5 photo/video apps for awesome travel shots

5 photo/video apps for awesome travel shots

No more over-saturated, under-exposed nightmares -- pro photog John Barnett picks the smartest apps for smart phone photos

Imagine you just hit the base of Mount Everest.

The sun is rising, the mist is evaporating, but your heavy DSLR camera is buried deep inside your bag. 

Even if you manage to get it out in time, there's shutter speed and aperture and tripod position and more to worry about before you can capture the moment.

Which explains why one professional photographer is going a different route.

"My iPhone was the camera I reached for," says John Barnett, a professional photographer who found himself in exactly the situation described above. 

It was the first time the power of iPhoneography struck him.

John Barnett: "You will probably end up capturing that beautiful once-in-a-lifetime moment with your phone, not your other camera." "You have your mobile phone with you 99% of the time, so you'll probably end up capturing that beautiful once-in-a-lifetime moment with your phone, not your other camera," he says.

Barnett is now the co-founder and producer of Bright Mango, developer of Wood Camera photography app. He also led iPhonegraphy photo walks in Italy in 2011.

Here are his picks for best apps and tips for being a smart(phone) photographer.

Tips on iPhoneography

"Remember to try and get closer to your subject -- zooming in with your phone just decreases the quality and size of your images," says Barnett. "It's better to get as close as you can."

"Also, try to take some time and select a few images from your phone and have them printed out. Most people have years of digital images and very, very few actual printed copies.

"I encourage people to print a few special images each year -- it's easy with apps like Shutterfly that allow you to make prints straight from your Instagram photos."

Best photo apps

1. Slow Shutter Cam

Slow ShutterLines of light made better on the iPhone.

Strengths and weaknesses

Barnett: "The best iPhone app for capturing light trails and blurred movement. It can be difficult to get a good shot without a small tripod or propping the iPhone so it's steady during the shot. I use the Glif tripod adapter to attach my iPhone to a tripod when I can't steady it on something."

What it's best for

Barnett: "Slow Shutter is best for capturing night scenes and movement. Traffic at night or shots of moving water look especially cool with Slow Shutter Cam."


Barnett: "I usually use the 'automatic' mode or the 'light trail' mode. Try to prop the iPhone on its side or use something to keep it completely steady during capture -- any movement will cause the whole image to be blurred."

Available on the app store, US$0.99.

2. ProHDR

A good app for those who consistently over/under expose.

Strengths and weaknesses

Barnett: "Best solution for creating 'high dynamic range' (HDR) images on iPhone. It's easy to use the automatic mode and full control with the manual mode if desired. But the 'HDR look' can be overdone."

What it's best for

Barnett: "Best for landscapes and scenes that contain very dark areas and very light areas. ProHDR allows the user to capture two images of dark and light exposure in quick succession, and then combine the images into a single HDR image.

"A sky full of bright clouds will become dramatic, while the darker parts of the scene will be properly exposed and balanced with the bright sky.

"Also, try turning the saturation all the way down on a finished HDR image -- black and white HDR image can be awesome."


Barnett: "Hold the iPhone steady while the two light and dark images are being captured -- this will help the images line up and will prevent ghosting and blurred areas where the two shots weren't aligned very well.

"Keep in mind that the more extreme the light and dark areas you select, the more extreme the resulting HDR image will be. In manual mode, try to find a happy medium -- don't put your selection directly on the sun, or in the darkest area of the frame -- move the light and dark selections around until you find just the right spots.

"Use the brightness, contrast and saturation controls to make the image less extreme and more like what our eyes see."

Available on the app store and Google Market, US$1.99.

3. Wood Camera

All-in-one hipster photo app.

Strengths and weaknesses

Barnett: "An app for editing tools like brightness, contrast, saturation, straightening and sharpening. The app offers a bunch of full adjustable filters, textures, frames and also tilt-shift and vignette.

"Wood Camera uses a 'lightbox' to help organize and streamline the editing experience, so the user can import a batch of images, make the desired edits, share to social networks and save to the camera roll, and the images are still readily available in the lightbox for re-editing or sharing later.

"Wood Camera also has the option to share directly to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook."

What it's best for

Barnett: "Wood Camera works for any type of photo -- there are editing options for pretty much every situation. All of the 'lenses' are fully adjustable and have individual controls for tweaking and controlling each aspect of the image for the desired edit."


Barnett: "Find a lens that you like, and then play around with the brightness/contrast/saturation options. Each image needs a slightly different set of adjustments to get that perfect look.

"If you're wanting lots of black and white options, try turning down the saturation slider -- every lens in Wood Camera can be turned into a unique black and white filter by just turning the saturation all the way down."

Available on the app store, US$0.99.

Note: Barnett is the co-founder of Bright Mango, developer of Wood Camera photography app.

4. Diptic

Instead of spamming your friends' Facebook newsfeeds with 10 pics, you can do it with one.

Strengths and weaknesses

Barnett: "The perfect app for creating collages with your photos. Contains tons of customizable layouts for collages of up to nine images."

What it's best for

Barnett: "Diptic works with any type of image, and is especially fun for creating one big collage with highlights from a trip or a special event like a birthday or holiday. Use Diptic to tell a story with your images."


Barnett: "Don't be overwhelmed by the 165-plus layout options. Start with something simple and then adjust the aspect ratio and shape of the layout. Try connecting your Facebook account when importing images -- you can easily import photos straight from your Facebook albums to use in a collage."

Available on the app store, US$0.99.

5. 8mm Vintage Camera

The app that made an Oscar-winning documentary.

Strengths and weaknesses

Barnett: "8mm Vintage Camera is the easiest way to shoot 'retro' looking videos with your iPhone. You can also apply effects to existing videos."

What it's best for

Barnett: "8mm Vintage Camera works for almost any situation. The finished video looks like it came straight out of an old box of film from decades ago. The different films and lenses give you dozens of options for color and graininess."


Barnett: "When using the app, note that you can choose to record audio, or mute the sound for making a silent movie. You can also include a projector sound for added authenticity."

Director Malik Bendjelloui finished his documentary, "Searching For Sugar Man," with the 8mm Vintage Camera app. See the director's interview with CNN Money.

Available on the app store, US$1.99.

More on CNN: Appy Traveler: Best new apps for travelers