America’s Next Top Model is Going Hybrid: Could This Keep The Art From Mainstream Pros?

America's Next Top Model is Going Hybrid

America’s Next Top Model is Going Hybrid. Is this a good thing?

UPDATE – I got a friendly email this morning by Co-Founder of Flixel, Bretton MacLean who corrected me on the pricing. I’m happy to say that the $20 HD in app purchase is a one time purchase. That’s HUGE as it puts Flixel Pro into the price range I thought would be needed to gain acceptance by the main stream pros. Bretton also wrote that he’s going to update the description on the app store to minimize confusion. I will now dig into Flixel Pro and post some tutorials and a review in the near future..Excited!!

America’s Next Top Model is featuring Hybrid Motion Portraits on current and future episodes. Is this a good thing for hybrid photographers or a potential road block to mainstream acceptance of the art?

Looks like Tyra and friends got the message about Hybrid Photography. Tyra Banks partnered up with a software developer to make a pro-level iOS app for hybrid photographers called Flixel and will be using the app on future episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

This is excellent news for pro photographers selling hybrid products as it legitimatizes the art. However, the hidden costs of Flixel will keep most photographers from experimenting with this app. This could potentially slow down the acceptance of hybrid motion portraits within the community of professionals wanting to move into hybrid.

If you have read my post on How To Make a Hybrid Motion Portrait in 5 Minutes you’ll notice that I used an app called Echograph. I like Echograph for many reasons, one of which is the price…its free. Tools like Echograph that are free help photographers experiment into new areas which is a good thing. See, we photographers are a fearful bunch. When something new comes along we kinda freak out looking for excuses not to jump into the newest and latest trends in the photography world. I’m not talking about gear here but more so creativity.

When digital came along many of us fought the transition kicking and screaming while some saw the opportunity to try something new and others, based on ignorance, jumped in with a big smile on their face. I was in the last group, big smile and all.

A large part of the reason I went into digital photography was that the price of the film and processing made it difficult for me to experiment and learn while with digital, once I made the investment into memory and a camera I could experiment all I wanted.

How Tyra got into Hybrid


Tyra, a big fan of hybrid photography herself, invested into a startup called Flixel which was developing an app for iOS that made Cinemagraphs. Flixel a startup from Canada wanted to be the next Instagram. They didn’t really have the success needed (never heard of them until now) but Tyra, an avid user of Cinemagraphs, loved the app so she invested into the startup to help it grow into the tool it is today. Source All Things D

Rather than go the route of free, Flixel went the route of FEE and I’m talking bank here..lots of it. The Flixel Pro app which sells for $9.99 has many pro tools available for the hybrid photographer which makes it worth the $10. The quality of the product is great but I’m not going to review the app in this article. What I need to address here is the FEE part of the Flixel app.

Sure, $10 for a pro-level app is nothing and if that were the only cost of the app I’d say its a bargain, promoting it in my hybrid events because as an app it’s a good tool. The problem comes when you want to export a HD Cinemagraph. Each time you export a hi-def Cinemagraph it will cost you $20 a pop. That’s not a typo my friends. Think about how many times you need to experiment to really get the hang of something new. Imagine that when you started photography every photo cost you $20. Would you have experimented much?

If you were to make 4 HD Cinemagraphs at $20 a pop per month that would cost you more than a Adobe Creative Cloud membership even without the upgrade discount. What makes matters worse is that in the details section of the app description on the iPad or iPhone there’s no mention of the cost per export. That’s a bit misleading in my opinion.

tyra banks and flixel hybrid photography

The lack of disclosing the $20 per HD export in the description could be seen as misleading.

While I applaud Tyra for investing in Flixel and think the quality of the Flixel app is good their pricing model and misleading way of communicating the real cost of the app could potentially scare people away from ever getting into hybrid. To me that’s a real problem.

The opportunities lost

So at the free end of the hybrid app spectrum we have Echograph who’s made by a small team of developers. I reached out to them many times about the need for a pro-level Cinemagraph and never got a response. My guess is that they are so small they can’t get to their emails. :-0 If the team at Echograph added a few more features to their app it could be a tool pros could use for content creation and one that would be worth spending $20-$50 on.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Flixel which has all the tools one could ask for in creating high quality hybrid motion portraits. The problem with the app is their lousy pricing model which will keep any business minded pro from using the app and sticking to Photoshop for experimenting. The issue with Photoshop is that while it can be used for Cinemagraph creation it takes far more time and effort. As a result, many may choose to bypass the opportunity of hybrid all together.

The unfortunate part for photographers is that there really is no single tool to help us create pro quality Cinemagraphs that we could sell without spending a grip of money. This is a risky proposition. Since hybrid is just starting to take off in the pro world we have to spend time and money educating our clients. We might want to make a few Cinemagraphs for fun to show what we can do.

