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Facebook plans artsy photo filters? Groan

The giant social network will let members add photo effects, and it tried to acquire Instagram, The New York Times reports. Please, spare us.

Hipstamatic is one of many applications that let people use filters to add effects to photos.
Hipstamatic is one of many applications that let people use filters to add effects to photos.
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

I'm probably going against the will of the people here, but I sighed heavily this morning when I read in The New York Times that Facebook plans to release filters to give photos artsy effects.

You know what I'm talking about--the shots with the heavily darkened corners that old cameras produced, the desaturated colors from faded Polaroids, the sepia tones and cyanotype blues from 19th-century photography techniques, the wacky hues when one type of film was processed with another type's chemistry, the smeary Vaseline-on-the-lens look of old portraits.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this kind of thing--sometimes it's fun to give a retro 1962 look to your snapshot or to punch up the contrast and colors a bit. It can add flavor to an otherwise bland shot. So it's no surprise that Facebook would want to add the feature--or indeed, as the Times reported, that it tried to acquire Instagram, which lets people share the fiddled photos.

The problem is just that I'm sick of it.

There are plenty of mobile apps to do this for you--Instagram, Hipstamatic, Picplz, and many more. Many cameras will let you fiddle with the photos before or after you take them, Olympus' art filters being an early example. It seems likely, based on beta reports, that iOS 5 will get photo filters.

As I see it, though, photo filters have moved from clever to cliche. The novelty has worn off, and novelty was the main reason to do it in the first place.

OK, to be fair, another part of the problem is that I didn't like the effects much to begin with, for the most part: I prefer realistic photos. That's just personal taste, though, and I try not to inflict it on others, but it does color my opinions, so to speak.

I admit to being a bit conflicted here. I enjoy watching people experiment with photography, and the filters are an easy, fun way to do that. So I hate to rain on the parade of the countless people who are just about to discover photo filters.

But with the filters so pervasive now, it's going to be harder use them to make your shots stand out.

And given how many millions of photos are shared on the Facebook, if the social network does in fact launch photo filters, it'll become even harder to use them to make your photos to stand out.