There are thousands of apps out there to expand your mobile photography capabilities, but what about apps that augment your abilities when you're holding a DSLR? Here are five of my favorite apps to enhance your productivity.
1. The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE)
Available on iOS, Android, and as a web-based application, TPE is indispensable for natural light shooters and landscape photographers. By using your current location, or searching for a prospective spot, you can view the compass heading and angle of the sun and moon at all times of day, the phase of the moon, the hours of twilight, the size of shadows, upcoming celestial events, "golden hour" times, and so much more. Perhaps my favorite feature, however, is the visual search, which reverse engineers locations of the sun and moon, allowing you to find out exactly when those two bodies will be at a certain location in the sky. For example, say you found a beautiful grove of trees and wanted to capture the sun rising from behind them. Using the app, you can input the location in the sky at which you would like to see the sun and it will tell you the exact dates and times at which that will occur. This is a landscape photographer's dream. I'll frequently use this feature when I encounter a picturesque landscape and want to know when I should return to it for an optimal shot. The app definitely comes with a bit of a learning curve, at least for the advanced features, but they are more than worth taking the time to understand.
$8.99 | iOS
$4.99 | Google Play
2. Photographer's Tools
With a simple, clean, and unobtrusive interface, Photographer's Tools provides quick access to some of photography's most common and useful quantities. I use it most for its depth of field calculator, which also provides hyperfocal distances, making it undeniably helpful for landscape photographers. It also provides sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times, as well as twilight, blue, and golden hour windows. Lastly, it provides an ND filter calculator for determining how much to compensate an exposure. It also features a "gray card," which simply displays the digital equivalent of a neutral gray card; while phone displays obviously aren't considered professional level color-calibrated displays, it can be useful for providing a quick approximation when determining white balances. The app gets bonus points for presenting everything in a clean, uncluttered format that allows you to quickly access what you need and get back to shooting.
Free/$1.99 | iOS
$1.49 | Google Play
3. Easy Release
Are you a street photographer? Do you work with a lot of models? You're probably well-versed in model releases then (and if you're not, you need to be). Easy Release is just that: easy. I'm big on PDFs nowadays: I always have a copy of documents, I can easily share them, it's better for the environment, and it's much harder to spill my tea (as is my wont) on a PDF. With Easy Release, I can set up a custom release form (or multiple versions for different situations) that anyone can sign using just their finger, instantly generating a PDF that can be emailed to everyone who needs a copy (I do wish it had Dropbox integration). The best part is that major image houses such as Getty Images and iStockPhoto approve its use. Nonetheless, as with any legal matter, do not assume that its use automatically covers you; consult with your lawyer to make sure your releases and contracts are legally binding.
$9.99 | iOS
$9.99 | Google Play
4. Dark Sky Finder
Light pollution is the bane of every night sky photographer's work. Although light pollution generally correlates with metropolitan areas, finding truly dark locations can be tough sometimes. Dark Sky Finder is just the app for that, overlaying the relative light pollution levels on top of standard Google maps (you can choose street, satellite, or hybrid maps). It's a one-trick pony, but it does that trick well. It also shows designated dark sites, giving the address, accessibility, and general notes on the site, as well as other helpful information, such as entrance fees, parking, etc.
$1.99 | iOS only
Yes, it requires you to purchase an accessory, but for $37, Triggertrap is relatively inexpensive as far as triggers go, and frankly, it's pretty stellar. It's also quite clever. Because it uses your smartphone as the trigger, it can receive updated capabilities as new versions of the app come out. It's also compatible (not all modes are available) with the Apple Watch and Pebble Smartwatch. The app is a joy to use and navigate; all trigger modes and relevant parameters are readily accessible and easily modified. Trigger modes include (but are not limited to): cable release, self-timer, sound, vibration, and motion sensors, and facial recognition. It also has extensive time-lapse capabilities, including two very neat modes: "TimeWarp" and "DistanceLapse." TimeWarp allows you to gradually vary the gap between successive exposures, thereby creating an acceleration or deceleration effect, while DistanceLapse is the spatial equivalent of a time-lapse, taking a shot each time the camera has traveled a predefined distance. It also includes HDR (up to 19 bracketed shots) and HDR Time-lapse modes.
Triggertrap also offers an adapter for use with flashes and a phone clamp that conveniently sits in the hot shoe adapter of your camera. It's my favorite setup for anything requiring an external trigger. Their paid Timelapse Pro app offers advanced time-lapse features, allowing you to program almost any conceivable sequence.
$37 | Triggertrap Mobile Kit
Free | iOS
Free | Google Play
Bonus: Pocket Light Meter
Do you still shoot film? Pocket Light Meter is a surprisingly accurate light meter that allows you to set any two of the three exposure parameters, from which it will give you the appropriate setting for the third. It's simple to use, has a pleasing interface, and most importantly, provides trustable exposure readings. What more could you ask for?
Free/$1.99 | iOS
$.99 | Google Play
Smartphones are great for mobile photography, but they're also great for photography. Seeing as many of us have one on our person most of the time, there's no reason not to embrace the extra capabilities that can make your working life just a bit easier. Do you have any favorite apps that you use for your work? Share them in the comments!