Is Instagram Ruining Professional Photography?


There was a time when good cameras were expensive and photography was a skill that few people possessed. Dark rooms, chemicals, lens changes, and over-exposed film were all part of the daily grind. Until fairly recently, photography was mystical — part art, part science.

The dual inventions of the digital camera (and then — gasp! — the camera phone) and social media put the art within reach of virtually everyone. It didn’t matter if you were an engineer who knew as little about photography as you did about healthcare recruiting — anyone and everyone could try their hand at being a photographer.

One day, a few iPhone snobs started talking about this thing called Instagram, which added filters to photos and posted them online. For many professional photographers, this was the final nail in the coffin of their beloved art.


For a long time, doctoring pictures was to photographers what plagiarism is to journalists — the ultimate cheat. Instagram, now more than 100 million users strong, was built on it.

Users photograph the images of their daily existence and share them with millions of others — but not before running them through filters. Amaro, Mayfair, Sierra, Willow, Earlybird, Rise, Inkwell — the list goes on and on. Filters make the images appear brighter, duller, warmer, cooler, washed out or antique. Specialties that were once left to only the most skilled photographers — in choice of lens, film, or darkroom magic — are now uploaded by 12-year-olds from a Disney Channel concert.

The Spread

When Instagram was launched in 2010, it spread like a virus amongst the iPhone faithful. By 2012, it went airborne.

In a post titled “Instagram For Android Is Here To Further Destroy Photography,” a blogger lamented that a phenomenon once contained just to the cult of Mac was now unstoppable. He was right. Instagram now boasts more than 100 million users.

The Dilution of “Real” Photography

In a post titled “Is Instagram Ruining Photography?”, another blogger opines that Instagram was merely the last in a long line of “cheap imaging technologies” that make “the general state of photography stale, repetitive, and watered down.”

Everything Is a Polaroid

Cameras and photography software progressed so quickly from the days of Polaroids that people got nostalgic for, well, Polaroids. Just like Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid, Instagram squishes all photos into a little square. For photographers who held wide, sweeping panoramic pictures on a pedestal, this trend of postage stamp pics is a sad state of affairs.

While most people would tell you that Instagram is yet another way for the masses to communicate, share their life experiences, and put their own twist on how they view the world, photographers aren’t most people. They resisted the switch from film to digital the way DJs resisted the move from vinyl. For many, Instagram represents the final goodbye to an art form they once lived and breathed, but now only remember from photographs.

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