With magazine budgets drying up, it's getting harder and harder for aerial photography wizard Vincent Laforet to get into the sky. His new strategy: letting his audience be his patron directly with Visuals, his beautiful and innovative new iOS app.
What is it?
Visuals is, on one level, a collection of Vincent Laforet's aerial photography. But it's also more than that - an experiment in what professional photography could become in a new post-print landscape. Laforet, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who has contributed to The New York Times, Time and National Geographic among others, was finding that magazines were increasingly unable to pay for his pricey helicopter shoots. He thought that an app might be a way not only to share his photography but to help fund future projects as well. To this end, Visuals serves up nine free photographs and offers a total of 54 for in-app purchase (individual collections are $1.19 on the iPhone, $2.49 on the iPad, or you can grab 'em all for $6 or $13, respectively), each with information on how the photo was shot (ISO, F-stop, metering, focal length, etc) and a video of Vincent explaining a bit about the photograph. Visuals goes far beyond just stuffing some photos in an app to become something much more rewarding: a show and tell by the photographer himself. And by investing in it, you're not just buying yourself some nice photos but funding future content for the app as well - you can read Laforet's explanation of the model on his site.
Who's it good for?
People who like good photography; people who are interested in seeing how that good photography might be perserved in our new App World Order.
Why's it better than alternatives?
Well, first, the photographs are pretty hard to beat. Among the six collections - "New York Times", "Aerials", "Man & Nature", "Paniolo", "Surf", "Tilt Shift" and "Tilt Shift - Sports" - there's probably a handful of images you'll recognising seeing in the past (and don't mind dwelling on a bit more) and then dozens more like it that are equally stunning. The Visuals app also goes beyond the call of duty in giving you some sense of ownership over these photos - you can use them as wallpapers for your device and even (gasp!) share them with friends, a notion that many photographers would probably consider intellectual property suicide. Of course that sharing comes with a few paragraphs of small font legalese, but such is life.
How could it be even better?
Buying the collections once should give you access to them on both the iPad and the iPhone, and while the explanatory videos are certainly a great touch, it'd be nice if there was some way to watch them in thumbnail (or just hear the audio) while viewing the photo itself.
For more apps, check out our weekly app roundups for iPhone, iPad and Android.
Video music: Kevin MacLeod