iPhone affordances, or, I could go on all day

I’m not that fond of the Camera app for the iPhone, but I’m quite fond of Night Camera, and I think the latter fixes a couple of really big problems in the former.

For starters, it’s incredibly difficult to avoid blurry photos because of how you hold the iPhone to take pictures. I have probably 1 blurry picture for every 3 good pictures in my camera roll. The main problem is that Camera lacks an affordance for steadying your grip before you take the picture. Traditional cameras give you a place to rest your finger and steady it before you press the trigger. High-end SLRs and DSLRs (and maybe even cheaper cameras) extend this affordance with double-function shutter buttons, where a light touch focuses it or checks the light for an aperture recommendation and a firm touch takes the actual picture. The upshot of this is that because I have to touch a specific place in the middle of the screen to take a picture, I frequently end up jostling the whole camera and blurrovision happens. Given that the iPhone lacks tactile feedback, I have to monitor pretty closely that I’m actually pressing the right area on the screen, but this is a pretty well-known and well-beaten horse as far as the iPhone is concerned, so I’ll move on.

Having to touch the bottom middle of the screen is problematic because trying to hit a button riiiiight there is pretty hard to do if you’re trying to take an iPhone picture with just one hand, and the resulting picture is in blurrovision. Not to mention, well, we know the propensity of the iPhone demographic to take arm-length myspace photos. And managing to stretch your arm all the way out and then wrap your thumb around the phone sufficiently to reach the button while delicately holding the phone steady is a feat to be envied by many yoga masters. And of course, you have to do this without being able to see the screen.

Do I frown because Im a hipster and the world weighs heavy on me, or do I frown because I have a continuous line of pain stretching from thumb to shoulder? I shall never tell.
Do I frown because I’m a hipster and the world weighs heavy on me, or do I frown because I have a continuous line of pain stretching from thumb to shoulder? I shall never tell.

Night Camera addresses both of these problems pretty cleverly. When you press the button, it doesn’t take the picture, but instead patiently waits for the camera to become steady enough to take a clear shot. In short, it automatically detects when the camera is stable, which gives you plenty of time to wildly spin the camera around trying to find a comfortable steady place to hold it in your hand, quite possibly while pointing it at yourself. It really works quite well. My main beef with it is that you do have to keep holding the camera there for a second or two after you hear the click, or you end up getting a blurrovision picture. Maybe they’ll fix this in the next version.


Leanna Gingras’s ultimate goal is to make artful, positive contributions to the difficult and exhilarating task of being a human. Lee’s user experience practice draws on a background as a front-end dev, a masters in human-computer interaction, and a bachelors in philosophy. Her diverse client list includes Rick Steves, Columbia Sportswear, T-Mobile, and JSTOR. When she’s not busy bribing users with burritos and whiteboarding crazy ideas, she’s off traveling the world and scaling mountains.

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