Remote iPhone Camera Control

Screenshot of the Camera Plus app screen with the airsnap remote control button highlighted.

If you use your iPhone for layout photography as I do, there are several instances where it would be nice to be able to focus the lens and trigger the shutter remotely. First, you may have compositions where, although you can get the camera in position, it’s physically difficult (or impossible) to see the screen. Being able to have a second ios device that allows you to see what’s on the camera is very handy.

Second, for many photos I use “focus stacking” with the Helicon Focus software. Focus stacking means you take a series of photos at different focal lengths and the program combines them into one composite with amazing depths of field. If the camera location is such that you can’t use a tripod, and it often is, this means you need to lightly touch the phone for every shot to set the focus and trigger the shutter. If you’re not careful, you’ll accidentally move the camera and ruin your composition. Remote control means you don’t need to touch the camera.

The Camera Plus app is a simple to use program that has a feature called “AirSnap” that allows you to use one iPhone to take the photos. A second ios device can see what is on the “camera phone”, change it’s focus and trigger the shutter. The second device is called the remote. The basic Camera Plus app was either free or very cheap, I can’t remember. You’ll need to put it on both devices. Make sure wifi and bluetooth are enabled on both devices as well. Turn them on and they’ll “talk to one another” and connect.

There were two small glitches, both of which aren’t that big of a deal. When you hit the air snap button on the devices the screen will tell you which one is the camera and which is the remote. When I first did this, things were reversed and what I wanted to be the camera was assigned as the remote and vice versa. Apparently the order with which you tap the air snap icon one the respective devices matters. Second, the image on the remote screen isn’t nearly as clear as that of the camera screen but I found that didn’t really matter that much.

Having found a “mostly” non-glitchy way of remotely controlling my iphone camera opens up a lot of new possibilities in terms of composition because I can now place the camera anywhere I want without having to worry about seeing through the viewfinder.