We’re analogue people. We both agree that if we had to choose one single camera to use forever, it would be something from the analogue section. Due to the cost of processing, however, we generally stick to our digital SLRs. Our phone cameras only get outings on very rare occasions - our albums contain little other than quick snaps of recipes from magazines, artist information to look up later, photos of that time someone parked a kayak in the bike shed.
Lately, though, we feel we’ve been missing a trick. Many times, we’ve seen a beautiful photograph and been shocked to discover it’s taken with an iPhone. There’s no question that the technology is only going to keep getting better, and we need to keep up. So we set ourselves a challenge: we would Instagram 5 times every day for a month. And in the process, we would learn to love it.
After 30 days and 150 photos, we called an end to our experiment. We’d managed it! Here are some things we learned along the way:
1. Five photos a day is a lot. We’re both daily photo bloggers (we post one every day at blipfoto.com) - if you combined all of our days, you’d have nearly 8 years worth of photos. But it was a big leap going from one to five. On busy days, when we were exploring Brighton or London, five seemed an annoyingly small number when there was so much to pick from. On quiet days, when it was grey and rainy and we worked all day and got home in the dark, it was much much harder.
2. Due to the layout of Instagram, we felt the curation of images became an important factor. It sounds awfully fussy, but we wanted our profile to look balanced. Therefore, it wasn’t just the challenge of taking five photos a day, but making sure we didn’t duplicate subject matter, or colour, and uploading images in an order that would ensure they looked best alongside each other.
3. All those conceptions people have of Instagram? About boring photos of Starbucks mugs with a gazillion tacky filters applied? We had all of those conceptions too. But as much as we tried to stay away from the classic subject matter, it wasn’t easy. In this country, blue sky is super exciting when it decides to appear, and coffee is actually pretty photogenic. But there are some incredible photographers using Instagram as a tool - check out jn for example, whose street shots of Berlin, one of our absolute fave cities, are beyond awesome.
4. As for the filters? Well, yes, we used them. But we generally stuck to just one - Valencia - which slightly flattens the contrast, and adds subtle grey-brown tones. We’re pretty anti-fake-vignette, and it produces images that look similar to how we’d process them ourselves on Photoshop. We did try the tilt-shift option too, but just the once and on a shot of London from up high, to make proper use of the miniature effect. Weirdly, for people who love shooting black and white film as much as we do, we found ourselves drawn to almost exclusively bright colours. Odd.
5. There were some features we felt it could do with. One of our absolutely unforgivable hatreds in photos: when the horizon/verticals aren’t straight. A straightening function with the rotate would be fab. For this, and other little tweaks, we used Snapseed, an amazing (free!) editing app from Google. Ignore the few tacky filters, and it’s an incredibly useful tool. We particularly like the ability to adjust certain areas of an image - its intuitive selection means if you want to brighten the sky, it will only brighten the sky.
Above all else, we’re very glad we tried this. All those “if only I had my camera!” moments are a thing of the past. Instagram is more than filters - we’ve got a constantly refreshing stream of inspiration in our pocket. I think it’s safe to say we’re hooked.