Apple Watch, iphone photo, mobile photography

I’ve had my new Apple Watch for a few days. I bought the cheapest one I could get away with, but did get the larger size due to my bulky wrist.

It’s a very nice debut for a 1.0 product. I haven’t seen any glitches, and the battery life has been more than adequate. I’ve used it pretty heavily because it is new, and I usually turn in at night with 30-40% battery life remaining.

I was particularly interested in how the Apple Watch related to iPhone photography, and the answers are pretty positive. For apps that are compatible, you get the ability to control your iPhone camera without having to touch it. Pretty nice for tripod shots, and it’s a similar advantage to having a cable release on a DSLR. No touching means no vibration. Really helpful in low light situations, and especially helpful with time exposures. It’s also nice for getting into those selfies.

I tried using the watch as a remote on several camera apps, starting with Apple’s own app. Actually, and not surprisingly, it worked the best. Unlike the other apps, Your watch can actually launch the app from your watch. You can set focus and white balance remotely, and take a photo instantly or ask for a three second delay. It worked fine. You can switch to square photos from the normal aspect ratio on the phone, but not control that from the watch. Remote video isn’t possible. If you try, the watch sets your iPhone back to photo mode.

Apps are loaded to the watch from your iPhone using the Apple Watch app. Any apps that will run on the watch are listed within the app, you just have to flip an install button.

I tried some of the other compatible apps. Camera+ had similar controls, but the app has to be up and running on your iPhone or the remote won’t work. ProCamera spun the cursor for awhile, then suggested I launch the app on the iPhone too. Same with Hydra. It’s clearly not the developers fault. Apple is going to have to grant them more permissions. Maybe in the new SDK that will get announced in a couple of days. Instagram also has an Apple Watch extension.

If you are using an app without a watch extension, you can use the Apple Watch digital Crown as a remote shutter IF the app supports using your iPhone volume control as the shutter.

Over time we will see more and more apps Apple Watch enabled, and I think shortly we will see native apps for the iPhone, not just these extensions. I’m also looking for companies like Nikon and Canon to offer apps that will remotely trigger their DSLRs with the watch.

All the Apple watch camera apps are pretty simple so far. As mentioned, no remote video, no automated long exposures. What you do get is a helpful way to take pictures away from your camera, and all these apps provide viewing the live scene before you take the picture, and you can view the result on your watch too. Turning the digital crown lets you zoom in and out.

Clearly, we’ll see more and more from the Apple watch in terms of integration with photography. Since you really need the iPhone with you to get full functionality from the Apple Watch, I doubt we’ll see editing apps on the watch, which seems pretty impractical. As a photo viewer, the watch is pretty good, but sometimes photos that are on your watch or the cloud can take a while to load.

We are in the very early days of the Apple watch, but it already has some clever photo options built in. I don’t think it is a must buy for photographers, (or maybe for anyone else). I do like Apple Pay on the watch, and I find I’m pulling my iPhone out of my pocket for reading mail and messages has has been almost completely replaced by glancing at my wrist. The remote photography options are good, but limited at this point.


– Mel Martin