Since getting an iPhone a few months ago I've downloaded a huge range of camera and post-processing apps, and have developed a few firm favourites including ProCamera (a great alternative to the built-in camera app) and Filterstorm, a fantastic post-processing app with a curves tool, masks, layers, history tool, and so on.

I've also downloaded a lot of other camera/processing apps that are a bit more specialised – HDR apps, panoramic cameras, special effects cameras, low-fi cameras and so on. My definite favourite, and the one I used for this shot, is Hipstamatic. If you're unfamiliar with it, here's how the Hipstamatic team describe it:

"The Hipstamatic for iPhone is an application that brings back the look, feel, unpredictable beauty, and fun of plastic toy cameras from the past."

The key thing about Hipstamatic though, and this is what makes it my absolute favourite low-fi camera, is that all the creative decision making takes place BEFORE you take the shot. With a lot of apps, as you'll know, you take a shot then work your way through a range of filters and effects until you come up with something that looks good. With Hipstamatic you choose a lens and a film, both of which have specific effects, and then take the shot.

You can't crop the image and you can't apply any additional filters. You get what you get. Well, there is a random element – if you take the same shot twice it will look slightly different – but there are no options to alter the shot it's been taken. There's a large range of built-in lenses and films but you can also buy additional HipstaPaks, each of which contains a lens and film or two, each of which has specific characteristics that determine the appearance of your final image. For example, I chose the Chunky lens (part of the Soho HipstaPak) and Ina's 1935 film (part of the Mission HipstaPak) for this shot. The Chunky lens has a pronounced light-leak effect, and Ina's 1935 is a warm, rich film that complemented the colours in this shot.

So why do I prefer choosing a lens/film combo before taking the shot rather than applying a range of effects afterwards? There are two reasons. First, it's congruent with the experience of using a 'real' toy camera. This isn't especially important, but there's definitely a nostalgic pleasure in working this way. Second, and this is a lot more significant, it forces you to learn the app – to know how each lens and film will render the scene at hand. For me this is a lot more interesting than randomly trawling through a long list of presets and filters after taking the shot as it forces you to think about what you're shooting, how it will look, and what sort of effect you want to achieve. In short, for me at least, it seems like a much more creative way to produce images.

If you've used Hipstamatic, let me know what you think.

Oh, and this is a shot from the roof terrace of the hotel Troya, the one we stayed in during our recent Faces and Places photo tour of Istanbul.

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hipstamatic #1 / 26 November, 2011 [click for previous image: watching the world go by]
hipstamatic #1 / 26 November, 2011 [click for next image: Faces and Places, Istanbul]
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