Polar panoramas are ordinary landscapes turned into miniature spherical planets. Usually, you create them by first shooting a 360-degree panorama as a sequence of overlapping shots and then combining them using Photoshop or some dedicated panoramic stitching software.

The polar panorama I’ve created here, though, was produced in about thirty seconds from a single everyday photograph using a £1.49 app on my iPhone.

In fact I took the original picture my iPhone, too, and here it is.

Handy Photo Polar Panorama

I didn’t have to use a picture shot on my iPhone, though. I can access my the photo library on my Mac on my iPhone because I use Photo Stream and sync my photo library via iTunes. I could create a polar panorama from any of the shots in my photo library taken on one of my regular D-SLR cameras.

My point is that I’ve got a a £1.49 app running on a mobile phone doing something that Photoshop can’t – or at least not with such spellbinding simplicity.

In my opinion, desktop app developers need to do a real reality check. Smart device apps are cheap, simple and often jaw-droppingly effective. This polar panorama was created using Handy Photo, which is only one of many inventive and exciting mobile apps.

You shouldn’t have to send your images to your phone to get exciting image effects, but that’s what I’ve started doing.

01 How Handy Photo works

Handy Photo Polar Panorama

You can open any picture from your photo library in Handy Photo, and to view the options you tap the ‘hand’ icon top right. You then spin the arc of buttons to find the one you want – it’s the Filters button I want, second from the top.

02 The Tiny Planet filter

Handy Photo Polar Panorama

That’s what Handy Photo calls them, anyway, which is probably a bit more informative than ‘Polar Panoramas’, which really describes the process as you’d apply it in Photoshop. There’s nothing for you to do except tap the button – your ‘Tiny Planet’ is generated in an instant.

03 Rotate your planet

Handy Photo Polar Panorama

In fact there’s only one more thing I need to do. I want that big lone tree nearer the top of the ‘planet’, so I click the settings icon in the bottom left corner of the screen, tap the rotation gadget and turn the planet to the angle I want.

04 Saving the result

Handy Photo Polar Panorama

I’m going to save the finished picture back to my iPhone’s photo ‘gallery’ (or ‘Camera Roll’, to use the correct iPhone term). And because I’ve got Photo Stream set up on my iPhone and in Aperture on my Mac, it will automatically appear in my Aperture library.

05 The finished picture

Handy Photo Polar Panorama

And here’s the result! I think this is actually pretty good. Handy Photo has done a good job of blending the left and right edges of the picture to make a circular image (here’s a tip: straighten the photo first so that the horizon is at the same height at both sides), and I’ve got a striking  picture that only took a few moments to do. It’s not perfect, but who says photographs have to be perfect!