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App roundup: Accessory apps for the mobile photographer

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Whether you’re a DSLR shooter who uses a tablet and smartphone as an on-set accessory or a dedicated mobile photographer, your mobile device can be a valuable aid when you’re out in the field or on the go.

Perhaps more than you realize, thanks to some trusty apps.

There’s plenty of apps out there to enhance your photos or help with editing, but there are also some that can help you print photos, take light measurements or sign photo shoot contracts and more. We examine apps that aim to enhance your business activities, help you take better shots and find other pros with whom you can collaborate. Once you try them, you might wonder how you ever got along without them.

Kicksend

Price: Free; Requires iOS 4.3 or later, or Android 2.3 or later 

Kicksend is the ultimate personalized photo sharing app. Unlike Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you won’t be sharing photos with the social web. Instead, Kicksend lets you create curated lists of contacts to whom you can more privately send photos stored on your device. These contacts are stored in “Friends” lists. These friends can also send you photos, which are then stored on your device. Consider the app for quickly sharing a set of proofs from a shoot or editing session.

Sharing multiple photos requires only a few screen taps with Kicksend.
Kicksend can access and share any photo stored on your device.

Kicksend’s interface is intuitive: from the main menu, swipe to the right to access the photos stored on your device. Swipe to the left to see your list of stored contacts. Once you’ve accessed your photos, you can checkmark multiple photos for sharing -- up to 30 at a time. After you’ve made your selections, you have a variety of options: images can be shared with friends, emailed to contacts or sent to a Walgreens pharmacy for printing. Yeah, we’d rather choose our own printing service, too. But the functionality here works well if you’re in a pinch: it takes just a few taps to add Kicksend photos to a Walgreens print queue that you can physically access and print at one of the store’s locations.

What we like: An intuitive UI and private photo sharing lists.Kicksend also offers access to your device’s native camera and video recorder from most menus within the app, in case you need it. All in all, this app is simple to use and offers functionality that sets it above the competition. The ability to send up to 30 photos at a time is also a major plus.

What we don’t like: Photo printing from Walgreens. 

LightTrac

Price: $4.99; Requires iOS 3.0 or later, or Android 1.6 or later

Photographers who shoot outdoors and on the go need to take a serious look at LightTrac. The $4.99 app gives you a robust outdoor photography tool that can track where the sun will be at any time of day in any location. 

Once you input a location, the app tracks exactly where you’re standing. Then, users input a desired date and time for custom light readings. LightTrac displays a yellow bar that shows the angle of the sun at sunrise and a blue bar that displays the angle of the sun at sunset. A third red bar shows the sun’s angle at the time of day that you’ve selected.

LightTrac immediately displays your location and the light conditions there.
The app also provides helpful supplementary information, like elevation and azimuth charts.

The app is fast: in the blink of an eye you can calculate complex light settings for any location and date. LightTrac also offers a bevy of supplementary information via a bar at the top of the app menu. It will show you the phases of the moon (as well as moonrise and moonset times) for the date and location you’ve selected. It will also display sunrise and sunset times, as well as twilight dawn and dusk times. Other information includes elevation and azimuth charts for your location, as well as a height meter that will help you judge the length of shadows.

LightTrac is an incredible addition to your arsenal. The UI can seem cluttered at times, but once you wrap your head around the sheer wealth of information, you’ll be judging optimal shooting conditions in no time.

What we like: Fast and useful functionality; a one-stop shop for light tracking features.

What we don’t like: A cluttered UI that takes some getting used to.

Impression

Price: $1.99; Requires iOS 5.0 or later

Putting a simple watermark on your digital photos has never been easier. Open Impression and select a photo from your device’s album. Tap the watermark text and type your personal watermark. You can select from dozens of fonts, rotate the watermark 360 degrees and drag the watermark to any place on the photo.

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Impression also offers a few further manipulation functions to modify your watermark, including opacity, brightness, saturation and hue settings. Once a photo is watermarked, you can save a separate copy of the photo to your device or email it. The app does exactly what it advertises and does it well.

What we like: This app does just what it should, with a few basic editing features as well.

What we don't like: It's too bad we can't apply our watermark to numerous images at once.

Android alternative: Add Watermark, $1.99 from Google Play

Pocket Light Meter

Price: Free, ad-supported version or $0.99 ad-free version; Requires iOS 4.2 or later

Pocket Light Meter packs a lot of functionality for a free app. It gives you all the benefits of a traditional light meter in a portable, digital package. Download the app and you’ll be able to toggle various functions like shutter stops, aperture stops and ISO settings. When you tweak the time or ISO settings, the aperture setting adjusts to cope. You can also tap anywhere onscreen to take light readings.

Pocket Light Meter’s lets users toggle time, aperture and ISO settings.

