I've been addicted to the "instant moving pictures" app Phhoto for the last few weeks. The output is a looping animated gif, but a simple process of taking 5 photos in quick succession gives you that result. Yes, there have been countless apps for creating gifs or cinegraphs (those still-images with slight movement in them), but Phhhoto has me expanding my creative ideas in just the right way.. To see what I mean, look at the gifs below:
Here's a secret: I've tried to get into creating videos, but I don't think I'm any good at it yet. It's not that I don't want to bring another dimension to my work, but it's hard to think in motion when you're used to still visuals. I'm intimidated by the medium, and I see so many peers do amazing things with video. Where Phhhoto comes in is that I'm able to take a composition and add a little bit of motion to make the idea come across clearer.
One of my favorite recent still images was of an ice cream sandwich in a container that mimics a fire extinguisher box, and is only intended to break glass in case of emergency. I ran into challenges photographing it the way I felt best brought across that breaking of the glass, but Phhhoto allowed me to make that come alive. Is one better than the other? I don't think so, but I've already noticed that trying a version of the composition in motion as a Phhhoto has started to inform how I capture the still image. That's huge.
In my notebooks that I've previously used just to sketch out and write down still photo ideas, I've now filled up pages and pages of ideas that would look great as moving image or Phhhoto. Do I tackle an idea as a still photo or a moving Phhhoto? I've started to not care about which I do, but how to exaggerate my creative voice in motion. Similar to that early exploratory period when everyone joined Instagram, I'm going through experiments or finding small moments to animate along the way.
Some takeaways (in no particular order of importance):
I spend a lot of time creating some Phhhotos
I saw a monument on my trip to Greenville last week, and found myself trying to capture it through the app in a way that made it look like the shapes were subtlety moving. I spent almost 10 minutes trying to get the right loop, the right pan of movement. It was fun, it was frustrating, and I was never fully satisfied. Therefore, I loved it.
Who cares if it takes 10 minutes to compose?
We all meticulously set up shots, spending hours composing or lighting. This app can be quick, but it can also be incredibly complex. Similar to executing a magic trick with a finished photo that looks simple but is very complex, you can do the same here. I want to push how far I can take a single moving Phhhoto.
It's a new platform and the possibilities feel endless
Yes, new social networks are generally exhausting. I have to add all new material, put the same profile photo, add my friends from twitter and Facebook. Here's where Phhhoto turns that upside down: your profile picture is in motion too, and only captured in app. Beyond that, I'm mostly excited to see what I can uniquely create on the platform. I've started to reverse-engineer ideas when executing them, so that the outcome is what I want from the beginning. I'm deliberate in the motion that's created, what personality the objects moving in or out of frame have, and if the composition creates a small moment that celebrates or critiques small observations of life.
I'm starting to believe I can get into video
I started this by explaining that I was looking to bring my ideas into motion and this is the first step at extending these ideas. It's gotten me thinking in an entirely different dimension, and I think this is the start of something. Maybe it's not so intimating after all, but I won't be creating full-length narratives any time soon.
People are doing amazing things with it already
Phhhoto has built it's own explore page or "wow" section in the app, so you can see what their team curates as the best examples in the app. Generally, they seem to follow themes and feature stand-out people and tags. The early days of Instagram saw inventions of countless creative tags, and people on Phhhoto have started to explore that too. For example the tag #pushhit showcases a finger in perspective pushing something further away, giving the illusion the finger is pushing it. I'm hoping to see the sort of creative explosion we saw on Instagram, but for moving images.
Consuming Phhhotos are easy
Vine was cool. Vine still is cool, but most people I know (including myself) have fallen off with it. Six seconds of video, although short, ended up being too much to commit to. On Instagram, we're using to having barely 1 or 2 seconds of someone's attention for them to double-tap or move on. Phhhoto seems like a happy medium. It's not a heavy video load, and you could consume it in a second or two, or spend more time with it. Some of my favorite moving Phhhotos have very subtle animation, but you sit and watch it for much longer to absorb it.
How do I see photo-taking differently now?
The biggest takeaway is that now that I can do real motion inside a Phhhoto, I want the still images I take to have the same feeling of movement. It's challenging, but maybe this little app will help me with making my images have more personality.
If you're on Phhhoto, make sure to follow me @timlampe. This is not a paid ad for Phhhoto. I just enjoy apps that challenge the way I see things.