- iPhone Photo Sharing Application [Review] – iPhone Photo Sharing Application [Review]

My first Upload

Lately I’ve been using the App on my iPhone and it has been a lot of fun.

In this post I’m going to briefly share some reasons why I’m enjoying using it and talk a little about my workflow.

But before I get into that:

  • Firstly – if you’re already an Instagram user check out my account at darrenrowse – I’d love to connect
  • Secondly – this post won’t be for everyone. For starters not everyone has an iPhone – sorry, but at this point it’s an iPhone only app.

OK – with that said….

I first got onto Instagram just a couple of weeks ago. I think I’d originally seen it starting to appear in some of the facebook and Twitter streams of friends who were using it to share photos.

At first I didn’t think much of it and threw it in the ‘just another social media photo sharing app’ basket – but after seeing more than a few people I respected using it I decided to check it out for myself. The fact that it’s a free iPhone app made checking it out just that little bit more attractive!

So at it’s core Instagram is very simple. In fact it’s been critiqued by some as being too simple and there are some features I’d love to see them add (although it only launched in October so I guess their still really in the early stages of refining it).

Here’s how the team at Instagram describe what they’ve developed:

Instagram is a fun & quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your iPhone, then choose a filter to transform the look and feel of the shot into a memory to keep around forever. We’re building the platform to allow you to experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen. We imagine a world more connected through images of what happens around them – whether through friends or people across the world.

At present the interface lets you either take pictures from within it or pull images in from your iPhone camera roll. The only way you can add photos is via your phone (to bring them in from another camera means importing them into your iPhone and then uploading them – which some people do).

Adding Filters is Easy

The filters Instagram offers currently number 11. They’re mainly fair ‘retro’ kinds of filters that add borders, textures and change colors. There is no real way to control how much a filter is added to your image – it’s all or nothing. However you can always do post production work in other apps and then save them to your camera roll to upload them (I’ll touch on this later).

Once you’ve got an image ready to share you can simply add it to your feed or have the opportunity to also share it in other social media tools. Currently you can share it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Foursquare.

There’s also the ability for others to view your images from within the app on their iPhone. You can invite and find friends and anyone who accepts your friendship will see your images in their feed. Images can be ‘liked’ and commented upon by others giving you feedback on how your images are being received.

Popular images are also featured in a ‘popular’ tab in the app so you can see what everyone else is liking.

A Limitation I hope they Fix

One aspect that I don’t like about Instagram (and this has been a common complaint that I see others making) is that there’s no real web interface for it.

When you share a link you are sharing a link to an actual page on Instagram (here’s an example of one of my recent images) – however when others visit that page they can’t do anything there. There’s no ability for anyone to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on an image from the web page. You also can’t use their website to view all of the other images of the photographer or add them to your network. To do all of that you need to have the iPhone app which doesn’t make it very interactive for non iPhone users).

Being able to point people at your own Instagram account where all your photos are kept would not only help you share your photography better but would also help Instagram to grow as people would be linking to it like crazy from their blogs and social networking profiles.

Why I like Instagram

Imported from my Computer/dSLR

While there are some definite limitations with this app that I hope will be developed moving forward (either by Instagram or by others as they release their API) I’ve actually found it to be an application I’ve used numerous times per day. There are a number of reasons I find myself drawn to it:

  • Creative Inspiration – Like many amateur photographers I at times go through dry spells when it comes to my own photography. The last few months have been particularly busy for me (both with work and at home) and my photography has suffered as I keep other balls in the air. I’m still taking shots regularly on my dSLR, but some of the creative spark has been missing and there have been more times than normal where I’ve been out without my camera. Since using Instagram however I’ve noticed myself taking more images with my iphone and even taking more on my dSLR with sharing them in mind. I’m not sure exactly why this is – but there’s something about sharing images in a public space that inspires and makes you a little more accountable (at least that’s the case for me).
  • Popular Area - Be Inspired by Others

  • Community – one of the things I’m loving about Instagram is connecting with other photographers that I’d not been in contact with before. Both seeing the work of others and also getting their feedback on my own images has been both fun but also quite useful and inspiring. I often find myself in a quiet moment scrolling through the images of other users and feeling my energy lifted.
  • Focus upon Composition – I’ve also found myself thinking a little more carefully than normal about composition of shots. The reason for this is that Instagram’s format is square. This forces you to crop your shots which, once you get in the swing of it, means you need to think a little differently as you’re faming your shots. I’ve actually found that this is drawn me back to being a little more intentional about framing my images and composing shots.
  • Friends and Family – I had a call last night from a family member that I don’t see too much to thank me for sharing more photos than normal online. I didn’t even realise that they’d been following my stream but by sharing more pics from life (including my kids) they felt a lot more connected. I guess I could have been doing this on a site like Flickr but they’d found it useful to get a stream of images on their iPhone.

My Workflow

3 Images in 1 - Created in the iPhone with the Diptic App

One of the other things that I’ve been enjoying about Instagram is exploring some of the other iPhone photography apps that I’d not really been into before. As Instagram only really gives you 11 options for post production filters I have started to explore what other applications offer.

