When Instagram first came to the iPhone, few would have expected it to become so dominant. Four billion photos later and the app has become the most popular photo sharing app ever created and is iconic in bringing the Polaroid look to digital photos.
Despite being criticised for being hipster and cheapening the art of photography, these criticisms tend to miss the point of what Instagram is about.
It's not about inserting filters for the sake of making them look retro, but it's to help amplify and convey a mood that mightn't be possible through normal means.
The emergence of Instagram and other camera apps only allows regular people to become photographers themselves and while it certainly not going to replace professional photography any time soon, it still allows smartphone users to do more than snap random shots.
Granted there will be some that will use the service terribly, but that's the price you pay when you've got 80 million users signed up to your service. Now that Android users have been using the service since April, now's as good a time as ever to start using the service or take the steps to become a power user.
1) Where it All Began
2) Tips & Tricks
3) Best Apps for Instagram
4) Instagram Filters: When To Use Them
5) The Best Brand Campaigns on Instagram
6) Reviews & Opinions
Where it All Began
Believe it or not, Instagram is not even two years old yet, having been founded in October 2010. For the first 18 months of the service, it was only available on iOS devices and it was only in April of 2012 that it was made available to Android users.
Although Instagram is adding more web functionality since it was snapped up by Facebook, it has always been a mobile social network, which is one of the main reasons why it was acquired. Kevin Systrom and Michael Krieger actually spun the company out of their previous app which was called Burbn, which wasn't getting much traction.
From its early days, the growth was impressive, but they were also known for the way they ran the startup, sticking with just four employees for the first year, despite the service doubling in size every month. Indeed, when it was acquired by Facebook in April 2012 for $1 billion, it only had 13 employees. To put Instagram's impressive growth and life into perspective, The company wasn't even 600 days old when it was acquired by Facebook
With 80 million active users on the platform. Users now visit the site as a new way of sharing their photos and in December 2011, Apple Inc. named Instagram "App of the Year" which helped solidify its position as a mainstream app with huge potential.
Tips & Tricks
Best Apps For Instagram
Considering how popular Instragram is, it's no surprise that a dizzying array of apps, extensions and supplementary websites have popped up. They range from desktop browsers to instant printing apparatus and everything in between, and below are ten of out favourites, plus a list of a few you might find useful yourself. Each title contains links to each app.
iDarkRoom will fuel Instagram users' love for eye-catching effects with its expansive range of colour-contrasting filters, blurring techniques, texture effects, cropping options and editing functions - there are 20 colour filters, 11 paper effects and 13 light leak & effects for you to play around with.
The name is a good indication of what you can expect from the app, and it clearly aims to help users to edit and tinker with their photos with a greater degree of professionalism and complexity than standard IG users can. The interface is clean and simple and photos are easy to share on social networking sites or assemble in a photo album. iDarkRoom is available for the iPhone, but is compatible with Instagram.
Although you wouldn't think it, the social magazine reader can also be used to display your Instagram photos too. The format lends itself perfectly to the photo sharing app by filling the screen up with numerous photos. It's almost like flicking through an album the way its set up.
Instead of presenting as many photos on screen as possible, Instagallery just focuses on one photo at a time, allowing you to appreciate each one in full-screen.
While the other apps here go for style and follow the Instagram template, iris gives users a simple and clean presentation that allows you to take each photo for what it's worth instead of trying to decide which ones are worth your attention.
Instapad pulls off the impressive feat of packing in as many photos into the screen as possible without making you feel overwhelmed. Browsing is easy and you'll lose hours as you browse through your feed and discover the work of other Instagram users.
Statigram is the most prominent web-based Instagram account management application, and it is rather comprehensive in its functionality. It functions much like Facebook or Twitter would, so users can effectively translate their Instagram experience onto their desktop browsers. You can chat with your followers, view/respond to comments they make on your photos and analyse follower and image viewing statistics.
The intersection between social media and metrics is well occupied by Statigram, so much so that you could be chatting with a follower while considering the best time to post a photo or pouring over which of Instagram's various filters will get you the most likes. It all comes in a sleek package that is easy to use as well as on the eyes.
Carousel is an Instagram client made for Macs. Firstly, you will need to sync it with Instagram account, but then it will present a whole new viewing experience. There are some really cool and unique features, including multiple viewing windows, the ability to view your photos by location and even some quirky, vintage designs to boot.
Much like Statigram and Inkstagram, Carousel translates Instagram onto desktops with an interface that is easy to navigate and relatable to social networks with its 'Popular' tab (akin to trending photos) and a chronological feed, reminiscent of Facebook or Twitter. Again, it is only available to Mac and iPhone users, but those of you who fit such criteria will be impressed.
