[Video] The Idea Channel Wonders if, Instagram is the Best Thing to Happen to Photography

Recently on PBS’ Idea Channel they pose the question, "Is Instagram the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Photography?"

I personally wouldn't go so far as to say it's the best thing to ever happen to photography but this entertaining video does a good job at pointing out the benefits of apps such as Instagram.

"With its ability to make boring cellphone photos look “vintage” and “artsy”, Instagram has exploded worldwide. Derided by its detractors as a tool for making bad photos worse, we take an alternate view and argue that Instagram is the greatest thing to ever happen to photography. Its simple filters and social networking features are training cellphone photographers everywhere to think creatively about their photos. Plus, the app is turning its worldwide user base into an army of photojournalists capturing striking images of the people and events around them. As the old photography adage goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.

via [PetaPixel]

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For horrible photographers it could be.

I can't wait until the instagram-powered fauxtographers start hitting the wedding industry...

XACT-ly!   Not only do loads of moms (the main folks who hire pro portrait photogs) suck at the teet of Instagram, shooting and sharing away, but they're just happy fine with it.   Then then get really excited about taking pictures....Then they buy entry level DSLR's and Photoshop Elements or Lightroom.  They start taking all of their own pix.  The only time they need you then is if they want a funky set geared towards a seasonal shot, or if they want pix with themselves in them.  Even when you're hired, I am starting to hear people ask if they get the unedited pix as part of their package (because they want to crop and make them the way they want).   

I mean life is all about adaptation, and I can certainly ferment my strongest qualities as a photographer and fight to persuade new clients to give me a try but when people are just perfectly fine with free photos they take with their cameras or pix they take and upload to facebook and apply instagram filters on, or buy photoshop actions that emulate instagram filters...pix that look better than even the crapola mall studio pix....you have a hard time persuading them to pay to have pictures taken without insulting their skills at capturing and composing the best image.    I do love the tones and colors of the instagram filters but I know a lot of potential clients that only call 1-2 times a year because they are fine with their own style and their own free pictures they take with their $500 DSLRs and affordable post production tools and their iphones with instagram.  I do wonder what the next step in pro portrait evolution is.....

I enjoyed that. A lot. 

Sandy Phimester's picture

If Zack Arias can love instagram.... :)

I love it too (and no, I'm not comparing myself to Zack).

I think the same people who are annoyed by being undercut by cheap-o photographers, are the same sort of people who complain about instagram. Are you threatened? Or does it really bother you so much that people are taking photos with their phone? So, who cares if SOME of them think they're hot sh*t because they can use Instagram with filters? That has no impact on you, your photo business or your skills. (ahaha, and if it does, you only have yourself to blame)

I've seen TONS of amazing iPhone photography on Instagram. Hell, I see just as much junk on there as I do ANYWHERE else.

I believe some people are just a tad insecure, me thinks. :)

Edit: I also don't agree, personally, that it's the greatest thing in photography, but I definitely agree with a lot of what the video is saying. I'm a photography, it's my life, and I personally love looking at cool photos from around the world, there is a lot of good imagery and insights into daily life, other photographers work, and so much more. I just think a lot of people haven't taken the time to find the right people. And hey, if you don't care about that, cool, but don't bitch about someone taking photos. That's backwards.

the ones that are threatened are the ones that see instagram photos better than their SLR photos

Sandy Phimester's picture

 Haha..... well that's a pretty stupid reason to hate something, because of your (not YOU) lack of skill or creativity. :) Haha.

Personally, I think the unnecessary comma is the best thing to happen to this article. #GrammarNazi  Ha!

RUSS's picture

 “Is Instagram the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Photography?”

it's done almost as much for photography as herpes has...( END SARCASM)

Sandy Phimester's picture

Some people have negative things to say about it, but can never back any of it up with any evidence as to why it's so "bad".

What Instagram does is perpetuate the illusion that style trumps substance.  I've seen no evidence to affirm the claim it makes people consider content and composition, all I see is snapshots of weird bathrooms and dead birds with overdone saturation and software vignettes.  The best thing that ever happened to photography:  no.  Just another gimmick to convince a generation of people hooked on instant gratification they are somehow special while doing exactly the same thing as everyone else. While I don't use the app, or indeed my phone as a camera, I am fine with it being a fun tool. Yet this particular video didn't make the statement that Instagram is a fun tool to play with your images, it specifically addressed the artistic implications of Instagram. (Which is a lot like addressing the nutritional value of Styrofoam peanuts.) The video's creators opened the artistic value door, so we are free to walk through. If they had addressed the app on the same level as Angry Birds, the conversation would be different.

Sandy Phimester's picture

 I don't agree with you. For one: Instagram does not do, or say anything. It merely is a tool/camera/app. The people using it are the same people who were taking, or would be taking, photos with their phones before.

The same thing was said about 35mm film cameras, digital cameras when they were first produced, and now phone cameras. The idea of style over substance has existed since cameras existed. Since art existed.

You've seen no evidence? Well I have, millions have! Just have a look at the long list of designers (graphic, clothing or other media), photographers (there are some seriously high profile people on there), and other artists or just plain creative people. There is some amazing photography on there.

Just like anywhere else, there is crap too. But that goes for anywhere. Any type of camera or ideal.

I for one, love Instagram, I think it's a great way to see the world around us through someone's eyes other than our own. I love photography, and I can easily look past whatever negativity people put on it. It's misplaced, but that's not our loss. It's theirs.

It cost a dollar. If you don't like it...don't support it by not using it.