As mentioned above the workflow for doing this is to:

  1. take images using your normal iphone camera (or another app) and save the image to your camera roll
  2. open the image in whatever app you want to do some post production work to
  3. re-save the image to your camera roll
  4. upload it to Instagram to share

Apps that I’ve been finding myself using to do this include:

  • Diptic – which allows you to pull in multiple images to make a collage of shots
  • Camera+ – this app has a lot of different ways you can adjust an image including cropping, rotating, adding a variety of effects, having different scene modes, adding borders etc. It also gives you a lot of control over how much you want to apply different effects
  • CameraBag – I like a few of the filters that this app has

I’m sure there are plenty of other iPhone apps that people will also recommend (feel free to add them in comments below).

Another workflow that others use is to import images that have already had their post production work or images taken with other cameras from a computer into an iphone. It might seem a little bizarre that people would go to this effort (and I haven’t) but looking at some of the images that make it into the ‘popular’ tab it is clear that not all images being shared are taken on an iPhone.

An App with Promise

Instagram has had a lot of press in the last months from around the Social Media blogosphere and deservedly so. It’s simplicity is great, it’s social/community feel is very positive and it does help people with the most common type of camera going around (that in the most popular type of phone going around) express themselves and share their images in a fun way.

The fact that a month ago they already had over a million users says something in itself!

It’s something I’m going to continue to play with and I look forward to connecting with you on Instagram if you do too – don’t forget to add me as a friend at ‘darrenrowse’.

Read more from our Post Production category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Robin December 23, 2011 11:07 am

    Hi Darren,
    Great tips and insight. I love Instagram too. But may I add that it is not just for iPhone, I don't have an iPhone but I do have an iPod Touch, (lol, I know, I know, I know why bother huh.....I love my smart phone that I have and don't really see a need for a new phone, so I got an iPod Touch instead) Anyway, thanks for the other sights for fun things to do with Instagram, another one is Frametastic! Try it, hope you like it!

  • Andrew May 11, 2011 05:52 pm

    Hi Darren,

    Great review of! Indeed a fantastic use of the iphone, photography & social media. is a site on the net that shows off all of your instagram photos, and that you can refer non-iPhone users to..

    I've got a guest post in mind for a technique that I've learned for instagram, coming to an inbox near you!

  • Vk March 31, 2011 05:56 pm

    Thanks! I'd know what new app i'm definitely getting my iphone now :)

  • Toni March 30, 2011 07:15 pm

    Thanks for this article. I recently bought my iPhone and I am having such a great time with all of the photo apps. It really has me excited about my photography again (I had been distracted by other interests) I've downloaded Instagram but I haven't created an account yet so this was a nice intro. The apps I have been using alot so far are:

    TtV Camera
    I've done a little real TtV photography so I was very excited when I saw this app. I really like it. Some of the viewfinders are a bit grungy, but I like that. Price is nice at $.99

    I've only purchased the basic app, not any of the add ons. I like it so far. My current combo fave is John S lens and Kodot XGrizzled Film. Basic app is $1.99 and add ons are $.99

    I'm having much more fun with this than I anticipated. You can use the front and back cameras on the phone which is nice. It was a hard choice between Incredibooth and Pocketbooth but I am really happy with my purchase. I went with this one because it simulates the look of a real photobooth and you can use both cameras. $.99

    8mm Vintage Camera
    Video app not photo app, but it is too awesome not to mention. =) You can choose film types, lenses, add jitter, and choose different sound options. I've only used it for a day, but I see myself using it often. $1.99

  • Dianne March 18, 2011 03:15 am

    You can also use on an iPod Touch 4th gen (has the camera). Of course, you'll have to be in a location with wifi to upload your images, but you can always do that later. It will show 'failed' at the time, but you can retry when you get home, to Starbucks, Borders, or wherever else you can grab some free wifi. Definitely a fun app. Another cool camera app to play with is HalfTone - you can give your pix a retro comic look.

  • Alex March 8, 2011 01:27 am

    I like to use for applying the filters then using picplz to upload to the picplz website and flickr/fb/twitter etc. I much prefer but picplz has a good website. Look forward to when can match it.

  • One90proof January 30, 2011 12:49 am

    I've been using this app for several weeks now. At first I wasn't very impressed but after using it for a bit I found myself becoming quite addicted. I'm not a good photographer by any stretch of the imagination but this app inspires me to keep shooting and try new ideas. The community is so friendly and supportive. I'm loving the new hashtag feature from the newest update.

  • Inspiredeggs January 29, 2011 12:35 am

    Thanks Darren for this post. I am just starting out as a hobby photographer. In my business life I travel alot. This article has given me some great tips for playing with my hobby while on the road.

    As you mentioned I love the popular section. Reviewing the composition and perspective stirs up alot of ideas. Very motivating for a novice.

    I also really appreciate the connectivity with Posterous. Makes updating photos and manning workflow to other social networks vey easy.

