Instagram and its Impact on the World of Photography

Instagram and its Impact on the World of Photography


A Guest Post by Guy Prives.

If you were not on a hot-air balloon for a journey around the world or in a Tibetan monastery on a pilgrimage yet have experienced these images on Facebook then it’s likely you’ve already been exposed to Instagram.

instagram-1.jpg“Instagram” the photo-sharing application, recently bought by Facebook, allows participants to shoot, edit and share photos with users of the application through the personal world of each one of us. The network allows us to react and give feedback in the form of “Likes” and comments.

I have lived in the world of photography for several years and keep a close eye on every new and innovative discovery in this field. It is this reason I was exposed to this application at an early stage; more than a year ago now. After just a brief observation I fell in love with it and started to upload not only photographs I had taken with my own cell phone but also many pictures that I had taken with my camera. I like to share my work and images that reflect my personal life with my friends both of which increase in number as time goes on.

When I started using this application, Instagram was still in its initial stages. Most of the network members were from the Far East where such applications are highly developed due to tech savvy culture and high standards of technological and cellular industries. I set myself a goal; to succeed to make my photos appear within the most popular collection of images and if an image did not managed to get there I would define it as a failure.

After a long period in which the application was not so popular I put it on the shelf and abandoned it. Only a few months passed and I found that in that short space of time the application had gained dramatically in popularity. I decided this was the time to come back and share my photos on it.

I must admit, although I am a professional photographer, I sin very often, taking photos directly from my iPhone because I feel too lazy to get my professional camera out of the bag/home.

Instagram led to a very interesting phenomenon that could possibly change the world of photography from one end to another. Almost suddenly people who seldom took pictures of their daily life encounters, began to photograph the world around them on a daily basis, increasing and discovering a love for photography. Some have gone even further and consequently decided to study photography.

instagram-2.jpgA question that been asked by my colleagues was:

“What direction is the photographic world going in?”.

“Is this phenomenon, which has brought the art and culture of photography to the forefront and to places and people who were not originally exposed to it, turning its initial audience into amateur photographers urgently and suddenly into millions of pseudo photographers a positive or negative phenomenon?”

“Is the photographic world that previously wasn’t charming to hundreds of millions of people suddenly the hot topic? Does that, therefore, leave dust to creep into other areas?”

“Has the way the hobby has progressed so dramatically to assistant photography moved it closer to an individual art genre or turned it to a banal category of its own?

It’s clear to all of us that the world is moving towards one direction. Technological developments that come up frequently will continue to surprise us in the coming years. The result of the current development in the form of the Instagram has helped the field of photography reach tens of millions of new people. Every one of us has a never-ending creativity and a different perspective which we see around us. Although most of these application users tend to take photos with their cell phones and not with professional cameras, the processing and editing applications available can surprise us with high quality images as an automatic process that has a final professional finish.

Maybe my opinion is different from the professionals that surround me in everyday life but my opinion is clear; I believe Instagram is a blessing although in a different way from what I initially thought. In the end it serves the purpose for which I and my fellow photographers get up in the morning with a smile on our face. That reason is this; Instagram provides amateur photographers with the tool to share their art with others while receiving additional tools for developing creativity and observation to detail. Additionally even I, as a photographer, leave the house sometimes without my big camera which makes my dependence on my mobile phone endless. The fact that it incorporates a high quality camera allows me to be constantly sharp as if I’m at work and looking for new frames each time my eyes espy a new “strip” during my daily life.

instagram-3.jpgIn addition to his big sister; the Facebook network, Instagram as a social network gives us the opportunity to meet new people and see the world through the eyes of others who live in different, new, interesting places and learn about their culture. The network allows us to follow a guy from New York and see the Big Apple in an entirely different and cultural way from how it is usually projected. We can keep track of people from different countries and see that life in a certain place is not the way we assume or are led to believe. Even the way we see our country can be dynamically challenged when it is reflected in the eyes of another person with different opinions, views and artistic vision.

I cannot reach an unequivocal answer as to whether Instagram is contributing or will contribute to the photography field. The fact that this field is in the headlines these days, thanks to this application, makes my colleagues and me very happy and there is a feeling that, at last, a reality that I had hoped for, for years of my life has come completely naturally into the home of others.

