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Apollo 'Lighting' iPhone App Review

The Apollo iOS app gives you impressive control over the lighting in your shots captured with the Portrait Mode on your iPhone but how well does it perform?

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Apollo App

Quick Verdict

Apollo is an interesting app that can definitely help you enhance your photos but it does take some practice and experimentation to get the lighting spot-on. Having said that, it's very cool and takes smartphone photography that one step further towards a series medium. 

+ Pros

  • Interesting concept
  • Good results 
  • Makes you go 'O, Cool' 

- Cons

  • It's tricky to get to grips with 
  • Fiddly to adjust settings sometimes
  • You have to pay for it (but it's not expensive) 


The Apollo iOS app is designed to be used with dual camera iPhones and it hijacks the in-built technology so you can edit/change the way your shots are lit. It sounds pretty cool but how good are the results and is the app simple to use? We downloaded the app to find out. 


Apollo iOS App Features

Those who own an iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X will have no doubt played around with the in-built portrait mode which uses the dual lens system to emulate the blurry, bokeh backgrounds you can achieve when using a longer lens. The information collected from the two cameras, along with some clever software, has achieved some great results and it's this same technology app creators Indice have used to give iPhone owners the opportunity to change the lighting in shots captured in portrait mode. 

Apollo works by reading the information embedded in the images captured with portrait mode and using the depth data to, essentially, create a 3D render you can edit the lighting in. You can add/remove light sources easily and you can even position the light behind your subject to produce halos so they 'pop' from the shot. 

You can also select the colour, intensity and distance of the light illuminating the scene, something we'll go into more detail below. 

Apollo is available now for $1.99 from the iOS app store. 

Key Features

  • Add up to 20 light sources
  • Work in a 3D space
  • Adjust light intensity, colour and spread


Apollo iOS App Handling & Performance

Apollo App


When you first open the Apollo app, you will see a selection of sample images you can use as well as the ones from your smartphone's library that have been captured with the portrait mode found in the native camera app. You can't add your own images to this which seemed a bit strange at first until we realised that the app selects the images captured with portrait mode automatically. To open one of the images, you simply click on the one you want to edit. 

Once opened, there is a really useful Help section that talks you through each feature of the app but you can turn this off once you've seen it once (it will talk you through all of the features each time you access the app if you don't). 

The app automatically places a light source on your image (they appear as small circles) which can make you go 'urgh, that looks terrible' as it is a little bright to start but with some adjustments, the image soon improves. 

You can add up to 20 different light sources and each individual light source can be calibrated so the intensity, spread, colour etc. can be, if you like, different for each one. You can even position a light source behind your subject to create a halo or to emphasise a silhouette which is pretty cool. 

We will go through the options that are available in more detail but the Apollo app developers have put together 2 really great tutorials that do an awesome job at explaining how the app works which you can click 'play' on below (scroll to under the sample images). 

One of the great things about the app is that it calculates the effect of each light's distance, colour, intensity etc. in real time so you can see how the changes affect the image instantly and there's no buffer time either. 


Apollo app


Apollo has 4 tools for editing light points along with the 'help' button, a button for previewing a before/after comparison and an option for sharing your images (this is also where you save your results). Towards the bottom of the screen is a recycle bin and a tick which you click on when you've finished editing a specific lighting point. To add another lighting point, you click the '+' icon and to switch between multiple points, you just need to click on the one you want to tweak. 

As well as adding lighting, you can adjust the shadows in the shot, which includes the background which the app automatically darkens to make your subject 'pop' a little more from the frame. There's also a tool for adjusting how much of the image is affected by the lighting point you have selected. 

That's it for the tools which sound pretty straightforward and, on paper, they are but in use, they're a little more tricky to navigate. Adding lighting points is straightforward and you move them to different areas of the image by clicking and dragging them. But it's when you start editing the effect that things become a little harder as it can take some time to get levels right so the image doesn't look garish. 


Apollo app


Edits are made by dragging a slider which appears at the bottom of the app and this works for all of the options available but it's when you start adding multiple light sources that balancing things get tricky. As the app creators say: "Practice makes perfect! Although Apollo is built with simplicity in mind, mastering its concepts may take some time."

You do need a bit of patience when working with the app but the lighting effects you can create with it are impressive. 

The Apollo app creators offer the following advice to try and make the editing process a little easier:

  • The photo should have uniform lighting - no hard shadows or strong highlights.
  • Low lighting photos, photos that were taken under an overcast sky or selfies and close-ups are perfect candidates.
  • A crisp and steady photo results in crisp customised lighting.

This, obviously, suggests not all photos will work successfully but it's worth experimenting anyway as we produced decent results with most of the images put through the app. Another problem with the lighting effects is the overall colour as we'd like to them to have been a more crisp white as they tend to be on the warm side. 

One slight annoying niggle was that, sometimes, when trying to move the adjustment slider, we'd move the lighting point by accident instead and images didn't always save when we chose the save option but they would send to social media or be shared via Whatsapp and Facebook messenger. 

A couple of other issues are linked to removing specific changes and opening images you've previously added light points to as when you reopen an image you've already edited with light points, the points are no longer there when you reopen the app and there's no 'undo' option just a way to revert back to the start or you can delete individual light points. 

It would also be nice to copy the parameters you've already created on one light point to another without having to re-jig the sliders again, too. 


Top: The original image, Bottom: The image edited in Apollo. The face stands out a lot more than on the original but some of the petals are a little bright. 


Sample image edited that's supplied in the app but we had to tweak the white balance in another editing app.



Left: The original image, Right: The image edited in Apollo. A couple of annoying highlights but overall, the app hasn't done a bad job. 





Value For Money

Apollo is priced at $1.99 which isn't a bank-breaker by any means and currently, there's not much else out there that offers the same tricks. Yes, there are excellent free photo editing apps such as Snapseed you can try to replicate the effects in but it doesn't process images as if they were a 3D render so even though you can create good results, it's not quite the same.


Apollo iOS App Pro Verdict

The Apollo app is an interesting concept that utilises new technology to help iPhoneographers improve their images. Yes, the app takes some getting used to and it can take quite a bit of time to get images just right but it is a really cool app that, as the developers wanted, allows users to 're-illuminate objects with custom light sources.'

If you regularly take photos with your iPhone, the apps well-worth having a play around with. 


Apollo iOS App Pros

  • Interesting concept
  • Good results 
  • Makes you go 'O, Cool' 

Apollo iOS App Cons

  • It's tricky to get to grips with 
  • Fiddly to adjust settings sometimes
  • You have to pay for it (but it's not expensive

Features & Handling4/5
Overall Verdict

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