So Instagram? It's pretty easy to hate. People posting pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Photos compressed to insane levels. Hipster filters of course. Photo rights, what copyrights? Coming from a photography perspective, you would really ask why do so many people use it? Why do so many people like it? Looking at it from a programming standpoint, it's not a overly complex application. The idea of taking photos and sharing it isn't even new. We've had that from and were doing it through email, Flickr, Facebook and more.
So why is it popular? I can't say for other people but I have been liking it a lot though. The reasons for me is simply because it's easy. For me, they have nailed down user experience. Take a photo, add a filter (if you so choose) and it's shared. That's it. Your audience now has your new shot. Simple and fast. They are not trying to be anything else.
From my few years in photography, there hasn't really been an application that allows you to do this so quickly especially on mobile. One of my first few galleries has been deviantart. It's probably the closest and it's still not as fluid. From what I can remember, the steps were manually transfer your photo, get it from your gallery, fill in a lot of details about your photo, choose watermarks, copyrights and it's in your account now. It's an unfair comparison. Instagram is a smartphone app at it's core and the combination of it being a smartphone application and community has made it fun for me to shoot it again. It's taken the hassle of transferring hundreds of pictures, editing them through my photography workflow, exporting and sharing. I see a scene, frame it, shoot and share. It lets me focus on what's important, my shot.
Focusing on the Shot
In the photography world, we've progressed a lot. DSLR videos are so good that its being used to shoot TV shows and commercials. Megapixels are unimportant now. On higher end cameras, the low light performance is spectacular. DSLRs are now affordable to a lot more people. It's now a lot easier to get into photography. With the focus on performance, technical specifications, expensive gear, some people forget the art in photography. I've always thought of it as a good photo abstracts everything else. If I see a good shot, I shouldn't care what camera the person used. I shouldn't care what settings or gear they had. Personally, I don't care if it's post-processed/"edited" or raw.
Is it a good photo? Is there a story? Does your photo convey human emotion?Does it make you feel anything? Isn't that what matters?
The Instagram Community
Another good thing I like is the people I follow and the people who follow me. It's a small amount of people (28 followers and following 35). But the people I choose to surround myself make me appreciate shooting even more. Most if not all are not photographers so I get to have an audience who only looks at the shot. I don't have people who ask what camera did I shoot it in, what's the apperture, shutter speed and so on. With the app, everyone is somewhat equal. You both get the same tools, a smartphone and the app. Can you prove you are you a better photographer?
The Smartphone Challenge
Playing around with Instagram for the past month or so has been fun. Instagram has its own challenges. You get one size, a square at what seems like a few hundred pixels. You get one shot and not a gallery. You don't get much post-processing options. Carrying a smartphone as your primary camera has its challenges as well. Not having my camera with full-controls, not having my lenses, not having a desktop to fully look over shots and post-process them was quite limiting. I had to know the pros and cons of what I had. I have to understand the limits of my camera to get the best shot I can. I'm forced to walk around and not use zooms, think about framing, think more about lighting and time of day, color, shapes, textures and more. On the positive side, you always carry the phone around with you. It's not bulky and hey it's easy to share.
I don't have the best shots granted but I enjoyed doing this challenge. Here are some of my shots.
Now I'm going back to my normal gear and hopefully improved my skills through this. Are you up to the challenge? Why don't you try it yourself and see what you'll come up with. I'm sure you'll do better.