UPDATE: Please vote in our poll – Are you on Instagram?

Look for me at Instagram @guyprives

Guy Prives is a photographer based in Tel Aviv, Israel and teaching photography at Galitz School of photography. Guy discovered his love of photography during a long trip to South America, and now this passion to capture the moment with a click of the camera has been with him ever since. Check out more of his work at his website.

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Some Older Comments

  • Kate June 2, 2013 03:15 pm

    I've never been interested in photography but I'm getting quite into instagram. It's making me interested in other aspects of photo editing by giving that easy entrance path with not too many choices.

  • Nizar May 18, 2012 04:53 am

    I'm an "advanced amateur", and I do not use Instagram for the simple reason that I love working on my photographs in a digital darkroom and finely tuning every aspects of them before sharing them.

    A part from it being a sharing tool, I have difficulties accepting putting automated filters on my pictures, posting them and - most of all - pretending I'm a pro-photographer just because there's a predefined effect.
    (This is the part I don't really like about Instagram and how some people make use of it to appear more "pro")

  • Paul May 16, 2012 05:06 am

    Is Facebook trying to take over the world? Check the small print, bet they get the rights to your work!

  • Rose May 14, 2012 02:58 am

    I do like instagram. It's fun for phone pics. But if I want to really get unpredictable, cool artistic shots... Well heck I'll just pull out my Holga.

  • Koen De Hauw May 12, 2012 07:23 am

    To me, the first part of this article says it all. They can do just about anything with your content, as it is also the case on Facebook.

  • Megan May 11, 2012 08:22 pm

    Follow me! @m3ganb3ll

  • Mak May 8, 2012 10:01 pm

    @el_jojo - Somehow, I feel the same, but that didn't start with Instagram, it's just that now everything happens on a lot greater scale and many photographers I know feel like being under attack. Obviously, you cannot beat Facebook (as I cannot think of Instagram as being independent) for the next few years, so, we'll just learn to live with it or without; it will be there for some time anyway.

  • el_jojo May 8, 2012 07:27 pm

    You know what's bad about Instagram, and bad for the photography industry, with professionals and their expensive equipment? It is that I know people who are selling their photos via Instagram, and/or thru any social network using their Smart Phones!!! Some have a client based online thru fashion and alternative magazines. That my photographer friends, SUCKS!!! Oh yes, anyone can be a photographer now, without the need of studying the rules of photography, just by Sliding, Aiming, Pushing, Uploading, and Getting Paid!!!
    Instagram is no fun! It's not Digital VS Analogue anymore, it is Photography VS Smart Phone Social Networking!
    Have a nice day!

  • Blake May 6, 2012 11:05 pm

    I do concur with a lot of the negatives to instagram, in the sense of some people taking the mind set of being a credible photographer with an average composition and just slapping a preset filter on it and "zomg I could make money from this" mentality.
    Though I do also see it's value and worth as a way to share your experiences with imagery with those around you. I was a little pessimistic about it at first, which is rather shifted from my generally accepting nature.
    Though after using it for the half a dozen images uploaded (mostly of my 8mth old son), it makes me realise it's more than just another trend for the true users, and those that see more than it just being a way for people to make a crappy capture well, less crappy.
    I do have a DSLR, and have had it for much longer than I knew about Instagram. This is where my hobby lies.
    The round-a-bout quotes that keep popping to my mind when I think of the purpose of Instagram, kind of contradict each other...
    "You can polish a turd, and it will still be a turd." for those that are seeking ego stroking of their imagery.
    "Photography is defined by the photographer, and not their equipment." Who cares if you have an iPhail, or an EOS 500D or a Hasselblad. If it captures a moment, specifically your moment, the quantity of the memories mean more than quality of the image.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is let the photography be for the photographers, let the happy-snaps be for Instagram.

  • Scott Horvath May 5, 2012 11:37 am

    Just recently purchasing my first DSLR, because I had spent about a year using Instagram, I have to say that using IG and learning from the community had a profound effect on how I saw the act of taking a photo. I also learned to look at the world from a different perspective and really take in how the pictures I took were made up of thousands of more photos...all just little pictures that make up a bigger one.

