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Hipstamatic will not improve your photography

A recent look at the most populat iPhone photo apps revealed that Apple fans are in fact a very sentimental lot. Hipstamatic rules. iPhone users want their pictures to look more analogue, or retro and less clinical and bland. And as much as I love Hisptamatic – with its choice of ‘lenses’, ‘films’ and ‘flashes’ (all electronically generated, for the uninitiated amongst you) – I still am very ambivalent about such apps. They make photography fun, no doubt about that, they do add an extra dimension to what otherwise would have been another mobile shot, but they also give a false sense of creativity.

A good friend of mine told me she’d fallen in love with Hipstamatic “because it allows me to do what you do in Photoshop but without Photoshop”. (I hardly use Photoshop. Lightroom, yes, but not Photoshop, and certainly not to make my pictures look like faded Polaroids. But that’s a different story.)

Someone else told me their pictures look so much better with Hipstamatic.

And that’s the problem. Many Hipstamatic users think they are ‘creative’, while in fact all they get is just a different quality print. And by quality I mean colours mostly. The composition or indeed the subject are not enhanced by the app – they’re still in the hands of the photographer. Therefore many Hipstamatic pictures, actually most of the ones I’ve seen, are bland or actually very bad. They do look different, particulary if compared with similar, untreated mobile snaps (after all Hipstamatic works with a 3mp mobile camera only), but they don’t necessarily make any of us more creative or turn us into better photographers.

The usual rules of composition still apply, the framing is still important and so is the subject. Hipstamatic will not improve anyone’s mediocre skills, I’m afraid.

Which is not to say we shouldn’t have fun with apps like Hipstamatic. Or its sister retro app, SwankoLab, which doesn’t allow you to take pics, but helps “develop” existing ones in a digitally recreated old-fashioned darkroom. Like Hipstamatic, it’s a lot of fun. But that’s what SwankoLab, Hipstamatic or The Best Cam are – fun apps and nothing more.

And like with many apps, the novelty will soon wear thin, the specially-created Flickr groups will overflow with thousands of mass-produced pics and we’ll jump on the next big thing.

For now however, retro is in.

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