Prisma Review

I noticed a new style of photo being uploaded to Facebook recently. As I am not the first to attach to new trends (I must get round to sorting out my own MySpace) but it was related to photos, I thought I would give it a look. After a quick search (I hadn't thought about looking up the name in the watermark in most of the pictures) it turned out to be an app called Prisma. On the Google Play Store, it has already topped 1 million downloads (10 million+ on iOS) so I thought it must have some appeal.

 An example where Prisma gets it right.

An example where Prisma gets it right.

It's a new app and  quite quirky but no doubt will get updated and improved over time. The version I tried only produces square images (I doubt it's because the makers are fans of Rollei or Hasselblad) so it is not possible to preserve the original images aspect ratio. In a similar way, the app forces portrait viewing which is a bit annoying when using a tablet and a keyboard.

However, once you have taken a photo or selected one from your device you can have some fun. There are over a dozen different presets which you can select and see which one takes your fancy. Some of the names and thumbnail pictures are a bit more intricate than the actual result you can expect but the results also vary largely depending on the image that you use. For instance, there is not much point in going for the Heisenberg filter with a very dark image as most of the detail will be lost. 

The odd thing about the app is that all of the processing is done online. Seeing as the app is trendy right now, the servers get overloaded and you either have to wait a while for the image to get processed or it down right won't work at all. This is probably fine if on a home network but you may want to consider uploading large images over your mobile as it isn't clear how much data is being used each time you try and fail to get a result.

 Square ladies don't look as good as in real lfe.

Square ladies don't look as good as in real lfe.

Furthermore, it isn't actually clear why the app needs to be online to do what it does anyway. The app's website is http://prisma-ai.com and there is the briefest of notes claming it uses artificial intelligence. Without any further information, I would err on the side of cauton before using any sensitive, copyrighted or works not intended for the public through this app. I can't imagine there is much AI involved in the process, or if there is, the company isn't very clear about what it is or how your photos might be used if processed through their app. AI would infer that some kind of judgment is made about the application of the preset to the contents of your picture, but there is no feedback to say you like what it is has done or to request a different rendition using the same preset, so how can the app 'learn' anything? So, I am calling 'marketing speak' on its AI nature until I find out otherwise.

 Different strokes for different folks.

Different strokes for different folks.

Given the advances in mobile technology I would have expected larger size images. The ones I downloaded have all been 1080x1080 pixels whch is OK for basic mobile and web use but won't look too great printed out on anything bigger than a postcard (not that they are usually square) and it won't satisfy the needs of megapixel freaks on the latest HD/4K screen devices.

To be honest, it won't satisfy the needs of real photographers either and apears to be as fadish as Pokemon Go right now. There are only a set number of presets with no user controls except to fade out the effect. There isn't much point in going half way so it`s all or nothing with this app. In the long run, once the 11 million+ other uses have flooded Facebook etc with the same presets, it's all going to get very samey and cliched very quickly. 

 Hokusai inspired preset - Wave

Hokusai inspired preset - Wave

If you really want to test out the app, you might as well do it before everybody else on the net does. I do like the Hokusai inspired Wave preset and it proved to be the most versatile at working with dark pictures and giving them a bit more life. Where the app presets might come in handy is jazzing up mundane photographs. Seeing as most of the presets destroy a lot of the fine detail, it is possible to bring back a blurry photo from the dead as a Pixma version. And perhaps that's where the appeal of the app lies as it can do a lot for people using low quality cameras that need to give their photos an extra oomph. For photographers with DSLRs, I think other apps like VSCO, Pixlr and Snapseed have most of our needs already covered to just enhance a photo that should be good enough without too many tweaks or embellishments anyway. And despite its grand claims, it's not going to be stealing much gallery wall space from real artists. There is a total lack of precision and finesse to the generated 'brush strokes'. Even if they correct it, you will still just be creating digital knock offs that don't have any of the techniques or impact of real world art.

 Oh dear! Not many artists would uglify their models this badly!

Oh dear! Not many artists would uglify their models this badly!