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Paolo Di Lorenzo

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ios / iOS Photography Workflow
05 Jun 2018 • by Paolo Di Lorenzo

Photography is one of my hobbies, complementing my other hobbies of traveling and hiking quite well. The modern smartphone allows anyone to take exceptional photos with little extra cost (though I do have a Nikon D3400 and a few lenses if I need something fancier).

In this article I’m going to list the apps that I use in my photography pipeline, all the way from capturing to publishing. I am by no means an expert photographer (nor have I tested all of the apps in each category) but this is the setup I use if you’re looking for some inspiration.

I welcome any suggestions or feedback on Twitter.

The main steps in my iOS photography are as follows:

  1. Capture
  2. Manage
  3. Edit
  4. Publish

Capture

Halide

Halide

Halide is a relatively new camera app with a beautiful design and excellent pro features. It allows the user to set the exposure, focus, ISO, and white balance. Recently it added some features that take advantage of depth photography on phones with dual cameras. Most importantly, Halide allows RAW photo capture, which provides the ability to finely edit every aspect of the photo later on. I use Halide for most pictures I take, and have added its widget to the Today screen so I can quickly access it from the lock screen. My biggest issue with Halide is that the photo preview is a bit laggy when planning around, unlike the stock Camera app which is perfectly smooth. This may be a third party app limitation with the camera frameworks on iOS. However this is mostly a non-issue given the functionality and design present in Halide.

Camera

Despite the feature set and design of Halide, it’s difficult to ignore the stock Camera app built into iOS. Since it is built into the lock screen (swipe left) it is always going to be the fastest way to take a picture. I use the stock Camera app for all video capture and Live Photos. Occasionally I will use it for photos if I want to take a picture quickly. The biggest downside is that it currently can not capture photos in a RAW format. For this reason I continue to use Halide for most photo capture from my phone.

Manage

Best Photos Metapho

Best Photos

Best Photos is a great utility that allows you to quickly filter through all of the photos in your library and delete unneeded ones. It also allows quick favoriting of each as you move through he library.

Photos

The stock Photos app on iOS is the central hub of my photo management workflow. All of my photos are collected in the Photos app and it is from here that I share them to other platforms. I use iCloud Photo Library to sync my photos to all of my devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc.). I also recently purchased a Lightning to SD Card adapter to import DSLR photos right to my iOS devices. This allows me to skip the MacBook Pro altogether as the starting point of the workflow when using the DSLR.

Metapho

Metapho is a useful utility for reading and editing EXIF data, particularly dates and location. Sometimes a photo will not have a location set (if I forgot to open the Nikon SnapBridge app that links to my DSLR) and I can use Metapho to set those.

Edit

Darkroom Focos VSCO

Darkroom

Darkroom is my most used photo editing app on iOS. It provides lots of attributes that can be edited in RAW photos, including RGB curves and edits by color. It is closely integrated with Halide and contains a button to open Halide if it’s installed (Halide also has a button to open Darkroom). It also offers a lot of great filters and the ability to save more to edit future photos in a similar style.

Focos

Focos is an app centered around editing photos with depth maps, specifically those taken with Portrait Mode on iOS. 1 It features lots of different camera lens and effects to change the look of the background bokeh and also to visualize the depth maps. You can even separately edit and adjust the background and foreground within the depth map. I don’t use it too often but when I have a portrait photo I will open it in Focos to see if I can improve its look.

VSCO

I will occasionally open a photo in VSCO for editing. VSCO has one of the most comprehensive filter libraries of any apps I’ve seen and they work well for certain photos so I make it a point to jump in every now and then to see what I can create.

Publish

Instagram VSCO

Instagram

I usually post a selection of my final edited photos to Instagram. I try to post around one photo per month currently but I’m hoping to increase the frequency, especially now that I’ve tabulated my entire workflow. I share photos to Instagram directly from the Photos app using the share sheet. I have disabled camera, microphone, and photos access for Instagram for privacy reasons but sharing directly from Photos still works. I then edit the photo to add a location within Instagram. My Instagram page is @_dilorenzopl.

VSCO

I will occasionally post some more experimental photos to VSCO. This is still public but has much lower traffic than Instagram so I use it as a space to test certain styles and editing techniques but still have the results available for viewing. My VSCO page is @pld.

Extras

Clips Slow Shutter iMovie Hyperlapse Swipeable This list contains some apps that I don’t regularly use but do have some nice features for the special instances in which they are useful.

Clips

Clips was an interesting surprise when first released with iOS 10.3. It allows you to cleverly stitch together video clips and photos and overlay them with tons of effects, filters, and text. I haven’t made any full videos with it yet but it is fun to take out when on a hike or trip and just capture snippets of moments for reminiscing later on.

Slow Shutter

I’ve had Slow Shutter on my phone for quite some time, at least 4-5 years. It allows you to record long exposure shots with the phone. It essentially captures a short video and then overlays the differences between the frames to create a nice blurred effect (assuming the phone wasn’t moved during capture). This app is best used with a tripod or spot you can lean the phone against. Since iOS 11 was released however, I’ve been mostly using the long exposure Live Photo effect in the Photos app.

iMovie

iMovie is my video editor of choice, since it’s free and simple. I don’t usually record and edit video but when I need to string a few clips together and add some effects it gets the job done. It was finally updated to support the full iPhone X screen size.

Hyperlapse

Hyperlapse is a simple app by Instagram that allows the user to take time-lapses. The UI is dead simple and the only options are front or back camera and the speed of the time-lapse once its recorded. I find that it makes smoother videos than the built-in Camera app’s time-lapse functionality. I recorded a landscape during the August 2017 total solar eclipse using Hyperlapse.

Swipeable

Swipeable is a utility app that lets the user split a panorama into multiple images for easy sharing on Instagram. There’s an example on my Instagram page (swipe to see the whole panorama).

Some Final Tips

  • When traveling and taking photos, feel free to use Airplane Mode to save battery. Since iOS 8.3, the GPS still works on iPhone if Airplane Mode is on. I recently discovered this and it has helped greatly. 2
  • Nowadays you don’t need expensive equipment to take great photos if you already have any iPhone made in the last 5 years. Most of the actions described in this article can be done with the built in Camera and Photos app so if you have any interest, there’s nothing stopping you from getting out there and creating great photos.
  • If you do have a DSLR or other external camera, get a Lightning-to-SD Card adapter so you can import your photos right into the Photos app (and continue with the rest of the workflow directly).

  1. Darkroom just added depth editing in their latest update so I am eager to see how it works and compares to Focos. 

  2. I learned this on episode 19 of Query