A new app, whether it’s for work, for fun, for sharing or for connecting, can quickly become a staple in the daily lives of its users. That’s why supporting developers to bring their creations to life and onto our home screens is an integral part of the app ecosystem.
Station F, which opened in Paris in 2017, is the world’s largest start-up campus and is an all-encompassing space designed to nurture and support entrepreneurs growing their companies.
French developers Matthieu Rouif and Eliot Andres attended an Apple training programme held at Station F when they were in the process of making their app, PhotoRoom – Make Studio Photo.
We spoke to Rouif about bringing this sophisticated image-editing app to life.
PhotoRoom’s origin story
PhotoRoom’s smart set-up makes use of AI, which automatically crops people and objects in an image, giving users plenty of room for manoeuvre when it comes to creative freedom.
“After resigning from my previous job, I met Eliot and we developed the first version of PhotoRoom,” recalls Rouif.
“Looking back now, it was still a rough version, but we had already implemented the core elements of PhotoRoom, which automatically cuts out the background of images using Core ML.”
“The reason I wanted to create this app was because in my job I had to edit a large number of images and cut out the backgrounds.
“I wasn’t so good at using the editing tool so it took a lot of time and I felt it was such a waste to spend so long doing such simple work.
“The apps that were available at that time to cut out backgrounds all involved manually removing them.
“I thought, ‘if only there was an app that could do this automatically’,” Rouif says. From there PhotoRoom was born.
Learning the craft
When Rouif was studying at Stanford he took an iOS app development class. Following that, he joined a start-up and worked on developing the video editing app, RePlay.
“The development team for RePlay in Paris was truly excellent and the app was selected as one of the best iPhone apps by Apple in 2014. Two years later, GoPro acquired RePlay and we renamed the app Quik,” Rouif says.
After working with GoPro on image-editing products, Rouif left the company and began working on PhotoRoom.
What’s in a name?
In the beginning, Rouif was considering calling the app “Background”.
“I realised that I was thinking more about functionality and experiences from a broader perspective than simply clipping out backgrounds,” he recalls.
“In the end we wanted to make it easy for anyone who is not a native English speaker to remember the spelling and pronunciation.”
“From the start, we kept users around the world in mind,” says Rouif. “We participated in the Apple training programme at Station F and developed the app in many languages.
“We’ve consciously created an environment where diverse feedback can be received from the earliest stages of development.”
Keeping users in mind
PhotoRoom gives users the tools to expand their creativity freely.
“Some people make new profiles of themselves and their families, and others make photos that they use on soccer team pages on social networks,” Rouif says. “I was happy when I learned that design professionals were using it.”
“PhotoRoom has grown with the intention of improving it as we go. We will continue to improve our algorithms, increase the templates for image production and further expand animation and video production capabilities,” Rouif says.
From the start, we kept users around the world in mind
Feedback from the app’s users around the world will continue to influence the evolution of PhotoRoom. Rouif has in particular been surprised by the sentiments of people working on clothing sales sites where there is a huge amount of work involved in product shots.
“We were overwhelmed by the feedback from resellers on clothing marketplaces like Mercari,” he says.
From idea to fruition to everyday use, the success of PhotoRoom shows just how important it is to nurture bright minds with big ideas.