Sandy Phimester's picture

 Instagram is free, actually. :)

Pros: bringing easy access to artistic photography to the masses.
Cons: everyone thinks they're photographers because they can use Instagram.
It's good that people get interested in photography, learn the ropes and share their work with Instagram but on the other side, it's a shame that most of them won't take the interest a step further and invest in proper equipment and learn proper editing.

I've seen some shots that suck and are boring.  I've seen some that are mad cool or just...interesting. Some make you go "hmmmm?"  Some make you go "Ehhhhh!"   I'm talking about images both from photographers with pro equipment and camera phone Instagram shots!!!   

Not that big of a deal really.  What I mean by that, is that Instagram is not something for the "real" photographers to get up in arms about.  It is what it is.  Really.  I find that it's usually the "fauxtographers" who even bother to get....bothered by something like this.  The so called "purists!" Relax, and continue to do what you do.  My take is this: Picasso was Picasso.  Dali was Dali. Monet...Monet.  No one would compare a random, less experienced, less gifted "artist" to these geniuses....however...if canvases, brushes and paints become suddenly instantaneously tools available with little effort....and the less experienced, less gifted artist can paint something...mildly interesting to look at.....then so be it.  Who cares? Give a few people brushes and most will suck.  A few will be good. A few will be great. The type of brush is irrelevant.  At the end of the day....If you show me a photo taken with "real film" in "black & white"...old school dark room developed...non photoshopped....and the picture SUCKS and does nothing for me..then it'll SUCK! Period!  Goes both ways.   There are "professionals" or people who take photography "serious" who aren't that good.  They have great gear, top notch everything, photography school degrees or...whatever....and they are terribly untalented.  You can take a random person with an iphone/Droid phone..and Instagram and they can produce a pleasing image. Maybe even an inspiring image.  Regardless of HOW the image was captured.....the fact that "the image" was captured....in such a way to make you think, feel or just say..."cool"....THAT'S WHAT really counts.  Agreed, respect is given and should be given to those who respect the craft, take the time learn the craft and make the most of it.  I'm a photographer.  I study. I learn. I invest and take it serious.  And most importantly...I SHOOT!   I'm not threatened by an Instagram user.  I mean really....if you are threatened or bothered by this, then perhaps you should check your own security as a .........photographer.  

Istagram is doing what the digital camera did to photography years ago. Years ago you used to have to know how to get a proper exposure and shutter speed without just setting your camera to Auto. You also didn't get instant feedback, so when you shoot a wedding or important shoot, you had to have extreme skill in order to leave confident you got the shot. Imagine shooting a wedding on film and not knowing EXACTLY what you were doing without seeing the image right there.

Now with Instagram, many people that know nothing about photo editing are editing their photos to get SIMILAR looks as yours. What this means is the appreciation for photography is not going up but is going down. Much like how the digital camera brought in a group of lesser educated photographers along with putting a better tool into the hands of the already educated photographer.

Now what this means is that people respect photography a little less because they see it as something they can do also, so why pay you? I have seen images of mine that I did for a person, cropped and Instagramed after I had already retouched the photo (I'm pretty good at retouching). I didn't say anything but you can see the mentality of the average person is that THEY can do something you can do and maybe even better in their eyes. Whether they think this or not, I don't care, but I do care if I miss out of jobs because of the mentality that EVERYONE can do it. 

There was a video about Nikon vs Hasselblad and the photographers said they needed a camera the average person would not have. This is partly because of this new mentality that we are all equal or close to equal in what we do. Are we? On some levels yes but on the important ones no.

You wont see a wedding shot with a phone because the client wants and EXPERIENCE and a feeling that simply wont come from someone running around with a phone. One thing I learned by watching my wedding friend shooters is that 99% of your clients don't care about Bokeh, you proper razor sharp focus, or what lens you used. Most of the time they care about if they don't look fat, bored, and if you made sure to get their grand parents in the image. What we care about, most of the time they don't. There are some exceptions.

So with instagram, most of the things we think makes a good photo, they don't. This in turn requires you to not only make better photos by a good margin (not hard if you are creative and not copying everyone yourself), but also requires you to rethink how you charge people for a service they feel they can ALMOST do themselves. IN THEIR EYES.

Mike Folden's picture

I love that we have the ability to capture things simply. It's so nice to be able freeze a rare moment in time, edit it and share it in less than five minutes. When you shoot for a living, the workflow can be dreadful so with tools like Instagram, it keeps photography fun and exciting. I'm a huge fan. 

Sandy Phimester's picture

When 35mm film cameras started coming on the market, people said the SAME thing. "it's just a way to take snap shots, tons of photos of boring stuff".

But the truth is, it gave more people the chance to take photos. Sure, a lot of it is crappy, boring shit that no one cares about. But people do that  with DSLRs right now! SO what.

Honestly speaking, Instagram is just another tool that people can use. What you decide to do with is, is up to you. I've seen countless amazing photos taken on the iPhone, posted on instagram, that are so excellent. Mind blowingly good. That only has everything to do with the creator. Instragram was the vehicle. Great!

If you're honestly bothered by people thinking something, like style over substance, then you're pretty insecure in my opinion! That has no relevance on your own photography. And if it does indeed effect it, well then... you're facing some real issues of your own. :)

There are some top class, world famous, photographers who use and love instagram. Why? Because it's just a fun way to take photos with your phone and share them. Everything else, is up to you. End of story.

Exactly!!!!!  Well said.  I had to laugh at the thought that people would actually think that the wedding photography business would be threatened by.....cell phone/Instagram shooters! LMAO!!  I'm sure Lee and Patrick had to laugh at that as well.  (Although....they're some talented dudes as evidenced by that iphone fashion shoot. Who knows, Lee and company may shoot their next wedding on an iphone!  Now there's an idea! And what a great BTS that would make!!!