Instagram is Instacrack
Over my past few years of phone point ‘n shoot, Facebook sufficed as a photo gallery. It was convenient for my main audience and publicly linkable, and none of the dedicated photography sites seemed to fit me. I felt too casual for some and too staid for Instagram, which came off as a parade of ’70s filter selfies from the younger and hipper slice of my feed. Instagram’s in-the-moment experimentation looked fun, but I didn’t quite have the itch to dive in.
I decided to try it out – follow friends and artists, put up a few favorites from my archives. What the hell took me so long?
Instagram balances versatility with elegant simplicity. Filters and settings allow fine-grained control over a variety of effects, from basic enhancements to stylized design liberties, without being excessive or unwieldy. Straightening and sharpening can salvage almost-there shots. Tilt shift is fun – subtly draw attention to a subject, or go for that faux miniature look.
The interface encourages experimentation. Every adjustment can be changed or removed. Tap and hold to see the effect of an individual setting in progress, or the sum thereof as compared to the original photo. This quickly helped me figure out what filters I preferred for various types of images, along with some new techniques – distinguishing a subject from its background, bringing out contrast within a dark area of detail.
Instagram is all about seamless and flowing discovery. See the likes of those you follow. Browse hashtags and geotags. Tag your own work informatively, and enjoy likes and comments from strangers – and perhaps a few follows as well. I got some great appreciation from residents and tourists of the Chinese cities I visited. In return, I’ve been amassing pictures of places I had no chance to see – especially Nanjing locations to inspire my novel.
As with any other user-produced taxonomy, you will find misspelled tags, off-base geotags, copypasta tag clouds covering every single stop on a trip. Still, there’s enough useful labeling to get you going.
Just signed up? Post a few pictures before liking and following. People will look right back at your profile, and they might reciprocate if your work appeals to them.
Bring out your duds, your fail reel, your unremarkable shots. Go heavy with the effects and filters. Transformation can be salvation.
Make friends with all the filters. All of them. Sometimes the rarely used ones do just the trick you’re after.