January 8, 2013
Happy New Year! I wish all my readers the very best for 2013. And what subject gets the first post of this year? Instagram of course!
As many of you will be aware there was something of a kerfuffle over a change to Instagram’s change of terms and conditions, which strongly suggested they would acquire the rights to sell users’ images to advertisers without permission or payment.
It was obvious from the moment Facebook had a fumble down the back of the office sofa for spare change and found $1 bn to buy Instagram that things would not stay the same. They’ll want their money back, one way or another, and the easiest way to achieve that is to have the ability to sell all the free content that is pumped into Instagram every day, not to mention a colossal backlog of images already there. The biggest library of mini images in the world.
Forget about whether the average Instagram photo is sellable or not, when something is that popular the infinite monkey syndrome kicks in. Among all the of photos of people’s pets and cappuccinos will be the occasional, arresting photo that might sit very well with a corporate ad. Don’t worry about image size either. Used small on a website, many smartphone photos will be adequate, and when the photo has zero cost to the advertiser, believe me adequate is more than adequate.
What interested me more than the nature of the T&C changes was some people’s reactions to them, specifically the reactions from people who have the opinion that if you’re an amateur your photos don’t matter, and if you’re a professional, why are you putting photos on Instagram or even on the web at all? Which I find an astonishing position to take.
I quote from one commenter (Shoogly Peg; real name I presume) on the BBC News website:
“Where, exactly, will these advertisers use your images when advertising? Where most people go obviously. Yes, social media websites, where you can already see an adundance [sic] of faces. Unless you are a pro photographer, no need to get bothered. And if you are a pro, why are you using this app?”
I’ll explain why I use Instagram. It’s fun. As a professional, am I excluded from having fun? Shoogly’s view isn’t an isolated opinion though. Whenever this kind of issue has popped up in the past, there have been comments about how professional photographers shouldn’t use the web to promote themselves, or that if they do have the audacity to do so, they should fully expect their work to be copied and used without permission or payment.
Clearly this argument is a nonsense. I get a fair bit of work through having a website, and I use the web to deliver images to clients. Am I not allowed to show my work without it being stolen?
Back to Instagram and their T&Cs, after patronizing us all with a statement telling us Instagram were sorry we were all too stupid to understand a legal document and not to worry our pretty little heads about it, they do appear to have reigned things back somewhat. The question is, what will they do to make money if they can’t sell user content? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough, but I’ve seen a few users empty or delete their accounts. I’m fairly certain Instagram won’t disappear, but I think it might lose much of its sparkle and will have to change into something it wasn’t intended to be if Facebook want to make money. Perhaps “the internet” is learning that you can have free or fun. Not both.
October 9, 2012
Those of you who pay attention will recall I recently wrote about my first foray into Instagram. I said it was more about the filters and effects than the content of the photos and I now think I was wrong.
It’s true many people shoot and edit their images in Instagram, but the beauty of Instagram is that it is primarily a way of sharing images. The pictures themselves don’t have to be shot in Instagram, or even on an iPhone to be shared this way.
I’ve uploaded images from my professional portfolio as well as more fun pictures from my personal life. A more recent fascination for me has been the introduction of the Panorama mode with the new iPhone operating system. Not only can I now shoot panoramas using this function, I’ve also been experimenting with it to see what weird effects can be achieved by panning in a way the phone and software don’t expect and seeing how they deal with it. As an example, see my “torn” ukulele photo below my more standard panorama.
Other Instagrammers build up massive followings and the most successful of them do it by shooting in a very consistent style – whether on their iPhone or by uploading images from their SLR cameras isn’t always clear, but consistency seems to be the key issue. I personally prefer to share a mixture of portfolio, experimental and personal-moment (drunk in the pub) snaps. I might take a photo of some recently published work and share it on Instagram so people get a better idea of the kind of work I do. I simultaneously share my Instagram posts on Twitter and sometimes Facebook too, which means I can reach an even wider audience.
If you’re on Instagram look me up @takeagander and let me see what you do. One account I’ve been especially impressed with recently is @tonytanktop who creates larger images from tiles of individual ones. A brilliant way of using the technology and the sharing platform in an unexpected way. I suggest you look him up too and prepare to be dazzled.
I think it’s fair to say, I’m starting to understand Instagram a lot better. It’s becoming a business tool as well as a way to have fun. My initial cynicism (and I’m a natural cynic about these things) has given way to greater curiosity to explore more boundaries.
June 25, 2012
This week’s massive news is that I finally succumbed and upgraded to an iPhone 4s. I know the iPhone 5 is on the horizon and it’ll probably have interchangeable lenses, hover mode and a function for printing money, but I don’t need those things.
However, anyone who thinks I’m behind the times in mobile phonery should consider I got my first mobile in 1990, a barely-pocketable Phillips for which I paid about £500 up-front just so I could make calls at a cost per minute that would make a lawyer envious. I made very few outgoing calls.
You wouldn’t believe the similarities between the iPhone and the Phillips of yore. Both mess up the shape of your smoking jacket when carried in the pocket, and both have a battery life shorter than Jimmie Krankie’s inside leg measurement, but among the thrilling features not found on the Phillips is the camera.
People rave about the iPhone 4s camera and the various apps you can use with it, the most popular being Instagram. With a few friends already using Instagram I had to give it a go and early indications are I will have to watch my step or become hopelessly addicted to photographing flakey old doors, kittens, funny signs and the sun as it shines through translucent leaves, cobwebs and dandelion heads.
I think it’s fair to say though that Instagram is more about the filters and effects than about the content of the images. You can take a photo that previously would have been fit for the bin and make it quirky and interesting by fiddling around with it, adding a vignette and a sepia cast or whatever you fancy.
Is it still photography? Well, yes I suppose it is. It might not be photojournalism. Much of the time it might not even result in an interesting photo, but if photography is about looking at the world in a different way, Instagram seems to be about looking at photography in a different way. I’m not a huge fan of the billions of images uploaded to the web every second of every day, but it’s not a tsunami that will stop any time soon, and I’m now responsible for a small share of that.
What iPhonography (yuckword) and apps like Instagram allow me to do though is step outside of being a professional photographer and explore a less serious side. If I wield an SLR people expect me to take great pictures of whatever I’m looking at. With an iPhone I can join the party and use photography as a bit of fun and no one will expect me to produce stunning art. Either that, or they’ll see my Instagram efforts and think it represents my professional work.
Now that I think about it some more, I wonder if that Phillips still works? It might just save my reputation.