@Instagram #instagood or #instabad

#Instaquestion

The first time I saw an Instagram image was sometime last year when a friend on Facebook shared an image of their work via Instagram. I paid little to the way the image was shared but more to the image itself. At the time Instagram was an IPhone only app. An app designed as a way to take photos, add a filter and share them. The idea was shunned by some as another social media grouping like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Google+. The thing is that Instagram is more than this. It is a way to share your images, yes, but through multiple channels. Instagram according to its creator Kevin Systrom, was not meant to become a new form of photography or even change photography but a way for people to share their lives through the medium.

Photojournalistic Image by Matt Eich

Photojournalistic Image by Matt Eich

Instagram is something of a sore point in photography, with some purist saying that it is not photography and it does a great harm. While at the same time Instagram is being greatly embraced by other photographers. The use of Instagram in conjunction with photojournalism created the question of where this (now) genre of photography should be used. Instagram images have become instantly recognizable with the square format and the use of filters and the occasional boarder. Just like with images from Photoshop people now can say that is an Instagram image. It has been for a while photographers want to use Photoshop at the same time as their images not being cheapened by the phrase that it’s just another photoshoped image, it could also be that saying it is an Instagram image cheapens the image as well.

All these things are the problems of modern photography. People are divided as they have always been with the speed of the image revolution in the last 150 years.

I was once a film “purist” against digital and now I know I was wrong. I have embraced digital photography and photo editing on my terms, saying to myself what I find acceptable in my work, without blanketly stating what is and what is not photography, because the answer to this question I don’t believe has yet been answered or will ever be answered in the foreseeable future.

#Instaleap

I decided after much thinking to as I first put it “turn to the dark side” and experience Instagram for myself. Most of my opinions had been based on images seen and articles written but I had never used the app myself. Partly the reason I hadn’t used it was because it only came to Android phones in April 2012 being an IPhone exclusive app since its publishing in 2010.

An early Instagram image of my pinhole camera

Downloading the app was straight forward and so was signing up. Once in the app you can either upload pictures from your phone or use your camera to take the picture.

Once the picture is taken or selected the image needs to be cropped first to the square format and then processed with filters. You don’t have to add any filters if you don’t want to which, is quite intersecting for me. I had previously thought that you had to use a filter. The fact that you don’t means that for someone who wants to share an image and not use filters it is an option open to them.

Once processed you click to continue and then write a comment. In the image comment dialog box you can hash tag key words so that people wanting to see similar images can search for them. Once commented on the image can be given a location. The location can be geotagged or of your own description but is optional if you don’t want to tag it you don’t have to. Finally you can share the image on various social media websites. All the steps are quick is and can be learnt intuitively. Uploading takes no time since the image is being uploaded in the background during the commenting and geotagging process.

#Instagood

My First Instagram image.

My first image was of my cat, why? Because why not. He was there and I took a picture. I was astonished at how quickly someone liked the image. I would say it was within the minute. It was interesting because I did not know this person.

This is another side of Instagram. You don’t need to know a person to see their images unless they have adjusted your privacy setting, the same when it comes to following people. This means just like with twitter you can follow people and not have to know then, like something because you like it and you never need to know who the person is.

All of this I like about Instagram. It gave me options that worked best for me and my images. If an image is more personal I can share to my personal Facebook page, where as if an image is more professional or part of my blogging I could share it with Twitter and Flikr. All the final images were saved onto my phone so I was able to download them to my computer.

Screen shot of Kirsty Skippen’s work.

I have used the filters on Instagram but I also downloaded a filter app called “Camera360” that I prefer to use. These images can also be used in Instagram which gave me another surprise. People are not just using their phones with Instagram but others are using their more “conventional” cameras. One person I am following @kirstyphotography and she is using a Nikon D3200 to create her images and what I have noticed is that the image is not processed in Instagram but uses Instagram only to share the image. Using an image editor they create a boarder abound the image so it can fit the square format and then share it. This to me is intriguing. Using Instagram as a place to showcase all photography not just motography which, is something I never expected.

#notonlyinstaproblems

As with most social and blogging media there is a need from some people to have the most likes, followers etc. When this blog was made freshly pressed it did give me a great feeling, with over 1200 views in 24hours and the most likes for a single post still. This day was the 2nd of September I know this because every time I view Aperture64’s stats, it stares me in the face. I never expected this level of readership to continue because I knew one thing, most people read freshly pressed and similar accolade blogs and comment on them to get a view back. I read a blog entry previously about the curse of the like button and how a “like” has less weight than it did now. I experienced this when I uploaded a 10min video with a blog post and after 1 minute somebody had liked it.

Instagram has users who play a numbers game this was comically put forward in the pilgrammers video about Instagram. People create ghost accounts, to follow them or give comments to try and entice others to do the same on their images. I was quite surprised that I saw people having account bios stating that; for money they can get followers and likes for a user. People would also write comments like “follow me I always follow back.” I do like the feeling when an image gets liked but I know that if I suddenly got 600 likes because I paid for it, would mean less than if I got four likes. This although is not a problem inherently found with Instagram users but more with modern society as a whole.

