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Is Instagram 'debasing photography'?

By dpreview staff on Jul 19, 2012 at 19:41 GMT

Mobile apps like Instagram are 'debasing real photography'. That's according to writer and broadcaster Kate Bevan, in an opinion article on British newspaper The Guardian's website. In the article, Bevan argues that filter effect apps like Instagram, 'spoil pictures - they get in the way of the image and they distort the story the picture is telling'.

Calling these filter effects 'the antithesis of creativity', Bevan claims that 'by adding a faux-aged look to [a picture], we in effect add a history, a longevity to the image that it intrinsically doesn't have'. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

A genuinely old photograph or a modern snapshot with a 'retro' filter applied? Can you tell?
(Picture: Kate Bevan)

(From The Guardian)

Comments

Total comments: 291
1234
MP Burke
By MP Burke (Jul 20, 2012)

The problem with Instragram and all these other effects is that they have a tendency to become endemic. When I see lots of photographs being given the same treatment, it leads me to think that effects are being used by default, rather than as a thoughtful response to the subject.
My main concern is that these effects seem to influencing the directors of TV programmes. Recently the BBC showed a science documentary on what was called "global weirding" i.e. the apparent increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.
Much of the programme was shot with a filter effect that rendered everything except the centre of the frame out of focus. This seemed to be the director's way of reminding everyone that the programme was about something "weird".
I often get the impression that film makers are bored with the subject matter and think they must be constantly doing things with the images to stop viewers falling asleep.

6 upvotes
Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Jul 20, 2012)

Just like "shaky cam".
When used skillfully in right amount and situation it can give lots of atmosphere and feel, like in opening of Saving Private Ryan. (or whole film's use of desaturated colours)
But when used automatically just for the sake of effect without any slightest control and thought it causes only nausea.

2 upvotes
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Jul 20, 2012)

Yeah, when everyone uses the effect, then it looses it's effect. We used to call this the Spiratone complex. Spiratone was a company on West 31st St in NYC. They sold all kinds of colored and special effect filters. Photographers often used this to spice up an otherwise blah photo. Of course initially it was interesting. And many photographers would make a stop at the Spiratone bar on their way to learning to avoid gimmicks. So it was a rite of passage. Today, people spice up photos with Instagram and other digital actions. Sometimes commercials use a tinkle filter -- aptly named because the warming effect looks like the images were dipped in tinkle. And at one point soft focus and blown out highlights were all the rage. Now we have Hipsterism which begat Instagramism. The next ism is just around the corner. You can shoot it with a lens baby.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Ionian
By Ionian (Jul 23, 2012)

Wow - I haven't heard of Spiratone in ages! I used to hit up the one in Flushing right by Northern blvd, just past main by Prince street.

0 upvotes
Sarge_
By Sarge_ (Jul 20, 2012)

Instagram allows people to further characterize photos to reflect the experience the user had in that moment. Filters add 'color' to a scene to better convey the spirit and emotion of the moment. Some people are better at the application of Instagram than others, but to say that it's "destroying photography" is just drama-queen being drama-queen.

9 upvotes
chakari
By chakari (Jul 20, 2012)

It's all about freedom!

Where is the "Book of Rules"? Who wrote it and when?

If photography is being destroyed, it's by a pretty relentless tide, now accelerating at an unknown speed.

Those that create may use any tool ... those that play may play with any toy.

Anyway, how are the nay-sayers going to turn things around for us? They can only writhe and moan!

We are free!

1 upvote
Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Jul 20, 2012)

Snapshots have been always around and I accept that like snapshot's ability to be some times really great in every aspect.
But pushing button with fashionable image auto destruction settings and pretending that's skillfull photography instead of snapshot is too thick.

Also main goal seems just to make images look older technically or something else not content improving.
Sure one of the rules of photography is that they can be broken and like wise for the goal of image quality.
But to work those all need consideration and proper use in those right situations instead of automatic spamming.

In more than one way this reminds situation in some countries when schools don't get enough students to score well in exams situation is quick fixed by lowering the bar instead of everyone acknowledging the situation and that there's work to be done.

2 upvotes
VadymA
By VadymA (Jul 20, 2012)

I've never used Instagram and can only judge by a few samples I've seen in various articles including this one. But I wouldn't call it "debasing photography".
I see at least two positives in apps like Instagram. First, those filters are for Fun, not for Art. Nothing wrong with people having fun IMO. And second, it forces real artists to become more creative in order to differentiate themselves from the masses. This may lead to groundbreaking innovations in the art of photography (which later will be copied by Instagram creating new innovation cycle). So it's a win-win for all types of photography IMO.

