Photography Evolution

When I was kid, I’d stare at the back page of the Sunday NY Times Arts & Leisure section, because there would be a full page ad for a camera retailer and it would display all the amazing equipment one could buy to pursue their hobby or profession. Lenses. Camera bodies. Light meters. Flash Equipment. Eventually, it even included video cameras! For some reason, although I’d never owned more than an instamatic, I was enthralled with this wonderland of choices. Of course, you needed to spend thousands of dollars, money i certainly didn’t have.

Now, all I have to do is go to the app store of my smart phone and I can get an amazing array of photographic software applications that will let me mimic many of the photo-journalistic fantasies I had when I was a boy. Many are free. And while I own several actual cameras, including a Canon Digital SLR with several lenses, i find myself taking 90% of the pictures I take with my trusty iPhone. So, what apps have I been using, and what do I think is pretty cool?

The application I use the most is Instagram. It is s simple little program that lets you take photos, add filters to them to make them look a certain way (aged, tilt shifted, b/w, colorized, etc), and then send them to your social networks if you want, and to the instagram social feed. Like Facebook and Twitter, people can follow your particular stream, comment on and like your photos, and share your pics with other if they want to. One of the pics I’ve taken with this tool are seen here.

So what other tools do I have and use?

There is ColorSpash that lets you manipulate your photo so that certain parts are in color and the rest is in b/w. Very cool.

There is Microsoft’s PhotoSynth that lets you take and stitch together multiple photos into a 3D environment.

There is Hipstamatic, like Instagram in that it let’s you take pictures with different effects, but in a much more sophisicated environment, where you can pay to get certain specialty “lens” effects.

There is QuickPix which lets you shoot pictures much more quickly than the iphone native camera app will allow.

There is Everyday which has you take a picture of yourself once a day and then stitches them together into a movie that shows your face, hair and mood evolve over time (only for the very vain!).

The list goes on, I’m sure that there are at least a dozen or more different apps for the iPhone alone that deserve my time and attention. And this doesn’t even begin to tap into the apps available in the android market that I haven’t yet explored.

Bottom line, if you like taking pictures, explore your smartphone’s app store and take your pictures to a whole new level.

Google Versus Facebook: Messaging Battle in the Cloud

No one will be surprised to hear that Google and Facebook are in a war for our messaging attention. Of couse, it’s not about power, it’s about money, and the more eyeballs they attract and get typing and clicking, the more revenue they pull in. There are a few other players in this drama, such as Apple, but really, it feels as if the future of our digital lives is going to be most affected by the seemingly unstoppable behemoths that are Google and Facebook. And right now, Facebook seems to be winning from a hearts and minds perspective because it’s such a personalized tool for us, and the advancements they are making to their UX are so profound that many of us don’t even realize they are happening.

Both Google and Facebook realize, as few others do, that our future is indeed, as Microsoft so lamely puts it in their advertising “to the cloud!” Unfortunately for Microsoft, most of my friends who don’t work in the digital realm ask me frequently “what is this cloud I keep hearing about?” Let me give you some examples of why Microsoft has already lost this war in the clouds when it comes to one of the mot ubiquitous practices online: messaging.

Facebook’s latest rollout of it’s message feature is remarkable. It’s remarkable in that it allows all 500MM+ of it’s users to actively communicate through like 5 different written channels (Facebook chat, Facebook messages, Facebook email address, your other associated email address and text messaging to boot) all assembled on the fly. And, they’ve given you your own facebook email address that is feeding into the same centralized thread, all stored in your inbox at Facebook in perpetuity. And they are storing all your messaging, in perpetuity as well, all up in their large portion of the cloud.

Did you already know all that? Probably if you’ve been on Faceook in the last few weeks. What you may not have recognized though, is just what a remarkable feat of engineering they’ve pulled off to get us all eventually funneled into a deeper relationship with that site platform. more eyeballs going to FB to read their mail = more eyeballs to sell to advertisers. Something David Armano over at Edelman has likened to boiling a frog.

And it isn’t just that they’ve done it, but that they are the first to do it, at this scale, and without needing plugins, new software downloaded, and sort of registration or alternate forms of T&Cs. and no cost to the user. And they’ve kind of rolled in out quietly.

Then there’s Google. While they’re busy collecting all the world’s information, the amount of data about me they store in “the cloud” is immense. It gets scary to think that they might use that data for ill will someday, and i am sure no one in the US government is qualified to watch over that juggernaut. But what Google hasn’t yet cracked, is communications. They have Gmail, and they have the Blogger platform, and of course they own YouTube….wait a minute! They damn well have cracked communications, just not lately. Remember Google Wave? I think that got Google an article in Time magazine, but now it’s been killed due to a terrible greeting in the marketplace. Remember Google Buzz? Goggle Talk? etc, etc coming out of Google Labs. What has succeeded for Google seems very distant, primarily due to the lack of social and human connections between their communications hubs.

What Google hasn’t built yet is Facebook’s interwoven messaging platform, and so as of today,  Facebook seems to be driving closer to what Google wanted in the first place, which is total world domination of the internet (for now) personal communications environment. And make no mistake, Voice communications domination will follow. No wonder those conspiracy nuts are so scared of both these companies.

What will the future bring? Will it be one where all our messaging is channeled via Facebook? consider this: you never get spam on Facebook, you never get calls from timeshare operators on Facebook, and you usually get a good response from a close friend on Facebook. Google can’t match that yet, and until they catch up, the world will continue to let  Facebook capture their time and attention, and ultimately, their precious eyeballs.

Do you have a different opinion? Let me know with a comment!