One of the perks of having an iPhone in my pocket is that it means I have a good quality digital camera with me whenever I’m on the go. This means that I am racking up tons of photos – some of which are good – that show what I have done and where I have been. But once I have all the images I want, what should I do? Sure, I could share them on social media, but it’s not great for turning a bunch of images into a cohesive whole.
Steller is a free iPhone app designed to help take pictures and videos like mine and yours, and put them together to create something bigger. The app allows users to create and share “stories,” which are roughly the iPhone’s equivalent of a coffee table art book. Users lay out pages filled with media and text, and can then share them with the world through Steller’s app and social media, via a web viewer.
The app is created by a team of tech industry veterans, including former Microsoft and VMware executives Mark Lucovsky and Richard McAniff, as well as Seattle entrepreneur Peter Denton.
Making a story is pretty straightforward. Users start by selecting a layout for their first page (whether it’s video, photo, or text) and then can choose to adjust elements on that page or create another page to follow it.
With a little tinkering, I was able to create a pretty basic mobile photo book with a few paragraphs of text on a half-hour train ride to San Francisco, and I’m sure it would be easy enough for my kids. non-tech friends and family to do the same.
The layouts provided are designed to be elegant by default, with fonts and element placement specifically selected so that users’ content looks the best with minimal effort. For people who want to change the placement of their media or the size of their text, it is possible to move elements to a certain extent.
For people looking to get inspired or just see some cool stuff, the developers at Steller curate a number of story collections that showcase some of the best work done on the app right now.
For users who don’t want to share their work with the world, it’s possible to keep it as a draft and use Steller’s app to share it with people they meet in person.
One of Steller’s major flaws is the rigidity of its visual layout. Most of the photography I do these days involves cropping an image into a square to make it fit Instagram, and although I can zoom in and out to fit within the pages. from one of Steller’s stories, I cannot change the size or shape of the book’s overall canvas to fit my images. For users who prefer to take full-frame horizontal photos, layout issues would undoubtedly prove to be more of a problem.
The user interface for sharing stories outside of the company’s iPhone app also leaves something to be desired. While I find it enjoyable to watch the stories other people have shared in the context of the iPhone app, the available web viewer seems like an afterthought, so people who don’t have or can’t have the app can still watch. But unlike a site like Instagram, where users share one image at a time, the actual browsing experience is a key part of a story shared with Stellar.
That said, some external sharing features like this are better than no sharing features at all. Here is an example of a good story in Stellar, as seen in the web viewer. I’d much rather be able to share my stories like that, outside of Steller’s app confines, rather than having my content locked. And it’s still version 1, so there are definitely a lot of improvements that are possible in the future.
Ultimately, for people looking to turn their media into a stylish presentation without much effort, Steller is a fantastic choice.
Steller is available for free on the iOS App Store.
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