Review of Stylebook app for the IPhone

This modest little collage represents about 12 hours of work on my part

Ok first, this program is pretty cool. It is fairly simple in its idea. My friend Amelia turned me on to it in a comment response to my fall blazers post. She mentioned that she had been using this app for a good while, cataloging all of her items. I’m going to assume this includes everything from tops, bottoms, outerwear, accessories, shoes, and bags. The amount of time it has taken her so far seems to far exceed the amount of time I have taken in one weekend, lets say, about 10 hours, to catalog mine. I have not yet looked at her results, but my experience thus far leads me to guess a couple of things. Before I get that, I’ll cover the particulars of the application.

Basically, you take pictures of your clothes, and the app helps you separate them out by category. Once you do that, you can then create “Looks”. The app allows you to drag and drop your images from each category into your “Looks” canvas. You can use the multitouch app to resize those images so they fit on the canvas in relative proportion to one another. Here are some trial run examples of looks I created. In each caption I point out a few little headaches, I won’t call them flaws. These images are .png files that are emailed from your phone to any address you choose. I sent them to myself and uploaded them here. The .png file itself is funny. Depending on how you open it, the background is either black, grey, or white. In this case, the background appears to be white (the best one).

Notice that in some of the pictures, I kept the original "borders" of the background.

The jagged border around the bag is due to the imperfections of the "masking" tool.

That hat is very hard to shrink in size because the masking was so successful, I can't use my fingers to "grab" corners far from each other and shrink it down.

Overall, the main problems I have had and continue to have are issues for any photographer trying to reproduce images. I have a hard time believing that the photos that stylebook uses in their website for their product or the examples in the app itself were taken by the iphone. The images are far too crisp and perfect. The lighting is absolutely pristine. I used my iphone 4gs to take all the pictures.

The help section does give some recommendation on how to photograph items. You need it to be highly contrasted.. ie black on white, white on black. It says to use the flash, because it will get rid of shadows. I don’t know what world they are in but the iphone flash sucks. Now to be fair, they aren’t saying to use the iphone persay. To me, it is somewhat implied, since it is on our phones. It was a lot of work just to figure out how to set up the pictures. It is far easier said than done to have a “black” background, or “white” background. These things we are taking pictures of have depth after all.

I setup a corner in my home that has a white wall, and hung all the items on the wall. For items I could not hang, like shoes, hats, or socks, I turned a laundry hamper upsidedown and put a white towel draped over it like a tablecloth. This I then pushed against the wall, making a sort of make shift white box enclosure. It seemed to work well. I have not yet done so for a black box enclosure. The white wall was ideal for the darker elements because I’m a big guy, and the white wall is big enough to do the job, ie contain the item I’m hanging. For the black, I’ll most likely have to take a black sheet, and pin it up on the corners of the wall in a manner that is high enough, and flat enough, to then again hang something in front of it. Just typing it is a lot of work. Imagine trying to have “contrasting” photo backgrounds always ready as you go through life acquiring clothing.

So I have at the time of this article, photographed using the iphone about 120 images. I’ve populated several of the categories. I still have many items to go, probably about 60. I haven’t done any ties, belts, cufflinks, watches. I’d give myself about a C+ for my level of effort as far as detail in setting up the shots, using the perfect flash. On the other hand, my roommates think I’m pretty intense for the amount of effort I’ve put in it so far. The point is I’m a pretty intense person when it comes to projects like this. I think this stylebook app is suited for people with that tendency to be a bit obsessive. The amount of work involved to do it well seems substantial to me..simply because blocking out backgrounds in the tool is so cludgy. I could probably do it in photoshop or something and then import those items..but that would defeat the purpose.

So, in conclusion:

Pros

  1. Cool menu driven interface allows you to quickly see everything you own.
  2. Categories for clothing are customizable so you can arrange things the way you want to as far as outlines go.
  3. Creating looks is pretty easy to do.
  4. You can put in notes about looks or items in your closet. This is a good way to track brand names and such.
  5. You can very easily get an idea from your phone what your overall collection is at home, and it is all in your pocket. This is very useful when you are shopping and want to imagine what the things in the store look like with you own clothes. You could even take a quick picture at the store, add the store item to your app closet, and start comparing it right there on your phone.
  6. There is a small but growing facebook community with it.

Cons

  1. Masking is really very crude.
  2. It’s a lot of setup work, which doesn’t bother me but might bother a lot of other people
  3. No SORTING within items…for example once you create the page full of shirts..you can’t change the order of them. I like to sort by color.
  4. Resizing is a pain. It depends on the multi touch “Handle grabbing” and doesn’t give you an option to shrink things down by percentage.
  5. You need to have photography skills to get descent color representation of your items.
  6. There doesn’t seem to be an accompanying online presence. I’m used to that with myfitnesspal for example.

In the end, now that I’ve put in the work, I think I’m still going to continue with it. The app is $3.99, which isn’t that cheap for an app really. However, it fits my personality. I think the new features on future upgrades might surprise me. I have not yet looked into the “inspirations” part of the app..which to me just seems to be people grabbing things they like and see and importing those images. No big deal.

I give this 3 out of 5 stars.

Decide for yourself and check it out here: http://www.stylebookapp.com/features.html

Oh yeah, and back to my guess about Amelia’s efforts. I’m guessing she’s a perfectionist like me and has taken much longer to be careful to take perfect pictures…perhaps not even with her iphone. Amelia, I await your comment.

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