HUMBOLDT PARK — As a photographer, Leo Rosen loves that people take a lot of photos on Instagram, but thinks it's a shame they're mostly relegated to the Internet.
"In this day and age we take all these photos — really cool photos because we carry our cameras with us everywhere — but right now they just kind of sink to the bottom of the feed and disappear forever," he said.
So at the beginning of this year, Rosen founded Shiner Photo, which takes people's Instagram photos and mounts prints of them on 3½-inch-by-3½-inch wood blocks.
The ¾-inch-thick blocks run $6 a pop for a matte finish or $12 for a high-gloss finish created with a resin coat. A hole is drilled in the back to make for easy hanging.
All customers have to do is log into their Instagram accounts on the Shiner Photo website, where they can select any photo and add it to their cart. The square blocks are designed specifically for the Instagram crop at a size that is close to that of a Polaroid print.
"Right now, we just offer that one little size for Instagram, but if people email us, we can go bigger; we do as big as 30 by 40" inches, Rosen said.
Rosen said the idea came to him four years ago when he was studying film at Columbia College but had gotten into photography and wanted an inexpensive but striking way of displaying photos.
"Then basically after that everyone started asking me to do it," he said.
The original idea was to create what he called "Facebook tiles," but the emergence of Instagram changed everything.
"When I first thought of this idea it was Facebook, but now that's old news," he said. "Now it's focused on Instagram, but we do all kinds of custom work — like we're getting into weddings right now."
Business is so good that Rosen makes the Shiner Photos full time, along with a few friends who help out with production, social media and customer service.
An artist at heart though, Rosen also hopes to accomplish something bigger.
"Our hope is that we can help people with their relationships with technology and help them appreciate their photos," he said. "Not just let them sink to the bottom of the feed."