#Diarrhoea #Followback #Spam #Instabad

With this comes what I have called hash tag diarrhoea. I have found this amusing because the tags have nothing to do with the image for example; #instagood and #instagreat have nothing to do with the image itself, whereas #Iphone4 tells me what the image was captured on. Hash tags are also useful if you’re taking part in a challenge or if you want it to be linked with a current even like my Obama picture hash tagged #4more years. This hash tag diarrhoea is also not just found with Instagram and can even be found here on wordpress.

#inception #photoinaphotoinaphoto #election #obama #fourmoreyears #change #yeswecan saw this online and had to share. A picture an obama poster being taken on a samsung mobile published online photographed by me and shared on instagram. How many levels in the dream am I. #instaception

In image comments sometimes the comments are bland or even unimaginative. For me the comment section of a blog, YouTube video or a social media post is a place of interaction. After; nice pic, great pic, great colours, give me no further understanding of what is good in an image or to interact further with the user. On this blog I always try to respond to comments, to further the discussion opening a conversation after sharing my thoughts, the same with Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram.

One major problem I faced on third day was spamming. People have created accounts to spam you about; weight loss or gaining more followers and even a call for an audition. At first I didn’t know what to do, I did reply directly to them and the comments were deleted. I then worked out how to delete comments and I went down that path. After another day the spamming has lessened.

The front page is a good place to see interesting images but I have no idea how they get there. Instagram has a staff of 13 I believe so I can’t imagine they are there constantly choosing images as you can refresh this front page often. Then is the front page linked to likes? Maybe that is why there is such a push for people to get likes.

#Instaopinion

Instagram is an interesting place to share images and I will keep on using it. It is good way to share images quickly while on the go.

A Quick capture on the way to work.

Sometimes you want to capture a picture and your phone is the most accessible equipment you have on you. Some pictures, like the one of the car stickers, I would never have taken because it would have involved taking out the g10 from my bag and taking the picture. I was on my way to work and it was easier and quicker to take the picture with my phone and then continue on my way processing and sharing the image by the time I had got to school.

The images that I have been sharing have been part diary, part art, part conceptual. It is a good place to share ideas and to share a possible future image. I have the found it easier to meet my photo a day challenges because I can do it on the go with the processing and maybe this is where I will take this. Photo a day challenges can be quite time consuming because of the time need to take an idea from its genesis to capture, process and finally posting online, whereas with Instagram this is something that can now become mobile in every sense.

Created using the fun filter in camera360 app then processed in Instagram.

Personally I find the filters OK but nothing fascinating, I much prefer the choice I have with camera 360 but I really do like the fact that you don’t have to use them and in fact you are able to use it as a place to share any image as long as it is in the format.

Overall Instagram is a useful tool in the belt of a photographer and could be beneficial for many different situations although these will be different for each user. My only concern is the number of people only interested in getting the front page with the obsession with followers, the like and like back and follow, follow back mentality by some even to the point if you don’t follow back they will unfollow. But to separate this chaff from the seed is quite easy as long as you take your time to do so. For some people will not want to do this and it may put them off.

#Instaconclusion

Instagram image of me blogging on wordpress.

The debate about the weight of Instagram and mobile photography with journalism is something I am still thinking about and have not made up my mind on. But Instagram itself I think to be a good place to showcase your work but with the user needing to find their path though the app and community. There will be those who want endorsement and appreciation without the skill and work. Then there will be those who use it as another way to document and express themselves in what is a media driven world.

I am going to continue using Instagram for the minute but how it will fit in with my creative work flow is let to be seen after one week.

#instaparticipation

Do you like the images that I have made or would you prefer them created “traditionally? What are your opinions on Instagram? Is it something that you use, or is it something you haven’t used but are interested in or maybe it is something else? Let me know in the comment box below.

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5 thoughts on “@Instagram #instagood or #instabad

  1. So many points that I agree with and I could probably write a reply about half as long as your post… but to keep it short and simple: alot of these photography “trends” are massive time-wasters for people who want to be “creative” and “admired” – there is no doubt that there are some incredible images out there but alot of it isn’t worth speed-viewing over to find the diamond in the rough. Gotta choose how you are going to spend your time I suppose. Like you say, these type of smartphone pix are great for capturing thins you wouldn’t be able to otherwise and are good for popping into a narrative where people aren’t really so interested in the quality of the photo but rather the content of the article.
    Instagram pix are like paintings and sculpture, alot of people do it but how many are really great at it…

    • I think you are right. There are alot of not so interesting pictures and they do tend to put number the good. With different mediums or trends there is a path a creative person needs to find. Instagram in particular is most challenging because it was first seen as a fad and now more professionals are usinging it, you start to second guess why they are using it.
      For me i think it will be a space for taking images on the go and for creating images i see quickly and my phone is the camera have with me.
      In the end this will be a topic i will visit again as i start to find a grounding on my workflow.

  2. This is another good and informative read Ben. Enjoyed reading your ponderings, facts and info.
    For now, I have opted not to be a user, mainly for time reasons, but I enjoy seeing other people’s instagram snaps?

    • I use instagram daily still but change a bit since writing this post (I should really update it).
      I use it for images that would not fit on my blog, a good example is my photo a day challenge that fits more with instagram as a daily post compared to my blog where it works better as a review post and gallery. It is also great for on the go things and being part of a photo community in my city.
      I can understand the time constraints as it is a micro blogging platform and you do need to like and comment.

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