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App Review: Blurb Mobile for iOS

5

Blurb Mobile for iOS (free in the Apple App Store) 

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Blurb Mobile creates an online photo book available for mobile or desktop viewing.

Blurb is an online-based book publishing service that allows everyday folks and professionals alike to publish their own books – something almost everyone dreams about at one time or another.  Photo books, cookbooks, a book about your family vacation – if you can think of it, chances are, Blurb can print it up and make it in to a book for you.

Blurb offers a plethora of apps related to story and/or photo publishing; anything from plug-ins for Microsoft Word or Adobe Lightroom and InDesign, to Facebook and Instagram book designing apps.  

For on-the-go publishing, Blurb Mobile is designed to allow users to create and share photo stories in a slideshow format, much like miniature multimedia photo essays. The app also features built-in image enhancement and editing tools so that everything from shooting to showing can be done in the one app. 

Key Features:

  • Eight photos in a story
  • One 30-second audio clip per image in story
  • One 10-second video clip per story
  • Seven “themes” for stories (colored backgrounds and text)
  • Various page layouts
  • Social sharing for published storied (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) 

Blurb Mobile Plus:

  • An additional eight themes for stories
  • Up to 20 images in a story (the website lists 15, but apparently the app has been updated)
  • One 30-second audio clip per image in story
  • Three 30-second video clips per story – up to 30 seconds each 

Operating requirements: 

  • iPhone, iPod touch or iPad
  • iOS 4.0 or later 

Also try: 

Getting Started 

Upon starting up the app users have the option to use existing photos or start a story straight from the in-app camera.

I chose to use photos from my iPhone’s Camera Roll of a recent road trip to Montana.  Each story has a space to enter the title.  Just tap the rectangle outline to the left of the photos and a text box for title entry pops up.

Scrolling from left to right, photos can be individually edited, deleted, and rearranged once placed within the story.  Tapping a photo brings up seven buttons on the photo’s edges, each with a different function. 

From the top left, moving clockwise:

  • Delete:  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Tap it, and your photo is gone.
  • Rotate Clockwise
  • Size Adjust:  Tap once and the photo moves to 1:1 (square format).  Tap a second time and the photo changes to portrait mode.  Both of these will crop the photo, blocking out parts of the image to suit the new image size.  There is no option to adjust the photo within the newly sized image area for a new composition.  Tap this button a third time and your aspect ratio is reset to the original setting.
  • Rotate Counter Clockwise
  • Caption:  Allows caption editing for each image
  • Audio Recording:  Brings up the audio clip recording menu (explained later)
  • Move Image:  Allows the user to move the image within the story.  A nice feature that is easy to use. 

Beneath the story are options to add additional photos, record audio, change the theme and edit photos, and add custom page layouts (essentially one image with multiple photos placed in various arrangements – think PicFrame, Diptic or Grid Lens images).

Adding Some Style

After adding all of my photos and inserting the story title, I tapped the “Style” button, which brought up the options for themes, as well as the adjustment tools and custom color enhancements.

Aside from color corrections and the occasional crop, I generally like to keep my post processing to a minimum, so I opted out of the sepia tone.  I decided to go with the black theme for my story – sleek and simple, not distracting.  Other options for themes include wood grain, water, granite, etc.  All strangely reminiscent of textures found in Microsoft WordArt 15 years ago. 

Simple adjustments like contrast, hue, saturation and brightness can all be made to individual photos as you scroll through from the adjustments screen, rather than having to go back and forth from the story screen to editing menu.

Updating Story Info

The “Story Info” button will bring up options to change the title, add a description, and change listing and location information.  This is nice if you build your story where it took place, which is why this is a “mobile” app.  However, I built my story once back in Washington, so adding the location didn’t make much sense.

Layouts

Tapping the “Layout” button at the bottom of the story editing screen brings up a scroll bar full of various image layouts that can each be used as a single “page” in the story. 

There are twelve layouts, sectioned to feature anywhere from two to six photos on a page.  This is handy if you have, say, three photos from the rodeo that would look good featured on one screen.  This allows you to save room for other photos, while still being able to showcase all of the photos you desire.

Adding Audio Clips

If your story needs some narration, this is the place to do it.  By tapping the microphone icon in the story menu, you will be taken to a simple audio recording interface that lets your record clips up to two minutes long (Plus version, 30 seconds for regular version) to accompany each image in the story.  You can do this yourself, but it is best if you can find Morgan Freeman or any famous person with a dignified accent, as they will undoubtedly give your slideshow some immediate street cred in the documentary community.

Getting Social

After your story is finished, it is made in to an automated slideshow, which is assigned an online URL and stored in Blurb’s “Story Stream” online.  The slideshow can then be played back on your mobile device, emailed to friends, or posted directly to Twitter or Facebook, since everyone will want to see your newly minted, Morgan Freeman-narrated photo essay about your recent journey to Montana.

The “My Stories” tab lists all of your completed stories, where you can choose to continue editing, share or make adjustments as you please.

The Story Stream is Blurb’s social platform that allows you to add friends in order to build a network of fellow app users. 

 Check out my Montana slideshow here:  http://www.blurb.com/mobile/show/0588c01d8

Conclusion

I am a photojournalist by trade and have been known to put together the occasional photo essay.  Often, automating a slideshow with audio narration, music and 20 photos is a cumbersome task that requires semi-expensive software. Blurb Mobile obviously isn’t a replacement for professional-level multimedia projects, but it does an excellent job of assembling many of the same features in an easy-to-use, simplified mobile app that can help you put together a story on the go, upload it, and share it with friends around the world in a matter of minutes. 

What we like: As a photographer I love posting photos to Facebook, but always struggle to find the best single image to tell the story – this app is a great way to gather a few images together and showcase them all in one place to tell a story.

What we don't like:  I wish there were a way to adjust compositions after changing the aspect ratio of images on a page.

 

 


Nate Watters@nate_watters, is a commercial and editorial photographer currently based in Seattle, Washington. He spends much of his time documenting the Northwest music and arts scene for City Arts Magazine and photographing his wilderness adventures for Scenic Washington State. 

Comments

Total comments: 5
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (Oct 27, 2012)

Blurb is indeed not the cheapest around but their books (at least the one I printed) are of excellent print quality and binding. I also like their editing software for print media, so I give this a try.

As a side note to the reviewer: What do you mean with.."as a photographer I love posting photo's to facebook" ?

0 upvotes
fuego6
By fuego6 (Oct 28, 2012)

Not disagreeing with you on the quality.. but their coupons are junk - 20% off up to $150 isn't all that great when I am trying to order 15 copies of an $80 book. And forget trying to resell these... when a normal size 8x10 book costs $80 (or $65 after coupon) - NO ONE is going to spend more to purchase... not worth the $10 profit to even bother. I could go on and on.. but its all been said about them before....

1 upvote
fuego6
By fuego6 (Oct 27, 2012)

Meh... Blurb - stick to print media please... and for crikes sake... LOWER YOUR PRICES!

2 upvotes
frieherrfoto
By frieherrfoto (Oct 27, 2012)

yup. you're right....

0 upvotes
frieherrfoto
By frieherrfoto (Oct 27, 2012)

It tries to emulate what you can do with the now defunct Tabblo, which HP killed off. The photo essay approach is nice (with soundbites and all) but the sharing is a pain since all it does is to drive traffic to the Blurb site.

Only on iOS so Android users won't bother checking this out.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 5
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