Things That Delight Me – 3: Photography Apps

I’ve been a fairly serious photographer since about 1993, and even invested the requisite decade in perfecting black and white darkroom printing – just in time for the technology to vanish from commercial use.

Now, you can do amazing photographic things with a smart phone, and there are apps like Snapchat, Hipstamatic, and Prisma to do it. It used to be the thing to sneer at people who’d just grab an image in Photoshop and run some filters on it, but the filters are getting cool! And interesting! But most of all: fun. They’re taking advantage of the massive amount of computing we can carry around in our hand, to do face analysis and then apply the results.

If you have a warped mind – and I have one of those, somewhere – you can do some pretty fun combinations by stacking the apps.

This is a “tourist vacation shot” I did in London last week. Sure, it’s an iPhone and a bunch of filters, but I’m loving the

hats at harrod's

software-defined vignetting, color-shift toward aged old kodak film from the 70s, and the unsharp edges. I know how to get this in a darkroom. I know how to get this in Photoshop. I shot this in Hipstamatic and shuffled the presets and did no work at all. Is it a masterpiece? No. But so, what? It’s not a situation that admits to making a masterpiece anyway.

Lately, I’ve been shooting a lot of artifacts of artifacts. I.e.: you take a picture of a picture – often just pointing my iPhone at a computer screen and taking a picture of the action in-game. Dark Souls screenshots look positively cheery with the pink colors and flowers and unicorn rainbow options from Snapchat.

So, I wanted a little icon of Voltaire for my “Vendredi Voltaire” postings and immediately though of one of my favorite busts at The Louvre: the aged Voltaire by Houdon. Little Marcus looked up at it and asked his father, “Who’s the funny old guy?”

Voltaire by Houdon

Voltaire by Houdon

Briefly, about modern imaging: That’s a photo I shot with my iPhone, of the screen of my computer showing an image I located with Google image search. Whose photo is it? But more importantly: the quality’s damn good! That’s a photo of a backlit image on an LCD display and it’s not even a retina or anything fancy. It’s just a 10 year-old Samsung panel.

Prisma* does this:

Prisma Filter Prisma filter Prisma Filter

Snapchat allows facial processing and has some delightfully goofy options:

voltaire-5 voltaire-6

OK, I added some text to the first one, in photoshop (of course) – loading that image into photoshop and adding the text took longer than all the other images took to create in the first place.

Back when silver halide processes were dying, and Kodak announced it would stop making black and white paper (Ilford was better, anyway!) there were moans about digital killing off photography. Actually, what digital did was liberate photography to become fine art – now you can be a snooty alternative process-worker who walks around with silver nitrate stains on your hands – or fun. Digital processes and the ubiquity of editing may eventually help people understand that what they see in a picture isn’t real.**


(* Also now on Android)

(** Have you noticed that the availability of cameras everywhere, and 3d rendering spaceships has pretty much killed off the “blurry photo of flying saucer”? That’s because some 14 year-old would say “U lack skills LOL shopped” if anyone tried to pass off a polaroid of a hubcap as an interstellar vessel.)


  1. says

    I want at least 5 of those hats.

    Harrods is down the street from the V&A; we walked over to get some noms and wander about enjoying the conspicuous consumption crowd. At the V&A fashion section there was a special exhibit of lingerie sponsored by Agent Provocateur. Some of the stuff they had was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

    BTW, normally I would never mention “…sponsored by” because: marketing. Except for this: Agent Provocateur clearly and positively loves the lingeries, and the way they did the exhibit was very good. It was NOT full of Agent Provocateur stuff. It was all beautiful stuff, but it looks like AP’s involvement consisted of writing a fairly large check.

    The Agent Provocateur section at the lingerie department in Harrods made me drool so hard I was afraid someone would think I had rabies.

    PS – the little white top hat with the feathers and lace. Whoah!