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:).