Photographer Chase Jarvis published a book in 2009 titled “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You,” a bound collection of snapshots and moments taken with his iPhone. His photos prove that indeed, the best camera is one that’s easily accessible and able to capture the fleeting fancies and random moments that may have disappeared by the time the picture is computer-edited, cropped and framed.
In 2011, famous photographer Annie Leibovitz told Brian Williams in an interview that the iPhone was her favorite “snapshot” camera for its ease of use and accessibility, adding that she has observed how everyone simply whips out their mobile phones when a photo opportunity presents itself.
Sure enough, the mobile phone camera, which used to be an extra feature meant to sway wavering customers into buying a particular phone model has become not only a staple in every phone, but it has also spawned a sub-genre in photography. Street photographers prefer its small, discreet size; parents love the convenience of turning their phones into brag books of family pictures while keeping their wallets slim, and social media has become visually richer because of the ease of sharing photographs via complementary applications.
Instagram is one such application. The premise of the app was—and still is—ridiculously simple. Take a square-constrained photo, apply a filter, upload it, and voila, creative photo sharing done in record time. Social interaction is limited to likes and comments.
Originally an app exclusive to iPhone and iPod Touch users, its developers have recently opened the gates for Android users, in the process increasing their user database in leaps and bounds. As of April 2012, Instagram’s users are reported to be at 40 million, averaging one million new users every day.
The app’s success has caught the eye of social media giant and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who bought the app for $1 billion. While a lot of users opposed the sale, Facebook’s overbearing presence has not yet made itself known in the Instagram world. The app is still simple and fun.
When Instagram started, most photography purists insisted that no self-portraits be published, preferring filtered views of landscapes, streets and everyday life. Today, the Instagram feed has no such restrictions. You’re bound to encounter an oversharer in all his or her visual non-glory, with minute by minute photo update of food consumed, outfit worn and the requisite looking away candid-but-not-really shot.
Some celebrities who’ve joined the photo sharing site with public access have become targets. Rihanna has received flak from fans and followers for posting drug-related photos and risque activities (her reaction: “I don’t care!”), while model and fashion favorite Alexa Chung was criticized for being overly thin after posting a photo, which prompted her to restrict her Instagram account to private.
Like many social media networks, Instagram is a double-edged sword. To some, like me, it’s a way to see what my friends are up to, a virtual “day in the life” photo album that lets me live vicariously through them. It’s also a great way to meet creative people across the world. My favorite discovery for example, is Thailand-based user nejimeji, whose photos of her beagle in various human-like poses and dress never fails to crack me up. Similarly, Japanese user matsumotokazuo’s command of color and tone in his photos never fails to amaze me. My Instagram feed is mostly uploads of my beloved dogs-usually in different sleeping positions (I have lazy dogs who refuse to wear human accessories or pose awake). In short, in the right hands, Instagram can inspire and amuse; in the wrong hands, it can present an annoyance, visual aids included. •
Make Instagram fun!
Four tips to help you enjoy sharing your photos even more
1. Get creative.
Currently, Instagram lets you edit your photos through filters, which can alter your photo’s color, tone and feel. Other photo add-ons include digital blurring, frames, and an auto-correction feature. Make sure to play with all the filters; Instagram has 17 different ones, but you’ll end up having favorites (I’m partial to Amaro and Rise because they emphasize my dog’s cinnamon-hued fur). Add localized blur to make your subject the only focus, and challenge yourself to compose a nice square photo.
2. Join a hashtag/themes.
Turn Instagram into a journal by making a 365 project-one photo for every day until the end of the year-you’ll have a great time looking back once you’ve finished it. Others also create a daily theme for the month, e.g. Monday: post a photo of something you ate. Adding a hashtag to your caption (the # symbol followed by the keyword) will add your photos to the trend stream, where others can discover them. If they like your shots enough, they’ll even follow you.
3. Look for complementary apps.
If Instagram’s photo editing features are not enough for your creative juices, look for other independent editing apps that can make your photo even better. One of my most utilized apps is PicFrame, where I can split one square photo into a number of split frames, allowing me to tell a story in frames using only one photo.
One of Instagram’s strengths is its friendliness with other social networks. Posting an Instagram photo? Let your friends on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr know. Do you want to post your Instagram photo on your blog? Upload it to your Flickr account and embed it in your next blog entry.