AMITIAE - Saturday 7 May 2016

Simple iOS App with Polaroid-like Output - Patrick Hotel

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Patrick Hotel

The arrival of digital cameras, and more particularly the advent of the smartphone and its photo-taking features, has seen a massive growth in the publishing of online images, especially to social networking sites, some of which provide filters to enhance the original photograph.

Sometimes an image on its own, is just right: that should be the aim of a photographer. Even a good picture may benefit from enhancements, and those who worked in film would apply chemicals to produce certain effects, while Ansel Adams was known to adjust light to certain parts of a negative when printing: highlighting certain parts, darkening others.

Tintype Paris Photo Pro Noir Photo

I recently looked at a couple of apps that take a nostalgic journey, producing vintage effects from images in a user's Photo Library. TinType, took the concept of a chemical process for the use of photographs on metal boxes; Paris Photo Pro also had some subtle nostalgic filters; and Noir Photo makes use of the user's own editing skills to adjust monochrome output in several ways.

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.

Patrick Hotel Patrick Hotel

Not long after reading the article on Polaroid photography, I found the recently released, Patrick Hotel by Patrick Hoelck an app that produces a number of styles of output reminiscent of Polaroid cameras. Part of the app is to publicise a book by the photographer, Patrick Hoelck, that used Polaroid images. Users are encouraged to make use of the app and collect their own special images.

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.

Patrick Hotel Patrick Hotel Patrick Hotel

The bottom center of the main screen has the camera icon which opens a square screen. There are grid lines, but these can be toggled on and off using a button at the top. When a photograph is taken, there is a sound identical to that made when a Polaroid camera would begin processing a film.

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.

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Once any image has had the filter applied, a Next button (top right) opens the Export screen with (in my case) options for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others. A Save button at the top right stores the image in the My Hotel section. The work is also saved in the Photo Library. The original is also still available.

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.

Patrick Hotel by Patrick Hoelck is nicely put together and has a clean interface. It is straightforward and simple to use. Output is a little small (always a niggle of mine) but it will suit those who are interested in posting to social networking sites or archiving their own "Hotel" within the app.

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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All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2016