This IOS-exclusive photo-editing app is probably the best currently available on the market. It is not exclusive to Instagram, however, but it is compatible with IG and will enable you tweak your photos to very minute specifications. Users can easily bring their photos up to standard with the automatic adjust feature instantly bringing out the best in your shots.
From there, you can make manual adjustments to the brightness, contrast, white balance and various other settings. Snapseed also offers a good range of filters and a range of other novelties; you can choose image borders or even magnify background objects, before sharing your work on IG.
Hashgram is Google for Instagram, plain and simple. It doesn't even try to hide the fact with its design, which is eerily reminiscent of the world's largest search engine. Much like Google, it is incredibly simple to use: you simply type in your search term and either select '# tag search' or '@ user search' before a cacophony of Instagram images appear before your eyes.
Alternatively, you can select '<3 I'm popular' for the most popular images on Instagram. So there's not a lot to Hashgram, but it is a comprehensive search tool for Instagram and fills a glaring need for Instagram users worldwide.
Instake is simple in that its sole function is to download photos from Instagram so you no longer have to take mere screengrabs to save them to your phone. You can view photos either as a normal feed or to specifications, such as most popular, your own photos, photos you have liked etc., or you can just search Instagram to find the pictures you like. You can select individual photos to download or you can select all the photos on any given page; either way, by using Instake you now have an option unavailable to you when using Instagram alone.
If you're taking photographs and love curating, then you've got to have photo albums, right? Well, just because all your photos are already displayed on the internet, doesn't mean they can't be nicely compiled and ordered for the viewing pleasure of your aesthetically-minded friends and bored relatives.
My InstaAlbum, available through the Apple store, allows you to organise your IG photo's by date, location, tag or filter; it can also determine your most used filters, photographed locations, and tags. There's not a lot to InstaAlbum, but it is an extremely effective organising and sharing tool that makes the IG photo stream easier to navigate and makes uploads to Facebook or DropBox exceedingly simple.
With Postagram, you can use your best images to send as postcards. Simply select your picture, type in the address along with a personalised message and it will be sent it in the post.
It's a simple idea that adds an element of DIY and bygone ways to your Instagram experience and is surely a nice novelty app to be enjoyed by both the sender and recipient. It's a fun way of bringing Instagram offline, bringing a new edge to your holiday postcards or a hint more personality to an emailed message.
Now, InstaPrint isn't easily downloadable or available as a website, but it is pretty cool. Say you have a special occasion coming, one that is sure to see many, many photos being taken; well, instead of getting proper cameras, you can go to the InstaPrint and rent one of their printers. InstaPrint adds a distinctly Polaroid-esque edge to you photography experience.
Each printer is set to a specific location or hashtag, so it is easily synced with every part-goer's IG account to automatically print your nicest or most embarrassing shots. Is more physical evidence of your nighttime exploits a good idea? Perhaps not, but it's a fun addition nonetheless.
Some we may have missed
InstaCat, InstaPuppy, Pictarine, ExtraGram, Webstagram, InstaFB, InstaDrop, Insta-Great, GramJunction, Cartagr.am, Screenstagram, Heroku, Gramfeed, Instarium, Instagrid, InstaWar, Pic-a-Fight and many more.
Instagram Filters: When To Use Them
With 17 different filters to play around with, it's easy to take any photo and then choose a filter. But if you put a little thought into it, you will find that both the quality of your Instagram photos will greatly improve.
What it does: The 'Vanilla' of Instagram filters. Not every photo requires modification so why do something for the sake of it?
Use it for: Any photo you want.
What it does: Adds more light to the image, but most of all towards the centre so the darker the photos, the more you will notice the filter effect.
Use it for: If you want to give your photo a somewhat aged appearance.
What it does: Gives photos a nice glow so if you're looking for softer lighting,
Use it for: Any close up shots of people.
What it does: Gives certain photos an icy look. The slight tint and altered lighting gives images a wintery feel.
Use it for: Whenever you're outdoors. Particularly nice if you're taking photos of buildings or monuments.
What it does: If you want your photo to become more vibrant, X-pro II is the filter for you. Makes images appear warm and colourful.
Use it for: Can be used for a wide variety of photos, but only if you want certain colours to stand out more.
What it does: Makes images softer but unlike Rise, Sierra gives images a slightly faded look, making colours almost calm and soothing.
Use it for: Nature and outdoor shots are the perfect images for this.
What it does: Adds rich colours and strong shadows makes an image's colour richer and stronger shadows.
