Instagram's popularity with photographers is incomparable. What is essentially a free portfolio building app disguises itself as a powerful marketing tool to connect with prospective clients, but it suffers at times due to its sheer size and scope. Maybe you're bored of sieving through lame #goals and #inspiration posts, and want to know what mobile friendly alternatives are out there? Well folks, I'm here to tell you.
Before there was Instagram, there was Flickr. And for many of us, this was our first online portal to have ones photography critiqued. Similar to Instagram, Flickr is a photo sharing platform but has more effective search tools, especially online. There are similarities in following and being followed but does not have the same mass audience as Instagram. Most of the feedback, positive or otherwise, will likely come from other photographers rather than prospective clients. That being said, top Flickr talent is seldom ignored, and the platform has launched many a career in the world of fine art and conceptual photography.
Flickr has strong organization tools for your images, being able to bring together collections into "Albums" rather than having just one feed. Flickr also has a "Groups" section that are open-sourced public albums. This is a nice way to find collections of images of similar topics, themes, gear, or geography, but these "Groups" are too often messy, unfiltered, and unorganized.
Flickr's most effective use is to inspire, with plenty of talented photographers using this platform on a regular basis. The curated "Explore" page is always great place to start.
Flickr adds and removes service fluidly whilst it looks to attempts reclaim ground in the photo sharing world. It's failings in the past were down to it's late arrival in the mobile app platform, and whilst it's mobile app continues to improve, this is very much a desktop first application, and mobile second.
500px has long been popular with the photography community with it's clean approach to photo sharing. No hashtags muddle this pond, 500px is all about sharing great work. Curated collections are excellent and regularly updated, whilst the Exif data upload is a nice touch to delve into the technical workings in-camera (Flickr also has this function). There are plenty of similarities with Flickr in terms of it being a platform angled towards promotion of the best creative work rather than popular accounts and sponsored posts.
This is certainly an excellent alternative to Instagram, the main downside would probably be that highly saturated, HDR images seem to make up large proportion of curated lists which can lead users to be rather formulaic in their attempt to gain popularity on the site rather than being original. The reach to the masses is also no way near Instagram levels so some of your work is likely to be ignored completely.
Polaroid's resurrection continued in 2016 with the release of their social multimedia platform SW/NG, and I'd put it down as one of the most under-rated social mobile platforms around. Forget Instagram Boomerangs, SW/NG brings pictures to life much in the same way Live Photos does on iPhone. Using the app feels similar to Instagram with the continued scroll of your feed, but pictures move as you scroll. The app feels cleaner than Instagram, and encourages users to think differently when composing an image given that a moving subject or background is more compelling.
Pickup for the app has been slow, and I'm sure this is disappointing for Polaroid, but I implore them to continue to update the app and promote this alternative take on social media. One obvious improvement would be the ability to upload Apple Live Photos to the service rather than only being able to use the in-app camera, thus limiting what you can upload to the present moment.
If you're a great photographer and don't need that Insta-ego massaged on a daily basis, then why not make some cash off the time spent using a photo sharing platform? EyeEm does this in two ways.
Firstly, you can make all of your images available for purchase through the EyeEm app. EyeEm do this via Getty, take a handsome cut for the trouble, and you must have model and location releases as per other stock photography selling sites. But I must hand it to the EyeEm team, it is wonderfully simple to submit your photography for review to go on sale, and the app itself is enjoyable to browse.
Secondly, there are regular competitions or "Missions" with specific briefs. Prizes come in various forms such as being published in an exhibition, having your work used in commercial campaigns, or cold hard cash. This is a great way for marketing teams of commercial brands or exhibition curators to hunt for new, enthusiastic talent. This gives any aspiring photographer the feeling that the playing field has been leveled, and if the quality is there, then you wont be ignored.
My American cousins would describe this selection to be "out of left-field" and rightly so. Steller is more of a story sharing app, and at it's best combines excellent photography paired with engaging narratives. Stellar's story building tools are template based, simple to use and make your content look slick very quickly. It has a similar feed scroll feel to Instagram, but clicking on a title page lets you delve into an in-depth project rather than just a collection of hashtags and comments.
It's full of inspiration, it's clean and it's wonderfully simple to use. If you are looking for a unique way of to publish a collection of images and give them an editorial feel very quickly, Steller is the place to be. Steller has also been slow in building an active following, but much like SW/NG, I hope that the developers persist as there is certainly enough room in the market for well thought out image sharing apps like Steller.
I'm going to end this piece by stating that I love Instagram. It is where all my clients are on a daily basis, I get to engage with new audiences, connect with new creatives, and often scroll till my thumb gets numb. But Instagram is also a victim of it's own success. The bombardment of bots (which will hopefully slow down) that auto-comment, limited search engine, and increase in sponsored posts is spoiling the broth. I've given five alternatives above that each bring something different to the party, and may create new avenues of interest and creative expression to pursue in this digital, mobile age. Please share any of your own alternatives below.