Pocket Light Meter also lets you lock individual settings configurations. Another big plus here is Dropbox integration. Link the app to your Dropbox account and you can save various readings and setting configurations directly to the cloud. The mobile Dropbox app is also handy for sharing and storing images.

Pocket Light Meter is ad-supported, hence the price tag, but for $0.99 you can score the ad-free version. 

What we like: Easy to quickly and accurately take light readings, Dropbox integration.

What we don’t like: The ads in the free version become annoying quickly.

Android alternative: beeCam Light Meter, free from Google Plus

Find a Photographer

Price: Free; Requires iOS 3.2 or later

Looking for a qualified assistant? Need another pro photographer to pair with on an upcoming project? Just looking to broaden your professional network? When you need to get in touch with other qualified photographers, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has you covered.

ASMP has created a free digital resource for those looking to hire the organization’s members. The Find a Photographer app allows you to search for qualified photographers by city, state or country. Once you choose a location, you’ll be able to broaden your search up to 300 miles around the location of choice.

With Find a Photographer’s search functions, you can find photographers across the world based on location or specialty—and you’ll be able to vet their portfolios.
 Click on the photographers listed in your search results for further details about their work.

The ASMP app also lets you search by specialty: the photographer profiles list everything from automotive and conceptual to fashion/beauty and sports as specialties. Once you search, a list of results displays all the photographers registered with the ASMP that meet your criteria. Each photographer lists their contact information, specialties and locations they serve. You can also delve deeper into their work history by tapping “View Portfolio” or save photographer profiles to a favorites list for later viewing. For a free app, there’s a lot of value here: it’s great to have location- and specialty-based searches for photographers that you know have some sort of pedigree to back up their skills.

Though we couldn't find a direct companion app for international photographers' associations, Find a Photographer does work worldwide. 

What we like: Takes the work out of finding qualified, reliable professionals. 

What we don’t like: It would be nice to see a version for Android users.

SoftBox Pro

Price: $2.99; Requires iOS 5.0 or later

SoftBox Pro turns your phone or tablet into a portable mini lighting accessory.

The UI couldn’t be more straightforward: set your device’s brightness settings to maximum, fire up the app and select a lighting pattern, color and shape, then prop your device up or use a tripod to light your subject. The app works better on a tablet, with more screen space to light larger subjects (there is also a dedicated iPad version of the app). You can select a square, circular, diamond or hexagonal pool of light (among other shapes). You can also toggle the brightness levels of the light, as well as display different patterns of light, such as a checkerboard pattern or a grid of light and shadow.

SoftBox Pro lets your phone or tablet cast artificial lighting onto your scene in many shapes and colors.
After you select your lighting pattern, prop up your device or use a tripod to direct your new light source.

The app also offers a range of colored light, aside from the standard white. Once you’ve tweaked your settings, simply point your device toward your subject and start snapping. For those who want more lighting options, you can also augment the $2.99 app with a $0.99 expansion pack that offers more lighting grids, new shapes and more light colors to choose from. To quickly transform a device you have with you into a varied, controllable light source in a dark setting, SoftBox Pro serves a specific purpose well for $2.99.

What we like: Easy to use and offers tons of lighting options.

What we don’t like: At $2.99 for the app, why is there a need for a $0.99 expansion pack?

Android alternative: SoftBox, $1.99 from Google Play

Photographers Contract Maker

Price: $2.99 for iOS version, or $9.99 for Android version; Requires iOS 5.0 or later, or Android 2.1 or later

When you need legal documents on the go, Photographers Contract Maker has you covered. 

Photographers can choose from four different contract templates: a standard photo shoot contract, a model release form, a copyright release form and a work-for-hire contract if you’re using a second photographer on your shoot. Each contract template has fill boxes for the client (and witnesses, if necessary), as well as entry fields for the shoot date and time.

You’ll be able to pre-load your information and that of clients’ into the app, as well as upload your contact list from your device. Once clients are loaded and the contract’s fields are filled out, the app displays a preview of the completed contract with standard legalese that you can edit with the tap of a finger. You can then email the contracts to yourself and the client after they sign them right on your device. The app lets you pre-load your own signature for even faster contract signing.

Photographers Contract Maker offers four contract templates: a standard photo shoot contract, a model release form, a copyright release form and a work-for-hire contract.

This app features a minimal interface, but offers some great functionality for photography business owners. At $2.99, it’s a must-have for photographers who want to take the business end of their shoots digital. 

What we like: Great functionality for the price; serves a real business need for photographers. 

What we don’t like: The user interface could use a face lift.