Use it for: Food, food, food!
What it does: Mostly faded and blurred colours, gives images an older feel.
Use it for: If you really want to go down the 'cool' route, slap this filter on.
What it does: Gives photos a somewhat smoked look, with emphasis on purple and brown colours to achieve the effect.
Use it for: If you want to give images a creepier look so Halloween like events.
What it does: The most noticeable of all the filters, gives the centre a burnt look and makes the image look aged.
Use it for: Summer nights out, so beer gardens, picnics and your friend's BBBQ (the extra B is for BYOBB).
Effect: Greyish tint gives images a darker, more metallic look.
Use it for: Anything with strong shadows.
What it does: Turns photos black and white. Exactly what you'd expect.
Use it for: Anything where shadows and light is the main feature.
What it does: Gives images a washed-out look, and a pleasant, breezy feel.
Use it for: Any summery or bright, happy photos.
What it does: Much like Lo-Fi but the colours aren't as dramatic.
Use it for: Anywhere where you want to enhance vibrant colours, but not too much.
What it does: For a faded quality, much like if the photo was taken in the 1980s.
Use it for: Anything you want to give an antique look.
What it does: Images get a nice, warm feel with a slightly pink tint to help achieve the effect.
Use it for: Anything you want to look back on with nostalgia.
What it does: Like the title suggests, makes your photos look like they were taken in the 1970s.
Use it for: Making images look like they were taken in the 1970s.
What it does: Give images a bright, vibrant feel. Provides photos with a radiant glow that you will either love or hate.
Use it for: Any photos that you want to give a nice, warm feeling.
The Best Brand Campaigns on Instagram
This might not be a groundbreaking campaign, but it's nice to see a brand like Ford really embracing Instagram. To promote the new Fiesta, Ford ran a weekly photo challenge on Instagram, where users had to upload photos with hashtags that reflected certain aspects of the car. The activity was then brought back onto their Facebook Page, where the content was hosted within a hub.
Levi's search for talent
Levi's is running a long-term campaign on Instagram, to find the next star for their ad campaigns. All you have to do is upload a picture to Instagram with the hashtag #iamlevis. So far, over 3,000 photos have been uploaded with the hashtag, which is not a bad result for what's still a fairly niche platform. People from all over the world can enter, with the winner starring in the Levi's 2012 brand campaign.
A great example here of using Instagram's API and combining with gamification to offer an engaging user experience. When you visit the site, you can select the images that you want, gathered via Instagram, to create your moodboard which can then be shared to your Facebook profile. It would be nice to see the campaign go a little bit further in terms of the execution as the mechanic is exciting, but good to see a brand using Instagram's API to extend their offering.
O2 road trip
O2 in the UK has just launched a new campaign on Instagram, which has it sending five influential Instagrammers - Mike Kus, Jiri Siftar, Dan Rubin, Finn Beales and Naomi Atkinson - on a road trip around Europe. The campaign has been put together to promote its EU roaming package and you can follow photos of their travels through the #O2Travel hashtag as well as following O2 on Instagram to see some of the best images reposted.
Giorgio Armani Frames Of Life
Fashion brands seem to be particularly taken with Instagram and Giorgio Armani is getting in on the act. For its frames of life campaign, it's asking followers to upload a picture of them wearing sunglasses. And when you visit the Frames Of Life site, Instagram pics are pulled in alongside the frame styles in their new collection, bringing user's content right into the site experience. While the 'Frames of Your Life' campaign has been run previously for Armani, the Instagram element is a new addition, which you can take part in by uploading a pic to Instagram with the hashtag #framesoflife.
Reviews & Opinions
- C|NET describe Instagram as "an excellent way to take great-looking shots and share them with anyone."
- Although sceptical at first, Yahoo! was eventually charmed by the magic of Instagram's simplicity.
- Reviewing the Android edition, Know Your Mobile begrudgingly admitted that Instagram has its good points in spite of "trendy hipsters deliberately ruining shots" with the app.
- Writing for the Telegraph, Matt Warman gave Instagram four stars and said "it will make you look like the photographer you wish you were."
- Cory Guthner of Android Community says the Instagram interface "is nice and clean (better than iOS version), simple to use."
- About's Web Trends section says that Insatgram's filters are "gorgeous" and that they found the app to be "extremely convenient."
- Laptop magazine say: "There's no reason not to hop on the Instagram bandwagon and start turning random snapshots of your day into little pieces of art. It's fun, easy to use, and free."
- Meanwhile, the LA Times says that "Once you get going, you start to photograph every mundane thing in sight."