  • Shinjini January 28, 2011 09:02 pm

    I haven't heard of this app, but it sounds interesting - I'm going to try it out! A couple of photography apps I love on the iPhone (and they're both free, which is the best part!) are:
    1) OldPhotoPro - as the name says, it gives your pictures this beautiful old world look. (post-processing)
    2) Pano - use a combination of cameras and film types to capture creative, cool shots

  • Lou Wheeler January 28, 2011 01:15 pm

    Instagram is pretty cool, but it does have it's limitations. Primarily the fact that a) it downsizes your images for the web (irreversibly) and b) it's only on iPhone.

    If you like Instagram, it's definitely worth checking out PicPlz ( Pretty much the same as Instagram, however not using a square crop, and it doesn't resize your images. Or at least not as badly. And it will share to a good handful of services, including FB, Flickr, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, etc... And it will automatically prompt for location as well, and it actually works really well.

    It still has the same web interface as Instagram, including sharing, liking, comenting, etc.

    I'd be using Instagram if I had an iPhone, but I'm not sure which I'd use more in that case. But since I have Android, PicPlz is my app of (not my) choice. But at this point, I kind of like it that way haha.

  • Scott Webb January 27, 2011 01:17 pm

    On the page that the instagram picture is, you actually can do a few things. There is the like button, tweet button, and share button. It's not new or added after this article either. Not sure how you missed that. But you're right, you can't comment there.

    Also, related to the instagram website issue - I remember reading on Quora that they are working on a public API and this will open up so many uses for all the shots in the library. - was asked to not launch until the API was public or stable. I can't remember the other website I came across that was pulling images already. If I find it, I'll share it - maybe someone else knows it.

    I posted an instagram + animoto smush today. When they did it, it made an Instamoto. Obviously my name links to my blog.

    Instagram, Camera+, Hipstamatic, 100 cameras in 1, and many others are killing it. There is so much more going on under the surface and really interesting things are happening in my mind. And from some news sources, I believe Apple has taken huge notice in this.

  • Zoey @ Good Goog January 27, 2011 01:14 pm

    I'm also a big fan of the app - although it would be great if there was more web integration (not just for liking, commenting but also for follower management) and suspect as soon as they release their API this will be the first thing to happen. My work around for now is to post to my tumblr blog which means all the photos are in one place and I can also feature them in the sidebar on my main blog through a wordpress tumblr widget.

  • Kerri January 27, 2011 01:39 am

    I love and what it can do for photos! I have also found myself taking more photos in a day and its easier to do Flickr's 365 day project with this app!

  • Sunraa January 26, 2011 08:59 am

    Nice writeup. I haven't used this app but use Hipstamatic on a daily basis. It's very similar, offers 'lenses', 'films', and 'flashes' and a square format. You can mix & match all of those achieve some really interesting results. You can see a sampling by searching for the tag 'hipstamatic' @ flickr.

    You can upload pics to fb, flickr, tumble, and email. The app is USD $1.99 and additional lenses, films etc are in-app purchases - something to keep in mind. Worth checking out.

  • Ramon January 26, 2011 08:52 am

    From last count there were fifteen filters. :)

    Since iPads do not have cameras, Instagram for the iPad works as a great post-processing app.

    I, too, agree with the limitation you mentioned. Hoewver, from browsing online, I found one Instagram user who was nice enough to create this: . If you activate it, it displays your Instagram photos on one user-friendly page. It works... for now.

    I also want to mention Hipstamatic/SwankoLab as another great iPhone/iPad photo app.

  • Jennifer Harris January 26, 2011 04:38 am

    I LOVED this app...was partly a reason it was so hard to leave the Iphone network :( I now have the Windows 7 phone and I hope Instagram finds their way over there soon :) Have fun thou!

  • Ray "Big Pappa" January 26, 2011 03:41 am

    Love instagram, Pretty much took me from shooting snaps with my iphone to falling in love with photography and buying my first Dslr.

  • John C January 26, 2011 02:20 am

    On the square format thing, I have a theory - any well-composed image will also work when centre-cropped to square. So far has worked on every image I've tried it on - both mine and others'

  • Dror January 26, 2011 02:05 am

    Loved this post, you can make a stream of your photos by making a simple tumblr blog, that's what i've done:
    Check out my profile: drorpic

    Great post again

  • Milton Gan January 26, 2011 01:23 am

    Great review Darren! I love Instagram too despite it's current shortcomings which, as you say, will probably be addressed in time. I'm a pro wedding photographer and tend to rest the heavy gear when I'm not working and instead go lo-fi with my iPhone and apps like Instagram. They're a lot of fun and really bring out an experimental streak in me which in turn often feeds into my pro work. Best Camera and Tiltshift Generator are a couple of my other favourites apps.

    Oh, and you have been added!



  • atomvillanas January 26, 2011 01:18 am

    Instagram is very addictive app :) One of the big problem for me what to do with my Canon DLSR? :)
    I post images from Hungary, so if you would like to follow me, check out my profile: @atomvillanas