Instagram: is it improving our photography?

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[Writer and photographer: Silvia Sani]

Currently, Instagram is one of the most-used applications. Its purpose is rooted in letting people share moments in their life through pictures: a photo with friends on a night out, a beautiful sunset, the university viewed from the library (I have done that), an image of summer holidays in a sunny country, and so on. When scrolling down on Instagram, all one sees is memories of other people’s lives.

The thing about Instagram is that everyone can be a photographer. The platform is the most accessible of its time, and I speak as a former user of Flickr. Flickr was photography-based too, but a large percentage of its users tended to be professional photographers and if you had just started that hobby, it could be a little bit intimidating to show your amateur work next to that of a fashion photographer working full-time in Paris.

Instagram, on the other hand, was born as something whose aim was to share – and not necessarily to prove you could take beautiful, well-composed, and carefully edited pictures. However, as for many things in the world, the more you do it (in this case the more you take photos), the better you will become at it. Basically, you will train your eye to pictures: to a good composition, or to the best light. You will start noticing details that maybe, before regularly taking pictures, you wouldn’t have. Because, in effect, that plant next to the coffee mug against that window covered in raindrops in your favourite café does form a nice composition for a photo.

However, despite somehow honing our photography skills, Instagram, as with most other social media platforms, has the tendency to only have beautiful pictures. That is, not image quality wise, but in terms of content. If you open your Instagram right now, you will see 90% of the photos showing happy faces, beautiful places, or just overall good memories. Which is obvious. Who wants to share a bad day? Who wants to publish an image that represents their terrible stress-induced mood, or an argument with someone, or any other reason that may cause their day to go wrong? It is way more likely that one wants to share the gorgeous blue sky from a weekend away in Spain (I have done that too).

That said, Instagram might improve your photography, and your trained eye will see things differently now. But, since its aim is to show other people friends and acquaintances, usually bits and pieces of your life, users can often tend to exaggerate this beauty. Since the sharing era started with the social media, there is the general feeling that you sort of have to prove to people that you are having as good a time as they are. That your life is as interesting as theirs, that you do as many things, take part in as many events and activities, go out as much.

For this reason, one might just show a small detail of a big room, because it is the prettiest, artsiest, or coolest one, although it does not represent the whole thing.  In the same way, one could choose the best angle to take a picture of a particular street, because it is not that pretty as a whole, to be honest, and would not show enough beauty in one’s everyday life.

Nonetheless, by doing that, Instagram users put an effort in taking the photo, thinking it through, composing it in a way that fulfils their purpose and the image they have in their minds. Instagram is like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat in the way it prompts people to share (be it images or text) and, by doing so, its users will probably learn more about photography than through any other platform. Each photo they post is, in fact, part of their practice, and even though they might not be aware, they will only naturally get better at it.



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