The problem with Instagram

Some time ago I opened an account on Instagram, I didn’t post a lot there mainly because I the camera on my iPod wasn’t that good and very few connections (followers and people or corporate accounts I would like to follow). Lately I got an iPhone with a better camera, which meant that I had the means and increased opportunities to post photos on the go.

As Instagram gather traction and my connections grew, so the interactions and incentive for me to post grew. One of the features I really liked of Instagram was the possibility to post images directly to Twitter and Flickr, as the main connections I wanted to “share” my content were in those networks.

But then Instagram was acquired by Facebook, which meant that Facebook “friction-less” sharing model will apply to it, but more important, that Instagram would need to justify its acquisition value.

After the infamous change of Terms of service, that was somehow modified subsequently, it was clear that Instagram intends to use its users and their content for commercial purposes. This issue deserves to be discussed separately but for me it meant that now I’d have to watermark images I’d like to upload to Instagram. Seeing this need to clearly identify the copyright of image authors, an app was developed. I use Marksta for this.

Then come the problem of the square Instagram format, which might have been appealing at the beginning of the Polaroid nostalgia trend but can only go to far. And though at the beginning of photography most images were shoot in cameras using square format (film or plates), once developed photos were usually cropped in more aesthetic landscape or portrait formats. Instagram forced you to go the other way around, first you shoot your photo most of the time you compose your image with a device that has a screen/viewer with a landscape format that can be shifted to portrait. Then, if you want to upload to Instagram, you have to crop your image into square format which distorts the composition you were trying to achieve. Granted most of the images uploaded to Instagram don’t have that much of a deliberate composition, but still.

But when there’s a need, there’s an app. There’s an app called NoCrop that will add enough white space around your photo, whatever the ratio, to make it square. So there, you only have to use three apps so far – The photo one to take, do a very basic retouching of your photo and crop it according to the composition you want to enhance. Then you add some white space to make it square. then you add your watermark, then you open it on Instagram, where you might decide to add a filter for good form. And then you can finally publish the damn photo! Talk about convenience!

I wouldn’t mind the cumbersome process as long as it was about getting the images I wanted, in the format I wanted, posted to and shared with the networks I wanted. Until Instagram decided to tell all my Facebook friends were to find me and to start following me which really annoys me because if I have wanted to “share” any images posted on Instagram with my Facebook contacts, I would have posted them to Facebook directly.

At the end of the day is a matter of cost/benefit. People might argue that the benefit derived from sharing images on Instagram comes at no cost for the user, when as matter of fact, I’m providing Instagram, and Facebook, with content and connections. Ultimately Instagram and Facebook will have the right to push advertising to me (the user) and my “friends” (connections) using my information to companies to target advertising and even using my photos to sell to other content providers or to be used for advertising. And as for benefit, the only benefit I would personally gather would be the odd like here and there.

I prefer to save me the trouble and continue posting my images on Flickr. I pay them a fee, I upload what I want in the format I want, I share it with whoever I want and from time to time I get the odd fave. Everybody wins, isn’t it? 😉

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