ShutterSpots: 1000 Users, 400 Spots.

Andrew Yates
Jun 30, 2015 · 5 min read

What next…

It’s been a while since I’ve had a new side project. I spent little time in 2014 updating existing side projects, however I didn’t focus on anything new. At the beginning of 2015 I decided to set myself a goal, to focus more on releasing side projects.

I have always been fond of having side projects to work on. Having used side projects in the past to learn HTML/CSS, PHP and more recently Objective-C. Apple kindly handed me a new language to sink my teeth into last year for any new iOS Side Projects I decided to kick off.


Focussing more on side projects

Early this year I started working on an app called Alpenglow. It stemmed from an idea I posted on a Dribbble post for Exposure’s app Golden Hour.

Wonder if you had thought about making this a bigger thing and crowd sourcing whether people think it’ll be a good sunset and worthwhile heading out for or a “meh” sunset which won’t be as cool.

I built out Alpenglow as lean as I could, showing a map with your location and ratings of the sunset around you. The ratings form shows a slider to allow you to submit a rating between 0 and 10, which would then show up on the map at your location after submission.

Alpenglow’s concept is a little wild and I hadn’t proven or tested that you could solely rely on people to help predict whether a sunset is going to be good or not. Even including tips to help identify good signs everyones opinion would be different. Sunsets can look like they’re going to be amazing and just fizzle out within moments.

I’ve always been into photography and as everyone on Buffer retreats can vouch for I have been slowly growing my collection of cameras, lenses and other gadgets over the years. Including thinks like sliders, pocket-jibs etc. I’ve also always had a fascination with sunrises and sunsets, mostly the latter (not a great early morning person). Alpenglow sat perfectly in-between my love for photography, sunsets and coding.

Alpenglow’s home still resides on my laptop, it hasn’t hit the App Store just yet. I’m hopeful I’ll revisit it and explore additional options like including weather, radar, device sensors etc. That’ll be the true test to see if it’s remotely possible.


Kicking off ShutterSpots

While working on Alpenglow I had another idea that could be built using most of the same code. A way to discover new photo locations around the world. I’m fortunate enough to be able to join the rest of the Buffer team on retreats every 5 months. Each time we announce the next location I find myself on various sites trying to find great locations to take my gear.

I kicked off a new Xcode project using Alpenglow as a basis, reusing a good chunk of the existing code. Once again using Parse as a super quick way to build out the data structure and v1.0 features.

I hired Egor to product an icon well before ShutterSpots was even remotely ready for primetime, using the fact I had a beautiful icon as extra motivation to complete it.

ShutterSpots was in great shape and I started sending it round to a bunch of friends and getting people to sign up for beta builds from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


ShutterSpots launched with posts on Product Hunt and a surprise post after a late night tip off email to PetaPixel which drove about 2000 downloads in the first couple of days.

I decided to send PetaPixel a tip off email at 1am one morning and woke up to an email reply with just a link to the published article, I totally wasn’t expecting it and it turned out to drive a huge amount of downloads, even surpassing the usual daily figures we get at Buffer.

3,175 downloads to date, early spike from Product Hunt and PetaPixel.

Since launching ShutterSpots has had just over 1k users sign up, allowing them to add new spots, favourite to create a list of locations they would like to visit.

Nearly 400 spots have been created. One of the issues highlighted by early users has been the chicken and egg problem of people wanting to find spots but spots not being available locally. So I’m looking into ways to incentivise users to add spots to the app.

I could create a script to auto populate spots all over the world with information from Instagram, Flickr or 500px but I quite like having each spot vetted by a ShutterSpots user rather than randomly pulled in.


What’s next?

I have since released an update to the app to enable spots to be rated, this should help filter spots that are better than others to the top. I have also added improved map markers showing the category within each marker.

I am working on building out some more useful features, such as building custom lists. Allowing users to have a list for a particular location or shoot that they are planning. Another element of the app I want to build out and improve is the social aspect, being able to follow your favourite photographers and see the spots they like.

I’ve been busy testing my old web development skills as well, building out a basic web app which will be used when sharing spots in the future. Much like how Instagram on web started out. That too has been a learning experience, exploring new frameworks like Laravel.


It’s been great fun building ShutterSpots, learning Swift as I go along. So that goal is well on the way.

I would love to continue building out ShutterSpots and keep adding new features. Especially as it fits so well alongside my passions for iOS Development and Photography.

You can download ShutterSpots for iPhone here.

I’d love to hear any feedback and comments… Email me at contact(at)andydev(dot)com anytime!

Buffer Posts

Collection of posts from those who make Buffer.

Andrew Yates

Written by

iOS/Mac at @buffer. Hacking away on new features to keep your Buffer topped up. Also developed @ShutterSpots, @CouchQuiz, @MagicBeanApp & @TheRealGlobbert.

Buffer Posts

Collection of posts from those who make Buffer.