Looking to improve your travel photography on the cheap? Rather than going out and spending a few thousand dollars on high-end gear, invest a couple of dollars in a better camera app for your smartphone instead.
While the standard Apple version does a reasonable job, it's no match for some of the third-party photography apps out there. Check out these four great iPhone apps that will help you take jealousy-inducing travel shots without breaking the bank.
645 Pro Mk III
Definitely aimed at those who are serious about their photography, the awkwardly-named 645 Pro Mk III is easily one of the most powerful smartphone camera apps out there.
With full control of exposure, white balance and focus, as well as shutter and ISO priority modes, it's about as close to a DSLR as you're going to get from something that makes phone calls and fits in your pocket.
Even the interface looks like what you'd find on a high-end camera, and it's not difficult to justify the $3.99 price tag. Just like a high-end camera, it'll take a little time to learn how to make the most of the app's features – but when you do, expect a noticeable improvement in your photos.
Another high-end camera app, Pro Camera has a long pedigree. It's always attracted photographers looking to get the most of their iPhone camera, and the latest version is no exception.
As well as total control of focus and white balance, the latest version adds multiple ways to set exposure levels on the fly, a new 'VividHDR' option that the company calls 'the world's best HDR on iOS 8' and slow motion video even for those with older iPhones.
Pro Camera 8 costs $4.99 on the app store, although VividHDR will set you back another $1.99 via in-app purchase.
Rather than focusing on semi-professional users, Camera+ ($2.99) is aimed more at those who just want a better photo with a minimum of fuss – and unlike many other apps in this space, it actually achieves it.
With useful features like stability control, flash fill and separate exposure and focus management, the app improves the quality of the initial photo before trying to enhance it automatically or manually.
The editing tools are reminiscent of those in Snapseed, focused on a better photo rather than garish filters.
Taking the opposite approach to most other camera apps, NightCap focuses on doing one specific task as well as possible.
Smartphone cameras traditionally perform badly in low light – as the millions of blurry, grainy night shots on Facebook prove – due mainly to their tiny lenses and sensors.With so little light entering the camera even under ideal conditions, it's no surprise they perform so poorly when the sun goes down.
NightCap analyses each scene and adjusts the exposure to capture as much light as possible. In many cases, this can result in a much sharper image than you'd get using a standard app, although for best results you're really going to need to balance your phone on a stationary object (or use a tripod).
If you're taking a lot of low-light photos on your travels, it's well worth the $0.99 investment (there's also a Pro version with more options for $1.99)
To really mix things up, Sun Seeker ($9.99) doesn't have any fancy controls or filters for your camera at all -- but it will still noticeably improve your travel shots. If you've ever had photos ruined by sun glare and overexposure, you'll greatly appreciate what the app has to offer.
It works in a variety of ways, depending on whether you're standing where you want to take the photo from or not. If so, the app overlays the screen with the current and projected sun position throughout the day, so you'll know the best time to shoot. You've also got the option of a flat, 2D compass view if you'd prefer.
You can also view the sun's arc for a different date, or even scope out shots in advance -- the app lets you choose anywhere on the planet, with 40,000+ cities and other locations built-in.