Five useful photo apps for travelers

Photo apps for travelers

Photographers take great care in choosing the right gear for a trip. Why not make sure your smartphone is well equipped for photography too? After all, it's probably the camera you'll have with you in the event that your DSLR battery comes up short, or your shoulders need a break from the weight of your photo bag.

While the stock camera app will serve most people just fine, there are a huge number of photo apps that go a step further – offering unique shooting features and clever editing options. Whether it's a late summer getaway or just a trip to the park, these five iPhone apps (a couple of which are available for Android, too) can help you get a better shot to remember the journey by.

iOS/Android | $1.99

Travels often take photographers to new cities, but accurately rendering tall buildings and structures with the iPhone’s wide-angle lens alone can be problematic. SKRWT (pronounced Screw It — seriously) is handy for correcting perspective and lens distortion.

When you compose a shot that is angled upwards at a building, for example, the resulting picture often shows lines that converge at the top. SKRWT focuses exclusively on straightening horizontal or vertical lines so the picture depicts more of what the eye perceives. With SKRWT, applying corrections takes a bit of user input, including prepping the image for the vertical correction filter and moving the slider to align the image with the grid. The app provides full auto cropping, vignette correction, ratio adjustments, and an EXIF reader alongside Mobile, Wide, Fisheye, and GoPro modes.

You can save the corrected photo to a dedicated gallery or directly to your camera roll. SKRWT also features two in-app extensions: MRRW (pronounced Mirror), a mirroring tool, and 4PNTs (pronounced Four Points), a four-point-perspective tool for skewing and transforming images. Both apps are available as in-app purchases for 99 cents each.

If you find yourself drawn to taking photos of local architecture and wishing you could correct some of the distortion on the fly, SKRWT is a nice option.

iOS | $4.99

Hydra shoots, processes and merges multiple images in an effort to produce a higher quality image. It offers five capture modes: HDR, Video-HDR, Lo-light, Zoom, and Hi-Res. Depending on available light, Hydra can merge up to 60 frames to create a single high-resolution shot, with an output of up to 32-megapixel images.

Hydra's best use case is dimly lit, moody landscapes or interiors where you are able to hold your phone stock still — the app will not complete a shot if there’s too much motion. The HDR mode captures up to 20 images in challenging lighting conditions while the Video-HDR setting uses single-image tone mapping or a special sensor mode (for the iPhone 6), and then offers a choice of light intensities and video resolutions.

Zoom mode aims to correct motion blur, though as with other modes, it’s best to hold your phone steady to avoid unexpected results. Hydra is designed for specialized circumstances as a complement to rather than a substitute for the built-in iPhone camera app, but it's great to have on hand for quiet, dark places.

Think you may end up printing low light photos from your trip? Hydra is worth having on hand.

ProCam 4
iOS | $4.99

ProCam 4 is a classic photographer’s app that aims to pack plenty of manual controls — as well as a robust photo editor — into your iPhone. Its wide assortment of settings comes in an easy-to-use format that won’t throw you off track when you’re in a hurry. The shooting app, which includes both photo and video mode, offers specialized settings like Night Mode, Burst Mode, Slow Shutter, Video, and Time Lapse.

You can manually select ISO, shutter speed, exposure, bracketing, white balance, and stabilization. A histogram helps with exposure settings, and in addition Raw support, manual focus, and focus peaking are offered. If you have an iPhone 7 Plus, try shooting some Wigglegram 3D photos with the iSight Duo camera — two photos taken at the same time by each of the phone's cameras alternate in quick succession to produce a 3D effect that you can save as a GIF or video. In addition to broad shooting options, you can also edit photos and videos with controls for saturation, white balance, exposure, brightness and contrast, perspective correction, and a mix of special effects filters.

If your smartphone is occasionally asked to stand in for your dedicated camera, ProCam is worth downloading for its complete set of manual controls.

Google Street View
iOS/Android | Free

While you’re hiking the trail or strolling the city, anytime is a good time to create a Google Street View 360-degree photo. You can shoot it right from the app on your iPhone — no special equipment needed. The app does most of the work of indicating when to shoot as you pick a scenic spot and start rotating your body to follow the orange circle on your screen. Start with your phone’s camera and follow the app prompts until you have all angles of your image filled in.

As you shoot, the circle automatically repositions itself to help you complete your photo. When you're done, the app stitches the panels together. Then, publish to Google Maps to share your photo spheres. The app lets you manage public and private images, observe contributions from others, and view your captures in Cardboard mode with a VR viewer. You can also share your photo spheres on Facebook, Twitter, or privately via email.

Those who rarely use their smartphone camera may still enjoy Google Street View's easy 360-degree photo creation and documentation features. Plus, it's a handy way to scope out nearby locations for photo opportunities.

iOS | $3.99

Enlight is an advanced mobile photo shooter and editor that works independently or with the iOS photos app to offer advanced editing options and visual effects. With its hide-show main menu, coupled with a tap-and-drag interface, you get total control over your photo's details, tone, color, and special effects. Each menu item opens into a variety of options, letting you crop, adjust, apply filters, sharpen, and add a host of artistic elements using adjustable presets, tools, and masks.

Masking features let you blend effects, while artistic and film-based presets let you add grain, black and white conversion, sketching effects, patterned surfaces, and more. A photo mixer lets you merge two photos together for double exposure, and montage. Enlight’s art filters can transform your photo into a watercolor, oil painting, or sketch. Want to start with the basics? No problem: Simple improvements like crop, skew, color adjustment, and healing are available, and then easily combined with decorative borders and frames, vignette lighting, gradients, and vintage filters. Top it off with doodles, decals, special effects, and customized text.

If you'd like your camera to come with a side of stylized editing options, consider Enlight.

Best free and paid options

These five apps work well, especially for the popular, specialized shots and circumstances for which they were designed. But if you only want to download one or two before you hit the road, here are our picks.

Best free option

The only free app in the group — Google Street View for iOS or Android — is a standout in its own right. With this app, dipping a toe into 360-degree image creation requires no special camera or photographic skill. The app's integrated instructions provide everything you need to start shooting and posting impressive scenic landscapes that viewers worldwide can enjoy. If you're carrying a dedicated camera, it provides a nice way to complement your traditional photos with something a little bit different – and with no penalty of carrying an extra device.

Best paid option

On the paid side, ProCam 4 gets the nod as the best app for its range of pro-level options, including detailed shooting controls, DSLR-style functionality, Raw support, and a variety of editing features.

The apps above are a tiny sample of creative mobile photo shooters and editors. If you have a favorite that was not mentioned, be sure to share it in the comments.