Lately I’ve been using the Instagr.am App on my iPhone and it has been a lot of fun.
In this post I’m going to briefly share some reasons why I’m enjoying using it and talk a little about my Instagr.am workflow.
But before I get into that:
- Firstly – if you’re already an Instagram user check out my account at darrenrowse – I’d love to connect
- Secondly – this post won’t be for everyone. For starters not everyone has an iPhone – sorry, but at this point it’s an iPhone only app.
OK – with that said….
I first got onto Instagram just a couple of weeks ago. I think I’d originally seen it starting to appear in some of the facebook and Twitter streams of friends who were using it to share photos.
At first I didn’t think much of it and threw it in the ‘just another social media photo sharing app’ basket – but after seeing more than a few people I respected using it I decided to check it out for myself. The fact that it’s a free iPhone app made checking it out just that little bit more attractive!
So at it’s core Instagram is very simple. In fact it’s been critiqued by some as being too simple and there are some features I’d love to see them add (although it only launched in October so I guess their still really in the early stages of refining it).
Here’s how the team at Instagram describe what they’ve developed:
Instagram is a fun & quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your iPhone, then choose a filter to transform the look and feel of the shot into a memory to keep around forever. We’re building the platform to allow you to experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen. We imagine a world more connected through images of what happens around them – whether through friends or people across the world.
At present the interface lets you either take pictures from within it or pull images in from your iPhone camera roll. The only way you can add photos is via your phone (to bring them in from another camera means importing them into your iPhone and then uploading them – which some people do).
The filters Instagram offers currently number 11. They’re mainly fair ‘retro’ kinds of filters that add borders, textures and change colors. There is no real way to control how much a filter is added to your image – it’s all or nothing. However you can always do post production work in other apps and then save them to your camera roll to upload them (I’ll touch on this later).
Once you’ve got an image ready to share you can simply add it to your feed or have the opportunity to also share it in other social media tools. Currently you can share it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Foursquare.
There’s also the ability for others to view your images from within the app on their iPhone. You can invite and find friends and anyone who accepts your friendship will see your images in their feed. Images can be ‘liked’ and commented upon by others giving you feedback on how your images are being received.
Popular images are also featured in a ‘popular’ tab in the app so you can see what everyone else is liking.
A Limitation I hope they Fix
One aspect that I don’t like about Instagram (and this has been a common complaint that I see others making) is that there’s no real web interface for it.
When you share a link you are sharing a link to an actual page on Instagram (here’s an example of one of my recent images) – however when others visit that page they can’t do anything there. There’s no ability for anyone to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on an image from the web page. You also can’t use their website to view all of the other images of the photographer or add them to your network. To do all of that you need to have the iPhone app which doesn’t make it very interactive for non iPhone users).
Being able to point people at your own Instagram account where all your photos are kept would not only help you share your photography better but would also help Instagram to grow as people would be linking to it like crazy from their blogs and social networking profiles.
Why I like Instagram
While there are some definite limitations with this app that I hope will be developed moving forward (either by Instagram or by others as they release their API) I’ve actually found it to be an application I’ve used numerous times per day. There are a number of reasons I find myself drawn to it:
- Creative Inspiration – Like many amateur photographers I at times go through dry spells when it comes to my own photography. The last few months have been particularly busy for me (both with work and at home) and my photography has suffered as I keep other balls in the air. I’m still taking shots regularly on my dSLR, but some of the creative spark has been missing and there have been more times than normal where I’ve been out without my camera. Since using Instagram however I’ve noticed myself taking more images with my iphone and even taking more on my dSLR with sharing them in mind. I’m not sure exactly why this is – but there’s something about sharing images in a public space that inspires and makes you a little more accountable (at least that’s the case for me).
- Community – one of the things I’m loving about Instagram is connecting with other photographers that I’d not been in contact with before. Both seeing the work of others and also getting their feedback on my own images has been both fun but also quite useful and inspiring. I often find myself in a quiet moment scrolling through the images of other users and feeling my energy lifted.
- Focus upon Composition – I’ve also found myself thinking a little more carefully than normal about composition of shots. The reason for this is that Instagram’s format is square. This forces you to crop your shots which, once you get in the swing of it, means you need to think a little differently as you’re faming your shots. I’ve actually found that this is drawn me back to being a little more intentional about framing my images and composing shots.
- Friends and Family – I had a call last night from a family member that I don’t see too much to thank me for sharing more photos than normal online. I didn’t even realise that they’d been following my stream but by sharing more pics from life (including my kids) they felt a lot more connected. I guess I could have been doing this on a site like Flickr but they’d found it useful to get a stream of images on their iPhone.
One of the other things that I’ve been enjoying about Instagram is exploring some of the other iPhone photography apps that I’d not really been into before. As Instagram only really gives you 11 options for post production filters I have started to explore what other applications offer.
As mentioned above the workflow for doing this is to:
- take images using your normal iphone camera (or another app) and save the image to your camera roll
- open the image in whatever app you want to do some post production work to
- re-save the image to your camera roll
- upload it to Instagram to share
Apps that I’ve been finding myself using to do this include:
- Diptic – which allows you to pull in multiple images to make a collage of shots
- Camera+ – this app has a lot of different ways you can adjust an image including cropping, rotating, adding a variety of effects, having different scene modes, adding borders etc. It also gives you a lot of control over how much you want to apply different effects
- CameraBag – I like a few of the filters that this app has
I’m sure there are plenty of other iPhone apps that people will also recommend (feel free to add them in comments below).
Another workflow that others use is to import images that have already had their post production work or images taken with other cameras from a computer into an iphone. It might seem a little bizarre that people would go to this effort (and I haven’t) but looking at some of the images that make it into the ‘popular’ tab it is clear that not all images being shared are taken on an iPhone.
An App with Promise
Instagram has had a lot of press in the last months from around the Social Media blogosphere and deservedly so. It’s simplicity is great, it’s social/community feel is very positive and it does help people with the most common type of camera going around (that in the most popular type of phone going around) express themselves and share their images in a fun way.
The fact that a month ago they already had over a million users says something in itself!
It’s something I’m going to continue to play with and I look forward to connecting with you on Instagram if you do too – don’t forget to add me as a friend at ‘darrenrowse’.
Post from: Digital Photography School