2 upvotes
tosvus
By tosvus (Jul 20, 2012)

I don't have anything against Instagram in general, and agree in some cases it is a great way to convey a deeper message, but on facebook now, everyone uses these filters, and in many cases it is clear it has nothing to do with conveying a message.

3 upvotes
jwil6902
By jwil6902 (Jul 20, 2012)

35mm killed 120. Digital killed 35. Mobile will kill the P&S/basic DSLR. Get used to it, it's called progress and we are powerless against it's relentless march into the future.

4 upvotes
Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Jul 20, 2012)

So why does that progress to future so often look just like going backwards?
Despite of all of the advertising for example camera markets haven't progressed much anywhere with the mirrorless being stuck in basic compact with lens mount and analog mechanical era retro.

Maybe because this rebadged Soviet Union 10km away had lots of hype about all kind of progress to cover one big scam making me inoculated against marketing BS...

4 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

If mobile phone photography is progress, especially vs a DSLR, then I'm Mickey Mouse.

See, the problem here is, people in art sometimes don't understand the need for standards & respect of boundaries. They matter you know--if not in art, then in many other things. To wit: your mis-usage of "it's." That mis-uage is a common one, but it's still wrong. (By contrast, the way I used it's there was correct.) You can argue all day long that you don't think the standard is right, but the standard remains. "The dogged wagged it's tail"--WRONG. "The dog wagged its tail"--CORRECT. That is FACT, it's not up for what you THINK, it is FACT.

I say this because, well, I think sometimes many of you take the "it's open to interpretation" thing too far. I mean, why don't I just take a photo of some cow manure with a empty bottle of beer laying around it, throw it way out of focus, and call that "art?" Gee freaking whiz.

3 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

Maybe you are Goofy? But, really, are you the grammar police, paralegal or lawyer?

And, if you do the cow manure study you end up with a sh*ty image.

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

Goofy is fine by me. No I'm not the grammar police, but so what if I am? If a word is misspelled, it just is. It may be beside the point--but then, maybe it IS the point. It seems standards don't apply anymore, there are no boundaries. I say there SHOULD be boundaries--maybe it's not up to me to decide what those boundaries are, but there SHOULD be boundaries. If you disagree, try "thinking outside the box" by driving on the wrong side of the road & see where that gets you.

0 upvotes
Maurizio Mancioli
By Maurizio Mancioli (Jul 20, 2012)

If photography is viewed as art, the way you "get there" doesn't matter. It is the power of the work itself that will. Its capacity of "taking you places", of instigating you.
With the growing amount of available tools (Photoshop, Instagram), so grew possible "shortcuts" to reach interesting results is there. But in the wrong hands, all these possibilities will only be a tiring excess of effects.

2 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

true, but, even without these tools there are plenty of boring photos out there, and have been since the beginning. Deciding who has "...the wrong hands" is totally off base, particuarly when we are talking about artistic freedom. You don't have to like something; that doesn't dimish its value.

1 upvote
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

The thing is, though, to me, once you reach a certain level of ability, why would you dumb it down by going the iPhone Photography route? That's just silly. Good grief, at least get a micro 4/3rds if size & portability is an issue. I don't see chefs using a microwave for heating up Chef-Boy-Ardee & claiming that as "real food." If that is "snobbery" as other people have said, so be it--maybe some snobbery is GOOD.

2 upvotes
Maurizio Mancioli
By Maurizio Mancioli (Jul 24, 2012)

Again, I don't think it matters. Unless you are a commercial, documentary or journalistic photographer, the type of camera, or sharpness is not necessarily an issue. As an artist, I have shown photos in exhibitions shot both DSLR and phone cameras. Phones sometimes are great, because it's the only camera you have with you... and you'll have to squeeze the max in terms of composition and poetics out of it.
I would say that in fact, once you reach o certain ability, you can get incredibly artisitic pictures with ANY camera. Search for a friend of mine, Bico Stupacoff. He's a professional photographer who shoots for all the main magazines (Vogue, Playboy) only with an iPhone.

1 upvote
xpatUSA
By xpatUSA (Jul 20, 2012)

Standing joke in our household is wishing for an "accent filter" in the TV so that harsh Noo Yoik, Awstriylian, Sout Efrikan, etc accents would be converted into a nice, soft Southern drawl before coming out of the speakers . . .

