Tip of The Week: Our favorite iPad photography applications

Tip of The Week: Our favorite iPad photography applications

Every Thursday, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at blog@borrowlenses.com.

Visuals, by Vincent Laforet

Visuals, by Vincent Laforet

This week’s tip is a list of recommendations for iPad owners. Since it was released, the iPad has been used by many photographers as a mobile portfolio, a reference tool, and even as – yes, we’re serious – a light source for photography. Some enterprising photographers have released their own apps for instructional purposes and one National Geographic photographer even gave up his website in favor of an iPad app.

Clearly, the iPad has a lot to offer to photographers.

With that in mind, here are our pics for iPad apps for photographers. We’ve broken this down into three sections: Photographer Showcases, Instructional, and Photo Utilities.

Photographer Showcase

  • Visuals by Vincent Laforet: Most people know Vince Laforet for his video work on projects like Reverie, Mobius and Nocturne. But did you know that Vincent is a Pulitzer-prize winning still photographer who was on the staff of The New York Times? This app is a collection of some of his favorite works, and is divided into categories like “Aerials”, “Man & Nature”, “Tilt-Shift” and more. Each image is accompanied by camera settings and commentary on the making of that image. Moreover, you can also buy prints of his images (though be warned, these prints are often signed, limited editions and are priced accordingly). Definitely worth a look!
  • 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic: When you think of photography, few publications spring to mind as quickly as National Geographic. Here, the venerable magazine publishes what it considers to be its 50 greatest images, along with a “Behind the Photograph” commentary on each one. Some images also include a video that goes a bit further behind the story.
  • Lenny Kravitz, photographed by Andrew Zuckerman for the Music app

    Lenny Kravitz, photographed by Andrew Zuckerman for the Music app

    Music, by Andrew Zuckerman: A showcase of dynamic portraits of over fifty musicians, including Lenny Kravitz, Herbie Hancock and Fiona Apple, Andrew Zuckerman brings a clean, minimalist app to the iPad. Packed with portraits, interviews and video of each artist, Zuckerman’s work is worth seeing for any photographer even remotely interested in music.

  • Michael Nichols: When Michael “Nick” Nichols ditched his website in favor of an iPad app to show off his images, he polarized his audience. Some called him ignorant for alienating those of his audience who would not buy an iPad. Some thought he was limiting his market. Others yet were annoyed at having to pay $3.99 for viewing his work. Personally, I think his work is simply marvelous, and the experience of flipping around an iPad app makes the $3.99 totally worth it. The app also includes videos and commentary by Nichols and is something of an education as well.
  • Avian Wallpaper by Scott Bourne: He left a lucrative and long-running wedding photo business to photograph birds. In this simple app, whose only purpose is to provide your iPad or iPhone with wallpaper images, Scott Bourne shows us some of his evocative and brilliant images. Our favorite: the geese flying across the dark orange sky.


Okay, it can’t be helped: Scott Kelby and his crew end up dominating this category. Kelbytraining.com is already one of the most prominent photographic training companies on the planet, so it’s no surprise that he and his crew have dipped into the world of iPad apps.

Kelby Training iPad app

Kelby Training iPad app

  • Kelby Training: Back in September, we named Kelbytraining.com as one of our top 5 learning resources for photographers. It should come as no surprise, then, to see the iPad app for the service on this list. We’re not choosing winners, but if we were, this would take the cake in this category. You’ll need a subscription to Kelby Training, but if you don’t have that already, well, what are you waiting for? This app brings all their videos and programs to the iPad – and it’s well worth the price of subscription.
  • Photo Recipes 1 and Photo Recipes 2, by Scott Kelby: Since we’re at it, let’s give it up for Scott Kelby again. These are two separate apps, priced at $20 each, but they are worth the price. Taken from his popular “The Digital Photography Book” series, Scott has compiled setups from those books – including information on lighting, posing, gear and location – into a series of “recipes” that he breaks down in these two iPad apps. Also available as DVDs, the iPad apps are a much better way of viewing this info.
  • Life Digital Photo Guide, by Joe McNally

    Life Digital Photo Guide, by Joe McNally

    Life Digital Photo Guide: Look, here’s the thing. You should buy this app, especially if you’re just getting started with digital photography. Why? Two words: Joe McNally. The veteran Life and National Geographic photographer puts this awesome resource together for both the amateur and the pro. There is often something to be learned from going back to basics, and when the basics are presented by Joe McNally, that “often” becomes “always”.

