Hey Instagram Users, Get Over It

Ok. So first of all I am known in my circle of friends as the guy who hates Instagram. This isn’t really true, I don’t have Instagram, I philosophically loathe it. That is to say, I don’t enjoy the way many people on Instagram treat the art of photography.

I philosophically loathe Instagram

justex07-on-InstagramI’ll keep this brief but here is my gripe. People take ordinary photos, what we would call snapshots, what we would drop in a shoebox and forget about as quickly as we took them. These photos do not stand out like the ones we would put in a physical album, that we would pay to have printed or that we would submit to a gallery for showing. They are the epitome of disposable photography. Nothing wrong with that. What I have qualms with are people that elevate these toss-away photos to a level of importance not by context or content but by obscuring the banality and ordinary mundanity with a filter, sometimes to such a degree that the original content of the image is totally obfuscated.

My issue is not with getting more people interested in photography or with the community people build around these photos. My issue is when photographers like myself who take great pride in each frame we shoot, who edit, curate, proof and print our images with great care. I might be unique in the detail I put into each photo I put into a critique, gallery and even on my photo site but I am not alone, not even close.


What makes the filtered photo on the left better than the original image on the right with only RAW file color correction and some perspective control? A good image should stand on its own.

We invest tons of time, money and love in a photo (and this is where it might sound a bit petty) and here comes someone with an Instagram photo of their half-eaten brunch or their duck-face and all of a sudden they’re magicians with a camera. It’s not that we’re vain. It’s that when we get a vignette on a photo we probably made a mistake. When our film comes out of the wash faded and grainy, we grit our teeth. When we shoot a square photo on film it costs big bucks, takes a ton of time to shoot and process and requires incredible know-how on the physics behind light and the large format camera.

When I do post on Instagram, which I’ve only done a handful of times, I try to remember to add the #nofilter tag to my images signifying that I did not use any Instagram filters to make the image. The only filter I might ever use is in Camera+ from Tap Tap Tap called Clarity which does a phenomenal job of picking up details and expanding dynamic range in a photo. Sometimes even this gets a little beyond, if only they’d add the intensity slider to their iPhone app…

Trust me, that was the short version of my argument against Instagram as a function of creating high-art and misinforming the masses on what it takes to make a powerful image, especially without a faculty of ridiculous filters. Phew. Now to the part where I talk about the Instagram privacy policy and terms of use changes.

Everyone else is already doing it

The big hubbub this week about Instagram and why so many users are threatening to leave the photo filtering and sharing service stems from a change in their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Previously there was none of the following language:

To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you

Instagram is basically telling you anything you upload to them can be used however they like, including profile information and more importantly the metadata within your photos. If you are only upset that a company will make money without paying you and are ignoring that with each snap of your camera you’re telling them around a dozen things about you which they can use/sell, you’re mad about the wrong thing.

Bottom line, Instagram was purchased by Facebook and with that comes the simplification of legal policies. How does a photo change when it is uploaded to Instagram but then also shared to Facebook? Two conflicting policies would spell legal issues for all parties involved. What Facebook, and Instagram, have done is what they should do and it is totally legal and unless you leave Instagram, your continued use is an endorsement of those terms, if not at least acceptance.

Many other sites have the same issues with their Privacy Policy, EULA and TOS/TOU. I recommend you check out Terms of Service; Didn’t Read aka ToS;DR. They breakdown all the legal-ease and provide grades and simple explanations of complicated legal documents for popular web services.

Flickr came under similar scrutiny back in 2010 when it partnered with Getty Images to allow users to sell their photos. Flickr had the smarts to require users to opt-in to this opportunity which Instagram didn’t do. However, Flickr also had an all-or-nothing approach to the service. Your stock photos shot specifically for this purpose are treated the same as your daughter’s dance recital photos. So caveats remain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *