Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why I Hate Instagram

This cyber warfare photo became possible when I happened across an army tank and grabbed a shot of it with my iPhone.

New Freedom With Photography
When I say I hate Instagram I am using the word "Instagram" as the category of pictures shot with a mobile phone. Now I didn’t always have such a dislike of mobile phone camera photos. I first took notice of such images when a friend of mine, Nevada Wier, showed me the images she was shooting with her iPhone. Damn they looked good! We were on a trip to India and here she was getting awesome looking images with her phone. I had visions of finally being able to discard my DSLR bodies and lenses and all that other camera gear and enjoying a new freedom with my photography.

An Excursion Into iPhone Photography
Unfortunately my brief (so far) excursion into iPhone photography hasn’t quite gone as planned. First, I find it very difficult to shoot great pictures with my phone. I have a hard time holding it steady, a hard time not getting my fingers in the pictures, and a hard time triggering the shutter at the moment I want. Too, I have a hard time finding the beauty in my phone pictures when viewing them on my desktop display (as opposed to my camera screen). Did I mention it is a pain in the butt to learn new things too? Looking on the good side, I sure have a lot of pictures of my cat now!

A Different Reality
Further, grab shots are not what I do. I shoot carefully composited concept images. Sure, the idea of never missing a shot appeals to me, as well as the idea of supplementing my stock library with those spur-of-the-minute opportunities. Yet I find the reality a bit different. I don’t seem to be finding those significantly good spontaneous opportunities and instead I feel constant pressure to produce, and constant disappointment in my own failure to come up with the awesome phone-camera shots that so many of my peers achieve.

Opportunities And “Breaks”
Yes I do continually look for opportunities with my iPhone in hand. Which means that now I never get a break from work! I spend so much time thinking about and “doing” stock photography that I am in constant danger of burn out.  Not having my equipment with me gives me a kind of break from that self-imposed pressure.  Or rather it did, because now I have my "equipment" with me all the time! To be fair I do get some interesting and useful images. In the “cyber warfare” image at the top of this post, the war tank was shot with my iPhone when I unexpectedly saw it on a trip to the dump. Without my iPhone handy I would never have created that stock image.

A Good Attitude And A Great Tool
Okay, yes, the camera phones are a great tool and, I guess, are already contributing to my career. The trick for me, as with most endeavors, is having a good attitude and the self-discipline to keep my approach a healthy one, one that contributes to my way of working rather than distracts from it. For some photographers mobile phone cameras can open up a whole new set of opportunities (check out David Sanger's Instagram work), for me it is one more love/hate relationship to be managed. And, I guess I don’t really hate Instagram after all:).


Jaak Nilson said...


I was very excited about camera phone images. After couple of month I quit. I did no liked a techical quality. It is sometimes very good and sometimes very bad.
I bought a Sony RX-100, 20 megapixels compact camera which has a of course a raw files and Zeiss zoom lens. This small camera (like cigarette box) is amzing.
I am pretty lazy to carry heavy dslr. Now this really small and very good compact camera is almost all the time with me and I have created a several good conceptual images. The sensor is 2,7 times bigger than a common compact has. I am happy with this small Sony and quality control of agencies accepted it. Small body for great ideas. Of course I use a dslr all the time too.
David Sanger has an amazing and very beautiful Instagram images. I asked and he told that most of his images are taken with Nikon and he is playing with files in Instagram. His stock images (Instagram images) are ready for sales as personal art prints. Some of images are done with Iphone too.


Daniel Laflor said...

What a funny little post. I loved that, John. You made me laugh :)
Kind regards,
Daniel Laflor

Alistair Kerr Photography said...

I too have a bit of a love hate relationship with iPhone images, they look great when viewed on the phone, but tend to fall apart on greater inspection on a computer screen, I just use them for snaps of projects I'm shooting or for blog posts to illustrate what I've been shooting, or doing, or building.
I've got thousands of images from the various iPhones I've had, but there are probably a few hundred that I really like. I'm on Instagram too (I've got Hipstamatic as well) I find I get more likes from images I've shot on my DSLR and put through Instagram.
I'm seriously considering getting a Fuji X100 and retiring the button on my iPhone camera, much better quality of images and I can always drop them on Instagram later.