FM reviews
First Monday


AppAlchemy 1 Dan Marcolina.
AppAlchemy 1: The essentials.
Ambler, Pa.: Marcolina Design, Inc., 2011.
iPad app.
Marcolina Design:



AppAlchemy introduces 40 essential photograph processing apps in eight categories with accompanying reviews/overviews, video tutorials, examples and links to other apps reviews and resources. Internet access is required for full access to linked content.


Descriptions, tutorials and samples of work comprise each of the two, four, five or six apps making up each of AppAlchemy’s eight app divisions: Production, Grunge, Light and Blur, Toon and Graphic, Film Looks, Camera, HDR and Auto FXs.

Information is laid out and presented in orderly and consistent fashion. A brief non–verbal tutorial linked to the introduction page aptly portrays AppAlchemy’s ebook features of swiping, pinching and linking. Apps are presented as side–by–side panels (read double page spread) with text on the right and an iPhone image–as–projection–screen left. Pinch and zoom gestures applied to different page/spread elements yield enlarged text and video tutorial together or separately.


Readers will find that individual app page spreads are for both lingering on and departing from. App tutorials occupy the left while app description, download and developer site links and links to additional reviews are on the right. App tutorial screenshots with captions are found on a pull–out page at the right margin. Between lefthand video tutorial and right hand screenshot sequence, users can glean the app’s capabilities and operation.

From any app page readers can travel to off–app Web sites of images made with featured apps. Embarking on such off–app journeys involves nothing more than rotating the iPad to vertical position. The newly loaded page displays several thumbnails linking to image creators’ Pinterest pages. Clicking ”Done” brings readers back to the vertical gallery page and rotating the pad to horizontal brings users back to AppAlchemy. After completing the image tutorial sequence in each of eight categories, readers can link to Marcolina’s Flickr page and comment on processes and final images, link to other photo sets and share links. Clicking ”Done” brings readers back into AppAlchemy.

AppAlchemy’s closing section, Resource, offers readers three sets of live links: More Reviews, Resource Sites and New Images. More Reviews contains sets of links to further apps not covered in AppAlchemy; blog, discussion, gallery and equipment links comprise Resource Sites; New Images are large reproductions of the author’s best work.


Beyond solely instructing in digital photography tools, Marcolina insightfully discerns digital photography as distinct from traditional laboratory–based image generation; in the instance of alchemical apps, “... can be shared by a wider range of people than ever before.” He discusses pre-visualizing and photographing as on a process continuum with app selecting and combining, image sharing and contributing feedback, all in context of visual artist community and online sharing.

AppAlchemy’s implementing common iPad features of swiping, pinching and zooming allows readers prompt access to all information. Ebook features are put to very good use: hyperlinking, video embedding, easy access to page thumbnails browsing and table of contents. Features to be added for enhancing the AppAlchemy experience ought include search and text notes.

Marcolina has obviously done due diligence in winnowing his favorite few from the wealth of photo editing apps. To the benefit of his favored app developers he generously provides many examples of other artists’ work, lending the book a scholarly reference air. — R. Paul Skeehan. End of article

Copyright © 2012, First Monday.

Review of AppAlchemy 1: The essentials
by R. Paul Skeehan.
First Monday, Volume 17, Number 10 - 1 October 2012

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

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