I remember buying a cheap Diana F+ Lomo camera about five years ago in Urban Outfitters. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I even thought I was pretty cool too. It was a little green and black piece of plastic that took square 1x1 format film which was increasingly hard to find. It was launched in 2007, beginning our love of the faux nostalgia aesthetic all of our photos are now full of.
After the long wait of getting my first roll developed, I checked out the snaps and fell in love with the old school look. All my shots looked like they were taken in the early 70s, which I loved, but analog was dying and it was impossible to even get the film developed without sending it overseas and spending a small fortune. It wasn’t going to work.
Enter Instagram for the iPhone. The moment I downloaded the app, I was hooked. The slick icon, the brilliant user experience, the speedy way in which your photo was being uploaded to its servers as you applied your filters, every aspect of the app was perfect, and the filters worked surprisingly well. It was like having the chunky Diana camera in my pocket all the time. Perfect!
With each update, they added more filters, tweaked others, made them more subtle and added the much loved Tilt Shift effect. Instagram exploded in popularity and currently has over 100 million users. Yet my love for the service is quickly waning. I open the app and it bugs me. It has lost the unique charm it once had. Here are some reasons the app is now a pain to use.
Each post has two halves - one for the photo, one for the insane amount of pointless tags crafted to gain followers and likes. Adding more than two or three tags to a post is just spam, and damages the flow of the app. A photo of your Starbucks cup does not need 30 tags.
In general, tags are fine and useful, but they shouldn’t be so obtrusive. Speaking of spam, nearly every moderately popular photo is bombarded with annoying spam bots and non-users. Instagram’s ‘community’ is broken.
Okay, it's not the filters themselves, it's something that only hits you when you see your feed in one sitting. Everything looks the same. A cool nostalgic feel to a photo is okay when you’re going for a certain mood or trying to represent a certain era. We use the filter as a crutch, nothing else. I’m as guilty as everyone in this regard. Every photo I post of my son has a silly sepia filter plonked on top of it. In ten years time, he will look at my shots and think we were living in the photographic dark ages. But we aren’t, most of us have phones with 5-10 million pixels, and not only are we not utilising this amazing quality, we are destroying it by making Instagram our default camera.
I guarantee most of us will look back at the majority of our Instagram photos and cringe just a little bit. The ubiquitousness off the filters makes it a rarity for me to look at an Instagram shot anymore and say “WOW!” Instead, they all have the same blown out suns and silhouetted trees. On the flipside, there is a wealth of talent and genuinely super shots on Instagram - look no further than @koci, and our very own @psycrow, @liobrien and @becsandthecity for fantastic daily content.
Twitter Cards and the TOC debacle
So, bottom line: Am I going to quit Instagram? No. I still love the service, but I will only use it as a little slice of the iPhonography subculture. While Instagram definitely has its place here, it’s just not the main attraction anymore. The funny thing is, I really wanted to delete my account, then I started looking back to the beginning of my Instagram journey and the sentiment began to creep in. It tells a story. I'm too involved now. I'm hooked.
Everyone has great shots in them. Chase Jarvis said: “The best camera is the one you have with you,” and I agree. Just lay off the #Lo-Fi while you’re at it.
You can find some my shots on 500px. Oh, and I'm still on Instagram.