    I'm still learning my way (and you can see what I've done to date on my Flickr site or other places like 500px, IG, etc. ). But everyday I look forward to finding another shot that I didn't see earlier. By participating in the IG weekend hashtag projects and forcing myself to look for certain types of photos, IG really did have a positive effect on how I saw things that I passed each day.

    From my experience, if it wasn't for Instagram, I wouldn't be passionate about taking photos like I am today.

  • Tom H May 4, 2012 12:29 pm

    I have, in the past 12 months or so begun to explore the creative side of digital photography - trusty dslr in hand and a range of lenses and equipment in hand, depending on my mood and vision. I don't see my approach to photography changing. However, I like many others, either fail or forget to have my camera on hand all the time. Without question, lugging a body and lens around is not always a practicable approach to my daily journies. I do find instagram a convenient way of capturing the daily social milieu i'm exposed to. It's an easy and fun, not to mention convenient means, to share with my friends. With that said, I think the concept is fantastic.

    I do chuckle, and admittedly occasionally find myself frustrated, by the people that continuously apply the regurgitated retro filters to the numbing minutia of their mundane lives (no offense to anyone). Furthermore, exlaiming, or receiving feedback that they must be Alfred Stieglitz reborn :S Ok, perhaps a touch of cynacism in that.
    While I feel instagram may be feeding the delusional, I think it's a great new way to express ourselves and share on the run.

  • Gordon Bell May 4, 2012 08:56 am

    These people, deep down if they are honest with themselves, want to shoot film.

  • SandyT May 4, 2012 06:25 am

    I like it. It adds a new dimension to shooting. It democratises taking photographs so all can enjoy, even if they don't own an SLR. It'll widen the net of those who are inspired by photography and they'll take a greater interest in more advanced cameras and the work of professionals. At the end of the day, it's restrictive nature and immediacy also places the focus on old school fundamentals; getting the angle, light etc right at the decisive moment rather than employing cropping, burning, levels, saturation etc in post editing software to improve a shot (a filter can don't much if their original technique is off). I like that.

  • John Starmer May 4, 2012 04:49 am

    I started with Instagram as a personal 365 challenge to 1) take more photographs, 2) do so with the limitations of both an older model iPhone and the Instagram app. I've found it to be a useful exercise and found/met some interesting/amazing images and photographers along the way. As the popularity has grown, the site has definitely become less interesting- their popular page is awash images of shoes, clothing and teenage selfportraits now. There are now other apps now such as Tadaa that do a better job of segregating the junk from interesting images, and at this point I'll likely stop using the app once my 365 is up.

  • Mak May 4, 2012 04:12 am

    As franzg already put it: " if it were just Instagram on its own at present, it would just be another photo-sharing service". I don't think that's about Instagram, but more of any other cool-looking-ready-to-share-photos-on-line that has been brought to out attention via facebook.
    I am one of those who voted "No - I don't want to share my Photos that Way", but, then again, I don't have anything against the people who are sharing their photos through Instagram; after all, it is a free world or so they say.
    Choose what you like, enjoy taking photos and share them...
    The fun will only being when, in a few years, a 1 year old, who just happened to learn how to walk a few steps, will accidentally push a button on a mobile, a parent will share that picture and it'll win a Pulitzer for street photography or who knows what.

  • pcbphotography May 4, 2012 02:24 am

    Instagram is great and doesn't discriminate against people who have
    Photography as a hobby, amateur Photographers or professional ones.
    Everyones input is appreciated.

  • Joshua May 4, 2012 02:05 am

    See, I don't get people who complain about instagram. I rarely use it for iPhone photos. Almost every photo I post to instagram was taken with my DSLR. Yes, sometimes I use the filters but only when it adds to the photo. I use it because it provides an easy way for me to share my photos all across the web via the sharing services (facebook, tumblr, flickr, twitter, etc) People need to get over the fact that instagram is trendy and retro looking. It might work for you if you put your 'instahatred' behind you. If you put some time into it and import your DSLR photos it's worth it.

  • Vent May 3, 2012 09:11 pm

    I use instagram in irregular basis. To my eyes it serves as twitter but in images instead of words. Adding ready-to-apply filters to a bottle of mineral water shot is not creativity. Photography is about capturing life in a two dimension paper or screen but can still speak for itself.

