If you haven't heard of the app Phhhoto you're certainly not alone. Phhhoto is a mobile GIF/cinemagraph/image sequence creating and sharing platform that was released last year on iOS and will be coming to Android in the future. As of this week it now has over a million registered users and is really starting to take the world by storm. I'll admit I didn't really take it seriously myself until I saw Jeremy Cowart post a couple Phhhotos. After having messed around with it for the last week I can honestly say it has me pretty excited. I'm on Phhhoto and here's why you should be too.
Following Instagram's release in 2010 and its wild success, there have been a handful of would-be competitors including platforms like Hipstamatic — all of which, in my opinion, are little more than imitators. Phhhoto, while certainly taking aim at the king of the photo-sharing hill, isn't a simple imitation; it's bringing something new to the table in terms of format and creative limitation.
You really need to see a Phhhoto to get what I mean:
To my eye there's something pretty unique about the lo-fi, somewhat jumpy look of the Phhhoto images. In my experience the Phhhotos you take just work, there's no need for post-processing, and even if there was you're only given one aesthetic option: a palate of three color processing choices. The "Spring" filter gives everything a blue-green hue, "Daze" is a standard color edit (used above), and "Solo" is the black and white offering.
A Phhhoto by @DylanHowell
The app operates in a manner very similar to any stock phone camera: tap to focus, a minimal exposure compensation control, and an optional grid for people as obsessive as me. Another interesting quirk of the platform is that you cannot save your Phhhotos (either locally or in the app) after they're taken. Any "drafts" taken while the camera was open will be deleted after the camera is closed, meaning that if you don't choose to upload immediately it'll be gone.
A Phhhoto by @MarkMayaPhoto
It's really tremendous to see the creative work that's already starting to happen on the platform. Phhhoto has a curated collection of stellar images they call #WOW (analogous to the suggested images on Instagram). In my mind, Phhhoto is the wild west of social photo sharing, people are still figuring it out; we're figuring it out together.
A Phhhoto by @BrianKaiser
What I Like:
- Creative limitation. There's only one way to take a Phhhoto: through the app. Aside from tap-to-focus and a minimal exposure compensation control, all you do it press the shutter button and let it do the rest. You're also limited in terms of postproduction with only three "filters" at the moment — two color, one black and white, and one aspect ratio of a vertical 3-by-4-ish crop. Truth be told, when I started using Phhhoto there was only color and black and white, a limitation I somewhat miss.
- Lo-fi. I really like the look and feel of Phhhotos. No, they're not the files I pull out of my D800. Heck, they're not the files I'd normally get out of my iPhone, but there's a certain charm to the grainy, honest feeling images you see on the platform, though this may be a con to some.
- Social. Phhhoto operates in a way that feels familiar (reminiscent of the best parts of Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram) without feeling derivative. It also has a moderately robust sharing capability built-in.
What I Don't Like:
- The only thing I'm not too keen on is the "parties" tab on everyone's profile. While Phhhoto is ostensibly a social platform they also have #PRO, a Phhhoto photo booth service that allows users to link Phhhotos taken at parties with their account. While it is admittedly pretty darn cool, it isn't something that I think needs to be on every profile, especially when most people's party count will remain at zero. Then again I might be biased as I own a competing photo booth company.