I’ve been using the ShakeItPhoto app on my phone to shoot for the last couple of weeks. It’s like an Instagram kind of app, but doesn’t upload the photos to a third party service. But that’s not why I’ve been enjoying it. It started out as a novelty thing, in a hipster “hey, look! I’m all retro, shooting polaroids!” kind of way. But it’s more than that. It’s changed the kinds of things I photograph, and how I do it.
One of the novelty gags built into the app is an imitation of the polaroid’s photo developing process. Click the button, and a sheet of film pushes out and you have to shake it to help it develop. At first, that seems like a silly and pointless bit of skeumorphism – slavish copying of the ornamental decoration of a thing without concern for the design – but it also has the effect of forcing me to slow down. If it’s going to take several seconds to “develop” a photo, then I can’t just rapid-fire bursts of photos in the hopes of catching something. I have to pause, compose, and wait for the decisive moment.
The other novelty gag is the square cropping and artificial “print” border superimposed over the photo. Again, this seems like a silly bit of skeumorphism. But it has also changed how and what I photograph. Knowing that edges will be cropped, and that the details of the image may not survive “developing”, makes me either a) select a single thing for the photo to be about, and/or 2) not really care too much about composition, falling back further into documentary mode.
Even though the photos are technically crap, have annoying reproductions of analog processes artificially grafted onto them, and the process of taking a photo is demonstrably “worse” (slower, harder to compose, etc…) I’m definitely enjoying shooting this way lately. And, I’ve set ShakeItPhoto to store full resolution versions of the photo (rather than a small downsized image) and to store the original image as well (so I can go back and do something else with a photo, without the fauxlaroid limitations if needed).