  • Lights, Camera, Capture: Bob Davis is an awesome photographer. His clients have included celebrities like Eva Longoria and Oprah Winfrey, and his experience means that his workshops often fill up quickly. Now, in this $9.99 app, he breaks down a lot of the info presented in his workshops, including over 100 videos from those workshops. Lighting setups and photo tips, along with large, detailed images makes this instructional app an engaging experience.

Photo Utilities

Well, Photoshop Touch is on its way to iOS, but it looks like Android tablet users are getting first crack at it. We’ll cover it when it’s out for the iPad, but in the meantime, there’s no shortage of photo utilities for the iPad.

  • FilterStorm Pro

    FilterStorm Pro

    Filterstorm Pro: Folks, this is as close to Photoshop on a tablet as it gets. It’ll open your iPad photo library (including RAW files), apply edits like crops, scale, borders and size, as well as filters, sharpening, noise reduction, curves and exposure adjustment. Add to that the ability to do cloning and work with layers and, well, wow. No content-aware fill, though – yet?

  • Snapseed: Nik Software is well-known for its desktop apps like Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro. They have become staples in the arsenal of many of the pros out there, and now they bring their expertise to the iPad. Snapseed lets you add filters and effects to your images and does so with aplomb, allowing the use of desktop-level features like selective adjust and support for RAW images up to 16MP on the iPad 2. Definitely worth the $4.99 price tag.
  • Adobe Nav: This little app lets you turn your iPad display into a toolbar for Photoshop. It might seem hokey at first, but there’s a lot to be said for sitting back at a distance from your keyboard, mouse, and display with a Wacom tablet in your hand and the iPad propped up as a touch-toolbar next to you. It may not be for everybody, but dang – it sure is useful.
  • Easy Release: It might not be glamorous or sexy, but man, is it useful. For anyone who shoots people or architecture, you need this app. It holds templates for model and property releases, lets you capture digital signatures, generate and email PDFs, and more. It’s become an indispensable app on my iPad.
  • Photocalc: Okay, so this is an iPhone app, but it does run on the iPad as well, albeit in an emulation mode. Still, it’s one of the best apps out there for doing calculations like depth of field, hyper focal distance and circle of confusion. In case you had no idea what those things are, there’s a list of definitions in the app too. There’s also a sunrise/sunset calculator and a reference section and more.

That’s it for our list! Remember, the iPad is a tool for photographers, not the platform for an ideological debate. Like any tool, some people will like it, others will not. We present these tips with the assumption that they’ll be useful for you, not to create controversy or spark off an Android vs. iOS debate. We hope you’ll take this post in the spirit with which it was intended.

Have you got a favorite app for the iPad that pertains to photography? Post it in the comments below!

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter or find him at anymedium.com.


  1. I’ve tried to use the new Filterstorm for several days now. On the iPad 1, it’s a virtual crash machine. I don’t know how many wasted hours I’ve spent trying to apply complicated filtering.

    Also, it takes an incredibly long time to save an image… and half the time it crashes before completing the save!!

    And layers?? I have yet to discover how to layer various images on top of one another. This is something that a true layers app (like PhotoForge2) does with ease. Am I missing something here?? If so, please tell me how to bring-in various images into Filterstorm’s layers.

    • You’re right – Filterstorm Pro doesn’t do layering of multiple images – that feature is, I believe, limited to layering effects for a single image. We haven’t tried PhotoForge2, but we will take a look at it.


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