  • kennoy May 3, 2012 10:50 am

    instagram has no different like other app mobile photo editing. nothing special. for me it's just for fun. take a look how it's inspired me to mix up with the DSLR for fun..:)

  • Izy Berry May 3, 2012 09:53 am

    interesting, I've been a fan of photography for ages but only recently got an iphone. I love it for the snap happy, life documenting side of things, but I still feel quite limited by it and the quality.

  • Val May 3, 2012 09:49 am

    Not a great fan of it and to me it is a lot of happy snappers and that is all it is

  • Jamie May 3, 2012 09:12 am

    I love it. I use it exclusively via my iPhone. I'm taking on using it as a discipline to compose for the square vs with my dslr. The sharing on FB or on Instagram has an immediacy I can't get from my pro camera. I view instagram as a tool like a fixed lens point and shoot with immediate WYSIWYG results.
    I believe it is good for photography. If it gets people interested in doing more great. If it just helps them capture those fun moments, that is enough. Better that than watching tv.

  • Jenna Souers May 3, 2012 09:04 am

    Love this article along with instagram.


  • Lara White May 3, 2012 05:49 am

    It's seductive because it allows anyone to be a participant in creativity, to make something. Sure, it might just be "a bowl of cereal with a vignette", but it's still a creative outlet that is accessible to almost anyone. I think that's a good thing. Everyone can be more in touch with their creativity, and have an outlet to explore that and express it. That in no way degrades what a professional does. It's like saying that people shouldn't be allowed to write in personal diaries because it degrades true writers. Very few of us are born with true talent, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue art, creating art and enjoying art.

  • FranzG May 3, 2012 05:23 am

    I agree that social networking puts the photography world under a new light - excuse me for the (somewhat intended) pun. In a way, the most of it comes from Facebook and its albums: easy to use, immediately available to friends and others to see... and these are only a couple of the features that FB offers, especially to beginners and hobbyists like me. More than other "social-enabled" platforms, such as Flickr. Instagram (which I don't use) gives the possibility to standardize pictures (a reply above says "Apple-ize", and I agree) in a way that's becoming familiar on social platforms. It's becoming so familiar, that I decided to develop a filter for The Gimp (the photo-editing software that I use on Linux) that makes a photo look older and adds some sort of an "Instagram-like vignetting" at the corners.

    Nevertheless, besides being now property of Facebook - and IMHO it will become soon a feature of Facebook itself - and despite its success, if it were just Instagram on its own at present, it would just be another photo-sharing service, with more limits than others and requiring people like me to set up another (the N-th) account somewhere or to share an existing account with a new platform, which is not always appreciated.

    Good for the creators of Instagram, and for those who made it so popular, that they could earn some good money - especially by selling it to FB. I think that the hype on Instagram cannot last very long: while some months ago I used to see many Instagram enthusiasts even among my friends, now the phenomenon seems to slope down. I ask myself if it will really leave any traces - apart from possible jargon terms, as "Instagram-like frame" or "Instagram-like vignetting" which I might expect to show up in time.

    However, I'm not really interested in it, although it can probably be useful as a photography-based social platform.


  • Elizabeth May 3, 2012 04:34 am

    I am not sure if I like Instagram and I don't personally use it. But to each his own right? I also love my iPhone and Hipstamatic and recently bought my first DSLR. Your article is informative and I will check out Instagram for myself. Thanks!

  • bb May 3, 2012 04:23 am

    Geez. Lighten up, folks. (Seriously, onyxe -- I bet you're fun at a party.) Instagram isn't going to kill anyone (nor anyone's business, for that matter). It's just a new tool to use and a different way of looking at photography, and really, who cares if someone wants to take quick little photos on their iPhone and add a little vignette to it? (Plus, I've seen a lot of camera photos that are actually quite good.)

    Can we not be so serious about everything all the time and just have a little fun with photography?

  • Stefani May 3, 2012 03:24 am

    I LOVE Instagram. I love taking pictures and having the ability to share on Instagram as well as send it to twitter and facebook at the same time. Very convenient for a mommy blogger.

