Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Digital Photos Take An Analog Turn

Photo To Art
Smart phones and digital photography may have revolutionized how people take pictures, but it hasn't changed how people want to see them. Passing around a smart phone or scrolling digital files isn't it.

People appreciate print. And print has taken on a new meaning in recent years. There are dozens of developers working to deliver more diversity in digital photo output. Several have caught our eye, but Art.com, which originally specialized in vintage art posters and prints, has developed one of the newest ready for review.

Photos [To] Art app is free. Ordering is optional.

The Photos [To] Art app is a first generation digital-to-print application for iPhone, iPad, and iPad smart phones. Call it "first generation" because it isn't perfect. It's a promising work in progress.

The application was designed specifically to help people print photos to canvas, wood, or poster prints. This concept isn't necessarily new, but the application simplifies the process because the photos can be uploaded directly from your phone from either your camera roll or Instagram account.

The prospect is promising, but there are limitations. Although the application supports a variety of sizes from 8"x10" to 20"x30", the size is dependent on the photo format and quality. The allure of printing Instagram photos, for example, is limited, typically rendered at 12"x12" or 16"x16", which is especially important to know if you are hoping to create a series of three or more photos of the same size.

For more sizing options, the application prompts members to upload the shot from the camera roll (assuming the shot wasn't taken through the Instagram app). Most photos are then rendered at four or five sizes, with can be viewed against three mock living areas or on the actual wall where you intend to hang it. The latter feature is pretty clever, even approximating how far away you are from the wall.

Photo To Art
Although the limitations might seem annoying at first, it doesn't take long to adjust for output. The primary reason Art.com is a bit restrictive is because quality is the priority, especially with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee policy. For more flexibility, the web platform has some flexibility.

Specifically, the web platform provides some limited cropping and resizing (horizontal or vertical adjustments) options and allows you to save up to 10 photos for 30 days. In contrast, the application assumes all cropping is complete and saves only one photo at a time. It may also be possible to sync the mobile app with a web platform account, but I couldn't find it.

A few graphs about Art.com and its growing family of apps.

Lord of the Rings from Art.com
The Photos [To] Art app easily makes up for any limitations for ease of use and high quality outputs delivered, which has always been the objective of founders Michael Heinstein and Brandon Carr. They started with a single "poster" site concept and a small room in Berkeley, with nothing much more than a modest capital investment from the founders and a sympathetic relative.

Not even 15 years later, the rebranded Art.com and several sister sites have grown to become the largest poster and print producers in the world and includes one of the largest masters collections. They have developed two other apps: artMatch, which helps people find similar artistic styles by snapping a picture of any art; and artCircles, which is an iPad art curation tool that features artist picks along with any self-made collection.

More analog offerings from developers on the horizon.

The ability to order self-made prints from any mobile device is not an exclusive fix for analog. Three other projects in development that have caught our eye include the Impossible Instant Lab, which turns iPhone photos into instant Polaroids; Instacube, which ports photos directly from Instagram into digital frames; and Projecto, which transforms eight Instagram photos into a slide wheel that can be projected from a projector about the size of a matchbox. The latter concept convinced us to become a backer.

Photos [To] Art App By Art.com Prints 4.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While Photo [To] Art has room for improvement, having personal photographs or artwork transferred to framed prints, wood mounts or canvas from a mobile app is a step in the right direction. Art.com keeps its pricing reasonable, with unmounted poster prints starting at under $4 (8"x10"). Canvas runs considerably higher, depending on size.

You can download Photo [To] Art from iTunes. The app has already been optimized for iPhone 5. It also works with iPhone 3GS or better as well as some iPods and iPads. The app is a free download, perfectly timed to take pictures over Thanksgiving with enough time to make prints for the holidays.
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