web storytelling — January 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm

In Praise of Instagram


Instagram has been taking a lot of hits lately.

I’ll set aside the controversy over its new privacy policy and terms of service.

What I’d like to address here is the more general attack on Instagram with respect to its influence on photographic standards, summed up hilariously in this viral parody:

The critics make legitimate claims, but I’d like to take a moment to offer up some points on the pro-Instagram side of the debate.

As a professional photographer and filmmaker, Instragram has greatly improved my work and my attitude towards photography overall.

You shoot more

For one, it’s encouraged me to shoot more. Knowing there is an audience for my photos—no matter how remote or anonymous—inspires me to take shots that in the past I might have overlooked.

Many of these may be less than stellar, but there are also a lot of winners, and generally speaking it’s been a net gain for my photographic output and my artistic development.

I shoot more. I make more mistakes. I learn more. And I enjoy it more.

Instagram has loosened me up, so to speak. I now view my photography as well….less precious. I’m willing to take chances that I wouldn’t have taken previously.

Filters offer a fascinating new language

Instagram has also turned me on to the world of filters, the misuse of which has been the source of much derision and complaint.

Granted, if used improperly filters can be really cheesy. They can also make every photo that employs them appear the same.

But I’m approaching filters as a rich new vocabulary in the photographic language. Sure, they’ll take some time to master. But used purposefully (and subtely), they can help make some really powerful images.

As Instragram’s filters allow for little customization, I do most of my post-processing in Snapseed, which offers a lot more control.

I usually get into a certain filter for a while, experiment with it to discover what it can, and maybe even more important, can not do.

Once again, I make a lot of mistakes, but as I move along I get a feel for these new tools and can incorporate them into my photography intelligently. And had it not been for Instagram I would not have been introduced to these remarkable Snapseed filers, along with those in countless other apps, which are now a serious part of my photographic arsenal.

Moreover, the 1:1 aspect ratio demanded by Instagram has changed the way I look at composition.  It was awkward at first, having for years shot at 4:3, 3:2 or 1:33.  But after a short while I began to really get into the compositional possibilities in Instagram’s boxy format.

Overall Instagram frees you up

So all I can say is this: whether it’s freeing me up when I’m shooting, or opening me up to a new photographic language in post, or altering the geometry of my compositions, Instagram has been a very good thing.

Sure, it’s helped to generate a massive amount of bad photography. And its new terms of service may lead me to move over to apps like EyeEm.

But for those who are willing to approach it with a little thought, Instagram is something all photographers should be thankful for.


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