If you’re reading the Fotolia blog, chances are you’re knowledgeable enough about photography to know of the iPhone and Android app that has become synonymous with it – Instagram.
The image-sharing social media platform has 150 million active monthly users, including notable figures, from Barack Obama, to Justin Bieber, to the man who works in the newsagents down the road. The app allows anyone to take photos on their smart phone and instantly edit them through ambiguously named filters such as ‘Earlybird’, ‘Nashville’, and ‘Mayfair’. Simple tools allowing for a change in image contrast, angle, and exposure are also available, all with the palm of your hand. The convenience, and speed at which users can share photos on a public platform has contributed to the growth of #Instagram (which sold to Facebook for a staggering $1 billion in 2012).
Besides helping to fuel the ‘#selfie’ epidemic currently sweeping 99% of inhabited land across the globe, Instagram has drawn criticism from professional photographers and editors alike. A key criticism, articulated nicely by Kate Bevan in The Guardian is that Instagram is “The anti-thesis” of creativity. What she means by this is that overuse of the filters provided has led to a brand of generic ‘hipster’ photo that loses any individuality or meaning that may have once existed.
Instagram’s popularity seems almost illogical – the app if anything creates a step backwards in terms of camera technology. Smartphone cameras these days are actually pretty good (better lenses and tracking than in the past), and users of Fotolia Instant have been able to sell smartphone images successfully. However, through fluffy filters and editing options such as ‘Amaro’, Instagram successfully takes photo quality back to the 2 megapixel days posing us to ask, ‘#whatisthepoint?’
Advocates of Instagram would accuse the haters of snobbiness. Maybe the fact that Instagram can create a façade of professional editing at the click of a button, threatens professional photographers and editors, who learn these skills through decades of experience. This same paranoia also leads some professionals to raise concern about Instagram flooding the world with billions of images thus causing an overall devaluing of professional photography. Given that part of being a good photographer, is aspiring to be innovative, and creative, it shouldn’t be hard for the professionals to stand head and shoulders above the generic brand of Instagram photo, that we see flooding the Internet. Is all the #concern for #nothing?
So whilst it may be an annoying application, churning out billions of generic images, including selfies, hisptergrams, and cat photos; Instagram probably draws more criticism than it is worth. As a professional photographer, it shouldn’t be difficult to stand out from a community of photographers disproportionately made up of teenage girls using the hashtag ‘#cute’. The hugely accessible application that allows anyone a shot at ‘instafame’ shouldn’t really be regarded as a serious threat to professional and artistic photography. #conclusion
Written by Sam Bradpiece