Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Instagram under attack

In case you don't know, Instagram is an iPhone app that applies a number of pre-set "filters" to photos that you snap. It's incredibly limited but can "lift" a photo from banal to something visually interesting.

There is no substitute for a "photographer's eye". I frequently go walking round London with a young lady who has a lower-spec iPhone camera but a much better eye than mine. We will often be right next to each other and take the "same" photo, but hers will almost always (ok, always!) be nicer than mine. No amount of filtering can change that. Composition and spotting something interesting is what makes a photo special, irrespective of the buggering around you do afterwards.

But that doesn't stop professional photographers from moaning like stuck pigs:

But every time I see one of these "news images" -- subtly altered to resemble images taken on vintage film stock or using expensive lenses and filters -- I feel cheated. And so should you.

The app photographer hasn't spent years learning his or her trade, imagining the scene, waiting for the light to fall just right, swapping lenses and switching angles. They haven't spent hours in the dark room, leaning over trays of noxious chemicals until the early hours of the morning.

Nor did they have to spend a huge chunk of their income on the latest digital equipment ($5,999 of my hard-earned cash just went on ordering a new Nikon D4) to ensure they stay on top of their game.

The app photographer merely has to click a software button and 10 seconds later is rewarded with a masterpiece.
I've just, as a confirmed Instagram user, denied that this is the case. I can take hundreds of photos and post them, the filter having lifted the from the banal to the merely mediocre. But to take a true masterpiece, you have to be in the right light, you have to have an eye, you have to still be a good photographer or be very lucky to take a good photo. And, in fact, because Instagram is a one-trick pony, all you can do with it is apply one of a set of filters. I'd actually argue that Instagram makes it more difficult to take a good photo, because of its inherent limitations.

Professional photographers whingeing about Instagram remind me of the furore when it became apparent to professional journalists that bloggers were writing rings around them. It's easy to write about something after the event, but it's a rare blogger who actually breaks a story. It does happen, and it's probably happening more than ever, but in truth, it's probably less than 1% of all news. Not to be sneezed at, but journalists are still largely breaking the news.

Similarly, a good photographer with a less capable camera and no post-production faffing will always beat a ham-fisted cunt like me, no matter what toys I have. But for me, the hope is that I'll put out something that will raise a smile or lift spirits or something. I'm not looking to change the world. The pros will always have the edge, and people like Nick Stern should really loosen their ties before the blood flow to their brains cuts off completely.


Anonymous said...

'Young Lady' is that that fucking ugly bint you keep retweeting shit pictures for?

The Thought Gang said...

I, prehistoric man, am furious at your modern professional photographer types who buy pre-cooked meat from Asda. You have not spent days building a crude spear from sticks and sharpened rock.. you have not risen from your slumber at the earliest hour to stake the hunting grounds, you have not risked your life by competing for prey with men who would smash your head in a heartbeat...

etc etc

sound words said...

Good work, clown. :-)

Anonymous said...

Agree wholehertedly. I, like you, can take a mediocre picture and make it look half decent. Even with the Finepix HS10, I can get some fairly good nature shots, but nothing that would be worthy of National Geographic.

JuliaM said...

I remember when progress and innovation was something to be welcomed, not sneered at.

And hey, if people are able to take amazing-looking photos on their iPhone, isn't that instilling in them a demand for...well, other amazing looking photos? In other words, isn't it creating more of a demand, not less?

Newspapers are still being sold, after all. We haven't all decided blogs are the thing...

Andrew Elliott said...

What a ridiculous article!

Not yours of course, the one you reference by the photographer.

The only point he has is that news photographs should be realistic. I can understand that to a point, but every photographer knows that anything taken with any digital camera has a certain amount of post processing performed by the camera itself. His Nikon D4 will automatically be performing a bunch of post processing activities every time he takes a photo.

Everything else he says just makes him sound like a Luddite. It's ridiculous to state that taking a snap with Instagram automatically creates a 'masterpiece' but even if it did, surely that's progress? If technology improves to allow mobile phone users to take fantastic shots, that's a good thing!

Michael Fowke said...

"But journalists are still largely breaking the news."

There's more to life than breaking the news. Let them break the news.

Simon Cooke said...

My brother is a technical illustrator - five years of training so as to draw those exploded diagrams, cutaways and such that are in the technical manuals.

Except that now there's no work because monkeys can achieve the same outcome with a simple (and probably free) computer programme.

Stuff like this happens - photographers need to get used

Anonymous said...

Good shout. When I read the first section I was reminded of the bleating by Andrew Marr, the rent-seeking jugg-eared twat.

Eddie Willers said...

Indeed, the right place at the right time with the right eye will always trump any doohickeys the camera might employ.

Best picture ever, Lee H Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby...just Bob Jackson and his clunky old Graflex, making history.

Anonymous said...

so you gave up bloggin fur furtuggrapphin.
keep the faith.

farm land investment said...

Technology moves on. Photographers tend to be stuck up artsy twists anyway.

The Stigler said...

He has one valid point, which is about altered images for news. It's not good.

Other than that, it's a rent-seeking whine. No-one gives a shit if you spent $6000 and learnt your trade in a darkroom. It's the photos that matter.