Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players in baseball history. Jennifer Lopez is the flyest of the Fly Girls. Together, they've become the power couple of Instagram. They're so popular, in fact, that their recent engagement photos drew 15 million likes and 325,000 comments on the photo-sharing platform, despite being, well, pretty terrible photos. That's because Instagram users, by and large, are not photography lovers. They are voyeurs.
It's not hard to spot the poor post-processing done to the images A-Rod and J-Lo posted. There's obvious haloing around their bodies, overly saturated seas in the background, blown-out highlights, and a tilted horizon, not to mention some awkwardly done smoothing to the skin on Rodriguez's face that makes him look more like an exhibit at Madame Tussaud's than an actual living being.
And, yet, a sampling of hundreds of comments from Instagram users reveals virtually no critique of the photographs. Many thousands of congratulations are offered, many mentions of how beautiful the couple is, some comments on the beauty of the ring, and a few mean-spirited references to Lopez's previous three marriages seem to make up the bulk of the comments.
But for all the hundreds of posts I read, I saw only one that mentioned the quality of the images. User @vippi66 quipped that Rodriguez should have spent "$100 less for the ring and $100 more for a less crappy photographer."
Considering that J-Rod's net worth as a couple will be somewhere north of $700 million, it's fair to question why they cheaped out on hiring a quality professional photographer to capture the moment they planned to share with 91.5 million Instagram followers (89 million of whom belong to Jennifer). But, given the reaction, why would they bother?
The truth is, a large percentage of Instagram users use the platform as a means of attempting to engage their favorite celebrities and to get a peek into the stars' "real lives." The grid is made up of hundreds of little windows into the lives of athletes, A-list celebrities, actors, and musicians, offering the briefest glimpses into what it is like to be super famous and/or rich.
Despite its roots as a visual medium where quality photographs can be appreciated and shared, Instagram instead largely feeds into the voyeuristic nature of its users, who would often rather see a filtered photo of a celebrity's dinner than an inspiring landscape or gritty journalistic image of a war zone.
While we professional photographers pore over our photographs, deciding which ones to share, and labor over which hashtags will give our images the most social media traction, the truth is, most people don't care.
They quickly scroll through their feed, maybe stopping occasionally to click the heart button, or, if we're lucky, they may drop an emoji comment. Sometimes, they'll put some thought into it and tell us how badly we suck and how much better they could do it if they had expensive gear (I'm kidding... mostly).
But rarely do they stop to really look at the image they're viewing, to process what it is they like about it, to think about what the photographer is trying to say or the story they're trying tell through the image or images.
We can and should continue to put as much effort as we find appropriate into sharing our images on Instagram. It has value to professional photographers in that it allows potential buyers or clients to quickly and easily view our work. However, cynical as it may sound, we also have to recognize the reality that the best way to get millions of likes is not to produce great photographs, but to be really good-looking and famous.
What do you think about A-Rod and J-Lo's engagement photos? Should they have paid up for more professionally done photographs, or do these photos show a more "real" side to the couple? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think.