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I’m a Dubai-based digital design director with deep expertise in interactive design, front-end development, motion graphics, 3D and photography.



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Hipstamatic Customization Guide

I love Hipstamatic. It takes ordinary scenes and imbues them with color, character and subtlety sorely absent from other, lesser camera applications. One can almost believe the hype wholesale—that the app is developed by artists. And, in suspension of disbelief, the suspicion that visual artists and photographers aren’t likely to be masters of XCode and Objective C at the level required to create such an application is almost completely dismissed.

Despite its merits as a photographic tool, Hipstamatic isn’t without its shortcomings. It doesn’t save the original, unprocessed shots, and you can’t apply effects to existing photos. You can forgive the app for this, since it’s meant to be a camera emulator, not a post-processing app or a camera substitute. But a third disadvantage is this: although you have total control over which effects are applied, you have zero control over how they are applied. Except for the obvious randomization, Hipstamatic shots are as cookie-cutter as they come. 10 people standing at the same spot taking photos of the same scene using the same film and lens combination will take virtually identical photos.

Luckily, there is hope of escape from this creative walled garden. If you’re tech-savvy iPhone user with a jailbroken phone who’s not afraid to tinker with its file system and (more importantly) has decent Photoshop skills, you can modify the existing lenses and films to create your own unique variations.


While I have no idea about the legal implications of editing the app, I suppose that modifying it for your own use is no different from, say, customizing a Holga. As long as you’re not reverse-engineering Hipstamatic (which is not possible anyway—the xml files that contain the processing ‘recipes’ are encrypted) or selling it after modifying it (again, impossible through either the App Store or Cydia), I’m quite sure it falls within the bounds of fair use.

Below is my usual workflow for accessing, editing, and applying the modifications to the app. Should something go wrong and you completely mess up Hipstamatic, you can just delete the app and download it again from the App Store. I suggest backing up every file prior to editing to facilitate reverting the app to its stock configuration, should you wish to do so later.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to take the Blanko film and edit it to include a faux Hasselblad film border.

Accessing the Files

  1. If you haven’t done so already, jailbreak your phone.
  2. Install OpenSSH via Cydia. You need this to enable root access to your iPhone’s file system.
  3. Install iPhone Explorer on your computer. You can also use any SSH client (FileZilla, Cyberduck, etc.) for wireless access.
  4. Connect your iPhone to your computer and start iPhone Explorer.
  5. Navigate to var/mobile/applications/. Here you’ll find a bunch of folders with random alphanumeric names. Open each folder until you find the one containing a folder called Hipstamatic.app. Open the Hipstamatic.app folder.
  6. Locate these files and create backups on your computer:
  • plain_frame_600.jpg
  • plain_frame_1200.jpg
  • plain_frame_1536.jpg
  • plain_frame_1936.jpg
  • plain_frame_mask_600.jpg
  • plain_frame_mask_1200.jpg
  • plain_frame_mask_1536.jpg
  • plain_frame_mask_1936.jpg

Editing the Files

  1. Go to http://pshero.com/goodies/photo-borders/page/2 and download Hasselblad Film Style Photo Border 2. Open the PSD in Photoshop.
  2. Select the blue background layer and give it a pure white fill. Resize the file to 1936px square. Export the file as plain_frame_1936.jpg. Resize it again to 1536px, 1200px and 600px, each time saving under the naming structure: plain_frame_[resolution]. These files are the Blanko film’s color layers, each sized for a specific shooting resolution.
  3. Using Photoshop’s undo function, revert the PSD to its 1936px resolution. Flatten the file and invert the colors. Resize and export as per step 2, but this time using this naming structure plain_frame_mask_[resolution]. These are the Blanko film’s mask layers, and work in exactly the same way as an alpha channel would in Photoshop, only it affects the appearance of the film edge, not the photo—white reveals the film edge, black hides it.
  4. Repeat steps 4-5 above.
  5. Take all 8 files you created and overwrite the existing ones.
  6. Disconnect your phone.

Enjoy Your New Film!

Check if Hipstamatic is running in the background. If it is, close the process. Restart Hipstamatic. Your new film is ready for use.

Using this process as a guide, you can further experiment on the files in Hipstamatic.app, and customize existing lenses and films however you like. It’s fairly easy to figure out which file does what, so I won’t detail them here.

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