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Jul 20, 2012)

I'm a practitioner of real photography. At least that's what I call it. I eschew gimmicks, fancy lighting, Kubota, Fong, and of course Instagramization. I shoot with film and process it myself. I want to be more involved. I want craft. Otherwise where's the heart? As an analogy, cooking with a microwave is one way to prepare a meal, but it's not as satisfying for the cook or the eater as traditional methods. The sense of self-accomplishment is vastly weaker. When it comes to photography or cooking, I put my photos where my mouth is. My work is at danwagnerphotography.com and it's real. This IS photography.

Comment edited 38 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

Okay, Dan, you put yourself out there and I respect that. I looked at your photography and it is good, in fact, some shots are excellent. Cool for you and your approach that satisfies your sense of accomplishment. Why not allow others to pursue photography on their own terms without laying your judgement on them? You come off an self proclaimed elitist and sole arbiter of what is 'real' photography. You aren't Ansel Adams and you are largely unknown, just like millions of other people. What have you done to impact photography of the world? Looks like you have set about to replicate the shooting style of many who have come before you. Is that what makes it real...because you have done a good job at imitating the better known photographers?

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Jul 20, 2012)

Thanks John. I stopped reading after "Okay, Dan, you put yourself out there and I respect that. I looked at your photography and it is good, in fact, some shots are excellent." :)

My power, formidable though it may be doesn't include the ability to not allow others to pursue photography on their own terms. However, I don't think Instagram and the like are photography.

I'm not Ansel Adams. And while I respect his technique and like him as a man, I have never liked his photos. They don't have heart.

Being known or unknown has zero relevancy to whether or not a photo is real.

When my father would meet a celebrity he would say, "Where do you know me from?" So I say to you, the fact that my work reminds you of other greats older than I is but an accident of birth (they're older). Oh okay, I read past your first two sentences, which were quite understated by the way.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

See, I agree with Dan Wagner completely. To add my bits, when jdrx2012 asked about "laying judgment on them," gee whiz, what good is anything in life without SOME sense of standards? I mean, if I took a photo of a box of cow manure and called that art, are you "laying judgment" on me to suggest that such a photo maybe isn't one particularly of any artistic merit?

I get that art typically isn't as linear as 2+5=7 (although sometimes I wish it were in some ways) that art is open to a lot of interpretation & so forth--after all, Dan Wagner stated he didn't care for Ansel Adams' work, while of course he's very famous & highly regarded for his landscapes. I love John Mellencamp's work & he is in the Hall of Fame after all, but others don't like him--no problem.

Even so--come on, since when did it become the idea that we are not allowed to judge ANYTHING at ALL? No thanks to that notion.

1 upvote
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Jul 20, 2012)

Thanks Larry. I too love John Mellencamp -- the early 1982 stuff the best.

Speaking of photos with a retro look, please check out my latest collection -- all images less than 2 months old: http://danwagner.see.me/onelife2012#.UAmf74WJHgg.tumblr

1 upvote
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

It is fine that you and those who share your opinion do what you do, kind of like being the Bob Costas of the photo world, you know, purists of the game that resist change. No harm in that. Maybe that is true photography when compared to those who dabble or immerse themselves in applying new tech and techniques as part of digital artistry. I like the former but prefer the latter.-even as some want to take a big dump on it.

1 upvote
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

By larrytusaz (4 hours ago)

"See, I agree with Dan Wagner completely. To add my bits, when jdrx2012 asked about "laying judgment on them," gee whiz, what good is anything in life without SOME sense of standards? "

Yo, Larry, address me directly instead of being a bandwagoner by hopping aboard the Dan bus. By the way, judge all you want, at least back it up like Dan does.

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
1 upvote
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Jul 20, 2012)

So basically what you are saying is that you allow the specific film and chemicals you choose to set the look of the image, like picking specific settings in Instagram or Hipstamatic. (Remember, there is not one single Instagram look.) Got it.

There really is no way out of your argument. You can let your (film) tools dictate the look with minimal intervention, like Instagram; or you can take total control of your film and chemical processing, like Ansel Adams or raw digital-to-Photoshop processing, or pick a reasonable point between surrendering to your tools and taking total control over the vision and execution.

Basically your "real photography" is no more or less real than what anyone else is doing, when you see the big picture.

P.S. I don't like Instagram.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

I like it that Dan backs it up, but then, one doesn't need to. On the PRINCIPAL of it it's what I feel. I don't have to be a chef to state my opinion that real chefs don't cook Chef-Boyardee in a can or microwave Stouffer's lasagna from a pre-packaged box--same goes here. There is no "Dan bandwagon," I'm stating my very strongly-held opinion.

