Instagram or Latergram - Pro photographers potentially ruining a fun photo sharing community?
I started using Instagram when it launched in the app store back in Q4 2010, and I loved the app immediately. That being said I didn't really post to much to it. This was during a time when I was focusing on other social networks that were resulting in hits to my website and job inquiries. More recently however I have been posting to instagram as I travel for photography jobs and even posting old iphontography shots. I use to follow quite a lot of people on Instagram despite my not posting to it and I did this because I wanted to get a pulse of what other photographers were doing and what my friends were shooting. I was more or less just a lurking instagram user.
Sometime last spring something started to change in Instagram. Professional photographers were all of a sudden uploading DSLR shot and photoshop/lightroom edited photos to instagram as a means to share them. As you will learn this is a slightly trivial argument, but hopefully my argument makes some sense. Instagram is an incredible mobile app that, at its core, is designed to be used with your iOS camera. With Instagram you're suppose to geotag where you currently or recently were, and your friends are allowed to like or comment on the photo - it's meant to be an on the go, quick app. Compared to the number of iOS devices on the market Instagram has a relatively small user base, hovering around 10 million active users.
So what is the benefit of uploading professional photography to Instagram? My feeling is that there isn't any benefit to spending the time to sync photos to your mobile device specifically for sharing on instagram. There are dozens of professional photography apps and services in the market today that are specifically suited for professionals to share. Professional photographers have Flickr, Picasa, and 500px just to name three of the more popular services. Flickr is the obvious photo sharing heavyweight champion with over 50 million registered users, over 6 billion photos in their system and is ranked the 34th most visited website in the world and mars. Not exactly a lightweight website, right?
Why are so many photographers posting their professional shots to instagram? I think there's a few reasons, and it's bigger than instagram itself. Since the advent of Twitter and Facebook there's this sense of online celebrity that everybody seemingly yearns for. These people want to be the go to person for all things social media and they want to be known as the Twitter guy, or the Google + girl. These people want 300,000 people yearning for their next post or next photo so they can get even internet fame and glory. I get it. Everybody wants to be famous, everyone wants to be a Kardashian - famous and rich for doing the minimal amount of work. I get it, and somedays I want the same thing. So these very gifted photographers are joining every new social media start up and flooding it with their professional content with little regard for what the service is intended to do. These people also tend to have the same work across multiple platforms which is also detrimental to for people looking to discover different sides of a photographers talent. If I have the same portfolio loaded on G+, Facebook, Flickr, 500px and Instagram what is the point of even maintaining all these services. I absolutely understand the value in participating in some, if not all, of those services, but if you're sharing the same 50 or 100 photos across those networks than really, what is the point?
The point is that these people are yearning to be noticed. They want to be known and they want to be successful. Again, I get it. In order to be successful there needs to be strategy behind your social posting and you need to use these social tool as their intended. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't post your DSLR edited shots to a service like 500px, google+ or flickr, that's is what they are there for. Instagram is called Instagram because the service is suppose to represent the photography you took in....wait for it....an instant. To be blunt, just because you are able to upload photos from your iOS photo library doesn't mean you should. Photographer, including myself, sometimes have a difficult time identifying who their audience is and this is another reason we have these social faux pas'. Perhaps they just don't understand people want to see on the go photos on Instagram, not fully edited produced shots fresh from Lightroom or Photoshop. Uploading these profesional shots because Instagram is a fun and easy way to share doesn't legitimize the action. We're not dealing with UN level diplomacy here, but I strongly believe photographers should respect the intention of these social networks and ultimately enjoy them like the rest of us do and not worry about always presenting their top work that has been delicately edited for hours on end.
In conclusion, understand who your audience is and use social networks as their intended. Everyone will be better off if we just see the best iphonography on Instagram instead of fully edited DSLR quality shots.
Until Nt. @natebenson