Recently, there has been a spate of articles declaring how Instagram is debasing real photography and how its only purpose is to feign talent we don’t have.
Instagram makes all pictures look the same. They require no thought or creative input: one click and you’re done — Guardian
Putting an artsy Instagram filter on a pretty photo can make the grossest slosh look like gourmet eats. It does not prove culinary or photographic skill, it proves that you can press a button — The Atlantic
It has been close to two years since Instagram made its debut and you’d think that this kind of debate would have died its own death by now. Well, apparently not. And the Facebook-Instagram deal has only added fuel to the hate-fire that Instagram has been receiving.
Captured using Instagram on iPhone - Image Credit: Ashu Mittal
I joined Instagram exactly an year ago on being introduced to it by Pei Ketron, one of the most talented photographers I know of. I started out hesitantly, clicking and posting whatever caught my eye. And before I knew it, I was completely hooked on to Instagram.
I loved the “ease” as I was always carrying my phone in my pocket when a photo opportunity presented itself and I loved the “challenge” of creating a somewhat interesting image given the limitations of a cellphone camera. The more I used the Instagram app, the more of a ‘convert’ I was (well ok, addicted).
I think all Instagram has done is made photography accessible. And saying that Instagram promotes shallow photography is like saying cheap utensils promote unhealthy eating. It is what you do with the equipment or platform is what matters. You could click photos with Instragram that end up in Sports Illustrated or you could click photos that end up, well, here (the rich kids of Instagram).
Personally, Instagram has done more for me in terms of helping me improve my composition and framing skills than shooting with a pro-camera (DSLR) has. With Instagram, all you have is the view-finder (no fancy settings of the SLR) and then probably a couple of effects like tilt-shift and filters (not the infinite processing capability of desktop software!) to produce an awe-inspiring image.
And there are a host of Instagram photographers doing exactly that; I urge you to look at some of the Instagram accounts recommended in this Huffington Post article.
Instagrammed photos aren’t any less “authentic” than photos clicked with a digital camera or even a film camera. Even in the very early days, photographers would “dodge” and “burn” photos in the confines of the darkroom. Did that make the final photo any less “authentic”?
Just the fact that it is now (probably) easier to do so using an image processing software, does not make the end result any less (or more) authentic. And if the technology is improving and making it easier for people to click and post-process the photos, the bar for what constitutes a good photo is also rising at the same time. So, while an Instagram filter may make bad photos look passable (yes, Cats and Starbucks coffees, I am looking at you), it certainly cannot result in a masterpiece. That will always take an expert eye.
I think some of the angry reactions to Instagram’s success can be attributed to resistance to change or probably the insecurities of some professionals now that “the barrier to entry” in the field of photography has drastically reduced.
Few years ago, the debate was around Digital vs. Film, now it has shifted to Mobile vs. DSLR Cameras and it will definitely be something else tomorrow. Mobile photography is here to stay, the sooner we embrace it and move forward, the better it is.
Ashu Mittal is a program manager at Adobe and a self-confessed Instagram addict. Her work has been published in The Big Picture and The New Yorker Magazine. You can follow Ashu on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.