1 upvote
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Jul 21, 2012)

I backed it up with a glimpse at my B game. Jdrx2012 and Graybalanced can't handle my A game. If would blow their minds. Here's a peak at the bottom of my A game: http://danwagner.see.me/onelife2012#.UAmf74WJHgg.tumblr This is today's lesson.

I do use vintage cameras, film, and do my own processing. However I've seen thousands of examples of others using the same ingredients and producing nothing. It's taken me 43 years (since 69) to get really good. And this past year I finally got to a good starting point. By declaring it, it forces me to work harder and back it up. I'm deliberately putting the pressure on myself and asking others to hold my feet to the fire.

And I do believe, quite strongly, that taking short cuts and having less involvement in the process (which is what digital has wrought, and what Instagram stands for), has removed value to one's legacy, not added to it.

Please hit the like button, join my bandwagon at http://danwagner.see.me/onelife2012#.UAmf74WJHgg.tumblr

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

Thank you Kate Bevan. Are you available? (Ha ha.)

I would go further & say "iPhone Photography" etc is most definitely debasing photography. I'm sorry, but if you have access to a Nikon D5100 or D3s etc, what in the WORLD are you doing practicing "photography" with a stinking camera phone? You expect me to take you seriously as a photographer when you're lazy enough to use a camera phone rather than a REAL camera? At least use something like a m4/3rds, something like an Olympus E-PM1 is VERY small but absolutely embarrasses any camera phone photo, & it's hardly the most up-to-date model (like a Sony NEX-C3 etc--imagine what THEY will do).

If you're just taking "fun snaps" of everyday goofy stuff without the pressure to get something "artistic" (heck we all do that), sure, by all means. But using a camera phone ON PURPOSE as a "photography" tool? Puh-leaze. If I were a chef, I sure as heck wouldn't claim Chef-Boy-Ardee was "real food." It's mediocrity in a can.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
RMillward
By RMillward (Jul 20, 2012)

Basing your perception of a photo's "value" on the means used to create it is inherently stupid. To play out the cooking metaphor, you are the equivalent of those morons who go to Williams-Sonoma, spend $1,000 on a box set of All-Clad pans and another $1,000 on a dozen Global stainless knives - the purpose of which you do not understand. That doesn't make you a "chef," anymore than buying a Canon 5DIII makes you a "photographer." A real chef could, in fact, create a dish using a can of Chef Boyardee and a microwave. It's obvious from your comments you couldn't take a real photograph if Ansel Adams held the camera for you.

1 upvote
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

Obviously owning fancy cookware doesn't MAKE you a chef, but I would imagine someone who IS a real chef or aspires to be realizes that plopping a can of Chef-Boyardee in a pot or shoving Stouffer's lasagna in the microwave is NOT what a chef would aspire to. The same people who don't respect SOME sort of boundaries in this realm are the same nut+jobs who would probably argue that 2 goats living together on a farm is a legally-binding marriage.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
26081989
By 26081989 (Jul 20, 2012)

There is so much sense going on in here. I love the fact that almost everybody disagrees with her (just like I do). To me she sounds like a regular art-elitist.

I do not get how miss Bevan defines "real photography". Isn't photography simply "light captured on a 2D plane" in every possible way (be it processed/enhanced/retouched in any way or not)?

0 upvotes
tosvus
By tosvus (Jul 20, 2012)

I think cellphones and instagram can be wonderful tools for art, or documenting events etc, but I think sometimes these tools get overused. At some point it gets annoying, similar to all my friends feeling the urge to post every stupid food-dish they are about to eat.

0 upvotes
JohnFredC
By JohnFredC (Jul 20, 2012)

The irony of this debate is that we have all been conditioned to accept bokeh as "artistic" in a positive way, but bokeh as an "effect" is simply a property that emerges from the physical limitations of optics and lens design. Why is it that bokeh (which makes for unrealistic photos) is somehow good, but, for instance, a sepia filter (which makes for unrealistic photos) is bad?

It seems to me that any image necessarily stands on its own merit, and that an aesthetic which values the process that created it over the image itself borders on fetishism.

This isn't wet-plate photography, folks. It's digital imagery.

2 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Jul 20, 2012)

The image Kate Bevan did is either old or it is quite cleverly made so. If it is made old - then it is creative. Not because of the one click retro filter - but because the guy and kid looks old - the clothes, glasses, furniture, everything has an old look.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Jul 20, 2012)

Interesting discussion :) Looks like two sluggers in the ring jabbing at each other - left - right - left - right. Both just hitting - no one listening.

