Apple Opens Up Manual Camera Controls & Cross-App Photo Editing in iOS 8


While many exciting things were anticipated to come from Apple’s WWDC Keynote today, there were a number of photography-related announcements that went above and beyond what we were hoping for. Apple has really opened the door for developers to go crazy when it comes to creating and improving camera apps.

Previously on iOS, accessing the camera of devices was extremely limited, only allowing the most basic of controls in the form of flash, HDR, ISO Boosting and a few other minor capabilities. Beyond that, it was fully automated, meaning the control you had over your images was greatly limited. With the addition of the Camera APIs to developers, those days are gone.


Developers can now access manual controls for the camera. Yes, you read that right. Camera apps built on iOS 8 will now have the ability to have complete control over the camera’s capabilities, effectively giving you ISO, Aperture, and shutter-speed control, just to list off the basics.

It’s worth noting to anyone not extremely well-versed in development or iOS, these features are not baked into the standard of iOS 8. Instead, these will be available to third party developers to add to their applications that they sell in the app store.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 3.53.01 PM

The second of the two major photography-related developer additions to iOS 8 is that of PhotoKit. PhotoKit will now allow third party photo apps to be used directly within the iOS Photo app and Camera Roll itself.

This means that popular apps like VSCO Cam, Litely, and more will all be usable directly within your photo library, without ever having to open up the app itself. Additionally, the photo apps can now access your photo library directly from the application, rather than having to have a different photo library within each separate editing app.

This makes for a more seamless workflow when editing photos, meaning no more importing, exporting, saving, and having four different copies of a photo. Everything is synchronized across apps and devices, with the edits being completely non-destructive.

To put it into the most basic terms: this allows you to use the editing apps you’ve downloaded from the app store inside your Camera Roll, just as you would a set of VSCO Filters in Lightroom or Nik Software in Photoshop.


Not much more than an example of using VSCO was given, but it’s safe to assume that developers will dig deep and really pull as much functionality out of these new options as possible… we’re very excited to see what that turns into.

Of course, these are just two of the many exciting photo announcements from WWDC, so be sure to stay tuned over the next couple of hours as we catch you up with all of the awesome photo-related updates coming to iOS 8 when it drops this Fall.

  • Juan Ozuna Jr.

    The manual controls announcement was the one that made me say “WOAH” loudly during the keynote. I’m really excited to see how developers will integrate this.

  • TN

    we’ll probably see an Apple Pro Camera app, similar to the Nokia Pro camera app. i hope this leads to a camera-centric device, that can go toe to toe with the lumia 1020, but with apple style and ease of use..

  • Gannon Burgett

    I highly doubt Apple will announce a “pro” camera app. With the opening up of APIs, it’s quite evident they’ll leave that to the work of third party developers. It was fairly clear throughout this entire Keynote and update, to both iOS and OSX that rather than venturing out and wasting time on apps, they’re building the ecosystem for more niche teams, such as developers and startups to utilize in order to create professional quality apps.

    They were truly showing off their focus today and really, really showed off just how much trust and care they’re putting into the developers hands, which is nothing but good news for end-consumers.

  • Scott M

    Wow. Stuff I have been doing with my Galaxy for years.

  • Chang He

    He said, wistfully regretting the Apple road not taken.

  • Chang He

    Nice. Hopefully this will allow developers like the guy behind the shutter speed timer app to use the camera directly to time shutter speeds now.

  • Gannon Burgett

    Agreed. I know a few developers who are probably diving through the API now. Previously the shutter-type apps had to make use of video resolution and capture video frames before eventually converting them into one still image. This will get rid of those days.

  • Chang He

    I hadn’t even thought of that. I was referring more to the app I have that acoustically checks the shutter speeds on my manual cameras. There’s an optical plug in you have to order off eBay if you want to check faster than 1/60th or so. The developer specifically said he wasn’t able to use the camera for optical assessment because of this limitation. Now I may be able to get truly accurate exposures for tricky situations with my old films cameras.

  • Gannon Burgett
  • dan110024

    Really? You can change aperture and shutter speed? My Note 2 only allows you to change the ISO which I assume is the same as the Galaxy S series.

  • Chang He

    It’s called “Shutter-Speed” and the developer is Lukas Fritz. Google all that together and the first result is the right one.

  • Opie

    A man could live a thousand years and still never encounter an iPhone-specific article without a comment section full of Android d**k-wavers.

    I hate to break it to you, but that’s a pretty clear indication that Chang He’s comment is painfully accurate.

  • Woody ONeal

    Cue the rants that smartphone manufacturer’s are fudging the numbers on ISO / aperture, etc as someone already did that for APS-C and micro 4/3….

  • matpratta

    I wow’d at the manual commands – just a note: I doubt there will be aperture control, since it seems like all mobile devices have a fixed aperture. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Dan Hawk

    As Opie has already said, there’s always someone that shows up in comments or forums that are specifically about Apple products to talk about some Android device.

    Scott M, there is a reason we care about iOS getting these features. We prefer the iPhone. From a photographer’s perspective, let me tell you why-

    The iPhone produces the best images from a mobile phone. Better Exposure evaluation, better white balance, lowest noise and clearly the best built in bracketing/HDR. The JPEG rendering is smooth, with nice highlight and shadow detail and with just the right amount of sharpness. Color is generally spot on.

    Even without manual controls, it runs circles around every Android phone that I’ve seen or used and the reason is the software.

    If the underlying software and design isn’t there, all the controls and features in the world aren’t going to make up for it.

  • Gannon Burgett


  • Genkakuzai

    Sounds about right.

  • fufusppatritck

    my buddy’s
    step-mother makes $63 an hour on the internet . She has been laid off for ten
    months but last month her check was $12020 just working on the internet for a
    few hours. why not try here

  • TN

    wwdc has always been about third party developers.. it has been this way from day one. which is why they make the presentation for developers. as such, they never showcase developments outside of the software.. a camera centric app, would likely accompany a new device, and would be mentioned in the fall, like all other hardware announcements..

    the release of the api just opens the doors to developers, very likely in an effort to give them a ‘head start’, which usually leads to apple buying the technology.

    we’ll see a pro camera app, especially with android and windows phone offering apps that feature greater depth of control.

  • Jeremiah True

    Both of these announcements are very exciting to me. I use several editing apps, Snapseed, PicsPlay Pro, PhotoToaster, etc… and welcome the integration. If they could just find a way to pull raw sensor data, I would be a very happy camper.

  • Emmanuel Canaan

    I was just about to comment that I am almost positive the iPhone has a fixed aperture. It’s the only way I can explain the insanely fast shutter speeds it chooses when I use it outdoors in bright light.

  • Lorenzo Viola

    This is amazing!