The news that Instagram has been acquired by Facebook leaves me with mixed feelings I’m afraid. I’m pleased for the guys at Instagram obviously, their hard work over the last few years has given them prime position in the iPhoneography space and now they are getting the tangible rewards. Long may they party…
As a user however, I must admit to being profoundly disappointed. I liked Instagram a lot, preferring it to Hipstamatic and as a compulsive iPhoneographer I found it more convenient, more user friendly and more fun. I liked it just the way it was. As a Facebook user, I rarely use the photosharing capabilities. I don’t like the way it randomly clips the picture to shoehorn it into your stream and I’m not overly keen on the terms and conditions that suggest my pictures may not be entirely under my control.
Displaying photographs on a website is very different to displaying them on a mobile phone and as a photographer I want to exercise some control over the look and presentation of my photographs. I don’t get that from Facebook, which is why I use 500px, this website and Flickr.
I’m also having misgivings about the lack of choice that corporatism is beginning to inflict on us. The tendency is to consolidate, which means less competition and often, since corporates are driven entirely by the need to satisfy shareholders, a reduction in quality as costs are rationalised. And, being a gentleman of a certain age, I prefer my outsiders. I was always a Rolling Stones fan rather than a Beatle!
So this is why I’m cancelling my Instagram account. I’m not convinced that the mobile phone only model is sustainable as the tablet market expands. I don’t necessarily want to share my mobile phone pictures with an internet audience, but when I do, I will send them to EyeEm, the increasingly popular German start up. They have good presentation, a more vibrant community than Instagram (in my opinion) and a nice user friendly way of categorising and tagging pictures. I can share the pictures I want to share with my Facebook friends by linking, without handing the pictures over to Facebook.
Plus, I like to think that I’m doing my bit for the independents, the mavericks, the square pegs. That’s just me I’m afraid.
Pinterest, in case you hadn’t heard, is a new, fast growing, image-centric community that encourages users to curate their own collections of pictures. Its taken off like wildfire and in the manner of most overnight successes has attracted a shit load of criticism.
There are two issues that keep rearing their heads. The first is the terms and conditions of the site, particularly around copyright. Pinterest delegate the responsibility for clearing permission to use photographs to the user, whilst simultaneously asserting that any picture uploaded to their site may be resold by Pinterest. Not surprisingly this has wound people up in a way not seen since Facebook tried to assert ownership of all pictures uploaded to their site.
The second issue is perhaps more interesting. The user experience at Pinterest does not impose any checks and balances on the pinning of a picture. The user can add a “Pin it” widget to their browser and just “pin” at will, any picture from any web page they like. How many of these users have even read the terms and conditions is a moot point, by using the site, users agree to the terms and conditions. Ignorance is no defence. It can be argued that by making the experience so simple, Pinterest are encouraging the magpies amongst us to steal material to which we are not entitled. Certainly, most of the images on the site today were not created by their curators.
This second issue taps into one of the enduring features of the internet. The world wide web facilitates and encourages a rapid exchange of data. Journalists can research from their desks. The PC has become the Library of Alexandria in that aided and abetted by Google it opens the door to all human knowledge. It has become a hot house for innovation, never has the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” rung more true. Of course where there are giants, as every follower of the brothers Grimm will know, there are also goblins. For every researcher investigating the tangled web of intrigue that surrounds News International, there is somebody downloading one of my pictures from Pinterest without asking permission or giving credit, never mind a fee.
This is where I stand on the issue. I take photographs with the intention of showing them to other people. This should not come as a surprise! I also create photographs for sale as high quality prints or for editorial use. I need as much exposure as I can get in order to be successful. I have had enquiries and sales through Deviant Art, Flickr, Eye Em and this web site in the last few months. The traffic to my web site has increased due to people following the links from Pinterest. Its another shop window. The internet has provided a fantastic boost to photography – as a result there is both opportunity and competition. I don’t care if a few people copy my low res prints from the web site, its a small price to pay for the increased exposure.
And Pinterest? They are a business and in order to be successful need to find a balance between exploiting their audience and providing a service. A good deal is one in which both sides walk away satisfied. If I felt I was being exploited than I would not be satisfied. If Pinterest were unable to make a living they would not be satisfied. At the moment, I’m a supporter.
check me out at http://pinterest.com/electricalimage/
Is iPhoneography the new punk rock? This was the question I asked in a previous blog post. What I meant was that the iPhoneography craze has all the characteristics of a movement that’s going to upset the status quo. The cost of entry is low, its simple to execute, cost of software is low and the results are sufficiently different from DSLR photography to be identifiable. In those respects at least it has a lot in common with the punk rock movement of the 1970’s.
It is also polarising opinion in a pleasingly similar way. I imagine the transition from analogue to digital was heralded as the end of civilisation at the time and there is no doubt that digital photography has significantly altered the professional landscape. Now that the ability to take a good photograph is accessible to so many more people, the old Hunter S. Thompson saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” has never been more true. Perhaps now more than ever, is the time that photographers need to rely on their originality, imagination and talent in order to thrive.
I believe that the iPhone will change the landscape for a number of reasons apart from those cited above. The principle reason being that because of the accessibility and ease of use, it is a great tool for flexing the creative muscles and trying new things out. I can see a time approaching when the iPhone could even displace the point and shoot camera, which with the new generation of mirrorless (MILC or EVIL) digital cameras from Leica, Olympus and Nikon must be feeling the squeeze from both ends.
Mobile phone photography is both fun and rewarding. There is sufficient interest to support magazines and exhibitions and I sold my first “iPhoneograph” last week, hopefully a taste of things to come! Specialist photosharing sites such as EyeEm and Instagram have helped the movement to ‘go social’ and software is coming along in leaps and bounds as well as reasonably priced accessories such as lens attachments. There is even an adapter available to allow the user to mound Canon and Nikon DSLR lenses.
The software I used to create the image illustrating this post is called TrueHDR. I also use Snapseed on both the mobile phone and desktop. The other program I can recommend without hesitation is Filterstorm. On the frivolous, fun side of things, Tiny Planets and Plastic Bullet are both very effective, if limited.
Check out my iPhoneography Gallery. If you’re not already doing it, try it, you may grow to love it!