Yes - something you can choose from a menu and then just click might actually enhance something - or not. But - it is rather strange to call it creative. Its just as creative as buying a nice shirt. Those that designed the shirt (or the tool) have made a creative job, but me buying/clicking does an itsy/tiny bit of creative choice. And if it is customary to almost always do the choice, creativity is no more.

And - tomorrow is yet another day - no matter how bad it looks today.

1 upvote
SunnyFlorida
By SunnyFlorida (Jul 20, 2012)

I think websites like DPreview are debasing photography more than instagram

3 upvotes
MarceloSalup
By MarceloSalup (Jul 20, 2012)

What is "real" photography anyway?

1. When they switched from plates to film... was plates real or film?
2. When they switched to digital... was film real or what?
3. Was Polaroid... which wasn't really film OR plates... real? Or not?

So now it's digital vs digital?

Seems like a bunch of whiners to me. Sorry, but it is a completely irrelevant and idiotic discussion. In art, the moment you discuss whether something is "real" it is dead

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
PeterK70
By PeterK70 (Jul 20, 2012)

I completely agree with these guys at The Guardian. I don’t remember if I would ever like a photo that is demolished by this type of applications.

2 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

maybe such strong feelings come from a place that doesn't recognize that many prefer to interpret what they see.

1 upvote
tosvus
By tosvus (Jul 20, 2012)

jdrx2012, but at the same time, many people use these filters simply because they think it is "cool". They are not trying to convey anything.

0 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (Jul 20, 2012)

Mobile phone pics are low in dynamic range. Modern snaps with perfect repro (unlike vintage photos) are soulless.

These filters mask the issues with modern pics while lending soul/atmosphere.

Bevan may prefer the real thing with a real soul, but instagram is still improving on the consumer snap.

1 upvote
Dave Oddie
By Dave Oddie (Jul 20, 2012)

The best point she makes is this in my opinion:

"But for me, the Instagram/Hipstamatic/Snapseed etc filters are the antithesis of creativity. They make all pictures look the same. They require no thought or creative input: one click and you're done."

Everybody applying the same small set of filters as a matter of course will soon mean the end result is no longer viewed as improving the consumer snap.

5 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (Jul 20, 2012)

"Everybody applying the same small set of filters as a matter of course will soon mean the end result is no longer viewed as improving the consumer snap."

hmm, I'm not so sure. They'll be samey but I think they are still an improvement on a plain snap.

0 upvotes
peacefrog33756
By peacefrog33756 (Jul 22, 2012)

Photography is a process and like every other process it involves change...for better or worse.

0 upvotes
jeangenie
By jeangenie (Jul 20, 2012)

This debate is uneccessary. It only happens because people think Instagram is a creative tool. It is not. You see more-or-less the same filters used every time, because 'old' is in right now - fashion, music, everything. The only reason that the above photo could even be an Instagram photo is because the same people that use Instagram would wear those glasses and buy old-looking furniture.

We need to accept that since pretty much everyone owns a camera these days, that photography will be affected by the same fads as everything else.

The use of filters cannot kill photography. If it could, photography would have died several years ago, when all the DeviantArt kids filtered the heck out of their photos - and that was way more garish.

3 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

Debate won't be halted by proclaimations that it is unnecessary. Nor or declarations asserting Instagram isn't a creative tool change the fact that it is, maybe not for you, but you are in the minority. Your opinion doesn't make you somehow better in any way as a 'photographer', it just shows that you are different.

1 upvote
Aputra
By Aputra (Jul 20, 2012)

Look at the bright side, it can't make photo like a 50mm f1.4 can.

Taking pics using instagram, post it and getting 10 likes for it doesn't make u a good photographer. Instagram doesn't turn someone into a professional photographer.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

So that's what's going on here; fear of the Instagramers being more liked than those who don't use it? Moreover, concern that the equipment that non-Instagramers use could be rendered useless by Instagramers?
I have sometimes settled for a lower class of camera/lens simply for the fact that I needn't a tack sharp image to work with when my endgoal involved applying various processing techniques/filters to it. This could be the divide; photographers vs digital artists.

2 upvotes
heartattackandvine
By heartattackandvine (Jul 21, 2012)

The funny thing is that some Instagrammers are serious photographers with decent technical ability. They use Leicas, Nikons and Canons with expensive glass to create their photos (technically very accomplished) that they then import into their smartphones and process in Instagram. I believe that they are doing this in order to gain additional audience for their work, it's a method of self-promotion.

