October 17, 2009, 9:40 PM — iPhone photographers have learned to delight in their camera's limitations and imperfections, using them as a starting point for creating artistic images. It's no coincidence that many of the most popular photography apps in the App Store are filters that imitate film cameras of yore, like Lomos and Polaroids. Both toy-film and iPhone cameras have the allure of unpredictable results, quirky colors, and a signature look. You just need the right apps to bring out the best in your photos.
These are some of the basic photography apps you have to have in your arsenal. Use them alone or combine their effects together by saving an edited image in your photo album and opening it from within another app.
TiltShift Generator is the best way to create a miniature effect, an increasingly popular way to punch-up to plain photos. Created by Takauki Fukatsu (who also made the cool QuadCamera app), the $0.99 TiltShift Generator app works by faking a shallow depth of field for your image. The app adds a gradated radial or liner (plane) blur that expands from a selected focal area. You can move this center focal point, and adjust how much of the image is in sharp. To successfully make an image appear miniature, your original shot should already have some depth in it--two-dimensional images won't work as well.
Secondary features on this app include sliders to adjust saturation, brightness, and contrast. You can also add vignetting--a subtle fade-to-black effect around the edges of your image. The color and vignetting effects nicely compliment the tilt shift look for more authentic film-style shots.
TiltShift Generator's interface is incredibly simple and fun to use. The app's biggest downside is that your edited images will be saved as a smaller size than the original. This is a common practice with iPhone photography apps, but one that is hopefully going to be phased out over time.
Nevercenter's CameraBag is a no-brainer for any artistically inclined iPhone photographer. Chances are you already have it downloaded. A $0.99 collection of filters that mimic well-known retro film camera styles, CameraBag has inspired many imitators of its own, but none do it as well.
It benefits from an ongoing nostalgia trend--the real Holga and Lomo film cameras are still popular products, and there's a movement underway to bring back Polaroid film. CameraBag is an inexpensive alternative for all these film lovers. It does an excellent job of recreating each camera style and process, instantly turning a low-resolution image of a cat into a piece of art.