Is Instagram the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Photography?

Now there’s a headline that’s sure to cause some heated debate (click here for another one). It’s the question asked by the latest episode of PBS’ show Idea Channel:

With its ability to make boring cellphone photos look “vintage” and “artsy”, Instagram has exploded worldwide. Derided by its detractors as a tool for making bad photos worse, we take an alternate view and argue that Instagram is the greatest thing to ever happen to photography. Its simple filters and social networking features are training cellphone photographers everywhere to think creatively about their photos. Plus, the app is turning its worldwide user base into an army of photojournalists capturing striking images of the people and events around them. As the old photography adage goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

In the previous episode they asked the deep question, “Are LOLCats and Internet Memes Art?“.

  • Jostein Roalkvam


  • Brett

    I think Instagram is great like how he said, but I don’t think it’s the best thing to happen to photography. I think it maybe opened up some options for people who only had their phone and like to experiment with post processing. 

  • Ron Hendriks

    Well instagram is worth more then Nikon/Canon/Sony(camera)/Pentax/Olympus/Panasonic combined. At least at the time off the sale rescently :)

  • Anshel Sag

    In short? no.

  • Anshel Sag

    That’s a bit hyperbolic, and untrue. Canon is worth more than everyone else combined…

  • russianbox

     this ^

  • Ralph Hightower

    Instagram is now available on Android phones. Will I be downloading Instagram?


  • ennuipoet

    What Instagram does is perpetuate the illusion that style trumps substance.  I’ve seen no evidence to affirm the claim it makes people consider content and composition, all I see is snapshots of weird bathrooms and dead birds with overdone saturation and software vignettes.  The best thing that ever happened to photography:  no.  Just another gimmick to convince a generation of people hooked on instant gratification they are somehow special while doing exactly the same thing as everyone else.

  • Rob LaRosa

     Lighten up, Francis. It’s a fun tool. Anyone who takes Instagram as an assault on art is wound way too tight for life. Is it the best thing to ever happen to photography? No – but it is fun.

  • Chaz Smith

    inst can suck my balls

  • Mark

     Yeah, it’s one thing when it’s used as a “toy”, but it’s being embraced as a legitimate means of capturing photojournalism. And Ennui is right, it IS yet another cultural fad that makes us lose appreciation for the foundations of art and aesthetics. Look, I’m no curmudgeon, but anyone can see that the “instant gratification with little effort” movement is leading to a cultural and artistic poverty.

    Anyone photojournalist, wedding photographer, fashion or commercial photographer worth their salt knows that this trend is affecting the bottom line for the industry.

    See, it used to be that our clients knew the difference between an image created with a “fun tool” versus one created by a true craftsman. Our clients now–hooked into the social mediaverse–can’t even tell the difference anymore. The bar creeps lower and lower.

  • Mark

    Yeah, that’s patently untrue on so many levels. Stock value, liquid assets, intellectual property, patents and copyrights, inventory, land holdings, infrastructure, fleets, parent and sibling corporations… honestly, think about it.

  • Dave

     Using that kind of thinking, Justin Beiber is better than Eric Clapton.

  • Igogosh

    it’s ok, it lets people enjoy their phone camera, Pros can go doing their work and charging good money for it. No camera phone will ever tap into what Pro gear helps us achieve and the difference is getting bigger. 

  • 9inchnail

     We’re not talking about better, we’re talking about net worth. What would you prefer a 50% share of the next Bieber album or the next Clapton record? It’s all about the benjamins, baby.

  • 9inchnail

     “See, it used to be that our clients knew the difference between an image
    created with a “fun tool” versus one created by a true craftsman. Our
    clients now–hooked into the social mediaverse–can’t even tell the
    difference anymore. The bar creeps lower and lower.”

    What do you expect? Clients are only interested in the final product not the creation process. They don’t care if you’re a “true craftsman” if someone achieved the same result with one click and offers the final product cheaper.

  • 9inchnail

    They are releasing point and shoot cameras running Android. Just a matter of time until they’ll jump to DSLRs. And then, my friends, there will be DSLRs with Instagram installed. Not looking forward to it but you know it’s gonna happen.

  • ennuipoet

     While I don’t use the app, or indeed my phone as a camera, I am fine with it being a fun tool.  Yet this particular video didn’t make the statement that Instagram is a fun tool to play with your images, it specifically addressed the artistic implications of Instagram.  (Which is a lot like addressing the nutritional value of Styrofoam peanuts.)  The video’s creators opened the artistic value door, so we are free to walk through.  If they had addressed the app on the same level as Angry Birds, the conversation would be different.

  • mrbeard

    i cant imagine anyone using instagram filters in 5 years, its a creative dead end. as someone who uses it, there is no learning curve, the only way to make your pictures better is to go to more interesting places. i would say twitter is doing already what they credit instagram for doing, plus twitter has better social networking powers than instagram,  Facebook never bought Instagram because it was innovative, they were buying the database of 30 million registered users.  

  • gabe sturdevant

    Happened to photography? Huh?  More like was forced down the throats of people. Twitter is full of shitty processed photos using instacrap. I dont need to see the door knob to your new apartment using a vintage filter. I want something like what Zack Arias is doing, really well thought out photos with a touch of a filter, not half eaten food and your dog laying on your lap….

  • Dave

     This is the most concise and complete thought in the entire comments section.

  • Knur

    “Polaroid app on my iphone
    taking pictures on London Fields
    up on the blog so everyone knows
    were having new age fun, with a vintage feel” 

  • Aeiou11235

    Complaining about Instagram as a photographer is like complaining about the availability of cheap pens and yellow paper for the masses as a writer. Who the f*** cares? Go and take some good pictures.