Instagram is not so much a photographic tool as much as it is social media. Most active Instagrammers appear to be of the younger generation and they simply "hang out" on Instagram. There is no need to confuse that with the actual art of photography.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
patrick c tom
By patrick c tom (Jul 21, 2012)

Say what you will like all art...the creme will come to the top...how long that takes is unbeknownst to me

0 upvotes
wildbild
By wildbild (Jul 20, 2012)

early photographers wanted their photos to look like paintings.
in the era of color slide film old b&w bromoil processing etc. looked like the more artistic photograph. so what..
if there is a substantial boby of work established (using istagram as an artistic tool) or not will distinguish the artist from the filter using hobbyist.
And if you check out the real photokids of today on flickr you will find them still using film!

0 upvotes
xlynx9
By xlynx9 (Jul 20, 2012)

I think filter effects *can* be overused, or can help convey the mood which doesn't always translate in the photograph. (i.e. adding nostalgic music to a drama film doesn't suggest there's an actual orchestra hiding in the cupboard).

They can also make an otherwise dull picture interesting.

It depends how you use it. This is nothing new.

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (Jul 20, 2012)

instagram and co. is for the facebook and mobile phone crowd.

at least this way their images have SOMETHING special.

but the "fancy factor" will soon becom boring.... like most tilt-shift photos.

1 upvote
Stefan Stuart Fletcher
By Stefan Stuart Fletcher (Jul 20, 2012)

It isn't so much an article as a harrumph and could have been signed "Disgusted, Tonbridge Wells". I imagine the same kind of luddite rant was heard at the invention of colour film.

And here's my disclaimer: I don't like Instagram and almost never use it, but I do have it on my phone.

1 upvote
Michael73
By Michael73 (Jul 20, 2012)

I think the same is true of journalism. Newspapers are full of this kind of mindless chatter, it is debasing "proper" writing.

1 upvote
36hike
By 36hike (Jul 20, 2012)

"Debasing", "the antithesis of creativity"? Get a grip. Snapshots were never considered more than snapshots during the five decades in which I've shot images.

If anything is debasing the power of professional and/or fine arts photography, it is the sheer glut of it. The medium lacks the power it once had, because it is so redundant and omni-present.

1 upvote
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

True, it is totally disgusting that so many people have access to the technology and tools of "professional and/or fine art photography". It is a damn shame, isn't it? How DARE THEY! Let's get the government to send the Army in to put a stop to it!
Conversely, the antithesis of creativity are people who harbor such mindsets. The good news is they are part of a minority.

Lastly, some throw around 'snapshots' as though any image that was/is less than profound should be labled so willy nilly. The only person that could rightfully label an image capture as a snapshot is the person who took it.

2 upvotes
Wilsing
By Wilsing (Jul 20, 2012)

Debasing is a rather strong word.

I have used 'Instagram' and other apps that have such filters.

I am however not kidding myself that there is anything creative about changing something with a few clicks.

Its a fad, it will pass.

I am sure there are users out there who can produce creative work regardless of methods or technics. I am thinking David Hockney and Polaroids.

0 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

A fad often evolves into another. Instagram wasn't spontaneously generated.

1 upvote
mungozan
By mungozan (Jul 20, 2012)

Why would not ordinary people with little skill be allowed to do something creative? I think Instagram is great for sharing moods and bringing more interesting expression into the hands of everybody.

Those kind of effects were never that original, anyway. Almost everything has been done before. I dont think it is debasing anything, quite the opposite.

BTW: That Bevan photograph is genuine old photo, you can tell by the sucky straight-on flash, dust, film grain and general softness. These can of course be aqcuired with Post-prosessing, but they are non-desirable qualities whereas Instagram effects offer something else.

[EDIT] And the fact that it says so in the flickr page. I didn´t notice it until I had posted this message. But my point still remains valid.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (Jul 20, 2012)

applying a premade filter is creative..... since when?

nobody noticed me......

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
heartattackandvine
By heartattackandvine (Jul 21, 2012)

I'm always entertained by the anti-elitists defending the "ordinary" people's right to be, well, clueless and unable to accomplish anything valuable. That is a worse derision of the so-called "ordinary" people then the (presumed) resentment of the ordinary among the elitists and snobs.

0 upvotes
Calvin Chann
By Calvin Chann (Jul 20, 2012)

It depends on what you define "photography" to be.

1 upvote
vladimir vanek
By vladimir vanek (Jul 20, 2012)

We live in a consumer's era. And Instagram and the like are playing the same game. People with no talent stick some filter on a meaningless picture and other people with no sense of art consider these pictures "artistic" and "beautiful" (which would change and come again with a new set of filters). But it's not the problem of Instagram: offer depends on demand. It's the same why people drink sweet sparkling sh** instead of spring water, eat frozen pizza instead of fresh vegetable, etc. Comfort and sometimes even laziness. The only REAL problem is, that true art may be burried under tons (gigabytes) of useless data.

