My Photo Essay: “A Little Bit of London” (and a first-look at the free photo storytelling App “Project Luca”)
Morning gang (it’s still morning, right?)
Sorry for the late post (putting this together took way longer than expected).
Those of you who follow me regularly here on the blog have seen the photographic stories I’ve posted over on my exposure.co account, which I think is an absolutely marvelous way to tell a story with both pictures and words (here’s a link to my exposure page and you can see what I mean). Far better than any blog post.
Meet Project Luca
A buddy turned me onto this new iPad-based free photo storytelling app called Project Luca (it’s still in Beta at this point, but you can request to try it out at getluca.com) and it has some very interesting features — including some exposure.co doesn’t offer yet, so I wanted to at least give it a try, and I chose to do it with the 2-1/4 shoots I got to do while visiting London back in October.
Here’s what’s different about Project Luca:
- You actually build your project right on the iPad itself (but when you’re done, anyone with a web browser on any device, from desktop to laptop to mobile device, can view it).
- It has lots of professionally designed templates to choose from (rather than exposure’s one standard layout).
- Your project can have motion (meaning, the text can kind of “float over your images” with a window shade effect).
- You can choose your fonts and there’s a decent level of customization.
- You can have your images dissolve between frames, so it can be kind of like a slideshow.
- It allows captions under the photos, which is awesome (and something exposure.co has yet to do, though they do now offer a caption feature but it can only appear over the image itself, and only at the top of the image).
Here’s how it works:
Once you install the app on your iPad and launch it, it shows you a few example projects so you get the idea of how Luca’s look and then if you want to create a “Luca” of your own hit the text at the top (I didn’t really have to say that last part now, did I?). ;)
It brings you to this starting screen where you can start entering text and adding pictures from all over, including Lightroom Mobile, your Adobe Creative Cloud account, Dropbox, etc.
What threw me was you don’t pick your template first — you just start creating. It took me about an hour (literally) until I realized that the “Color Palette” icon at the top (which you would assume is where you go to pick your colors) is actually where they hid the templates. Ugh. Anyway, now that you know, you can pick a template now if you’d like (and I recommend that you do, because this app is all about the layout. Or the bass [no treble]).
Above: That list of fonts on the right side of the screen, is actually the list of template choices. I would prefer to see thumbnails, rather than fonts, but it’s kind of a preview of how the opening screen text will look and layout, sans images.
The rest is easy — you add photos, add your text, you just keep scrolling down and adding more stuff. At this point, it’s just the creative process of choosing which photos, at what size (you can choose from full width of the screen to smaller size images with white space on all sides) and entering your text.
When you’re done adding text, you hit the upload button and the screen you see above appears. You can choose to make your Luca public or private, and share it about everywhere if you choose. It also copies the URL to your Luca to the clipboard automatically so you can share the link manually if you want to.
One more thing: you can add credits to the bottom of your photo story, but you add it here in the upload window, rather than in the project itself. The placement of that one had me scratching my head. I’m telling you now so you won’t drive yourself crazy looking for it (like I did).
Above: Once it uploads (it goes very quickly) your story is ready to view on anything with a web browser (here it is on my iPad). You just scroll down the page to see the images and read the story (you can click on the image above for a larger view).
Above: You can edit, and view your Luca, in either landscape or portrait mode. Here’s an interior shot of London’s famous Royal Albert Hall. If you get a chance to read the story, I posted more images and the story behind it.
I Hope You’ll Check Out My First “Luca”
My “A Little bit of London” Luca is now live online and if you get a moment, I hope you’ll check it out (just seeing it will answer a lot of your questions, including “what does he mean about the text floating over the images?”).
So, how does it stack up against Exposure.co?
It has some advantage and disadvantages, but at this point, Project Luca is still in Beta (it’s not the full final version of the software). While it’s very promising overall, I’m not ready to switch from Exposure to Luca for these reasons: [NOTE: the Luca Team responded to these comments — when you done, see the bottom of the post]
- Writing long text on an iPad is pretty brutal. Most folks don’t use a separate keyboard with their iPad so typing in long paragraphs of text on a touch-screen keyboard can really become tedious. In fact, if I didn’t finally switch to verbally dictating the text (using the iPad’s built-in dictation feature) I think I would have bailed on the whole project.
- There are still a lot of user experience things that just don’t make sense. Like not starting by choosing your template. Sure, now I get it, but I was totally thrown off by it at first. Also, the color palette icon for choosing templates is a head scratcher [see response from the Luca Team below]. So is putting the credits on the upload screen. I could go on.
- If you want to turn off their window-shade animations (the floating text effect) for a particular template…you can’t. You’re kinda stuck with it, and if it annoys you…you’re stuck with it. [See response from the Luca Team below].
- At this point, it appears that you can use bold and italic, but you can’t. You can highlight text; choose bold or italic; it just doesn’t work. Could be a bug (I’m hoping it’s a bug).
- You can’t center headlines or subjects or even captions (all of which exposure.co does beautifully), which is kind of a deal-breaker for me right there. What’s weird is — you can center or left/right justify the text on the opening cover page of your Luca, so it’s not like they don’t have the technology to do it. [See response from the Luca Team below].
- You can’t change the order of your photos once they’re in your Luca, so you have to do a LOT more planning beforehand (exposure.co lets you change the order any time).
- I couldn’t find the URL to my “Luca” (to share with you in this post), without literally re-uploading my entire project. Ugh. [See response from the Luca Team below].
I generally pick up learning new software fairly quickly, but I was lost in Project Luca a lot.
Your experience may differ, but the Luca creation process just doesn’t seem to be designed in an intuitive way overall. What’s weird is — there are parts of it that are designed beautifully, and I say to myself “Man, I wish Exposure did it like this!” and then there are other parts where I’m really surprised they totally dropped the ball from an author experience perspective. In fact, if this product has an achilles heel it’s that the user experience of building a Luca seems like it was designed by committee, if that tells you anything.
I so wanted to love Project Luca, because there are still some things Exposure.co (as great as it is) hasn’t added (like captions under the photos for example), but it’s still got a ways to go. To be fair, it’s Beta software and I’m hoping that before they’re finished they’ll address some of the issues, but I think it needs a major rethinking on the author experience part — the final uploaded Luca’s look really nice, but getting there is more than half the battle.
UPDATE!!!! Right after I released this first-look, I sent an email to the Project Luca team, and I was delighted to see their response (especially since I was kind of scared to initially see their response): They wrote:
- Centered captions are in the next build [see example below -ed]
- The template icon is changing from a paint icon to a magic wand [I probably would have clicked that just to see what it did -ed]
- Ability to turn animations on and off is on the roadmap, but will not be in version one. That falls under the category of theme customizations, and those come a little later.
- Bold and Italic are not in the product right now. They are on the roadmap. The bug you described has been fixed.
- You will be able to re-order photos in our next build [yay!!! -ed]
- We are surfacing the URL for your Luca on the projects screen so you can get it without republishing [perfect! -ed]
- You will be able to left or right align floating captions (the ones that fade in/out over your photos) in the next build [awesome -ed]:
Above: Here’s one part of my Luca [from the desktop view] — notice the centered caption below the photo. Yay!
Above: Here’s a template with centered subhead text. Of course, I’d like to be able to center the subhead in any template, but at least this is a start.
I think these are all very positive developments, and my thanks to the Project Luca team for sharing a bit of their roadmap with my readers. :)