Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Move Over, Picasso: Smartphone Photos Become Works of Art

Seems like only yesterday we were talking about the shift from analog photos to digital images that consumers can obsessively share online — and get immediate gratification from in the form of “likes.”

Now, photo printouts are all the rage again. But not just any photo printouts: These are physical Instagrams.

A crop of new services are riding the coattails of the popular iPhone photo-filter app by tapping into its open API (application programming interface) to allow users to order copies of their photos in various analog forms.

One of the more notable services comes from CanvasPop, a sister company of Ottawa- and Las Vegas-based DNA 11, which made its mark by making art out of DNA strands and fingerprints. CanvasPop is now offering medium-sized stretched-canvas prints for $29.95, and feature-sized, 20-inch square prints for $59.95.

For an idea of what a CanvasPop canvas looks like, see the image above of a 12-inch square canvas of a picture I took in Hong Kong using Instagram (so … meta).

Through a series of processes, CanvasPop is able to take low-resolution images from Instagram — generally 612 by 612 pixels — and create great-looking canvases that aren’t too pixelated but also aren’t blurry. (Based on this canvas, I’d say these printouts are pretty nifty.)

In terms of cost, $30 for a 12-inch square canvas seems like a good deal, but prices may change: That’s currently listed as an introductory price, and CanvasPop co-founder Adrian Salamunovic says the company will be establishing new price points in the new year, based on customer demand. He says that since the product’s launch two weeks ago, the company has shipped “thousands” of prints.

While CanvasPop will print out any smartphone photo for you, Instagram is the only API it has officially tapped into for one-step purchasing; CanvasPop cites the large user base of Instagram as the main draw. Photos from other apps, such as Hipstamatic or Picplz, will require that users upload the photo file to their computers and submit it to CanvasPop as they might other digital photos.

If Polaroid-style pics are your thing, a company called Printstagram offers a packet of 48 mini-printouts of your Instagrams for $12, as well as stickers and a 20-inch by 40-inch compilation poster of your favorite Instagrams. There’s also a tiny Tinybook option — ideal for low-resolution images, but I’m not sure what the use case is for a book that looks like it might go in a dollhouse.

StickyGram is also getting in on the game: For $14.99, Instagrammers can get a pack of nine magnets for the fridge or file cabinet. The magnets are 50mm by 50mm — approximately the same size as an actual Instagram on your phone — and the company offers free shipping.

Instagram, for those who aren’t part of the iPhone-photo-sharing crowd, is a Bay Area-based start-up that has grown to more than 10 million users since its launch in September of 2010. The iOS-only app allows for quick photo-taking and sharing, with a variety of filters available to apply to the images.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik