It has been an eventful two days since Instagram published its new – and controversial – Terms of Service. The changes spurred a number of successful photographers and organisations to ‘black-out’ their accounts in protest of what was seen as an over-reach of photographers’ rights to their own images. Later, Kevin Systrom, the co-founder of Instagram, responded to the online panic by clarifying parts of the Terms, noting:
Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.
While this clarification has allayed concerns for some, others, like National Geographic, have already made up their mind that Instagram has gone too far.
Personally, I am disappointed by the new Instagram terms, as I think all photographers should have a say in how their photos are used and have access to profits if they are monetised. But I can’t say I’m surprised at the recent developments. Reading Systrom’s comments it is clear that Instagram doesn’t want to sell our photos directly, but rather they want to sell us, the users, by linking our accounts to in-feed advertising. I imagine this might manifest as something like “Check out these new Nike shoes, as liked by @mishobaranovic” as you are scrolling through your feed. Think Facebook sponsored posts, with even smaller thumbnails.
I’m not leaving Instagram, but going forward, I will carefully consider which photos I like, comment on, and tag. The changes will make me – and other Instagram peers, no doubt – increasingly sceptical users. And my opinions may alter, once the changes are in effect.
For those still undecided, here are a few ideas and tips that might help you make a decision one way or another.
So you’re staying?
For some users the social experience and community provided by Instagram is more than enough justification to stay on the platform, regardless of future advertising changes.
But for those concerned about photo copyright issues, there are a few things you can do to potentially discourage the linking of your images to third-party advertising.
PhotoMarkr isn’t the prettiest of apps but it does the job. The Copyright Notice screen lets you add your name, change the colour and type of font and also add an image if desired. You can also change the size and opacity of the text in the app. PhotoMarkr also saves your settings for the next image.
PicFrame is not a dedicated watermarking app but it has advanced text tools which can be used to customise watermarks. I like using it because you have endless colour and font controls to help your watermark match the photograph. There’s nothing worse than an ugly watermark distracting from a beautiful image.
I’ve also heard other photographers say that they crop their images when they upload to Instagram to protect the integrity of their original landscape or portrait photograph.
Had enough and you’re going?
If you are jumping off Instagram the first thing to do is back up your photos. There are a number of apps and services that do this for you. The most well-known is the Instaport site which automates the backup process. It also lets you save images to Facebook, Flickr or your hard drive. The site does appear to be struggling to keep up with recent demand at present, so you might have to wait a few days. Remember you have until January 16 until the new Terms of Service go into effect.
Once you’ve backed up your photos, the easiest way to delete your account is to head to your Instagram web profile (www.instagram.com/username), click on Edit Profile and then I’d Like To Delete My Account in the bottom right-hand corner (circled in red in the example below).
So where else can you share your photos?
There are plenty of alternative apps where you can continue to share your photos.
My top pick is EyeEm, a dedicated cross-platform (iPhone, Android and Windows) photo-sharing app from Germany, which has actually been around longer than Instagram. The app grew organically from the early days of the mobile photography community. The photo feed is similar to Instagram and lets you like and comment on your friends’ photos. The app also features live-filters and a well-equipped camera (including edit tools). Where the app stands out is its almost psychic tagging function which guesses where you are and what you’re up to. You can also upload portrait and landscape photos.
Oh, and EyeEm’s terms explicitly state that all photographer own their own images.
My next favourite is the revamped Flickr app (most recently updated for iOS but also available for Android). After two years of soul-searching, Flickr have triumphantly released a functional, usable mobile version. This is a powerful app, offering far more functionality than Instagram, with the ability to easily add your photos to groups and sets. The app also features an advanced camera and the customary filters. You can read more about the new app in this recent Connect review.
As for terms, Flickr affords copyright to the photographer. They also have an exclusive arrangement with Getty to facilitate licensing of images and currently have a paid PRO subscription which generates revenue to support the site.
The final app I want to mention is the iOS app Starmatic. It’s the most recent of these three options, and is most similar to Instagram in terms of look and feel. I haven’t used the service personally (it wouldn’t let me sign up) but I’ve heard positive feedback from other uses about the user interface and quality of photography on the app. The Terms of Service, however, sound quite similar to Instagram’s, especially in terms of worldwide royalty free licensing and sub-licensing. You can find the terms on the Starmatic website front page.
Let me know your thoughts on the Instagram terms, and whether you’re staying or going in the comments below. You can also continue the discussion in the Mobile Photography Talk forum of this site, or in the Connect Google+ Community.
Misho Baranovic, @mishobaranovic, has worked as a photographer for many years and is prominent in the emerging practice of mobile photography. His street photography has been exhibited internationally and in 2011 he held his first solo exhibition, New Melbourne, in Melbourne, Australia. He is a founding member of the Mobile Photo Group, and the author of iPhone Photography.