Overusing Instagram

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You know Instagram has taken over the world when H&M announces that you can become their Official Instagrapher at Coachella... seriously? How much skill do you need to become known as an Instagram-using photographer?? I'm not sure how I feel about people who take photos via Instagram with their iPhone or iTouch (and soon Android), and then pass off all of them as some of the best photographs they've ever taken. From what I remember using this app on my sister's iTouch a year ago, it's not that hard to make an ordinary or a "bad" photo look nice - just go through the available Instagram filters, make adjustments such as tilt-shift blurring, add a comment, and publish!

While I do like the nice vintage and lomo effect from the filters, it's too easy to go overboard with them. As most people know, the Instagram filters are ones that echo the looks of lomography, vintage, and Polaroid photos. There's the blue/purple tint in the shadows, slight over-exposure in highlight areas, high contrast, yellow tinting, overlay effect, etc. Unlike film photography where these properties are subtle because from the film chemicals, Instagram users don't have control over the opacity of the filter. The filter is the same for every photo, so it might be perfect for one photo but looks award in the next. Because this is like a "one size fits all", most filtered photos are over tinted, and all I end up focusing on are the exaggerated colors, not the subject.

For example, I think this is too much! I love their composition, but the filter became an overkill and wasn't necessary.

But everyone I know loves this simple app. Professional photographers, fashion editors, my classmates, normal people, my favorite bloggers...everyone. It's so much more convenient to document your life with your phone's camera than an actual camera. But then that leads me to another point - why do people want to show the world everything they take with Instagram? More bragging rights about the amazing lobster you ate last night? (like you didn't already tell everyone on your Twitter, Facebook, and/or Tumblr....) And I wonder why everyone in the fashion industry is obsessed over it. Which leads me to another point - I'm not sure if it's because of Instagram or the growing trend with people using film cameras (mainly in Asia), but I've been noticing more fashion editorials are edited with the high contrast, purple tinted Instagram and film photos are known for. I wouldn't be surprised if it was because of Instagram because it has become an important part in fashion.

Adele's Vogue October feature is the perfect example. Whoever edited the photos thought it would be cool to do a high contrast and dark blue purple for the shadows (aka setting the purple layer in Photoshop to "multiply") while setting another purple layer on low opacity so it gives the slightest hint of purple over the entire photo. It does give a more...glamorous feel, but Adele is naturally beautiful. There's no need to over-Photoshop!

Same with JLo, even though her photo edits aren't as noticeable.

And this last photo of model Tara Lynn in UK Glamour magazine October 2010.

lol I think I should become a professional retoucher for Vogue show them that all that altering of colors speaks lies to the readers.

Back in the old days, our parents took photos with film cameras. It was an "innocent" era - every snapshot was forever captured on the film strip. Now we have the freedom of deleting all the bad pics. Blurry picture? Delete. Someone blinked? Delete. Don't like your smile? Delete. No matter what people say about Instagram, it just makes photos look anachronistic. Get a real camera (film), and your photos will actually seem nostalgic.

The good thing about Instagram is that if you say that you fail at taking pictures, this app will make them look cool. However, it becomes a shortcut to learning photography. It's one thing if Instagram helps you improve & better understand photo composition, lighting, perspective, and color and appreciation for photography, but it's a whole 'nother story when you switch to an actual camera. Too many people instantly feel like they're photographers or iPhoneographers after taking mediocre pics with their iPhone and slapping on a filter... If everyone would just take some time to learn about all the different functions of their point-and-shoot camera, they'd be able to take beautiful photos without their iPhone. I've actually had to teach people how to use different useful functons that they never knew existed on their camera before. And I've never used any of those cameras before =.=''

Just for the record, I do like the nostalgic look and feeling of old photographs. I like to aim for that effect when I edit my photos, but I always try to keep it to a minimum. I also like using a photo app, but I use Pudding Camera. The app has different cameras to take pictures with, like fisheye, panoramic, and triplex and comes with great filter effects that are subtle.


I want to do a post on fashion retouching and Photoshopping sometime. It's quite the controversial topic that people in general hate but don't realize how it has effected our perception of beauty.

You Might Also Like


  1. Yeah some of the recent magazine covers are highly photoshop-ed and looked unreal. Especially that first one of Adele there. I remember Lucky had Jessica Alba on their cover when she was pregnant and they made her look super skinny lol.

    Yeah sometimes when I want the Instagram effects, I actually use the photos I took on my camera since my iPod camera is pretty much terrible especially in non-natural lightings. Also, iPhone photography pretty much doesn't show fakest colors. So it's always end up like, you see the forms of things but the color is completely wrong because of the high contrast and tinting thing.