0 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (Jul 20, 2012)

Instagram is about visual sharing, it's not about excellence in photography.

Who said that people have to create art and quality when taking photos? Instagram is a very simple and fun way to share your every day life in a visual way. People use Instagram the way they like it, regardless of what it was meant to be or what all these seasoned photographers claim it should be.

People will do what they like and it will define the Zeitgeist. It created a new wave of taking photos. It's silly to compare and judge it based on what photography used to be or is supposed to be.

It's in no way a competition or replacement to other types of photography.

6 upvotes
ddjerfi
By ddjerfi (Jul 20, 2012)

True, people don't have to create art but the biggest problem with Instragram and especially young photographers who are using it is that they are claiming that they are creating art just because their photos "look" like "art". Someone might think that Insta-photos are creative but I think that it's the opposite because people depend on those apps rather themself.

1 upvote
WhoDoWaz
By WhoDoWaz (Jul 20, 2012)

It may not be "debasing" photographic art, but it is certainly destroying any sense of individuality about images filtered through the process. Once upon a time image processing was about showing your own creative vision of the image by the steps you took. These days with Instagram its about perpetuating something off-the-shelf because you're either too lazy or too stupid to create something unique of your own. Just my opinion, of course.

1 upvote
kff
By kff (Jul 20, 2012)

It is everyone choice, way of expressing, moods ... When we want to hit the nail on the head we would talk about proportion using of effects and about situation on the picture, but perception of it may be different for everyone ... Result is a good interersting picture or someting other ... We can move away from theory and we should perceive only that others try to understand ...

0 upvotes
magnaman61
By magnaman61 (Jul 20, 2012)

I know dozens of professional photographers using Instagram almost daily to post images on social media sites. What does that say?

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

It says they're lazy & I wouldn't hire them to photography my daughter's wedding based solely on the principal of it.

1 upvote
Michael Ma
By Michael Ma (Jul 20, 2012)

However you see it, Instagram is changing the way people view handle photography at this current time. I even see well established photographers use it simply for it's simplicity. Don't be surprised when the next Lightroom gives you the ability to add a semi-transparent texture layers. Right now, it has everything but that. And when it comes out, you will have Instagram to thank for that.

0 upvotes
BHPhotog
By BHPhotog (Jul 20, 2012)

This argument is older than the technology and there is no less, or more, virtue in Instagram than any other digital tool.

The tools don't matter because no digital image is a photograph until it's printed; an image in a camera, or on a computer screen, has esthetic value but that value is separate from, and unique to, that medium. There is no issue of digital software "ruining" photography because digital images, of any kind, are many things but they are not photographs.

Simply, a digital image is data; a printed photograph is an object. A digital image only exists as a transmissive representation; a photo print is reflective, it has dimensionality and substance and once printed, the essential nature of that object cannot be changed.

Each form can represent the other, but they can't be integrated; one is a photograph, the other is not.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
beamstream
By beamstream (Jul 20, 2012)

Creativity can be expressed by all sorts of meens. If Beethoven would have had a Steinway grand piano he would have used it. Photography is never the "pure truth". By simply pointing the camera in a specific direction some aspects of reality get included or excluded for example. The truly artful photographer bends reality to his will. Ansel Adams did so in the Darkroom. Nowadays we can do it on smartphones whith filters.

0 upvotes
Xon_Fedaa
By Xon_Fedaa (Jul 20, 2012)

"Is Instagram 'debasing photography'?"

Is photography 'debasing painting'?

8 upvotes
Martin_PTA
By Martin_PTA (Jul 20, 2012)

I do not agree with Kate Bevan. In my opinion, photography is far more than just a picture telling a story. It can also be required to convey emotion and illustrate artistic expression. Software like Instagram plays an important part in fulfilling this role, and really opens the creative realms much further than the mere technical requirements of framing a shot and getting the lighting correct. When your camera hardware has limited optical capability as is the case with cell phone cameras, I found by using software like Instagram/Vignette/LittleCamera/etc these shortcomings can quite often be creatively exploited. People who think photography is nothing more than producing a "pin sharp" image with expensive equipment may agree with Kate, but I prefer to be more open minded.

1 upvote
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Jul 20, 2012)

hmm, in my opinion, photography is about taking pictures.

...and that's it.

maybe sometimes we just care too much when other people don't do things the way we do or the way we want it done.

5 upvotes
LoganVii
By LoganVii (Jul 20, 2012)

"we can remove the ex-partner from the party shot" With this phrase the whole article just sink to the Nth circle.

