Instant is a five-dollar retro photo filter app for OS X, replicating the look and feel of a Polaroid camera, and it does the job with style.
The longer the trend for retro photography goes on, the more amazed I am that it’s lasting so long. Instragram’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down, and there are several desktop OS X apps providing similar functions. Instant is one of them, but it stands out because it’s been beautifully and thoughtfully made. It looks like a Polaroid camera (with the blessing of an official license from Polaroid) – this kind of digital skeuomorphism is maddening in Apple’s recent versions of iCal and Address Book, but it sort of works here.
Be warned, though: the workflow in Instant does not lend itself to long photo conversion sessions. There’s no way to process more than one image at a time, and everything is very mouse-focused. Aperture users fond of their keyboard shortcuts might find the process rather slow and frustrating.
Of course, the target audience isn’t the pro users, it’s everyone else. Everyone who’s got a digital camera and a Mac, and wants to make them do the things their friends with iPhones do.
Drag an image into Instant to open it (or use the File/Open command). Since most photos are rectangular and Instant’s output is square, you’ll be shown a preview box and asked to select the square you wish to process.
Then there’s a bit of sound-effect stuff – click! bzzzzzzzt – and your image slides out from the bottom of the camera. It sounds just like the real thing (for those of you old enough to remember the real thing).
After developing, you can edit. Like Instagram, there are filters that can be applied. The app will apply one at random to every image, but if you don’t like it, double-click anywhere on the photo to open a drawer with some alternatives. Play around until you see something you like. There’s also room for text at the base of your image, and a lovely selection of 10 built-in handwriting fonts (you can add your own if you have them too).
After that it’s easy to save as a jpg, or send pictures straight to Flickr if you have an account there. Is there a Flickr group? Oh yes.
Now, I don’t do a lot of retro photography, but I like Instant. It’s got a good feel to it, it’s very friendly and very easy to understand. I can see less technically minded members of my family warming to it very quickly. Quite how long the retro trend in photography is going to last is anyone’s guess, but while it does (and even a long time after it’s become unfashionable again), Instant is an excellent way of joining in the fun on your Mac.
Pro: Fun, friendly.
Con: Skeuomorphism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s ok here.