Polaroid's Fotobars Turn Digital Images Into Physical Art

Polaroid debuts 'Fotobars' in the U.S. and Canada this year Image credit: Polaroid

Tired of storing all those edited photos on your Smartphone? What to share your favorite photo on your friend's physical wall versus just their Facebook wall?

Polaroid is offering a solution in Fotobars-the photo giant's latest venture to make the photo-sharing process easier and more accessible.

"The idea spawned when I witnessed firsthand the human obsession with taking pictures over a year ago," said Warren Struhl, founder and CEO of Fotobar, LLC. "I'd ask people if that picture lives in a physical form and 9.9 out of 10 people said, 'No.'"

Struhl said the frustration over not being able to physically share a photo was a 'pain-point in people's lives' and created the concept of Fotobars to 'simplify the process.'

Fotobars will offer users the ability to come in, sit down at a bar-top work station and turn their favorite photos into digital art. At the fotobar a patent-pending technology will give customers the option to send their images wirelessly from their Instagram, Facebook, Picasa and other social photo platforms. Once the photos are uploaded, users can work with experienced photo guides called 'phototenders' to help with the editing and ordering process.

RELATED: Instagram Not Selling Photos, It Says After Backlash

Just this year past December, Instagram found itself in hot water when the two-year-old company announced changes to its terms of service notifying users it would sell their photos and possibly place them in future ads. The backlash was so intense, the company decided to retract its announcement and amend the changes in its terms of service. Struhl says Fotobar and Polaroid "have nothing to do with that issue."

"We're camera agnostic meaning we don't care what camera or platform you're on-Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Picasa," said Struhl. "Those are social media companies. We're in the physical media business."

Fotobars will give customers the option to order their favorite image and transfer it onto an array of materials-including wood, acrylic, and metal substrates. Before confirming their order, customers can preview their photo beforehand as each store will feature examples of real digital artwork.

"In just five minutes, in a few clicks, you can create exactly what you're going to get," said Struhl.

Fotobars will also frame, mat and print your images onto different types of material and ship your photo art in a few days. Customers will be able to turn their favorite Instagram image into a high-quality Polaroid created and developed in-house while you're shopping. Prices range from $14.95 to $2,000 for a 7 x 4 foot piece of ultra-thick acrylic glass photo art.

"Polaroid has always been about much more than just taking pictures," said Polaroid CEO Scott W. Hardy in a statement. "Polaroid is about sharing life's most precious and memorable moments. We have been, and continue to be, about self-expression, creativity and fun. Polaroid Fotobar retail stores represent a perfect modern expression of the values for which we have stood for 75 years. We are very excited about the opening of these stores, and the opportunities they will create for millions of consumers to have classic Polaroid experiences."

Aside from Fotobars serving as a retail store for Polaroid-the company is also introducing 'The Studio', a multi-purpose space where photo enthusiasts can host kid and adult parties, enroll in free photo classes and display high-quality photos in a museum/gallery type setting.

Polaroid plans to announce the project during the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show and will debut the first Fotobar in Delray Beach, Fla., in February. The Florida location will serve as the test store for future Fotobar locations set for later this year in New York, Boston and Las Vegas. Polaroid's hope is that the stores reflect a cool, hip and experimental feel for those who love to snap and share photos.