AMITIAE - Saturday 7 May 2016
Simple iOS App with Polaroid-like Output - Patrick Hotel
By Graham K. Rogers
Before digital images became practical for ordinary users (the first digital cameras were fearfully expensive) the Polaroid was perhaps one of the greatest democratizers of photography after the Kodak Brownie. Polaroids were also famous for the celebrities who made use of them.
Anyone who has ever seen one of the cameras used will remember how the film was squeezed between rollers to activate the chemicals. Then we waited while the image appeared: from a dead grey to recognizable colour. I spent some time this week reading a good article on "The Afterlife of Polaroid" (Frances Richard, The Nation) which looks at the life and death of the company - I had not realized that Ansel Adams was closely involved.
There is a lot of interest in nostalgia. For example, many people (myself included) still use film and a lot of the filters available in apps, produce some effects that play on this interest in how things looked before. A few years back I looked at Polamatic that came from Polaroid. My main criticism then was the small output size of images, but these days output to social networking sites is the main reason for some to take photos, so this is less of a problem for these. Polamatic appears to be no longer available.
Once opened, the main screen has five icons displayed at the bottom: Book, Film, Camera, My Hotel and About. The first (Book) shows a preview of what is in the book. These images are surprisingly good and each image - of the small selection provided - has sound commentary from the photographer. Users are able to buy the book - unlock it - via an in-app purchase of $4.99. The Film icon opens a screen with two videos from the author: Book Signing and Installation. The second of these may give a better idea of the idea behind the book and provide inspiration when using the app.
The About icon (far right) provides a written explanation of the ideas behind the book with a couple of useful links for those interested. My Hotel is used to store those images which a user takes with the app and decides should make up an artistic record. Then there is the Camera icon.
A square image appears in a frame (again just like a Polaroid photo) towards the top of the screen. Below is a button to open the Filters page: 11 options are available (plus Normal) with a range of colour outputs or styles, including a couple of black and white filters. One of these uses threshold, so is pure black or white. There is also a more gentle threshold filter with grey and white output.
To the left of the camera icon is access to the Photo Library so all the users images are available, but any used are square-cropped before filter processing. The same Polaroid film eject sound is heard and filters may be selected.
In its final form, an image I saved was 1122 x 1122 (1MP) with a file size of a fraction under 300 KB. Metadata, including GPS information was stripped from the image. The original image was 4032 x 3024 (12 MP), with a file size of 2.7 MB. When the edited image appeared on the Mac (via iCloud) it was clear and sharp when displayed full screen in Photos. I exported it as a full size (1122 x 1122) TIFF image and the file size was shown as 3.8 MB.
Although it is intended in part as a way to generate interest in the photographer and promote sales of the book, it certainly has value as a standalone editing app, with its unique output style. Patrick Hotel by Patrick Hoelck is recommended.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
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