A couple of months ago, we talked to Greg Beck – the creator of a counter-intuitive photo app called The White Album, which basically turns your smartphone into a disposable camera. Here's how it works: when you open the app a simple camera interface opens up.
You have the option of a framing the shot in a square, ala Instagram, or in a circle, and you can choose to use the flash or not, but there's no peeking once you've taken the shot, no adding filters, no cropping, no nothing. Once you press the button, the photo is stored away from prying eyes until the roll is completed. Then you submit payment and The White Album prints and sends you the photos.
We wanted to see if a smartphone app could recreate or even improve on the feeling of the good old days of waiting for photos to be developed.
Producer Logan Shannon downloaded the app, while at the same time, Producer Taylor Quimby obtained a disposable camera so we would have a control set of photos.
Logan treated her White Album photos as special photos, often forgetting about the app on her phone. She also "cheated" by taking a photo she could see with her camera app and then once she liked the composition, she would open up the White Album app and take the shot again. She does not feel bad about cheating despite admonishment from her peers.
Logan also used a few of her magnetic iPhone lenses to create some bizarre images.
Taylor on the other hand, used the disposable camera just like he would have back in olden times. He took group photos of people at work:
He let his 3 year old son, Phin, take a few photos:
And managed to travel back in time to the mid seventies:
Is the digital version of a disposable camera better than the real thing? Well, mostly yes. For one thing the photo quality is better: the lens on an iPhone 5 (in this instance) is vastly superior to the lens on a store brand disposable camera. Chances are that even if Taylor had taken a more careful approach to his photo taking, the results would have been about the same: grainy, over or underexposed photos with bland colors.
The White Album Photos came in a neat little white box with a cut out for the photos. We're all fans of nice packaging, so it was an extra treat when the photos arrived. Because you're using the power of the iPhone's camera you get the ability to create a photo with depth; not everything has to be in focus. One aspect that we weren't as excited about was that all of the photos seemed to have a filter applied to them, the colors were more muted and while the quality of the photo paper was high, the print quality seemed a bit sub par.
Waiting for photos feels incredibly archaic, but there was something nice about discovering the photos we took weeks after we'd taken them.