  • OnyxE May 3, 2012 02:25 am

    I hate Instagram. It's ugly and trendy which is even worse than ugly and as for photo sharing ....somone looks at your photo which might stroke you ego ...but they forget it with the next photo they see. Your instant photos are not memorable; in fact it is really a waste of your time.

  • Qlakk May 2, 2012 10:09 pm

    Hi Guy,

    I agree with you about two things: Instagram is more a blessing than a curse (from far!) for photography and yes it is changing photography. However, first, I don't think it is instagram itself but more digital photography with smartphones and photo sharing ( 3 things altogether). Today it is Instagram, tomorrow another one, who cares, but sharing your daily life taken with a smartphone - we always have one with us - and applying some nice digital filters is really something great for photography. So yes, digital photosharing with smartphones rocks!

    What I don't like with instagram is a kind of Apple-ification (no offense against Apple!) of photography: they all look the same, square crops, retro-digital filters mostly. So it is fun, useful, but a kind of tasteless if not disgusting like eating too much chocolate! - after a while. Or for creative people, Instagram is masquerading the "Brave New World". Art is rebellion, Instagram looks more like the opposite!

    So I am more a believer of some next steps photosharing websites/Apps/communities, where creativity, photosharing and smartphones will be much better combined together. From that perspective, photosharing sites such as Flickr or G+ well connected - in a seamless way - with smartphones, would look a much more appealing idea to me. It won't change the fact that Instagram is hype right now. But we all know hype start-up don't last forever for most of them, as the risk of being outmoded is nothing but very real. That's cannot be truer for photosharing, digital photography and smartphones cameras. Right now, it is fun to share on Instagram, I won't say something else. So let's just enjoy the present!

  • Mainer82 May 2, 2012 10:02 pm

    I just don't understand the draw to these types of photographs. For my self, I personally will not be using this service.

  • bokehfilly May 2, 2012 01:30 pm

    I just started using Instagram. And while I love using my dsl I find that i get a different sense of joy out of Instagram. I usually never edit my photos for lomo, i tend to prefer high contrast and bright crisp colours. But with my cell phone i get these dreamy nostalgic images. I guess the break down of why i am using each piece, my dsl I use to capture art and impersonal images, with instagram is personal, its memories. I use instagram the same way I used to use Polaroids, and my dsl as the 'money maker'

  • raghavendra May 2, 2012 12:05 pm

    I was unaware of Instagram,
    i see people share their photos in twitter through it

  • Mike May 2, 2012 10:00 am

    I'm one of those who got into photography via my iPhone, starting out with Hipstamatic and the faux lomo look, then got into Instagram and have been truly bitten by the photography bug. I've now bought my first DSLR, a Canon 550D and I'm reading a lot about the subject and practicing whenever I can to improve. Hoping maybe even to go pro one day.

  • jennie May 2, 2012 06:56 am

    It really has taken off with a *BANG* lately!! I use it regularly but no contest ever for my DSLR.
    i also notice people using photos off internet as their own, taking credit etc and gaining like 100,000 followers for not their own work. crazy!

  • Tyler F May 2, 2012 06:43 am

    I'm sure there are many great photos taken with Instagram, however, most of what I see posted on my Facebook wall is people who believe they are photographers, for just applying one of the few filters. Often followed with some bold comments such as "This is the best photo I have ever seen." When all it really is, is a bowl of cereal with a vignette.

  • AndyNJ May 2, 2012 06:18 am

    And cue the onslaught on hatred!

    I was just talking about this on Twitter earlier today and, while it's slightly off-topic from what you're saying, I think it's still important to say because there's been a lot of talk about Instagram lately. Anyone who thinks that Instagram is just about filters completely misses the point. Instagram is a social network for sharing photos with people. It's quick, easy, and fun. Anyone can use it and enjoy it and it doesn't cater to just photographers. This is the best part about it, in my opinion. I can share and see photos from all my friends, not just the ones into photography. You can share visual experiences with people, instantly, as you're experiencing them. It gets people to look at the world around them in a different way, more like how people who enjoy photography do. Of course, there are going to be crappy photos shared, but there's always going to be crap.

    The filters are a feature, not the product.