AUSTIN (KXAN) - A new iPhone app developed by two Austin programmers is sitting comfortably near the top of the list of available applications for the iconic device. It is a long list indeed: More than 350,000 apps long, in fact.
When Trey Ratcliff and Mark Powell launched their "100 Cameras in 1" app , their first stop was right at the very bottom of that list. The pair was hopeful, though, because they knew they had something unique on their hands.
"Everyone out there is taking photos with their camera on their iPhone or whatever portable device they have," Ratcliff said. "It's sort of this incredibly awesome social behavior that's unexpected and cool. And so people love to have amazing apps to do their photography with, so we wanted to get into it, too."
Ratcliff is a photographer who specializes in something called High Dynamic Range photography . Using sophisticated cameras and complicated software, the man creates vibrant and stunning photos that often startle viewers. He wants to take HDR photography mainstream, but the needed equipment costs and skill factors discourage many.
So Ratcliff recruited his friend and computer software programmer to create a program that would allow anyone to manipulate their smartphone photos with ease.
"We wanted to be able to have 100 different cameras in one, where you could very, very quickly take a photo and then create 100 different versions of that, that you can swipe through ultra-quick."
"You have these hundred textures that you can just swipe through and they make your photo look completely different on each one," Powell added. "You might find five to 10 that look fantastic, without you having to do any work. They make your photo look like art. You did it on your phone while you were at your kid's piano recital, without having to go home and fire up Photoshop or $10,000 worth of photo editing equipment; you did it on your phone."
"We didn't build ours for photographers," Ratcliff said. "We built ours for the average person that just wants to create something quick, artful and wonderful in a matter of seconds. People do love post-processing photos but they don't want to take the time to learn something like Photoshop. They want it to be easy and simple. So we came up with a way to bring the amazing Photoshop capability right into your iPhone with just a few swipes of your finger. You can instantly make it a black and white photo; that's easy, but we want to do all these other things. You can give it these vintage looks to make it look like an old Polaroid. You can make it look like it's from the 70s or the 50s or the 20s. And you can add these rich textures to your photos that add a little bit of mystery."
Then the men wrapped up their app in even more mystery. They decided they needed to name each of the 100 textures that can be applied to every photo.
"To me, it's a little bit boring to give them names like '1970s,' or 'Black and White 1,' or Black and White 2,'" Ratcliff said. "So we have these poetic names for them all and they give you a little bit of a feeling of what the effect is like. For example, we have one filter that's very reddish and the name of the filter is, 'The Sky Wept in Crimson Waves.'"
The fun, though, doesn't stop there.
"This also ties into all the social media sites, as well," said Powell. "So you can take that picture of your blind date, find one that really makes her look very beautiful, and then you post it on Facebook and say, 'Here's my date for tonight.' And then all your friends instantly see this photo that you just took that's been enhanced with our application. It's kind of giving normal people an artistic expression with their photos. And all they have to do is just swipe, side-to-side, on their iPhone."
So Ratcliff and Powell got their finished product in the iPhone App Store. There it sat a number 350,000 on the list. Then, suddenly, it took off, climbing at one point as high number 8.
"When you get into even the top 100, much less the top 10, things get crazy," Ratcliff testified. "On a good day, we'll sell an app every 12 seconds, easily over 5,000 a day, sometimes a lot more in a day, especially if it's a weekend."
At 99 cents per app, all that can translate into profits of several thousand dollars a day even after Apple takes its 30 percent cut.
That, of course, won't happen to every app. Ratcliff and Powell were fortunate in that they could push the product on Ratcliff's HDR website.
"He has a very popular website ; he posts it on his website," said Powell. "He's got a lot of Twitter followers. So you do need to do some marketing and there is a little bit of who you know involved. But the key element is: If you have a good product, you can get it out there."
So if you see these two entrepreneurs out and about, offer them a high five for their 100-in-1 success. Don't stare though. Take a picture; it lasts longer.
Then swipe your fingers a couple of times and texture your photo in a 100 different ways. It'll take you about 10 seconds. Then post
a few of them on Facebook and recommend the app to your friends. They can spend 99 cents to buy it, too. The app authors can rake in a few more thousand dollars before supper time.
This is the world we live in. Live in it.
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