Professional photographers often have one or more assistants. And for very good reason: They are a real help. But not all of us can either afford one or do the sort of photography where an assistant is billable to the client. Now there is a substitute for an assistant—an iPhone.
Having avoided the smart phone trend for some years I finally gave in and obtained an iPhone 3Gs in the 16GB version. The result has been pure joy and bliss, especially now that I have discovered that the iPhone can make a great photography assistant.
The flexible thing about the iPhone (and I suspect other smart phones, such as the new Google OS models) is the ability to add applications to the device. There are already a fair number of apps related specifically to photography plus a number of others that are very applicable to photographers. So let’s have a look at what I am using and how.
First, the iPhone comes with some highly effective standard apps. The email and web browser work well and allow me to function efficiently when in the field. A built-in Google Maps app has been very helpful. I am primarily a landscape photographer for my own personal work. Google Maps provides much of the functionality of Google Earth, which means I now can easily find exactly where I am when I wander off the beaten track. The ability to just follow roads and tracks that look promising without worrying about tracking my location on a map has made for more spontaneous exploration. Furthermore, the ability to overlap satellite views on the maps is wonderful for scouting out possible shooting locations. I made sure I connected to a network that offered great rural cell coverage. A bit of fiddling and using Google Calendar allows me to keep my appointment calendars updated on my phone and office computer. The built-in Notes and Voice Notes apps are good for capturing ideas when on location.
The first photography app I bought was Simple DOF. This handy little app will calculate the hyperfocal distance for you for any lens and camera body combination at any aperture you like. It also calculates the exact depth of field limits for a given point of focus and aperture. I tend to use this little app in two ways. For landscape work I often use the hyperfocal distance calculation, while with interiors, tabletop and macro I use the exact DOF calculation.
Another simple app, Phases, gives me the moon phase plus the moonrise and sunrise/sunset times locked to my GPS determined location.
myPantone is a stunning application. Basically it links in with the Pantone color system and can suggest harmonious color schemes from chosen color patches or by extracting colors from a photograph. I’ve already used this tool on one client website design. The app quickly allowed me to pull together a color palette my client liked from a picture of some of their favorite things.
Trails is a GPS app that will track your location and save it to a file. This location data can then be transferred to your computer and (with other software), matched to your images to GPS tag them. Again, this is absolutely brilliant for a landscape photographer who does not have GPS built into his cameras. The only downside of this app is that since the iPhone cannot multi-task, you have to have this app running as the main app while it is tracking. Thankfully the iPod and phone functions still work while it is active.
Evernote is a fantastic note making application that keeps your notes on a central server so they are easily synced to various devices. I use this all the time for shot lists, ideas, etc.
The last non-specifically photographic app is Things, a fantastic to-do list app that will sync with the Mac version of Things. Windows users can just use it on the iPhone, or find one of the similar applications for Windows and iPhone. Things allows for complex, multi-step to-do lists, with due dates, alarms and much more.
I’ve just skimmed the surface of apps for the iPhone, but these all meet my present needs. I do also run StarMapPro to help me predict night sky shots and identify what I can see in the sky.
Assistants are great, but an iPhone assistant can provide convenient and cost effective assistance for those of us without a human one. Give it a try.