I hate post-processed photos. Hate, hate, hate. With the rise of smartphones have come tools powerful enough to not only take high-resolution pictures, but also reprocess them with crazy filters, color correction and so forth enabling otherwise shoddy photographers some light sense of professionalism and visual taste. No app encapsulates this utility – or pretentiousness – better than Instagram, which until today had been exclusive to iOS devices. Now that it’s on a platform that we actually use around the FEZ office (take that, Kelly!), and available to now millions more users out there with Android phones, we can finally render a real review by actual professionals. So how is it, aside from being hipster bait? Well…
For those who have never used the service, let me boil it down for ya. If you really wanted to, you could just take boring pictures with Instagram, but that’s not really the thrust of the app. Pictures are snapped with a 1:1 ratio, which matches old school aspects in other insta-cameras of decades ago, but it also makes more sense in a grid. Once snapped, you’re given the option to apply one of sixteen filters (that appear to be named after flavors of tea or some other hipster-pretentious thing. I don’t know, I’m not a hipster.) that make what would be an otherwise unexciting photo into an unexciting photo with an interesting filter. It’s enabled average joes and general doofs to think they’re “the hot shit” with “the cameras”, but its effectiveness is limited to the skill of the photographer. You’re not given any granular control over said filters, but that’s probably for the best. In the end, you’re just going to see a lot of crappy photos, or in a worse scenario, people taking other people’s images (or those stupid viral Facebook pics) and applying filters on top. In the right hands, this could probably be used for the powers of good, but the results are mixed.
A filter applicator that piggybacks your phone’s camera isn’t interesting by itself, so Instagram also has a very cool social element baked in as well. Imagine Facebook without all that boring text and more of those photos. A favorites panel grants you all the popular pics at the moment, which you can then re-, uh, Instagram to your friends. And you can have friends. That’s cool. Actually, you really just ‘subscribe’ to others and see their pics in your stream. Again, you’re still gonna hafta deal with the usually-crappy photos and other viral stuff. I guess it’s cool that people are using it to post what they think are ‘artsy’ works instead of the more utilitarian stuff they’d normally post on Facebook (“This is the burger I ate.” for example), but many still fail so hard.
It’s not hard to see why Instagram is such a big hit and it’s hard to blame them for producing the tools that get misused like they do. I’d never used Instagram before now and even if I hate the idea of glossing up my pictures with seventies-era touches, it’s not as if good looking results are hard to get. The program’s lack of filter modifications is its greatest strength and greatest flaw and while I’m confident they’ll add more stuff over time, Instagram doesn’t feel like much more than a novelty. I guess time will tell.