Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Instagram Revamps Polaroid Instant Fun

Rich Becker photos on InstagramKevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are no strangers to the Internet. After graduating from Stanford, Systrom spent two years at Google and Krieger spent one year at Meebo before launching Instagram, their first app for the iPhone. The result was everything they wanted it to be.

Instagram revamps the artistic fun associated with Polaroid cameras for the modern age, using digital data instead of the integral film commonly associated with Polaroid photos.

Based on the shots uploaded, Instagram has reinvigorated a flair for photographic art with an emphasis on turning the ordinary and mundane or dramatic and unusual into art. They can be easily shared too, much like a telegram.

A glimpse into the Instagram process.

InstagramThere are two ways to "shoot" with the Instagram app. You can import photos from your camera roll or shoot live, taking a photo with the application already launched and loaded. Some people are already talking about which is more pure. I say do what works for you.

It's true that importing the photos provides more flexibility for scaling, sizing, and cropping the images, with the understanding that not all landscape shots will look great with a new center inside the confines of a square. The alternative, shooting live, is closer to the Polaroid concept. What you fit within the view frame is what you get.

After importing or shooting a picture, you can choose from twelve filters (including normal). Most filters give the pics a vintage look, with amber hues and duotones or shadowy black and whites. Once the filter is selected, Instagram copies the treated photo to your camera roll and gives you the option to share it.

Instagram includes a mini social network with broadcast features.

Sharing the photos on Instragram sends it to an app feed, presumably followed by people you already know. You can find them with a search feature that locates people you know on Twitter, Facebook, and your phone's contact list. Once you follow them or they follow you, they can like or comment on anything you decide to share.

In addition to sharing pictures on the app feed, you also have the option of broadcasting the photo across various social networks and platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Posterous, Tumblr, and Foursquare. The developers are planning to add more programs in the future as well as additional filters and add-ons (for a fee).

You can also view popular shots taken by anyone. One of the program tabs includes them as part of a public collection. Conversely, there is a privacy feature that allows you to limit who sees your pictures. This setting allows you to approve anyone who wants to follow your feed.

A few rough edges you can overlook.

There are some obvious limitations as a mini-social network, including the lack of a browser interface. While you can update your profile on the site, there is no central website for people to gather, browse photos, or connect. Almost everything happens within the app.

There is another minor issue. If you want to add any older photos from your files, you can add a title or a comment on the shot but cannot tag the location. Location tagging is confined exclusively to your actual location. It's either an oversight or intended to encourage live shots. Hard to say.

Instagram For The iPhone Captures A 5.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

It's easy to overlook these minor blemishes, considering the iPhone app is free. And in some ways, I like the idea that Instagram doesn't force you into yet another social network that people feel they have to keep up with. Sometimes that sucks the fun right out of the platform. What makes Instagram cool is that it is clearly a photo tool first.

Instagram supports the first generation, 3G, 3GS, and 4G iPhone. You can download Instagram from iTunes. Instagram is not to be confused with Hipstamatic, which carries a $1.99 purchase price. It has more lens and film styles on the front end (and additional packages for a price), but also seems to lack the straightforward simplicity of Instagram.

Rich Becker contributed to this review, including the two partial photos above.
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