The number of photographs taken and shared (even if never printed) has literally exploded. Facebook users upload 300 million photos every day.
No surprise that, a few months ago, Facebook acquired a small but growing company that had one product: Instagram (instagram.com).
Instagram is a mobile app that runs on both Apple and Android phones. The idea and purpose are both simple: Make it easy for you to take a picture and share it with your friends. Just two years ago, in October 2010, it had 100,000 users. That number has now grown to more than 80 million.
Once you’ve taken a photo, Instagram crops it into a square and gives you the option of applying filters. There are 18 filters from which to choose, with nondescript names like Sutro, Hudson and Nashville—all of which alter the photo, sometimes dramatically, sometimes subtly. With a simple tap, your photos can be changed to black and white, or look like they were taken from a Polaroid or torn out of an old scrapbook. There’s also an option to add a blur effect in either a line or circle. When applied correctly, this simple feature can greatly impact the feel of a photo.
At its heart, Instagram is really a social network. The main idea is for you to share the photos you take. After you’ve got the photo exactly the way you like, you can post it to Instagram or other social networks. The application currently supports posting to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare and Tumblr. Or you can simply e-mail it to a contact. But you don’t have to. You can choose to keep your photos private and you can always control who is “following” your updates to limit it to friends and family.
One of the things missing all along has been a good way to print a photo you’ve created. Now a new company has emerged to fill that void. Printstagram (printstagr.am) makes it simple to turn your virtual photo gallery into something tangible. It can easily turn your Instagrams into prints, photo books, posters, stickers or T-shirts.
While the site is simple and the products are awesome, the integration and shopping experiences are a little clunky. To order, you need to visit the site, find a product you like, and click through the “More Info” button. Then you’ll click the “Buy Now” button. At this point, the site will ask you to link up your Instagram account (which is easy), but when it’s successful you’ll have to start shopping all over again. I’m sure this is something they’ll work out eventually, and even now the site works, it just isn’t optimized. Even with this minor issue, you only have to go through these steps once and the products make it worth it.
Once you’ve linked your account and selected your products, you’ll choose which photos you want to have printed. This is dead simple: Just click to add or remove from the given order. Pricing is reasonable and the turnaround time is pretty quick. I ordered a poster and two mini photo books and they arrived within a few days.
And that, to me, is key. There’s nothing quite like lifting a box down from a shelf and poring through old photos of days gone by. So by all means, feel free to point and shoot. But don’t forget to print.•
Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at email@example.com.