In Defense of Instagram and Faux-Vintage Photos

An article by David Brooks on August 16, 2012


My photos from instagram

I think it’s hard for people to really know what to think about Instagram and faux-vintage photos in general. On the one hand, you have professionals who look down on Instagrammed photos, and the people who take them. Meanwhile, millions of people are snapping photos and posting them to Instagram as I write this, some of whom will get the impression that’s all there is to photography.

Obviously that’s an over-generalization of the matter. Plenty of professional photographers have Instagram accounts. And of course there are those non-professionals who know Instagram is a new trendy hobby, but nothing more.

If you’re into photography, I think Instagram is worth looking at. Probably not seriously, of course. But I think we owe a lot to Instagram and all the variations of applications available on the world’s collection of smartphones.

Photographers Will Always Stand Out

When my Instagram feed is cluttered with photos of kittens and hamburgers, it’s always the photo by the professional that stands out in the crowd. Sadly, because professional circles seem to think poorly of the service, only the really well-established or confident photographers venture over that way. (Or perhaps they’re just too busy to worry about it, that’s always a possibility. This isn’t a scientific study.)

But consider this. You have a new-ish medium at your disposal. Millions of people are already there, thousands more sign up each day. You have a chance to put your work in front of those people, to stand out in the ways that you already do. Why not?

As a professional, there’s really no excuse.

Amateurs Will Learn

On the flip side of the coin, those thousand people who join may have never bothered to pick up a camera if it weren’t for their phone and a few applications. Perhaps that person will take 40 of the same thing and then stitch them together, throw in some faux-focus, adjust lighting, filters, crackles, whatever, in order to get that one photo just the way they like it. But that person has now begun their path to making better things, to learning to be a visual thinker.

And there’s a lot of value from that. Certainly a large part of being a photographer is learning to see the opportunity to take a great photo.

Some of those people will figure out that they love photography, and they’ll venture out and purchase a DSLR camera and make a career out of it. Others will figure out that it’s not for them. Perhaps they’ll continue posting to Instagram, maybe their interest will fade. But the chances are good that in their time on Instagram, they learned a bit more about photography and now have a better understanding of what it takes to capture a decent photo.

My Last Instagram Photo Isn’t Timeless

But that doesn’t mean the trend is no less important. In a hundred years, we’ll write about this phase and we’ll mention how masses of people came to photography and created billions of digital photographs, all around a certain set of styles. It’s also likely that following that trend will be a time when photography ventures back toward purity and clarity. I think we’ll see more photographers trying to move away from the trend, because though it pains me to say this, even some professionals rely too heavily on applying a falseness to their photos. It just so happens that they use the sanctioned tools and not an application on their smartphone.

It’s All Good

The more we raise the bar for photography in general the more everyone wins. Whether it’s allowing people to play and learn, to develop their own visual style and interest in cameras, or whether it’s a photographer who tries something new and learns from experimentation, photography on a whole benefits.

When I edit my own photos, I generally steer clear of anything I couldn’t do in a darkroom. But when I post to Instagram I allow myself the freedom to play. It’s the difference between eating a solid meal and a cookie. You shouldn’t live entirely on cookies, but eating one on occasion isn’t a bad thing. And sometimes, like when you’re in college, your main source of food is a bag of cookies. If you live through that phase, you’ll appreciate real food even more.

P.S. You can find me on instagram at my usual name DavidNBrooks

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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