In early October, I traveled with my wife, Pam, and our good friends Jason and Heather Forgey to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Needless to say, it was the most amazing vacation I’ve ever been on, and at the same time it started many Facebook conversations among my fellow hardworking videographer friends with comments such as, “You actually get to go on vacations?” My answer: Yes. My advice: Get out of the studio; there’s a lot more to life than shooting video. In planning to head to paradise, I seriously considered taking PixelPops’ superslick Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera (which seems to be all the rage right now in the filmmaking world). Ultimately, I decided against it and figured my compact Apple iPhone would work best, since I’d already be using it for listening to tunes on the beach. I didn’t really want to be burdened with the thought of traveling to a foreign country with the 5D in tow and exposing it to lots of sand and customs patrols.
Enter the App
I became even more convinced when, just days before our trip, I stumbled onto an iPhone app called The Best Camera designed by Chase Jarvis (Figure 1, below). Simply put, the filtering it applies to photos is absolutely phenomenal, and it solidified my decision to opt for the iPhone over the 5D for my travels.
Don’t get me wrong: No application is going to make bad photos look like they were taken by a pro, but The Best Camera and the way it filters colors goes a long way toward making a blah photo quite extraordinary! I recently posted about 30 of my shots to my Facebook page, and one of my friends came back and said something along the lines of, “I take a $1,000 camera with me to the Grand Canyon and get junk, you take a freaking cell phone and come back with ART!”
How it Works
Here’s how it works: First, you’ll need to buy the app for your iPhone (assuming you have one, which is obviously a prerequisite for being able to use the app). It’s a mere $2.99 at the time of this writing. Once installed, simply launch the app, and along the bottom of the interface you’ll see four icons. The camera icon launches your camera, and the rectangular icon allows you to import photos. The arrow icon allows you to upload your photos to www.thebestcamera.com, Facebook, or Twitter; you can also email them to your friends or save them to your iPhone camera roll
(Figure 2, below). I normally just save my photos to my camera roll for safekeeping.
Finally, the globe icon allows you to see online what other people are uploading in the way of Best Camera photos. My workflow is that I simply take a ton of photos like normal using the regular iPhone camera and then later tweak my photos in The Best Camera.
Using the Filters
Once you take or load in a photo, you’ll see circular icons, each of which will add a different filter to your image when you press it. The currently available filters are Jewel, Paris, Slate, Candy (all signature filters that create cool looks instantly), Light, Dark, Fade, Contrast, Warm, Cool, Desaturate, Vignette, Square, and Frame (Figure 3, below).
As you apply a filter, Best Camera is actually remembering your filter settings. Once you have the look you like, you can click the double circles in the upper right of the interface to see all the effects you’ve applied to your photo. Don’t like an effect? No problem—click it and it’s gone! You can even reorder effects for different looks. It’s about as easy as it gets to add amazing and distinctive “looks” to your imagery.
Ultimately, what I did for my images was to import them into Photoshop and add borders and black frames, but 99% of the look was achieved directly from within The Best Camera (Figure 4, below). I also love that by being able to immediately filter your images and then upload to Facebook or Twitter, you can really give a much more polished look to your photos when you’re on-the-go without having to wait until you get home to work in Photoshop.
If you’ve been reading my articles long enough, you know that I love simplicity when it comes to creating cool things. And admittedly, there are few apps on the iPhone that I consider must-haves, but clearly this is one of them. The Best Camera is definitely one of the most useful iPhone apps on the market. Bravo Chase Jarvis on a job well done!
Lance Gray (lance at pixelpops.com) is the chief creative pixelmonkey at PixelPops Design, LLC. For questions, thoughts, or ideas, simply email him.