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Author Topic: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?  (Read 14156 times)

Isaac

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Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« on: April 12, 2012, 11:57:43 AM »

BBC News Magazine Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?

As predicted 15 years ago - "With the arrival of domestic computer manipulation techniques, ..., there will be no more lamposts growing out of Uncle Stan's head, no more power lines in the landscape, and every sunset will be perfect. Amateur photographers will have the power to alter their scenes, breaking the iron link between subject and photograph, and so releasing the spectre of a ubiquitous and average perfection".

That old "Sixty Billion Sunsets" essay had some other sharp things to say:

  • "This [camera] complexity is a smokescreen in front of the basic problem which both manufacturers and the amateur publications face: the fundamental techniques of modern photography are very simple. ... Any fool could do it."



Also BBC Radio 4  (6 minutes audio) Has high tech killed pro photography?


« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 11:50:32 AM by Isaac »
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Fips

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 12:53:05 PM »

1) No. That's not the case since Instragram makes up only a small part of all photos published (on the internets).

2) Even there the pictures are not any more generic than they used to be before Instagram and even before digital. It's just that all the crap that used to be buried on peoples hard disks or in some shoe boxes in a wardrobe is now visible for a very large audience.

3) Even with the most advanced and intelligent (whatever that means) point-and-shoot cameras, I don't see too many technically perfect photos.

Having said this, I am very good at producing crappy, technical imperfect, generic looking photos with my DSLR in manual mode. No help of Instagram required. Thanks a lot  ;D
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Fips

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 01:40:53 PM »

What I produce is FUBAR  ;)
Actually I don't consider this fixing. If I made a photo which is "broken" to begin with, I don't fix it. But I guess the question is if I do post processing and the answer is of course 'yes'. I develop my raw files just like I would develop film.
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Fips

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 02:42:01 PM »

No. Too lazy.
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acekin

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2012, 05:21:56 PM »

With the wide reach of the Internet, vast improvements in camera and imaging technology, combined with an immense increase in the number of photographs taken, photographers are trying to distinguish their photographs by making them look "different". Using one of many filters, either built in or add on to editing software, online services like Instagram, and effects produced with much manual labor are all results, and possibly response to the changes in the photography scene. Years ago, John Szarkowski said that there were "more photographs than bricks in the world". Now, the number of bricks probably cannot serve as a yard stick any more. The apparent mechanical simplicity of capturing a photograph, even from the early days of the medium, gave the impression that "any idiot can do it." The question is "do what?" When thinking of "photography" I would like to envision a body of work that can stand as a whole. The Instagram-processed photographs attempt to be different from all others, but by virtue of the process, they probably fall fairly close. The reason we may not see this is a matter of exposure to different sharing sites and ways in which we filter content. So at a particular Web site, person A's Instagram may look really different, but what does that really mean?

One need not consider this "sameness" only to images that benefited from a technique or technology. Do a Google search on "Bass Harbor" and take a look at the resulting images.

I sometimes think that we are taking photographs because we can rather than because we want to say something. The vast history and tradition of photography is generally neglected, ignored, or considered irrelevant.
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RSL

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2012, 07:34:24 PM »

Welcome, Ace, and "hear hear!!" Truth be told, just about everyone's photos always have looked the same. Thanks to magazines like "Pop Photo" and "Shutterbug," just about everyone has the idea that photography depends on equipment and "technique." Nothing could be further from the truth. People who make photos that don't look like everyone else's heed Cartier-Bresson's dictum: "Photographing is nothing. Looking is everything." For people like that, Instagram is just another feature similar to the point-and-shoot on-camera flash that people don't know how to turn off. It will help to make everyone else's photos look the same.

acekin

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2012, 11:27:10 PM »

Thanks for the welcome note. Technique, indeed the mastery and execution of it, is very much an integral part of the art of photography. However, technique should always be subservient to the vision and the resulting photograph should look like "it was effortlessly done" (my term) even if it took many hours. There is a great interest now in photography to make the technique visible in the finished work, some even call it a look. This is most evident in HDR look many seem to seek and unnatural skin softening in portraits, to the extent that the skin takes a look which I call "electro luminescent plasma skin from another planet." Sharpening, especially of beards of men with long beards, is another area where technique is more evident than the vision behind it. But, I may be dating myself now!
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Rob C

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2012, 08:46:55 AM »

Thanks for the welcome note. Technique, indeed the mastery and execution of it, is very much an integral part of the art of photography. However, technique should always be subservient to the vision and the resulting photograph should look like "it was effortlessly done" (my term) even if it took many hours. There is a great interest now in photography to make the technique visible in the finished work, some even call it a look. This is most evident in HDR look many seem to seek and unnatural skin softening in portraits, to the extent that the skin takes a look which I call "electro luminescent plasma skin from another planet." Sharpening, especially of beards of men with long beards, is another area where technique is more evident than the vision behind it. But, I may be dating myself now!


Onanism is a terrible affliction, but welcome, anyway.

;-)

I think there will be a natural solution to much of what you've pointed out: boredom. After a few months or years, depending on personal fortitude, stupidity or just cussedness, I guess that the pointlessness of much snapping will reap its own reward and folks will just drop out of the routine.

Rob C

michswiss

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2012, 09:26:45 AM »

I think you're pretty much right about that Rob.  Photography has been available to the masses for close to a century.  The newest twist being the "social" element.  And technology will keep enabling it.  Still, it is confined to mostly banal stuff.  If there are some creative sparks that result, very cool.  But I'm not so worried that the wash of images will lessen the efforts of those that explore how imagery can be used as a form of expression.

RSL

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2012, 09:54:09 AM »

Can't tell whether or not you're dating yourself, Ace, (shame on you, Rob) because I can't tell how many years are included in "N/A." A lot of the people on here are nine or ten -- Just check their "Summary." You sound at least as if you're out of high school.

But I guess it depends on what you mean by technique. If you mean learning to turn on the camera and press the button I'd agree that technique is an integral part of photography. And I'd certainly agree that a good photograph not only should look like it was effortlessly done, it should be effortlessly done -- even if it takes many hours. In other words, the seeing, which is what makes a photograph, should be effortless. But effortless seeing requires a lot of study and a lot of effort. The effort precedes the shooting.

michswiss

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2012, 10:58:54 AM »

The effort is continuous. I struggle with it constantly and barely eek out anything worth consideration.  Yet, I still can't help seeing stuff in the context of composition and trying stupid ideas.  As an example, I went out a couple of weeks ago (with a group of not unwilling others) and did a bizarre interpretation of Bruce Gilden: Shooting long exposure handheld street using a snoot on a separated speedlight.

I'll admit, I use presets in some of my PP workflows.  I've created my own and they act as a known starting point for a shot that I'll work on from there.  The majority of what I do is overall adjustments aside from cleaning up dust bunnies.

Mindlessly using filters doesn't make a shot any better.  We know that, and I think most people using it know it as well.  That's Instagram.  But it can add a little fun and drama to a quick capture that's also nice to send around to friends.  At that level, who cares if it all ends up looking the same?

RSL

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2012, 11:58:15 AM »

There's no such thing as a stupid idea when it comes to photography. Trying things is what lets you learn. The main thing is to know when you're looking at a flop, and be willing to dump it even though a lot of work went into it. Seems to me that's the main problem on Street & PJ. There are some really good shots on that forum, but they're pretty much overwhelmed by the dross.

So what if you use presets, Jennifer? I do too, at least in my B&W conversions. It saves a lot of time. But doing Bruce Gilden??? Glad to hear you survived. I've never been able to figure out how Bruce managed to get as old as he is.

popnfresh

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Re: Has Instagram made everyone's photos look the same?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2012, 09:16:07 PM »

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
― Henri Cartier-Bresson
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