Part II – Extending the Basic iPhone Photography Toolkit

I have been spending time on the basics and learning a bit of the included iPhone camera application. It does a lot by itself but there are some things when you wish to extend the toolkit it will not do. If all you want is the processed JPEG images you can stick with the default app. One of the nicer things not present on regular cameras though are applications you can get that extend the envelope a bit to maximize different parts of the photography experience. I’ll focus on two basic things and then build them up in followup posts. Since I am just a beginner at this, I start at the basics:

  1. Halide App. The IOS Halide App is pretty easy to use and setup. Purposefully I think its so. It will take regular photographs in processed JPEG images and save them to your camera roll. It lets you change exposure and manual focus and gives feedback at a haptic level when the camera view is level. Here is the biggest thing for the beginner though. It shoots in RAW format by default. RAW means you can take the basic images from the camera without processing and apply your own customizations with an application that does that. Halide also supports “depth” shooting for photographs of people and things that will suitably blur the background in some nice bokeh. It even works with the iPhone XR which out of the box does not do depth photography for dogs, plants, flowers. It will only do people. What this leads to is a second application that will take the images that are RAW or processed JPEG images and let you edit. The most intuitive application I have found has some integration with Halide and that’s Darkroom.
  2. Darkroom App. The Darkroom app is pretty easy also to setup and use. It wants some permissions and also has some custom filters you can buy into which I did. It will let you tone the image, use curves, crop the image, and export and save or mark the RAW image as one being edited. There is much more to it but this is all I have explored. The app is a one time purchase and for me suits the purpose more than a Creative Cloud Adobe subscription which costs over and over again.

My take is that with these two apps that are premium apps and can be bought on the IOS App Store, you can extend your photography to some new levels, apply filters, edit the images, save them off to the camera and then be able to share the images as you wish which is my final goal. There’s nothing inherently complex or detailed about either app and Halide basically satisfies some basic simplicity rules for me that I should be able to hit the ground running or walking in my case and shooting photographs. There is the thing you accept that you may want to then edit the photographs that come out in RAW format on some device or other. For Darkroom, I suspect the iPad app is very nice! Its very tempting to move toward something like the 2019 iPad Air with the keyboard instead of a Macbook.

Extending the photography on an iPhone is not terribly daunting. One of the features is the difference of applications you can find. I will be working with ProCamera next which does a lot!

If you have ever thought about simplifying the use case and what you carry and your needs can be satisfied with a camera on a phone, this is a good time to make the move. Camera on smartphones are just so good these days and lots of professional and amatuer and other people like me that noodle around with an iPhone 7 Plus want a simpler thing to take photographs suitable for sharing on a blog, on Instagram, Facebook, Mastodon, or whatever.

I’ve only featured two apps and I decided that I would move to a camera app which offers more functionality, a learning curve, and also pairs up with an editing app that I could learn. There are others like Snapseed and you could grab a creative cloud subscription for Lightroom Mobile or use a laptop or an iPad or something. It really depends on your workflow or lack of one. Here is a sample workflow that i have adopted and even documented a bit on Bear Notes (BTW, plug for Bear Notes if you are on the Apple ecosystem!)

Workflow basics

My workflow is in only a few parts and I’ll try to write it up that way without creating undue complexity in what I do.

  1. Photography with an application that I choose. I have chosen for day to day use the application Halide on my iPhone 7 Plus. I will go out and take between 30 and 50 photographs each day of things I find. I just shoot the images with the defaults because I know I can do things with exposure, brightness, contrast later. This frees the first part of the workflow to just being somewhat creative.
  2. Stop for lunch or a smoothie and review the RAW images and decide which ones I would like to work on. I don’t edit everyone of them. Some just appear good to me as is but others there is something there like the play of clouds and buildings, a small boat on the river shadows, or highlights or color I wish to subdue or bring out more. I may work on the images at the coffee shop for awhile. I then export the image to look at the processed JPEG image. If I don’t like it, I go back and play more. I should mention I have the 128mb version of the iPhone so I have some room to play.
  3. I get back and look again on the iPhone at the images in RAW format that I have chosen to edit and then review those I did not. I do not delete images right away but some are obvious mistakes like a picture of my hand or fingers which leave. I may edit a few more images or work on the edits I have already done. I export the images to new files and review them again.
  4. I then switch on wifi and back up the images to Google Photos which is my home for everything since its unlimited and the IOS Google Photos app works very nicely to backup and sync images and even delete those already backed up.
  5. Share the images I choose to my social media sites. This only includes Facebook, this blog, and Mastodon. I chose to give up Instagram and Twitter and I’ve explained that before. Once the images are shared, they are backed up, images are deleted from the phone, I’m done.

Now I can repeat the same thing day after day. I may create new photo albums and share the entire album or I may just share groups of photos on Google Photos. For me, Google Photos is idea for my workflow. For you, something else may be.

Summary of Part II Basics

The ability to replace a dedicated camera with a smartphone camera may not be for you. You may have a desire to take photographs for audiences that purchase those photographs or there are effects or complexities which work on your needs. Or conversely, you may desire or need to carry a mirrorless or other camera. I decided I did not need to carry a camera for my basic needs because the needs were met and even exceeded with taking photographs with the Halide App and then editing and finally sharing the images as in my workflow above. Yours may not be amenable due to desires you have to learn a digital camera. Each one of us has drivers and limitations.

If you are interested in iPhone photography, consider checking out the default camera app first. It will do for you and I have gotten some nice photographs with it. For me, I desire to learn another step so I started looking for IOS apps that extended the framework, let me do different things, and also explore how well an iPhone camera can work to take travel photographs. For me, it works very well but I have no desire to sell, have my images on National Geographic or travel magazines, or maintain a professional visibility and call myself a photographer.

You have to answer the questions for yourself and see what will work. It’s also okay to use a combination of things as long as you feel good about it at the end of the day. The whole thing to me is being happy with the results. No one else’s satisfaction even matters to me any longer. I am in this to only record what I see and then share it on some social networks I have selected.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.