Photograph by Mark D. Whitney
Artist: Mark D. Whitney
Media: Digital Photograph

My Instagram Experience So Far

I’ve started an Instagram account for my photography. You can check me out at: rattus.in.silvam or you can see some recent posts on this blog page: https://www.forestrat.com/mwp/my-latest-instagram-posts/

After a couple three weeks of using it, I have mixed feelings – I like some of it and I dislike some of it. Actually I REALLY dislike some of it, but I’ll probably keep at it. Why? because like it or not it’s one of the ways the majority of people in the world view photographs.

I’ve kept up a website and a blog related to my photography for many years. It’s great. I love being able to display my work alongside long form content about photography and art in general. Trouble is very few people go out looking for blogs to follow any more. They might like reading blog type content once in a while, but the entry point is from social media like Instagram.

By nature I’m not a social media type guy. It’s a difficult thing for an introverted curmudgeonly guy like me. While I’m happy to talk to people face to face or to share deeply thought out articles, broadcasting willy-nilly to the world in general is not my thing. I have a Facebook account that I rarely log into and a LinkedIn account that’s even worse. It drives my friends and colleagues crazy.

I decided I could maybe make a go of Instagram. I like to show people my photos so that’s good. I can concentrate specifically on my art photography without feeling pressured to take a selfie every time I go to the grocery or share a photo every time there’s a nice sunset. I’ve tried dedicated photography sites like Flickr and 500px, but the atmosphere there is too hard core for me – I’m not a gear head and I’m not that into Photoshop. I like photography as a part of a larger art world and I like connecting it with a broader range of people whether they be photographers or not.

So here are a couple of the things I’ve learned about Instagram in my first few weeks.

My major frustration is the cropping. Instagram was originally created to be a phone app where people can snap a pick of their dog and instantly post it to their adoring fans – the dimensions of the photos were not a concern and in fact they were always cropped square anyway. Of course people immediately wanted to use it for other things so in 2015 Instagram started allowing landscape and portrait dimensions, but there’s a catch. You can upload a portrait photo, but it has to be in 4:5 ratio or you will be cropped.

I’ve been caught out by this several times. The standard square format at the time of this writing is 1080px by 1080px. So I assumed that if I had an image where the long side was 1080 and the short side was less, it would fit in the frame with some space on the sides. Wrong. Instagram crops my photo so that it fills a 4:5 ratio. Now I have several photos in my account that are a mess because the top and bottom are cut off.

As a web developer I understand that it’s much easier to deal with images that have standard aspect ratios, but as a photographer I go to great lengths to frame my images just right and it’s very frustrating to have that arbitrarily changed. Sometimes it just destroys the image altogether. Now I crop my photos to the 4:5 ratio before uploading. If I don’t like how a certain photo looks when cropped, I don’t share that photo.

The landscape format also has a suggested aspect ratio of 1.91:1. There must be more play in that setting though because I don’t have any trouble sizing to 1080 on the long size and letting it rip. So far I haven’t noticed any nasty changes in that direction.

The thing I like best about Instagram is that I’ve been able to start building a community of people around our shared images. I’m not an insta-star by any means, but I’m getting some followers and I’ve found some interesting accounts for me to follow. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find that I can connect to people from all over the world. There are far too many filter bubbles out there (I’m looking at you Google.) that think I only want to come in contact with people in my local area. No. I want to see good work even if it’s posted from Neptune. Instagram posts are image-centric and have few words so language differences are not a big problem plus there’s a translate link. Nice.

I’m trying to be selective in what accounts I follow. It’s hard to resist the temptation to follow everyone that follows me. I don’t want to fall into that trap. I want my feed to show me things I’m interested in and I don’t want to get so many images that I can’t see them all.

One final observation before I close is that Instagram is aimed at mobile devices. You can view your account in a laptop or a desktop browser, but posting really needs to be done from a phone with the app.

I like being able to view my feed on my desktop. I don’t like looking at my phone that much and the larger size images are way better for seeing the details of people’s photos.

In order to post photos that I’ve taken with an actual camera I need to manually copy the images from my desktop where I edit them to my phone where I can post them. Each weekend I copy over some photos and then I share them throughout the week.  It would be nice to post them directly from the computer and only rely on my phone when I’m on the go.

Well that’s enough for now. Take a gander at my Instagram account when you get a chance and I’ll post an update on how things are going when I’ve been at it a bit longer.

Comments on "My Instagram Experience So Far"

  1. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for detailing some of the pros and cons of Instagram. I’ve never looked at it, so I’ve never known really what it’s about. Not much of a mobile guy.

    I know what you mean about blogging, and how it’s not what it used to be. In fact, after looking at some of my old posts, and the great comments and interaction on the best of them, I was going to do a post on that subject. Although writing on a blog these days is often like shouting down a well.

    I really like your image for this post – such great texture and fractality. And your Instagram series – that snag or log in the waterfall appeals to me a lot.

    Regards

    1. Thanks fencer. These days my day job is web development for Ball State University. We spend a lot of time analyzing the best channels to reach current and prospective students, the community, and alumni. We have snail mail, on and off campus events, a print magazine, an online magazine, a web site, social media, billboards, and TV spots. It’s a constant battle to decide where to put our limited resources.

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