In the middle of wondering what the point of Instagram was back in its early days, I remember sticking to my guns that if you were going to post anything, you should only post phone shots. It used to piss me off when photos racked up loads of faves and comments (okay, there’s raw human jealousy in there, too) because of how they looked when it was clear that some world class glass was used to capture the image. But my missing Instagram’s purpose and potential has turned out to be related to my insistence on posting exclusively with a phone.
When Facebook bought Instagram, I was one of many reactionaries that ditched the photo sharing service. Besides, I was still a heavy Flickr user, and to my snobby would-be photographer’s self, that’s where the serious photography enthusiasts hung out. Instagram was for folks that just wanted to share pictures of…whatever. Not so much for the pictures as for the whatever.
In the intervening years, however, Flickr stagnated (I still use it, but less so). Users abandoned the service for one reason or another, and pouty conservatives whined about leaving every time the site changed in pursuit of broad relevancy. Instagram, on the other hand, continued to grow and reach a broad audience. Eventually I realized that if I wanted to share photos with people that would actually look at them – particularly friends and family – I needed to return to Instagram. So I did.
What I truly misunderstood with Instagram those years ago was that a) smartphone camera adoption would come to destroy the point-and-shoot market, and b) smartphone technology has progressed so rapidly that there isn’t much to miss about point-and-shoots. The iPhone or Android photos on Instagram aren’t much worse (or better, frankly) than most of what users posted to Flickr or Facebook or elsewhere. So while Instagram remains a smartphone-centric social network, it’s still a photo sharing site. So what does it matter what camera took the pictures that people post?
In the post-show of the most recent episode of Accidental Tech Podcast, Casey Liss suggests that he’s “cheating” by posting photos taken with a Micro Four Thirds camera. But why is he posting photos to begin with? Because these are photos of his wife and child, or other moments that he want his friends and family so share. Why not post them where everybody’s already looking? That doesn’t sound like cheating. It sounds like exactly the point.