Let me say it. I’m not a fan of Instagram or a fan of photo-sharing apps. Strange position for a journalist to take you might think. Yes, but let me qualify that. Many apps are a closed system. Data contained in them can often be walled off – you might not be able to share it with your phone’s memory or perhaps only with one or two social networks, and then depending on which ones you can access you’re into another ‘walled garden’. Instagram has that feel to me and so I’ve never taken to it.
So this article – on how certain photographers are making a living on Instagram – intrigued me. Two reasons. Firstly, a social network built on sharing photos is a cool idea despite my reservations. As much as anything it’s a way to keep our pictures alive, because often our pictures remain on the phone, stay on the PC, they are simply not as tactile as they used to be when we compiled albums and showed them to family and friends – Instagram is the 21st century extended family album.
Secondly, the 20 photographers in this article – although it’s clear that they are picked out as ‘brand leaders’ for Instagram – have accumulated stunning portfolios. Taken at random I chose to look at Theron Humphrey’s project, entitled ‘This Wild Idea’, drawn in by his mission to trek across the US with his coonhound Maddie. Theron took in excess of 90,000 images on his journey and in that is a principle of good photography. I read that the first 100,000 pictures in a photographer’s life are where the real lessons are learned. It’s about learning your craft and finding out what works best for you.
Back to Instagram though. The app has a feature built in to help you find ‘suggested users’ – snappers from around the world that the company believes take the most beautiful photos and videos. Taking inspiration from photographers who have truly honed their craft in the manner of Theron, or any of the 20 named on this Venture Beat list, is really no bad thing.
Or if you just want to search for the best pics on your chosen topic you’ll find great work in a matter of seconds. Randomly my search on ‘dogs instagram’ turned up a couple of shots that brought an instant smile to my face.
Instagram seems to have weathered the storm over image permissions and ownership following the controversy of its perceived land grab on image rights – look at this statement from Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. If you are living in the UK that assurance may have a hollow ring to it after Vince Cable and his Coalition Government cohorts decided to ‘liberalise’ copyright in the favour of large multinationals. So in the end I’ll not be taking to this app or any other to share my images. I’ll keep it raw on my device and decide where and when to share. To me it’s still a walled garden however attractive its perfume.