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Contrast by Hornbeck : Reviewing the Unique iOS Photo App

In today’s digital age we all love a good or interesting photo app and with Contrast by Hornbeck, iOS “iPhoneographers” have a very unique photo style to play with. Let’s take a quick look at this simple yet effective photography app.

Simplicity is key

When you first fire up the app you’ll notice there are virtually no settings, dials, filters, or other options to choose from. The app is set up extremely simple with two buttons on the bottom and three across the top.

If we start on the bottom we have the word “focus” in the lower left. This, as the name implies, is pressed to make your camera focus. Then on the lower right is the circle that serves as your shutter button. You can also trigger the shutter and take the photo by clicking anywhere on the screen OR via the volume buttons on your phone.

Moving up to the top of the app there are three buttons, each pretty self explanatory.

First up is the word “switch”, which flips the camera to selfie mode for the high contrast black and white selfies.

Next up is the word “invert”, which will give you that inverted black and white look. Think of an x-ray, it’s kind of what it reminds me of.

Lastly is the word “www”, which when pressed will bring you to Hornbeck’s Tumblr account so you can see more examples of his photography work.

That’s it, like I said the app is very simple to use and it has zero learning curve. Anyone can use this app to make photos.

What makes this app unique?

Most of the photo apps out allow you to take a photo (or import one from your photo library) and then put that photo through their editing process of different filters and adjustments to get the look you want.

Contrast by Hornbeck is not one of those apps. What you see is a high contrast black and white image, which is exactly what you get out of it when you take the photo. If you are looking for a full featured photo editing app with tons of bells and whistles *waves hand like a jedi* this is not the app you’re looking for.

Contrast is a super simple to use photo app that will allow you to very simply explore light and make some very high contrast black and white photos in the process. Often times with photography, even iPhone/mobile photography, the key is simplification. When we have a ton of choice we can face analysis paralysis and never actually create anything, so having a very simple and straight forward app is refreshing.

What is the verdict?

I’m going to be brutally honest here. This app really isn’t that great on many fronts. The focus button is very small and easily missed so you can end up with some misfires and blurry photos. They honestly could have stripped the app down even more by eliminating the invert mode and switch mode. Neither of these are useful in my opinion and they could have basically put one big focus button on top and the shutter button big on the bottom. The other potential annoyance is that it only shoots in the square format, and the resulting jpeg files are not always the best quality. But the app is a bit older and was likely designed for the phone compression from the iPhone 5 era so it is what it is.

After all that you’re probably thinking I’m going to give this app a zero stars and from a purely technical iPhone app only perspective I would give it a pretty low rating.


The thing is, while the app lacks some polish and has it’s flaws, it delivers big time in the creativity and education department. This is one of the rare apps that, as a photographer, I feel can really help people learn to see and understand light and color contrast. I won’t go too in depth on the those thoughts, if you’d like to read more I recently wrote an article about this app and how it’s a great learning tool over on my photography website. You can find that article here, give it a read and think of it as the artistic review of this app.

In short, this app does some pretty cool things with the way it lets you see and interpret the light and color in what ever scene you point it at. By observing and really looking at what the app is doing it will help you read light better and understand how colors can also have a huge impact on the contrast in a scene. All things which you can use to create better and better photos outside of the app itself.

Who is this app for?

If you enjoy making photos with your iPhone and are looking for something a little different, this app is a great place to look.

If you take your photography more seriously and your phone isn’t considered your main camera, this app is still something worth using now and then. It gives you a fresh look at the light and shadow in your scene, which in turn allows you to translate that better in your “real” photography.

But if you are looking for a do it all photo app that delivers the best quality final images, this app is not for you. Though I’d still recommend you check it out because why not, it’s free. That’s right, completely free to download, no add-ons or micro transactions, no in app purchases. Just a simple, high contrast, black and white, photo creation tool that will help you learn to read light differently if you let it.

No app is perfect, but as a free photo app this one is well worth the time checking it out, quirks and all.

Get the app here in the iTunes store and let us know if you use it and what you think of it!

FINAL RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

That means we say serve it up, check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!


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What the guys are doing outside the podcast:

Jason – Classic Gaming Corner – Email Jason

Adam – Starfield Escape Twitter – Email Adam

Dave – David Szweduik Photography – Email Dave


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