Take Better Pictures with your iPhone (Part I)

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #121

I’ve always been obsessed with photography. It all began in middle school with an elective photography class. With a cheap point-and-shoot camera in hand, and a tiny low-budget darkroom in my basement, I dreamed of becoming a world-class photographer.

That didn’t happen, but my love of photography never waned. Over the years I’ve bought and sold dozens of cameras, lenses, and accessories, and shot half a million (or more) photos.

Now I’ve always believed that serious photography required serious camera equipment, which meant an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera with interchangeable lenses. So for most of my life I’ve used an SLR camera when I wanted great results. But shooting with an SLR is a big production, requiring a bag of gear including a spare camera body, lenses, lights, reflectors, tripods, and more.

That’s why these days the iPhone 6 Plus has become my go-to camera for most occasions. While it’s true that the iPhone doesn’t come with interchangeable lenses, or offer control over f-stops, shutter speeds, white balancing, and other features you might find in a “real” camera, that doesn’t mean it can’t take some incredible pictures. There’s an old saying that the best camera is the one that’s with you and since my iPhone is always with me, it’s usually the best camera.

Now the iPhone camera is good, but I use a handful of third-party apps and accessories to make it even better by adding SLR-like functionality and features not found in the iOS Camera  app.

There are dozens of camera apps in the App Store, and after trying a bunch of ‘em, my favorite by far (at least at the moment) is called 645 Pro Mk III ($3.99 on iTunes). This nifty camera app offers a bevy of SLR-like features such as manual exposure control, semi-automatic Shutter Priority and ISO Priority, spot or matrix metering, exposure compensation, white balancing, plus manual focus override and focus-peaking. It also provides SLR-quality feedback via real-time exposure metering, shutter-speed readings, GPS data, and a choice of histograms.

The 645 Pro Mk III’s information display even looks like a DSLR.

I’m having a ball playing with its “Film Mode,” which lets you apply the look of different types of film stock to images. What’s cool is that you can also save an unprocessed version if you care to.

Shooting on classic film stock is fun and non-destructive.

Another feature I appreciate is the ability to save photos as high-resolution uncompressed TIFF files.

645 Pro Mk III isn’t the only camera app that offers SLR-like capabilities, but it’s the most capable and easiest to use of the ones I’ve tried. And while it’s probably the least expensive camera I’ve ever bought ($3.99), it has a beautiful user interface and is a pleasure to use. 

The bad news is that a great camera app is only part of the solution. Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion: Three accessories every iPhone photographer needs.

And that’s all he wrote…