New app Shuttersong adds sound to photographs

You already can share photos and videos from your smartphone instantly, and starting today you have a hybrid option: a Shuttersong, which combines the moment-in-time quality of a still image with the sounds-like-you’re there audio component of a video.

The Shuttersong mobile application, released today by a Wellesley company of the same name, enables users to snap pictures with their smartphone cameras and record up to 15 seconds of sound to go with them. You could, say, photograph your toddler and her first birthday cake, then record friends and family singing “Happy Birthday” and send the whole thing — image and sound in one file — to a relative who couldn’t make it to the party.

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If a Shuttersong reminds you of one of those talking photo frames, it should. That’s where 58-year-old founder William Agush, who has spent most of his career in marketing and used to travel frequently, got the idea. He was cleaning his office last spring when he stumbled across an old picture of his son at age 5. The kid is 23 now. Apparently it had been a while since the last cleanup. Anyway, the frame had a play button.

“So I pressed it,” Agush recalled, “and there, across 18 years of time, was the sound of Zach telling me that he missed me and hoped I would come home soon. It was so powerful that literally at that moment I decided I needed to find a way to recreate that experience inside of a photo app.”

Agush isn’t a coder, so he got help from software developers Dave Wigder and Darion Miller at Find & Form in Boston.

“I was skeptical at first,” Miller acknowledged. “There are so many services like YouTube or Vine that let you share short videos immediately.”

He’s right, of course. But Miller and Wigder soon came around to Agush’s belief that still images have a unique appeal.

“Photographs have a certain sparkle that video never quite has,” Agush said. “And a lot of video is really just a still image, in that the motion doesn’t really add anything to it — it’s really the sound that tells the story. So when you put together a brilliant, sharp, colorful image with a piece of sound that has relevance, it creates a magic in your brain.”

So far, about 400 beta testers have created more than 2,500 Shuttersongs. The app is easy to use. Audio recording begins automatically after you snap a picture.

But you’re not locked in to that sound clip. You can record a new piece of audio later or add music from your phone’s library.

It’s free for consumers, but Agush plans to generate revenue by licensing Shuttersong to corporate clients who can use it to solicit user-generated content from their customers.

“We’re also finding a number of entertainers, artists, sports figures who see it as a way to increase engagement with their fan bases,” Agush said.