February 13, 2013

Does Instagram make people better photographers?

This subject came up at lunch as we chatted about whether tools can & should aspire to help people be better illustrators, storytellers, etc.

My initial reaction was that no, Instagram doesn’t make you better, but it makes a great many people feel better (giving photos some flair, paving over flaws like crappy lighting). Making people feel cooler than they are is nothing to sneeze at, but one could argue that a shortcut to “interestingness” detracts from doing harder work around composition, lighting, etc.

On second thought, though, I think Instagram does make me a better photographer—or at least it makes me work harder to make interesting images. People love to put on fancy conferences about gamification & incentives, but the game here’s simple: When my photos draw likes (especially from, say, photographers I respect or some cute girl I knew 20 years ago), I feel good; when they don’t, I feel bad. (Hey, I’m human.) Thus I’m highly motivated to share only my most interesting work.

What do you think?

Posted by John Nack at 8:56 AM on February 13, 2013


  • Enrique — 9:42 AM on February 13, 2013

    Maybe it makes us better photo editors? Even iconic photos we’re all familiar with were pulled from a series of shots, just as I do when I picking what to share in Instagram.


  • Lloyd Alvarez — 9:44 AM on February 13, 2013

    If practice makes you better than Instagram makes you a better photographer because it provides a platform where you can get almost instant feedback. This allows you took keep refining your craft therefore making it better. Of course you need to be willing to make your craft better.

  • Stephen Shankland — 11:57 AM on February 13, 2013

    I’m not sure if Instagram makes good photographers better, but I think it does make ordinary people better photographers, on average. I suspect lots of people don’t improve, but I doubt they get worse, and I’ve seen plenty of Instagrammers get better.

    Overall, I think it leads people to think about documenting life visually, and even Instagram’s limited options gives people an easy opportunity to think about the aesthetics of photography, not just blah snapshots of their friends.

    Maybe it’s like Microsoft Word: it’s a crappy tool for laying out magazines or creating posters, but just letting people pick fonts and font sizes for the birthday party invitation injects an element of design into ordinary lives (Vignetting:Instagram::Comic Sans:Microsoft Windows). Maybe that’s overoptimistic, I dunno, but I’ve seen my son fooling around with formatting and fonts enough to know that he thinks about presentation differently than I did at his age.

  • J. Peterson — 12:50 PM on February 13, 2013

    An important part of photography in the digital age is editing and selection. Perhaps the feedback loop helps people focus on the good stuff and let the others go.

  • K Brown — 6:30 PM on February 13, 2013

    1: Start Instagram
    2: Take a picture of something.
    3: Pat yourself on the back.
    4: Upload
    5: Wait for fame.

    Repeat 1-4.

    Dream about 5.

    • ShopFISH — 4:22 AM on February 14, 2013

      Haha, nice. I could like it when it stays with Instagram but in my opinion it’s quite annoying to see 10-20 instagram photo’s a day on your Facebook newsfeed.. Everybody uploads everything because it looks quite interesting. I do want to see what people have to say but don’t care for all the instagram posts. I’d like it better if things like Instagram pictures stay on Instagram and not every network is linked with each other.. And well, about the fact if Instagram makes you a better photographer: If you spend more time taking pictures and adding effects etc because of Instagram, then yes, practice makes perfect.

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