0 upvotes
Carnivore99
By Carnivore99 (Jul 20, 2012)

There's more to Instagram than retro filters. It's as creative as you want to make it but like any other photography tool it requires time, effort and talent on the user's part to achieve quality results. As always, just like the Guardian, garbage in = garbage out.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
James7000
By James7000 (Jul 20, 2012)

How utterly laughable. Ever picture has a 'filter' applied to it from the camera, film, and lens used. Even digital images get this initial filter. It's usually very obvious if a photo was taken with a camera phone or a DSLR. There is no 'pure' photograph, none of it is actually real. It's all filters. Instagram acknowledges this and gives you some other filters to play with. And its auto enhance filter does a great job of pulling detail out of the shadows and adding a little punch.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
iMac, therefore iAm
By iMac, therefore iAm (Jul 20, 2012)

Couldn't agree more. In a day and age when people demand the best possible image quality from a camera, they go and run them through an app that makes them look like garbage and then takes credit for taking the picture.

0 upvotes
mayfair_magpie
By mayfair_magpie (Jul 20, 2012)

Typical crap from the guardian, Britain's worst newspaper.

0 upvotes
rkny
By rkny (Jul 20, 2012)

I think Instagram is doing the exact opposite of debasing photography. I think it's championing it. It's widening the appeal of photography and getting people who otherwise may have never discovered photography to think about it as an expressive medium, and to get satisfying results without $5000 worth of equipment and hours spent in a darkroom or fiddling in Photoshop.

Instagram is also getting people to take pictures more creatively, For any given photo, there is often one Instagram filter that suits it best. Which filter looks best is a critical visual decision that the average person has never been faced with, and when they choose the right filter, they get satisfying results. This is because they're unconsciously mimicking the look of photos they've seen before. It's like casually humming along to a tune and discovering you can actually sing pretty well. Instagram can be rewarding, and that reward can fuel the pursuit of better photographic technique. Win win.

10 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jul 20, 2012)

Instagram "champions" photography about as much as Chef-Boy-Ardee champions fine cuisine cooking.

0 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Jul 20, 2012)

What is Instagram?

0 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Jul 20, 2012)

Morpheus, is that you?
just kidding, the question just reminded me of the Matrix lol

0 upvotes
CarvingPhoto
By CarvingPhoto (Jul 20, 2012)

I think she's just mad & jealous that some people on instagram take better picture than her. It's just a tool, just like lomo's & holga's. What I don't like is people taking a picture of themselves, holding their phones or camera in the mirror. LOL!

0 upvotes
jake werner
By jake werner (Jul 20, 2012)

I think the looks of the filtered Instagram photos have noting to do with the original images. Therefore, they're meaningless.

0 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (Jul 20, 2012)

Former NFL player Dhani Jones took a picture yesterday of a thunderstorm in New York City with Instagram:

https://twitter.com/DhaniJones/status/225644233309163522

I cannot make out which part is the storm and which part is the effect. If he had took this picture with just the camera app, it would have been of real value.

Comment edited 10 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Jul 20, 2012)

Part of that may be the imposition of a sharpness-killing airliner window but I agree - I'd like to see a crisper version of that particular shot (if the original is indeed crisper).

But I'm guilty of 'enhancing' marginal shots using Instagram - sometimes it's the equivalent, for me, of switching to a super high-contrast paper in the darkroom. Turn everything up to 11 and hide the imperfections.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Jul 20, 2012)

With all the destruction done to that picture it's really hard to tell it's any kind rain instead of some smoke or something like that.

Hard to say which is worser: Modern TVs overprocessing contrast and especially saturation off the scale to nausea causing level or this InstaShit fashion.
At least you can tune down those overprocessing settings of TVs to get less destroyed image.

1 upvote
pocketpygmy
By pocketpygmy (Jul 20, 2012)

i think the real point being made isn't that the instagram effects are necessarily irritating, but that, unlike film or photoshop, they are thrown around too often, too easily. film and photoshop both involve much more conscious choice, whether it's the actual firing of the shutter (we can take virtually unlimited photos and delete at will with digital cameras) or choosing which images exactly to alter (i.e. not every single one of them, and each the same way) and how exactly those images are altered. the rant against instagram here is essentially the same one against social media (and not really about photography): too much information all the time, which, in my view, de-values our overall experience of sharing with others (whether virtually or actually).

0 upvotes
jdrx2012
By jdrx2012 (Jul 20, 2012)

Zzzzzzzzzz :-)

1 upvote
Total comments: 291
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