mobile photography technology, culture and community

Hands on: Koloid brings mobile photographers back to the darkroom

Koloid for iOS allows users to create unique textures similar to those created with collodion photography.

Kids these days. They don't know what it's like to labor over prints in a darkroom. They snap away with their smartphones, unconcerned about film limits or post-processing labor. A new app for iOS gives users a small whiff of the chemicals of photography's past.

Koloid (available for $0.99 in the iOS App Store) is inspired by 19th century's wet-plate collodion photography. The app creates a unique texture and exposure on a black and white image. Koloid takes a little longer than most camera apps but it also gives the satisfaction of using something other than a one-touch filter.

Koloid's capture tool will automatically focus on faces but also allows touch-to-focus.

Koloid prompts users to take a photo within the app, using facial recognition to highlight possible subjects with a green box. If Koloid is not focusing where you want, a simple tap-to-focus will get you there. In the capture screen, you can turn flash on or off, and access options for a grid, geotagging, square or rectangular format, and whether or not you want to save it in Koloid's gallery.

The slider on the top of the screen controls the amount of virtual liquid that will be used in the next screen.
The exposure screen shows the virtual liquid in yellow. 

After you take the photo, Koloid asks you to shake the phone in order to move forward to the exposure screen. Here, you will see the virtual developing liquid. You expose the image by tilting your phone and moving the liquid across the composition. The longer the liquid stays on a part of the photo, the darker it will become, creating "burned" areas as well as underexposing parts of the image.

The whole process of using Koloid is a bit of a spectacle. You will not be taking any subtle snapshots with it, but it is a fun way to involve yourself more in the creation of your photographs. While obviously not as involved as 19th-century wet plate photography, it does recreate a bit of the anticipation of a darkroom as you watch your image start to bloom.

Depending on how you tilt your phone, you can create a somewhat evenly exposed composition or a blotchier attempt at art (like mine).

After you are finished with your photo, you can upload it straight to your favorite social network or send it to friends via email or text message. All photos taken with Koloid are saved in their edited form (no option for saving originals) and include a date stamp on them.

On first use, Koloid is a fun photo app. It didn't crash once, despite being version 1.0, and it had enough manual features to make it fun, but not so many that it became confusing. My only issue with Koloid is that it doesn't let users save an unedited version of the photograph.

We recommended trying it out for a trip back into the darkroom, especially if you like the look of black and white iPhone photography.


Total comments: 13

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that Koloid allows to import photos from camera roll now. We've also made some other improvements with the latest update. Hope you enjoy it!

holger feroudj

I like it! It's fun to play around and I like the fact that it takes time to produce just one photo - so you focus more on it. And the developing is like dodging and burning and allows me to do stuff like custom vignetting right there just as I want it :)


Can't see why it won't let you process photos from your galleries. Having to use their camera means I'll never use it much- and it is a 'darkroom' app after all.

1 upvote
Glen Barrington

Sheesh! what a waste of space and time! The image provided looks NOTHING like a Wet plate Colloidon image. It lacks the three dimensional translucency of the real deal. I inviite you to do an internet search (I used google) and look at some examples. Judge for yourself. This is nothing more than a poor B&W conversion.

In short, based on the evidence provided, this stand alone filter sucks.

Edited 2 times; latest 2 minutes since posting
holger feroudj

You're expecting a real wet plate photo on an electronic screen? Dude, ever thought your expectations might be too high? ;)

1 upvote
The Davinator

Obviously the creaters of this silly software have never seen a real wet plate collodion.


Gag. Looks absolutely nothing like a real collodion photo.


a one shot pony with a bit of potential............ I would like to see a bit more r&d. ps worth the shot


No Android?

1 upvote

Corny but fun...

Erin Lodi

Right? If nothing else, a little trip down memory lane. Let us know if you try it!


I did give it a try.
Quick pic of my daughter here:
Using this thing has a kind of "craft" feeling to it (which is a strange thing to say with anything digital, I guess), and it is also a bit random (like Hipstamatic) but in a fun way.
I'll leave it on the Phone for a while I think...

Edited 14 minutes after posting
1 upvote

Fun app - here's the first thing I tried out:

Total comments: 13
About us