Instagram is a fantastic tool for photographers. It has almost single-handedly ushered in the age of the mobile photographer, and has served as a creative platform for millions of people who want to share their images with the world. Unfortunately, there has never really been an easy and intuitive way to get your non-mobile photos onto Instagram; until now.
Just a couple of weeks after I wrote this article, and update was pushed out for Arc Welder that not only broke Instagram support, but broke a wide range of other apps that depend on similar graphic rendering resources. I am regularly checking in on Google support forums and pertinent subreddits hoping someone will find a solution, but so far no one has been able to make any progress. I will update this post if any breakthroughs are found, but for now this solution seems to be dead in the water. It really is a shame because, when it was working, it was hands-down my favorite way to browse and upload to Instagram. Such is technology, however, I'm sure there will be new ways that people come up with down the road. Maybe if we're really nice, there might even be an official Instagram desktop app some day? I doubt it though...
A Great, But Imperfect Tool
Casey wrote a great article recently about choosing the best times to post your images to social media, and someone posted in the comments that they wished there was a simple way to upload to Instagram from your computer. Up until now, we had to go through an annoying multi-step process to get our non-mobile work onto Instagram. This usually looked something like Shoot>Ingest>Edit>Export>Email to yourself/Upload to Dropbox/Take a picture of your screen with your phone>Finally upload to Instagram. Exhausting right? And while Wi-Fi is starting to appear more and more on professional and consumer cameras, this still does not allow you to easily upload your final edited photo to your followers. Well fear not photo-friends, the future is here, and while it's not perfect, it's pretty damn nice. What if I told you that you could run the Instagram app natively on your computer, allowing you to view and upload directly from your laptop or desktop, without having to dance the camera-to-computer-to-phone dance? I imagine you would be pretty intrigued. Read on.
NOTE: this is actually a super-straightforward two step process, I have included detailed instructions and screenshots because I know some people need those things. Don't be intimidated by the detailed instructions, it really is quick and painless.
Making the Imperfect Almost-Perfect
The key to all of this is Google's recently released ARC Welder tool. Google released ARC to the public last April, and in a nutshell it allows you to run Android apps natively using Google Chrome. Your first step will be to go and download ARC from the Chrome App Store. Simply follow the link and click the "Add to Chrome" button.
Launching Chrome apps can be a little annoying, but there are two (fairly) easy ways to do it. From Chrome you can open a new tab and enter chrome://apps. I simply bookmark that shortcut and keep it on my bookmarks bar. You can also launch the Chrome App Manager. I do this on a Mac by using Spotlight (default should be Command+Space) and typing "Chrome App Manager" in the search. PC people I'm sure you have a way to do this too, but I would just stick to opening it in a new tab.
When you first launch ARC it's going to show a welcome message and ask you to choose a directory to write files to. I created an ARC Welder subfolder in my Applications folder, but you can follow your bliss. It will then prompt you with another window asking you to add your APK.
Before you continue, you'll need the APK (Android program files) for Instagram. Click here for a direct download link. Click the blue "Generate Download Link" then the green download button. Any other buttons are annoying popup ads.
NOTE: This link will let you generate a download for whatever the latest version of Instagram is available. To update Instagram in the future, simply come here and download it again then re-add it to ARC following the process below.
Now that you've downloaded the Instagram APK, it's time to rock and roll. Go back to ARC and click "Add your APK" (or drag and drop the file onto the ARC window), navigate to wherever you saved the Instagram app and select it. You will then be greeted with a screen with a few different layout options. You can play with them, but my suggestion is stick to a portrait setting for either phone or tablet. I personally use the phone setting because that's most comfortable for me, but mess around and see what you prefer.
After you plug your settings in click "Launch App" and that's it, you're running Instagram on your computer! Log in with your credentials and get going.
You can use your computer's built-in camera to take a photo if you have a burning need to make selfies way more difficult than they should be, or you can do what I do, and click the "Gallery" tab in the bottom left, then click the "Photos" dropdown in the top left, and choose "Other" then "Open file".
Now you can adjust the crop before you select your filter. Here's the big annoying kicker that puts the "almost" in "almost perfect"; you can't zoom in to crop. I have tried every way I can think of and just can't find a way to do it. If you figure it out please comment, because it's been annoying the hell out of me. If you absolutely need an image cropped in, go ahead and crop it to a square in Photoshop because you can't do it this way. Hopefully future updates of ARC will add pinch to zoom support somehow.
So after that one caveat, everything else operates like you would expect. Pick your filter, adjust whatever other settings you want, add your caption, hashtags, etc. and upload. The app is also great for browsing, commenting, and liking photos, just like you would on your phone.
Don't worry! Once you've set up Instagram once, you're set going forward. To launch Instagram in the future, either search for it in Spotlight on your Mac, or go to the "Chrome Apps" folder in "/Users/YOURNAME/Applications/Chrome Apps". You can even add it to your dock to launch faster in the future. PC folk, I'm sure that same folder exists wherever your computer stores folders like that. Comment and let me know where it is!