Instagram: Love or Hate?

Launched in 2010 and free, Instagram has become one of the, if not the, most popular smart phone photo sharing apps.

But there’s an ongoing debate among photographers on the use of Instagram and to a certain degree smart phone photography and various apps used to enhance photographs. 

Many say it’ll turn just about anyone into a photographer, that Instagram is not proper photography, etc…

One particular comment I read somewhere recently was a photographer saying that it devalues pro photographers’ work by creating the illusion that anyone with a phone and filter can make a professional photograph.

I say that's pretty much bullsh*t. If one feels threatened that way, maybe their work is just not good enough and for years they got away with it. Now it's just time to up their game!

It was very similar when digital cameras started appearing, some film photographers reacted the exact same way.

It’s a natural fear and adverse reaction to change.

What phones have brought is accessible and affordable photography to everyone. Surely it has encouraged and inspired many with a great eye to push it forward and develop their skills. If you truly love photography you should be happy about that not against it.

Sure, it does mean it’s harder than ever to stand out from the rest. Well if anything it means we have to work even harder on how selective we are of our photos and at developing our craft. There’s no room for being complacent.

I have no shame taking photos on my phone and showing them off. Plus I just love the Instagram square format, it forces me to think differently. For example at the moment I'm working on a body of work that's completely unrelated to the urban photography / street photography I normally produce. It's more of a minimalist urban photography project (you can check it our here).

On top of that, it’s pretty brilliant for selling prints and general exposure. I don’t do the hard sale at all, yet some people have asked to buy photos of London via my Instagram account and it drives traffic to my website. As photographers we’d be mad to ignore this opportunity it offers.

Think about it this way. As they wake up, people won't think to go check your website... however they will check their Instagram, their Facebook and Twitter. So it makes perfect sense to make sure your work is visible on all of these platforms.

Even if photographers full of advice out there (yes, it includes me) will say you should always be out with your camera, the reality is very different and we don’t always do because they’re heavy, bulky, etc…

Phones aren’t. I even take mine to the toilet (not on purpose) which I rarely do with my camera (that’d be weird).

Do photographers against phone photography actually let a great photographic opportunity slip away just because all they have on them at that moment is a phone and they’re opposed to it?

Going back to the argument that applying one of the Instagram filters makes anything look good. I did actually think a little like that early days but not anymore.  

I have trawled through hundreds if not thousands of photos on Instagram and that’s simply not true.

There’s actually still a lot of crap photos on there and believe it or not... it’s a good thing. We need bad photos to make the good ones stand out. It’s reassuring. Just like you wouldn’t enjoy Spring so much if Winter didn’t exist.

There’s a saying which goes “The best camera is the one you have with you”.

Don’t you agree?

I’d rather see someone truly enjoying taking good photos on a smart phone than seeing people lug around a heavy DSLR (convinced that’s what you need to take good photos) and taking bad photos in automatic mode. So many people are convinced you need an expensive camera to take good photos.

What matters first and foremost is what’s in that photo, that exceptional shot captured in a split second, that “I can’t believe this is happening in front of my eyes” moment, not the amount of pixels or whatever technical spec of your camera.

So go out there, shoot photos because you love it and don’t worry too much about photography gear or opinions.

The more I see what brilliant images people come up with using just their phone the more I sometimes wonder why I even bother with anything else!

Come visit me on Instagram @nicholasgoodden and see the rest of my London urban photography here on my website.