Easy Release

Price: $9.99; Requires iOS 3.2 or later, or Android 1.6 or later

Whereas Photographers Contract Maker drafts simple contracts that are perfect for straightforward jobs, Easy Release gives you several more options for drafting contracts, namely the ability to add your own custom logo to contracts and support for multiple languages. However, the app seems more daunting than Photographers Contract Maker: you’ll be required to input many pieces of information to create a contract when you begin from scratch. The Easy Release UI just isn’t as easy as you might think. I liked Contract Maker’s ability to upload and save contact information, and the UI when filling out information fields made a lot more sense.

Easy Release offers support for contracts in multiple languages and the ability to insert your logo into a contract.

Easy Release does address just about all of a photographer’s contract needs. But with a hefty price tag for an app at $9.99, photographers who need straightforward, easy-to-use digital contract functions might want to look to this app’s cheaper competitor.

What we like: Support for contracts in multiple languages and branding options for each contract you create.

What we don't like: The price tag.

Comments

Total comments: 6
jennyphoto99

Photography Assignment Generator Apps!!!
They give you awesome ideas and inspiration for taking photographs, whether you have an SLR or are just an iphone photographer like me!
Tons of assignments, great example images, random objects, places, scavenger hunt lists...there is a daily reminder for those taking on a 365 day photo challenge!
I love it!!!!

0 upvotes
Tan68

I started with Oliver's recommendation and began hunting. I ended up with Sun Surveyor. DPR included this appl in "Android and iOS App Tools For Photographers" in Nov 2011. http://www.dpreview.com/articles/5721153845/android-and-ios-app-tools-for-photographers

I am not sure I can say Sun Surveyor ($6.49) is worth the additional money if you have, like me, already purchased LightTrac. However, the features Sun Surveyor offers are worth the additional $6.49 to me. I can say the extra $1.50 for Sun Surveyor versus LightTrac is well spent.

Over LightTrac, Sun Surveyor offers a 'compass view' that is nice. With the phone held up in front of you, the compass view shows an elevation illustrating angle of sun (and/or moon) above the horizon.

Sun Surveyor has map view as does LightTrac. With Sun Surveyor, I can search for Svartifoss and, bam, there it is. I can also enter coordinates. If it is possible to do these things with LightTrac, I couldn't find the way. For Android.

0 upvotes
Tan68

Sun Surveyor also lets you take screen shots of the information you have displayed. The screenshot is saved in a directory called 'Sun Surveyor' and is ready to attach to an email. If you want a screen shot but don't want to email it, just initiate the routine and cancel when you are asked which email application to use. The screenshot will have already been saved and you can grab it later.

By default, the timezone source is set for 'Local Network'. That works well unless you are trying to check locations in a different timezone. I set it to 'Auto' and things are good for, say, Iceland, but the change from Daylight Savings Time is not respected here in the US Central Time Zone. I am warned by an asterisk next to the time shown in the application. UTC zones can be selected, too.

As with LightTrac, it is easy to set dates and times in the future to see what conditions will be like. The calendar in Sun Surveyor can be synched with the device clock or operated independently.

0 upvotes
Oliver Lang

I would recommend the "Sun Seeker" app on iOS as an alternative app for evaluating the directions of light during the day.

It also has a great 3D view that can help you judge the impact of buildings and other tall objects that are in the path of the sun.

0 upvotes
Tan68

The LightTrac application for Android is disappointing. I have version 3 operating system.

The Sunrise, Sunset, Elevation, & Azimuth fields just show --. I have only the blue line and red line. The blue line is oriented for sunrise and the red line does not move regardless of time chosen. The blue line does not move regardless of date chosen.

I have allowed plenty of time for any calculations to be made and tested this both with cell network connection and WiFi with GPS either on or off.

This sounded like a useful thing and I installed it without reading much further. A tip to me should been that the last review on the Android Marketplace was over 1.5 years ago... Comments at the marketplace vary from works to doesn't. I wonder what the experience was of DPR staff; has the Android version been installed (on any DPR devices) ?

I can't say this wouldn't work for all Android devices. I can say it will not work for some Android devices.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Tan68

I tried to edit my comment above to reflect that the application finally started working... Below is how I intended my updated comment to read. Sorry for confusion...

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The LightTrac application for Android is (not so) disappointing. I have version 3 operating system. ....

Mercy.

I had just written a note that this application did not work for me. My sunset line was missing and the sunrise and sunset times just showed -- and etc.

I was about to use the refund button. I thought I would try one more time and things are working. I had been fooling with the thing for over 20 minutes.

Now I have the 'more info' screen that shows twilight times and etc.

When I navigated to a location using the map, none of the lines or times updated. I saved this location, 'Save Current location', and things updated.

I don't see the fancy shadows graph, but at least it works now.

If you install this for Android and things appear to not work... Give it some time. Whew.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 6
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