When Instagram first launched in October 2010, it started with a photo of one of the founders’ dog. Photos like this continued to be the norm for a while.. Sunsets, sunrises, foggy mornings.. It’s actually fun to go back and look at some of the big “cultures” that developed on Instagram… You have the food posters, gym goers, selfie fanatics, car people, animals, etc… But overall, what was awesome, was that users could capture photos that weren’t doctored (beyond the filters that became so popular), they showed the real mood, the real moment, the real struggle of camera phone limitations.
Even though the quality of camera phones has increased dramatically in those 5 years, there has recently an increasingly large amount of photos that weren’t taken on a cell phone.. Don’t try to tell me that incredible milky way shot came from your iPhone 4… Rather, many users have resorted to posting photos that have been on their DSLR’s, then edited in professional editing software, then published to Instagram. Oh, and now we have inanimate objects with profiles (Pusheen Cat for example)… And we have arrived at the point of my ramblings here. Is this evolution good for Instagram? What will come next?
What’s the point?
I must admit up front, before someone goes and sees, that I myself have used IG for this purpose. I’ve taken pictures from my DSLR or videos from my pro level cameras and posted them… Why?? To wow users with the quality, get them thinking I am an incredible photographer and get the follow. I could use Flickr.. I could use 500px.. I could use Fine Art America… And those platforms still have their place, which I will discuss again in a bit… But why not present myself to the incredible following of Instagram (300+M users).
What is the value of a like/follow on IG?
With Facebook and Twitter, a successful, targeted post, with a mass amount of followers can lead to a sale, virality, new customers, news appearance, etc. They can offer a decent business use case, or some personal benefit. These platforms exploit a users reach to spread information. But what does Instagram offer? I can’t put a clickable link into a photo caption. That renders it pretty lame for trying to sell photos. Will a well tagged photo catch the eyes of a local business? It doesn’t seem highly likely.. At least less likely than a good photographer marketing through their photo website, or other major platform. Will a well tagged photo go “viral”? What even is viral in Instagram? Just a ton of likes? That doesn’t seem as cool to me as that content actually being shared and rebroadcast like a share or re tweet.
Where does Instagram go from here?
That’s an interesting question… I really don’t see Instagram becoming a place where you (as a professional photographer) go to show off a ton of amazing work. I don’t think you go to IG to sell. I don’t think you put a ton of links in your bio and get a lot of clicks. If you want to feel warm and fuzzy and get some likes, sure… But the best photos are going to be on platforms where people can see your photos much larger, interact, purchase, share easier, etc. Sure, you will get some who Google you after seeing your profile, but… I think Instagram will at some point grow back into its grass roots… Users sharing photos of places and things around them. I feel Instagram will become more about places and things, than these incredible landscapes that you see more and more frequently today. I think Instagram needs to build a better platform for sharing, more ability to link to content elsewhere. Maybe IG begins to embrace this trend and builds a selling platform.. Maybe they build a network for these professional, edited photos.. I feel photo sharing platforms like those mentioned above will continue to do okay, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other platforms sprout up and encourage a more social component and easier purchasing experience at some point. Long story short, IG is a huge platform with a massive user base.. They face some challenges, and need to be smart about how they approach everything.