Normally you would show a new photographic technique to your clients which you spend time (money) on in hopes to make up for it on the back end. With apps like Echograph you can’t export a true HD quality image and with Flixel it will cost you $20 per image regardless if you make money on it or not.

This means that until either an app comes along and solves the problems of the two apps above, high cost or lack of features, we really don’t have a proper solution on the iPad and that kinda sucks.

I have emailed the team at Flixel about this issue and linked them to this post and I hope they respond well to my criticism. I think Flixel and Tyra could potentially take hybrid photography to the mainstream pro but its the pricing that will keep many photographers from experimenting with their app which in the end could hinder the success of this well made piece of software.

Note – although I have purchased Flixel Pro I have since deleted the app from my iOS devices and received a refund from the Apple App Store.

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About Giulio Sciorio

Since 2009, Hybrid Photography pioneer Giulio Sciorio has been blending still + motion & sound with his photography. Giulio is a Lumix Luminary, commercial photographer and founder of SmallCameraBigPicture.com - the resource for everything Hybrid. A portfolio of Giulio’s hybrid work can be found at GiulioSciorio.com.

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5 Responses to America’s Next Top Model is Going Hybrid: Could This Keep The Art From Mainstream Pros?

  1. Steve August 21, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    One of my biggest annoyances with apps anymore is the philosophy of “we’re going to charge you for every single feature of the app, no matter how minor!” And, it’s becoming more and more pervasive with the details carefully concealed.

    I’d rather pay a fair price up front and have a working app than pay a smaller fee or have it be free and then be nickel’d and dime’d to death.

    For Flixel, $10 seems a fair price, but to then ask $20 for every export is simply absurd! The Flixel crew must have lost their ever-loving minds to think that anyone would fall for it.

    Promoting hybrid is a great thing but, at such an exorbitant price, their app is likely already dead in the water.

    Although I haven’t watched it in quite some time, I used to watch “Top Model” regularly just for the photography. Eventually the “reality drama” became too much and I gave up in spite of the sometimes great photos.

  2. Bretton MacLean (@Bretton) August 22, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Hi there – I’m the Design Co-Founder and Flixel and I’d like to set the record straight: the $20 HD export purchase is NOT a per-export fee. It’s a one-time feature purchase, and it’s to help us offset the (lifetime) cost of uploading and storing these larger files.

    You’re not the first person to make this mistake – the problem is with how Apple phrases their In-App-Purchase dialogue. It says “Are you sure you’d like to purchase one X for $Y”. The only control we have is over the X and Y in that sentence…so we can’t correct the “one” that precedes it. Originally ‘X’ was just ‘HD Export’, but we added the word Feature at the end to try and clear things up (“one HD Export Feature”). If this is still causing confusion we’ll have to address it again. I’m thinking “one Unlimited HD Export Feature” would make it crystal clear.

    We appreciate the writeup, but we’d appreciate a correction even more ;)

    As an aside, Echograph was purchased by Vimeo a while back, at which point they made their app free. No idea what their long-term plans are for the app, but we’re dedicated to providing the best cinemagraph-creation tools we can, and at the highest level of output quality. Even the free version of Flixel provides higher resolution cinemagraphs, and we’ve taken the artform beyond the limitation of animated gifs.

    The original version of our app (which pre-dated Echograph) was an Instagram-eque consumer-oriented product, but we decided to throw that app out and rebuild a tool aimed at professional creators. Yes, we have a paid version with an in-app purchase, but the reality is that 100% Free is not a sustainable business model. We’re in this for the long haul, and to do that we need to charge what we feel is a fair price.

    • Giulio Sciorio August 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Hi Bretton! Thanks for reaching out via email and for the comment to set the record straight. I updated the post, see above, and am looking forward to digging into Flixel Pro.

  3. Mark Z August 22, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    I couldn’t agree more Giulio. If they want Flixel to become the next “Instagram” the export function has to be free. I can’t think of any popular creative app (music, photography, video, etc.) where you have to pay to export your work. Even if you had to pay an iTunes-like 99c/79p per export, people still wouldn’t embrace this as a go-to app for this purpose as it limits your ability to experiment freely.

    My guess is it won’t be long before a plug-in appears for Photoshop/iPhoto/Aperture etc. that will make this quick and easy to do in a very accomplished way.

    As you say, it’s a shame, because this could substantially accelerate the penetration of hybrid imaging into the market, but like this it will put most potential users off. I agree with the previous poster “at such an exorbitant price, their app is likely already dead in the water”. In the end I guess the market will prove one way or the other whether this business model can work for Flixel…

  4. Sean August 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Reminds me of Monty Python animation. To each his own.

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