That snapshot of the perfect latte, that soft-focus sulpture, that flawlessly-lit “candid” shot of a friend: Instagram is helping you fake it, and a new app is going to undo its good work.
The world has embraced Instagram because it makes drab iPhone photos look as if they’re artfully composed, well-lit and interesting. And that’s exactly why many photographers who use traditional film and digital cameras resent it: It makes it easy for everyone to do what has taken them years of practice and expensive equipment, and it can make iPhoneographers think they’re as good as the real thing. Sometimes they are. But, most of the time, when you take away the fancy filters, you’re left with a photo that’s rather ordinary.
Normalize, a 99-cent iPhone app, removes all the frills of Instagram and other photo-filtering services to give you the bare bones image. No more neon trees or green-tinged kittens. Via the app’s page in the iTunes store, here’s a before-and-after look at a sepia-toned photo being Normalized:
The app’s actual utility isn’t necessarily to be used as a weapon against Instagram users, but rather, as another means of correcting photos that don’t quite turn out the way we hoped. That may be because they’ve been run through an app, but it’s also sometimes the fault of actual shoddy lighting. Normalize is a filter too — basically, an auto-enhance one that evens out lighting and tone, so your photos will still look better than they would without any apps at all.
But if it’s used to expose bad Instagram photography, there are certainly some photographers who wouldn’t mind. Some of them have been leading an Instagram backlash in the last year, complaining that the recent ubiquity of retro-filtered snapshots has created a visual cliche, especially when users try to be “artsy” by taking the same latte foam art photos, over and over again. It’s a phenomenon that’s been parodied via other means, like the Text-Only Instagram Twitter account.
Will the fad for vintage-inspired photographs ever pass? Not while iPhone cameras lack the capabilities of real ones, allowing people to take photos that actually look good without the assist from apps. Until then, expect a Facebook newsfeed full of faux-retro fakery: It’s not going away anytime soon.