I’ve basically been a Photoshop hack for 20 years. Love the program, for sure. But last year I found myself falling for the new iPhone app Instagram - which performs a range of instantaneous effect morphs on any shot you snap with your iPhone or Android. You can pull a photo out of the mundane and into any number of time warped finishes with names like Sutro, Lo-Fi, Nashville and 1977. Then you can post your groovy new altered images to Instagram's social blog - all viewable on your phone. I was originally charmed by the visual appeal of what I found there. However, Facebook's recent billion dollar buy out of Instagram has kinked that charm. As I post this, Facebook/Instagram now claims it has the right to sell your photographs with no recompense to you... a boycott now runs rampant on Twitter. At any rate, the real hero of this story is another app called FLARE.
Another catch about Instagram is that it only lives on mobile. So, if you shoot on any other sort of camera, from a point ‘n’ shoot to a digital SLR, you’re thrown back to the dogs of Adobe (Photoshop) or one of their imitators, to raise your photography to new levels. And here’s the thing - most of us don’t have the TIME to twiddle for hours to achieve a vintage or futuristic effect which we simply want to apply to a family picnic or ho-hum tourist shot to tweak it up a bit. And then of course there are those photographs we take when we see something miraculous and yet find that when the shots load up, they fall short of that magic moment. And this is why I love Flare.... you can finally really capture your reality, not the one arbitrarily dictated by the vagaries of light or the limitations of the camera.
Since, strangely enough, Instamatic doesn’t currently have an app to use with other cameras, I had to go hunting. And herewith I present my new discovery - the aforementioned FLARE... An incredibly cheap app you can get at the app store for $10. Flare is a remarkably easy program and possessed of a sweet interface which blows away Photoshop’s, admittedly professional and more robust, one. But don’t buy the app on their site - it costs double what it does at Apple’s App Store (link below.)
Here’s the beautiful thing about Flare - you can either choose from a myriad preset effects, with names such Captain Proton, Daguerrotype, Family Album and Plastic Camera. Or you can use those as a mere starting point and finesse them into original looks of your own - which you can then save as personal presets. These can then either be for your delectation alone or you can opt for some level of posterity by posting your presets on Flare’s website, where countless other enthusiasts have posted theirs for your delight.
Share the wealth, I say. So jump on it and instead of watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy or CSI, transform your photos from the same ol’ same ol’ to something radical!
By the way, if you do most of your shooting on your iPhone and you don’t currently play with Instagram, you are really missing out; Instagram has reportedly just surpassed Twitter in popularity (at least on the part of mobile users.) And while I love Twitter for its ability to mainline curated information (and other b.s.) I understand the surge for Instagram. We have become a heavily visual culture and a culture whose imagination is blooming. There is more communication power now, and specifically more visual power, in our hands than ever before - and we’re using it to amuse, enlighten and educate each other. So do it!
Here’s the truly wonderful thing about these apps - you are now able to transform what the camera sees (which is not really reality) into something YOU see, which is reality. And it is this reality, your reality, that your friends respond to so enthusiastically.
If you come up with some fabgear images, send us a small jpg version and maybe we'll create another slide show. I would have said join Instagram and put stuff in our feed, but now, alas, I don't believe I can condone Facebook's pillage of our creativity.
Click on this image to see the effects in action: