[Discussion] Yes, I think Hipstamatic and Instagram are Bullshit but then again... I'm a photographer.

Ok, sure there are some guys like Damon Winter, David Guttenfelder, Teru Kuwayama and Balazs Gardi who have succesfully capitalized off of the novelty of iPhone filters like Hipstamatic and Instagram and produced some compelling works. But I still maintain that the use of iPhone filters, for anything other than fun/novelty shooting, have very little to do with real photography. It's not the use of an iPhone that I find "cheap" (I think they are brilliant) but the use of cookie cutter filters in place of creativity and light comprehension. I think Sam Biddle over at Gizmodo said it best with:

"Reminder: Photo Apps Don’t Make You a Photographer
I love fun fake photo filters just like everyone else. Instagram is my favorite way of seeing what my friends are in the midst of digesting. But let's never mistake "my dog looks like the 60s" for photography.
As Endless Origami points out, taking Hipstamtic pictures of plants doesn't make you a nature photographer any more than playing Angry Birds makes you an ornithologist.

via [EndlessOrigami] [YLovePhoto] [Gizmodo] [PetaPixel]
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You will get no argument from me on this one. I like how those apps give normally boring ass photos some life, but make you a photographer they do not.

Yes, photo apps are crap (and yes I am a photographer). "Omg, iphone make such nice picture" - no! "Apps make my pictures so nice" - no I don't even like 1 effect. If you want to work with filters buy photoshop.... if you want to make nice pictures buy a cheap dsrl or for 80 dollars now a days you have a REALLY NICE canon powershot!

so you're in full support of the full auto, live view, DSLR-buying trend where everyone claims to be a pro because they have a DSLR?

the statement "i've been meaning to buy a camera because my friend has one and she's a photographer" has been making me cringe for too long now.

Erik Pettee's picture

Wow Kenn. This sounds a lot like the complaining I hear elsewhere. Are you threatened by these apps? I'm probably not a "real" photographer then either as far as you're concerned, but what's the point of making people feel bad about their interest in photography and the tools they use to express themselves (automated or not)? These are simply tools. "Photography" and what that word actually means, is up for debate and interpretation, just as "art" is - but I'm guessing that's what the sub-point of this article is about. 

I can't imagine many of the fine artists I know posting an article like this. Photographers tend to be elitists, and often scare away others with their technical understanding and ability. The more people that participate in photography the better. We can all experience and learn from one another's individual expressions with photography and become better photographers ourselves as a result. 

If you're as truly accomplished as your bio self-states, then you certainly shouldn't feel as threatened by these little apps as this article implies.

I actually think that you sound more threatened than Kenn does by this. If your repertoire is composed mostly of iPhone shooting ability above all else, you probably not a "real" photographer. With your reaction, its hard to tell if that maybe is the case. There is always an element to technical ability, vision, and execution that applies to art, one that trumps novelty in almost all respects from the viewpoints of most people.

Erik Pettee's picture

Mark - I actually *just* installed these apps on my iPhone this week and used them for the first time. I've been shooting and developing since I was a kid like you probably and everyone else. I just think a lot of photographers could relax a bit when it comes to the way a photograph is created. 

Let's not get too snobby about this. I'll hate on the use of Hipstamatic filters as much as the next guy. I hate how they make crappy pictures look interesting for just a moment. But I've never seen anybody claim (or imply or attempt to imply) that the use of the filters makes them a photographer. The comparison to Angry Birds is funny (I chuckled) but doesn't really fit.

Jayge Dreier's picture

My thoughts exactly! I don't feel threatened at all by these photo filters, i'm just extremely annoyed with them. I'm a full time commercial photographer and I know that It takes more than a cross process filter on my iphone to come up with the results I get in the studio.

Jmont's picture

What's the difference from just putting your expensive DSLR in "Green" mode and ending up with a good pic from it? Does it really come down to putting your camera in manual mode and getting that perfect combination of of ISO, Shutter, and Aperture that makes it real photography? Or does come down to having a good eye.? (which so many professionals say is the real key) Then you take your file and edit in lightroom with all its presets anyway. I think there is a bit of "I deserve more respect cause I spent a lot of money on equipment going on here" There are legitimate cases all around. I've seen people with the highest end equipment take the crappiest photos ever and to be honest some of those instagram pictures are pretty amazing. My opinion is it comes down to the user and what they see. Sometimes regardless of equipment or "filters"  Sometimes having a great DSLR helps that same person do something even better.
Just my thoughts.

I love instagram because it allows me to share my daily's. Plus it's simple, quick and fun. Not to mention the shutter actuations you're saving on your DSLR. It does not take place of your real camera, but it's a nice community to share random things. And hopefully it can allow a person to lift up a real camera and start shooting.

Holy Moly. This trend, too, shall pass. all the whining about the "degradation of the craft " and deciding who is and isn't a "real" photographer......so much hot air. Once I got off my high horse, I learned a WHOLE lot more, and put some of those bits of knowledge to WORK for me.....25 years in as a freelancer, I'm still able to see the difference between skill and whatever the latest software tweak is.....Hipstagrammatic didn't make me lose my mind.....nor any serious clients.

for me, i don't care what anyone uses to make a picture.

Those apps are more or less aimed at the "average" user...iPhone/smart phone owner.  They're not meant to take the place of actual photography.  It's really all in fun. Yes, some people are running around acting like "real photographers" using their phone and these apps...but that's only because that is as close as they can get to actually "feeling" like they're doing something. I would argue that mostly, it's just people wanting to do cool, fun stuff with their photos and share them.  Any "real photographer" is not going to get up in arms over this or even be bothered.  That would be like Jack White gettin' pissy over the people out there using their iphone/ipad guitar/music apps to belt out music.  As serious as some of those folks get using the technology and all....I'm sure there's no real threat to actual enthusiasts/artists using real instruments and talent to create music.   Truth be told....An image is an image.  If someone shows me an image and it's engaging.....I could care less where it came from. Could have been shot on an iphone, a point and shoot, a D90, D3x or a Hasselblad.  Whatever.   As art, it did it's job.  Now, of course, as an actual photographer....the MEANS on HOW the shot was done, would be very impressive to me from a technical/photography perspective and of course...I'd be that much more impressed by someone who got a shot using their skills and understanding of light, composition etc.   This is similar to the battle of the film snobs when digital became really big.  Both do the same thing...just one gets there different than the other.  Is one "better"....?  Is a person who only uses film a "better" more "real" photographer?  All freakin' relative. All a matter of what your brand of art is, what your perspective on imagery is and most important....what YOU like.  Art is art...find it, shoot it if that's what you do....make it, love it and appreciate it.  

There are always snobs when it comes to photography. National Geo editors didn't like Fujichrome, or digital cameras, Arizona Highways only thinks 8x10 images are worthy of publishing, blah, blah, blah...

When Fujichrome was king, the mantra was, "Great color saturation and contrast!" Now it's, "RAW gives me total control." 

Following the logic of fans of RAW, photographers who shot with Fujichrome because they  liked Fujichrome's look, weren't making "real" photographs.

Also those people who shoot tri-x! As if using black and white film makes them a photographer. Splitters!

No really what does make a photographer? Is it really the tools they choose to use? or is it the vision behind the image?

As for Hipstamatic being a serious photographic tool, that all depends on whether clients and art buyers are paying for it.  Its just another fad isnt it?

 Quote 1    "But I still maintain that the use of iPhone filters, for anything other than fun/novelty shooting"I would go further and say the Iphone full stop not just the filters.  I may go out location scouting with an iphone but i wont do my commercial shoots on it.

,Quote 2   "have very little to do with real photography"
Real photography…. oh thats going to get some purists nickers in a twist.  All people who do fake photography must die!… wait what is fake photography?

Quote 3   "It’s not the use of an iPhone that I find “cheap” (I think they are brilliant) but the use of cookie cutter filters in place of creativity and light comprehension"
But that is just it, it is in place of creativity and light comprehension.  So no need for us Real photographers to worry, but good to let others have fun. 
You never know It might give some inspiration to some super creative genius who is not that into photography to suddenly take it up. and the world will become a better place.


Hipstermatic/Instagram are to photography  - as -  a good red-hot poker to the eye is to an optometrist. 

In a way these items are a form of Darwin's theory of natural selection, separating the photogs from the faux-togs. I'm happy for them to exist, as they make even a novice photographers work look great by comparison. To each their own... :)

So, Kenn, how to you feel about the reaction to your contribution to "Flame-Bait Month"? Personally, I love it!

Obviously I'm not going to reply to everyone's individual comments and it's not really worth arguing with those of you who think that disparaging remarks are an effective way of having an intelligent discussion. Even though it's not unexpected when one throws flame bait out there. ;)

But I will say this... I actually dig using Hipstamatic and similar apps, I think they can be fun. But no matter how cool I think a pic turns out, because of one of these filters, I never get a sense of pride in my work or accomplishment that I do when utilizing conventional photographic techniques and basic. Which is to say, finding, composing and lighting a shot all on my own.

Thanks for all the interesting comments everyone. Keep them coming.

Agreed Kenn, sadly, so many visitors to Fstoppers' only reprieve is likely these same apps.

It's nice taking a break and shooting with a cruddy camera, but tbh, if the only reason your shots look amazing is because of the app, maybe it's time to start shooting with a real camera.

To all the people saying how great these filters are... get an amazing image on one of the early blackberry cameras, a quicktake, or one of the original mavicas, and then I'll admit you're super skilled ;P.

Keep 'em coming, Kenn. Haters 'gonna hate... ;)

Eddie Peterson's picture

If you want to get creative in your own expression and the most affordable way possible then let it be you have the right same class as a point and shoot camera.

no, seriously, is there anybody out there who states he's a photographer just coz he's taking picture with instamatic?
you must be kidding.
looks like there's people stating they're photographers just coz they own a camera!

oh well.. 

now i'm not joking, don't be silly, don't complain about the medium, but the subject, the language, the stories told with the medium. otherwise you're just another bunch of blind camera [and blog] owners who watch the finger instead of the moon. 
if you have the abilities to create some real pictures using an iphone, then hell yeah, you should be called a photographer [if you have people buying those pictures]. but yeah, i think that if taken as a pastime activity, it can't hurt at all!
oh, by the way: the best camera is the one you have with you, right? photography is a great way to take notes, so...

Chris Walker's picture

I think the argument of "I hate how these filters make images look better" is pretty funny to me. Well I hate how a 50 1.2 makes the DOF so shallow at 1.2. So I'm going to say "just because you have 1500 bucks for one lens that you shoot wide open all the time and makes your images look good because of the nice shallow DOF that dose not make you a photographer. It just means you have extra cash sitting around for pricy toys.". 


If you dont like what other people are creating and calling their own dont look at it. 

Chris Walker's picture

BTW I have instagram images on my site. Hate if you want to. www.cwalkerphotography.com

uhhh, is this really a discussion? Does anyone on this planet say they are a photographer based solely on the fact that they take pictures with their iPhone?  

Corey, I don't really think that's what Kenn meant...

He quoted someone else... but his actual statements seemed significantly different than your summary of his point...

"some guys... have succesfully capitalized off of the novelty of iPhone filters
like Hipstamatic and Instagram and produced some compelling works.... I
still maintain that the use of iPhone filters, for anything other than
fun/novelty shooting, have very little to do with real photography."

So, "Does anyone on this planet say they are a photographer based solely on the fact that they take pictures with their iphone?"

He also goes on to say "It’s not the use of an iPhone that I find “cheap”...  but the use of cookie cutter filters in place of creativity and light comprehension."

Which seems to be a fairly intellectual and apt point about the cookie cutter-like nature of these filters.

Can you create great images with this camera? Of course.  Would that alone be getting you any variety of paid jobs... I'd doubt it.

It was Sam Biddle who said "Photo Apps Don’t Make You a Photographer", but that's just a general saying like "having an SLR doesn't make you a photographer", he's not claiming boatloads of people think that way...

Although to be blatantly honest, if you think there is *no one at all* who thinks that way, you're probably not looking at the entire situation Corey ;P.

Digital is an acoustic space medium so it will always be converging with other acoustic space mediums. This is what people are referring to when they talk about "convergence" in digital imaging. Convergence is the collapsing of sequences and the merging of acoustic space mediums. (Still-photo cameras merge with video-cameras and cel-phones etc)  Don't get confused and think that an acoustic space medium has to be audio, it's a reference to something different and anyone that is interested should research and refrain from writing a bunch of stupid comments trying to argue about it.

The bottom line is that an "app" is a collapse of a sequence and is the same as convergence. For example, there might have been a time in the past when a 50mm 1.2 lens was necessary to achieve a certain visual effect for a photograph. But, in an acoustic space medium, the lens itself simply becomes a useless step in a sequence that digital seeks to eliminate. An app or similar software solution is a way of eliminating the lens from the sequence necessary to create a visual effect. Of course, the visual result from a collapse of sequence is never exactly as good as the original. In other words, faking the look of a 50mm 1.2 lens in software will never be quite as using the real lens. But that doesn't matter, because the majority of people that will use the software will never have owned or had any experience with the real lens so they won't know there is any difference.

Be warned: Digital is going to keep collapsing sequences and will never stop. The craft of photography is going to keep getting simplified until everything is done with an app or software equivalent. Convergence and the elimination of sequence is the nature of an acoustic space medium and anybody that doesn't like it has no choice but to get used to it. There are a lot of people that like the idea of convergence when it means that they can shoot stills and videos. But they don't seem to understand that is only one small part of what convergence is all about. The apps that come along and make it easy for anybody to imitate an visual effect with software rather than hardware are part of convergence too.

So normally I'm all for anything that gets people interested in photography, but these apps are just another symptom of the toy camera problem. You can get a visually interesting picture out of some pretty crappy shots. A whole generation of photographers are getting by on the novelty of the lomo look. I think the cameras and apps are neat but 40 bucks on a holga doesn't buy you photo craft the same way a gigabuck dslr doesn't. Its like going from playing guitar hero to playing a real guitar, the motions are similar but don't really translate. Call me a snob but there's no replacement for actual knowledge and skill that's what sets us apart from the hipsters.

mark salmon's picture

I think these apps are great fun and photography is supposed to be exactly that, fun! 

No more no less....just fun.

If a person 'thinks' they're a photographer because they use photo filter apps then leave to their own deluded little world.

Stop worrying or complaining about them, go out, snap away and have fun!

I use silver efex pro, I'm having a hard time seeing how it is all that different...