into Photo fx, tweak them, save them out and upload the edited image into whatever service (Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, directly to this site, etc.) This app has a bit of a learning curve, but the results are well worth the effort. View this app on the iTunes App Store by clicking here.
This app has been climbing my personal charts. The interface is a little different, but the results can be stunning. Of late, I’ve been using the Tone Map filter. According to the developer, this filter is meant to simulate HDR. In my findings and settings, I’ve seen better results with this app than by using the HDR setting on the phone’s Camera. There is a bit more flexibility with this app than the others. You can apply a filter normally or use a layer setting (multiply, overlay, etc.) that will dramatically change how the filter looks. I’ve found that clouds and sky look amazing after running them through this app. For example:
The results can be dramatic, especially when you compare a drab starting point to where you end up. The image on the right was particularly flat, but a few tweaks and slider moves and I was on my way. It’s like sculpting. You might start with a plain image, but the image you want is buried inside. All you have to do is a work at it.
Hipstamatic was the first app that I really went all in on. This app is like having a full bag of analog film, lenses and flashes without the cost of film. This is not a free app and I warn you that the add-on packs, including lenses and films, are very addictive. I’ve spent the most, in terms of add-ons, on Hipstamatic. I’ve also taken the most shots with this app. If you are a fan of Holga, Diana or other plastic cameras, this is the app. Here are a couple of images from Hipstamatic:
The results are only limited by what combination of film, lens and flash (or not) you use. As with a lot of these apps, take care to look at the output settings so you get a usable image size. I also save a copy of the original image in every app that has this option. This might be overkill, but I’d rather not lose an image. Hipstamatic doesn’t save an original image, but once it’s done processing an image, there is a setting that automatically saves the image to the Camera Roll.
The sharing options are good, but like other apps, if you use the app to share, it will insert a plug for the app in your post. I’m looking at you, Instagram. View Hipstamatic in the Apple iTunes App Store by clicking here.
This free app is what the Flickr mobile app should have been when it was released a couple of years ago: Fun, good retro filters, easy and social inside your phone. Instagram forces a square image ratio, but the recent updates to the app have kept it in the game in terms of increased image size, choice of border (including no border), improved fake tilt-shift and new, improved filters. My main use for it, besides sharing photos, is that Instagram is the only app that lets me upload to Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and a number of other sites at the same time. I use a WordPress plugin to pull my Tumblr images into blurbomat.com because Flickr doesn’t have an easy way to get at larger images if you are sharing photos from your phone. I don’t always use a filter for an Instagram image and that’s ok. Here are a couple of images that I’ve shared using Instagram filters (in some cases, using an image edited or taken in another app and still applying an Instagram filter):
Aside from the filters, this app is also a front end to a great social network based around iPhone photography. In September of 2011, Flickr released an Android app that people are saying is an Android owner’s answer to Instagram which I mention to include Android folks out there. p.s. I’m @blurb on Instagram. View Instagram in the Apple iTunes App Store by clicking here.
I found out about this one from a photographer I follow on Instagram, @docpop, who does amazing stuff with the iPhone and various camera apps. He does “appsperiments” where he will post a photo in Instagram and detail the apps he used to get a certain effect. His work might not be in your taste, but I really love what he does and I’m inspired just about every time I check Instagram. Slow Shutter Cam will allow you to have more control over your iPhone exposure time and sensitivity. There are a few modes that yield different effects. One of my favorite iPhone 4S images I’ve ever taken. I took this night I got the phone:
It looks less like a photo than a painting. I used an 8 second exposure to get this shot and didn’t even know what I had until I got home and looked at it on my computer. It’s been a go-to app for those times when I’m feeling a need to purge the gunk and push myself. I’ve posted a few more slow shutter images which can be seen on blurbomat.com (click here). This is definitely an app to play with if you like experimenting. Or just like triply looking images. View Slow Shutter Cam in the Apple iTunes App Store by clicking here.
This is the main camera for most of the images posted on blurbomat.com. This monster is also responsible for the higher end video on dooce.com that I have shot. It has been a workhorse since 2008 and shows no sign of stopping. One of the best business investments I have made. Aside from the full-frame sensor, the biggest benefit for me on a creative level is that this camera captures images at 21 megapixels. That’s enough to allow for a certain degree of cropping during processing. If you buy this camera, you get the body separate and on its own. A lens must be purchased. There have been some kits put together, but in my experience the only one worth looking at on a camera of this caliber is this one, See this product on Amazon.com by clicking here.
I’m not going to post every single lens I use, just this one. We have used it the most. It’s a versatile lens that works very well with the 5D Mark II’s full-frame sensor. If I were going to buy one zoom lens, this would be the one I’d get. We picked this up in 2006 when we bought our Canon 5D and haven’t looked back. I would estimate that this lens has been used on over 100,000 image captures in the five years we’ve owned it. See this product on Amazon.com by clicking here.
This is also called “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom”. That aside, this is a great app to graduate to if you’ve been using something like iPhoto, Picasa or Photoshop Elements. If you shoot RAW images, this app will unlock the inner beauty of your photos very quickly. Even if you don’t want the crazy colors and the dreamy. It will do things like correcting (or tweaking) white balance, spot removal, pumping up colors, sharpening and vignetting. And it will do them wicked fast. Said the man with a professional grade desktop machine. Once you get in the flow of LIghtroom, even if you move an image into the actual Photoshop or any other editor, you’ll want to use Lightroom as the base app you branch out from. If you use Photoshop, you can round trip edit pretty easily, with Lightroom storing a copy of original file and the Photoshop edited version right next to each other in the grid so you can quickly compare differences even several months or years later. See this product on Amazon.com by clicking here.
This is the grandparent of all image editing apps. Over the years, people have used it for web design, but going clear back to Photoshop 1.0, I’ve been hooked. Of late, I do fewer edits in Photoshop, but there are things that Lightroom cannot do well (multi-color gradients, spot blurring, radial color gradients, compositing, HDR) and as I mentioned above, I can round trip edit from Lightroom to Photoshop and back into Lightroom with a new file that has the Photoshop edits, leaving my source file in the state it was right before I told Lightroom to edit the image in Photoshop. Very nice. Photoshop is also better at doing one off exports for the web, giving a great deal of visual feedback to optimize a file before doing an export. Also very nice. Lightroom can do exports and is fantastic at doing great bunches of them in one go, but for a speedy one off? Photoshop all the way. For most people, Photoshop is overkill. But if you do any amount of image editing beyond tonal work, Photoshop remains the go to app.