Why you should care

This app gives new meaning to #nofilter.

There are a lot of wannabe Instagram apps out there. WhiteAlbum is not one of them. With its digital-meets-analog approach, this new iOS app takes things back to the pre-digital era — sort of. It’s kind of like a disposable camera: You can only take 24 photos at a time, and every photo you shoot is printed. No retakes. No edits. No fancy filters.

Developed by a team at marketing agency Mint Digital, WhiteAlbum charges $20 for 24 photos — which you can’t review before they arrive on your doorstep. Mint Digital Product Designer Greg Beck says these days it’s too easy to “instantly reminisce” with a photo. “The crux of the idea is to shoot the photos, not have to worry about it and sort of stay in the moment, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing,” Beck tells OZY.

The 4-by-4-inch photos can be shipped anywhere in the world.

The only typical features in this not-so-typical photo app for iPhone (no Android version currently): the ability to toggle the flash on-off, grid lines to compose your photo and the option to shoot in a circle format or the Instagram-like square format. The 4-by-4-inch photos, printed on 4-by-5 smooth satin paper, can be shipped anywhere in the world. Like a Polaroid print, there’s a white border to write notes on each photo — although the album name, photo date and photo location gets printed on the back of each pic.

Lynn Johnson, a photographer known for her work in National Geographic, says being constrained to a set of 24 images could be a good exercise in becoming more mindful: With digital photography our relationship is more with the back of the camera than with the person or place we’re photographing. Limitations can help “stretch your creativity and mine your creativity,” Johnson says.

Emmy award-winning multimedia journalist Richard Koci Hernandez says this app “hit a very nostalgic chord” with him right away. We’ll eventually realize we’ve lost most of our digital memories to the cloud and our hard drives, he says. But while Hernandez is a fan of WhiteAlbum’s approach to getting us to interact with photography in a different way, he says it gets lost in the sea of other apps and lacks the instant gratification people want today. “It’s a particularly hard sell to younger people who don’t have the nostalgia for what it (photography) used to be like,” Hernandez says.

And $20 an album may seem like a steep price to some, especially in this digital era when you can take unlimited photos and delete those mistake pics of your foot or the floor with just a swipe. But Beck is pretty clear about the use of WhiteAlbum: It’s just an alternative, and even he uses the app alongside his regular camera app and Instagram. But, hey, maybe forced printing of digital photos you shoot might be the remedy for those empty photo frames you’ve been meaning to fill for years.

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