What’s the deal with Instagram?

If you have been exploring the new Canberra Photographic Society website you will have seen, under the “Publications and Links” menu, a page called “CPS images on Instagram.” If you are not familiar with Instagram you may be wondering what this is.

Instagram has become a popular platform, not only for sharing images, but for developing communities. It allows people to show rather than tell, and this has been embraced by many who are interested in developing brand awareness or who want to draw attention to humanitarian issues. Today there are 200 million users and 20 billion images on Instagram according to the Instagram blog http://blog.instagram.com/post/80721172292/200m. The “movement” has seen people meet up virtually and then get together in real life. Users hold “Instameets” where people get together, drawn by a shared interest. This could be anything from jazz music to the landscapes of Tasmania or the plight of the rhino. Australians have been keen to embrace Instagram and one of world’s largest Instameets was held recently in Queensland. Tourism Australia is one of the most followed travel accounts globally (see article on p 47 of B & T Magazine, Dec/Jan 2015).

So how do you access this community? Instagram is an image-sharing app (free to download) that is tablet or smart-phone based. All you need to create an account is said device and a valid email address. Setting up an account takes about a minute. You can create a brief profile and add a personal url.Once you have set up your account, you select a photo from your photostream on your device. You can add text and include various hashtags depending on the subject (eg. #blackandwhitephotography; #animals etc. – the selection of hashtags to maximise your visibility is a bit of an art that I won’t go into here, largely because I haven’t yet grasped it). With many millions of users browsing through categories such as say black and white photographs or animals you may get your first “like” in seconds. This can be enormously seductive – though not necessarily terribly meaningful. It is possible to find users that interest you and to have a modest following fairly quickly. The best way to do this is to start commenting on and liking other images. If you are new to photography this may be a way for you to start getting your images “out there”, to build up followers and to find other photographers whose images you like. Be aware though that not all Instagram users are photographers – there seem to be quite a few nubile women with names like Natasha (who may be perfectly genuine) as well as advertisers and presumably others with dubious motives, so it pays to be careful.

If you post an image to Instagram with the hashtag #canberraphotographicsociety then it will automatically appear on the “CPS images on Instagram” page on the CPS website. The page only shows the 60 most recent photographs, so gradually old images drop off as they are replaced with new ones. There are apps that generate the code so that images with a particular hashtag or particular user name can be displayed on a website. This is what has been used on the CPS site. (Free apps also generate advertising – hence you will see advertising when you click on individual images on the CPS Instagram page).

When posting images to Instagram I like to arrange my images in related blocks so that they work well together. Some users only post a certain type of image, so their “look” is consistent. Others are a bit more eclectic. Instagram images are almost always square – you can pad the images with white space to create portraits or landscapes, but most users stick to the square format. This is having an influence on the modern aesthetic and I am seeing a lot more square images in advertising and magazines. Square images tend to play nicely together and lend themselves to being arranged in multiple formats (see below). Also have a look at the website of Western Australian landscape photographer Christian Fletcher http://www.christianfletcher.com.au/photographs/to see examples of stunning landscapes in a square format.

One of the things I like about Instagram is that your Instagram posts can be found in an automatically-generated, neat-looking website (such as mine shown below: http://instagram.com/imagecapital)

Have a look other CPS members’ Instagram accounts, some of which are listed on the “Links to Member’s Pages” that is under the “Publications and Links” tab on the CPS site at http://www.cpsaus.org. If you have a link that you would like added here please let me know.


Other Instagram accounts that you might like to have a look at are:
@mattglastonbury – Matt Glastonbury, a Hobart-based landscape photographer who posts time-lapse sequences of stunning Tasmanian landscapes. His aurora sequences are particularly interesting.
@fusion.photography – Ben Kopilow, one of our regular judges and a well-known Canberra-based wedding photographer.
@eleanorgannon – Eleanor Gannon – a New Zealand-based photographer who creates colourful 3 x 3 series.
@photoacces_inc – PhotoAccess – our friends down the road.


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