Instagram Often Leaves Me Feeling Inspired, There, I Said It

Instagram Often Leaves Me Feeling Inspired, There, I Said It

I will be the first to admit that I’ve found myself to be in a love hate relationship with the platform that at times leaves me discouraged. More often than not, however, I find my inspired to photograph more. 

Personal History With Instagram

What’s not to love about Instagram? Well, as it happens, there is in fact a lot to not love and perhaps even quite a lot to dislike. Years ago, on a trip to Wales and England, I started my old account from college back up again and shared the photos from my journey. I found it so enjoyable that I ended up getting my Sony a7 and started to pursue photography more seriously. For the next few years, I found myself getting out more to photograph the world around me and ultimately, I went to more places more often than I had before. During that time, I would regularly post my work on Instagram and even made a few friends from it. 

Now days, however, Instagram is substantially different. Pursuing “likes” proves more and more to be a fruitless endeavor meant only to dishearten those who care about such things. I’ll admit, at one point I cared more than I should have to grow a following but eventually found that it was not conducive to the life I wanted to live. Eventually, I pivoted my efforts towards personal goals and creating more meaningful work that I would hope remain meaningful to me for years to come. 

What Instagram Is to Me Now

As mentioned above, Instagram as a social media platform annoys me more than anything else (particularly the relentless onslaught of sponsored content) but instead has become a place where I go to regularly find inspiration through the work of others. Indeed, there are so many talented artists, photographers specifically, that do not get the reverence they deserve. Below I am going to provide a few examples from photographers whose work pushes to me beyond what I’ve done before and to think of the world in a new way that I had not previously thought of. 

Specific Examples

As a forewarning, almost all of the work below is done on film as that is often my medium of choice. In addition, for brevity I am not featuring the majority of work or photographers whose work I find particularly inspiring. Further, I am purposely not including any close friends or even associates – only people who are complete strangers to me but whose work has done a great deal to push me as a photographer. Lastly, I am specifically choosing examples from photographers who themselves are not big names but produce incredible work. 

As you may recall from an earlier article, double exposures are a big source of inspiration to me. Getting started with multiple exposures is in fact not particularly difficult but really nailing them takes a great deal of practice and, I would argue, a great deal of luck. My first example is from Anna Peters; it is an image that I’ll admit I was (and still kind of am) in shock as to how to achieve such an image. Every time I see this photograph, I find myself in awe and try to think of how I use those techniques in an image for myself. To start, the silhouette of the woman with light just touching the front of her face. Then, I suspect taken second, a high contrast scene of some stones (a maybe flowers?) with the sky intentionally blown out. Marvelous. 

My second example comes from Eric Leffler who has consistently produced absolutely stellar multiple exposures over the years that I’ve followed him. In all honestly, his work has inspired my double exposures more than anyone else. That said, his style and content differ from mine enough that I do find it challenging to incorporate much of his style into my own efforts. In the below example, one seemingly normal silhouette on a street scene and another image take of the inside of the restaurant or something. While neither photograph is particularly stunning on his own, the combination of the two produce an other-worldly photograph that I’m still enamored with.

The third example is yet again another multiple exposure (I really do have quite an affinity for them). This photograph, by Istvan Pinter, is another astounding example of how mesmerizing a good double exposure can be. Here, the portrait of the woman, much like in the first example, features a side portrait of a woman where her hair provides an almost seamless transition into the other exposure which is a beautiful scene all on its own – a fairly narrow walkway lined with tall trees

This is the first example that is not a multiple exposure (thank goodness, right?) but instead a photograph fortunate for great timing. In this image by Martin Wunderwald, as you can see, the epic cloud/storm (I think it’s a cumulus congestus but if someone knows the proper name, chime in) roughly book matched by the water perfectly frames the individual in the photo. What good fortune to be there, ready, Mamiya 7 in hand and a roll of Portra locked and loaded. 

The last type of photo that I’d like to share, though I’ll be sharing two examples, is mountain photography. As you may recall from an earlier article, I’m a sucker for a photograph of an epic mountain. The first example is by Sam Murray. Much like the photo above, the timing of this shot is marvelous. I’ve never been to that location before so perhaps it looks like that all the time but I whether it is or not, the photo is wonderful. 

My final example is from easily one of my favorite accounts. Natacha Romanovsky consistently produces phenomenal work and was a great source of inspiration for my recent trip to the alps. Some of her work is almost minimalist in nature and a lot of her more recent work has taken place in the French Alps. While this particular example does not have anyone in the frame, a lot of her work does an excellent job of framing a shot with a person in the frame way off in the distance to provide some amazing depth and perspective to the photograph. 

I would to see some of the work on Instagram (not your own, please) that inspires you. I know that there a lot of fantastic photographers out there, most of whom I don’t know anything about. If you make a suggestion of someone’s work, I promise to check it out. 

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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There's amazing work all over IG; really too much to single anyone out.

I hear that!

Instagram gets a lot of hate because of the selfie obsessed users but it would be a sad mistake to assume one has to follow that crowd. Almost all of my favorite photographers are on Instagram and it's often times been a place where I've been able to connect and chat with them directly.

I couldn't agree more. I've made good friends on IG - the film community is strong.

SO many great film shooters putting their work on IG!

Just makes me want Instagram, a site for sharing photos to change it's layout to not crop photos. It may have started out as a phone app but it isn't anymore.

You can always add white borders if the 1.91:1 isn't doing it for you

I don't think it crops photos anymore. I see a lot of horizontal 3:2 images, on Instagram, and they are there in their native aspect ratio, without the people posting them having to add borders or anything like that.

What makes you think that Instagram still forces photos into square or vertical aspect ratios?

Try uploading a vertical pic and see if it doesn't want to crop it. I have to do this for every pic.

What Michael said. If working from your mobile device, there are apps.

You don't even need apps or borders. Instagram allows you to post any aspect ratio you want without cropping, whether you're working from a cell phone or a desktop. A long time ago they forced you to crop square or vertical, but that has not been the case at all for years.

It still crops vertical.

Then something is amiss in whatever device or app you are using. Just look at all of the thousands of images on Instagram that are all different aspect ratios, with no borders added. Vertical. Square. Horizontal 5:4. Horizontal 3:2. I am not seeing any images on Instagram with borders added (except yours).

When you see all of the thousands of other photographers who are posting images at all different aspect ratios, with no borders added, doesn't that make you curious, and cause you to think that maybe it's "just you"?

There is a limit (I believe it's 4x5 for vertical) to how narrow your vertical images will show without IG making you cut off some of the image at the top and or bottom. It's really not the end of the world though. There are so many solutions to add borders or bars on the sides. IG is free...

I assume the reason for this is that IG wants to keep their feed clean. All images are displayed at the same width so if they allow ANY vertical image ratio some people will have to scroll for a long time to see the entire image and would create issues with the UX. Keep in mind that the VAST majority of people using IG are doing so on their phones. User experience is a big part of their game.