In the above cover image, one of my images (that bear & wolf pic) was trending #2 in the very popular #yellowstone hashtag. This was even the same time that Nat Geo was releasing images from their Yellowstone edition magazine.
Pretty much as soon as I started to care about photography, I was looking for ways to get my work out there. Instagram seemed to be a worthy platform to share my content with the world and get instant feedback. As I used it more and more, I found it helping me improve in several ways.
Forced to Recompose
Photos can be rejects if the composition is bad. Instagram will give you a second chance to recompose by their forced 1:1 ratio. (Yes, I know they allow vert/horiz 4:3 now, but I still use 1:1 as that’s how they show it when browsing thumbs.)
I’m a developer by day – more logical than artistic. It took some learning for the principals of composition. In the field I would mess it up quite often.
For example, although I had the right composition in mind, but the bear turned his head at the last second, so I ended up with this:
When sharing, I had the option to recompose to this:
I thought the day was over until this grizzly showed up post-sunset. It was way too dark for my usual telephoto lens, but I figured it was worth a shot (pun intended) with my 70-200 f/2.8. That lens doesn't zoom as much but lets in much more light. It turns out that the bear came much closer when I was in my car, and I was able to pull off this photo. Shot at ISO 2500, it's a little grainy for a print, but plenty of resolution for Instagram. More recent bear and wolf pics in my profile. // #yellowstone #ynp #nationalparks #wildlife #wildlifephotography #bear #grizzlybear #grizzly #nature #naturephotography #wyoming #autumn #fall #canon #canon7d #canon7dmarkii #tamron #tamron70200mm
So because of the adapting to 1:1, it gives me a chance to rethink the composition, which has turns out to be good practice. Composing the picture through the viewfinder can be difficult for a novice, especially if there are other things to worry about…like grizzly bears. Having a second chance to recompose in post gives me more time to think about it and learn.
Almost all my posts are from a DSLR. At the time of this writing, image sizes are only saved at 1080px x 1080px. That’s 1.2MP. Coming from a 22MP camera is almost like sharing a thumbnail version of the actual photo. I’ve heard other photographers discourage the use of Instagram because of this, but I think it creates opportunity. There are many pictures where my camera missed focus slightly, but it’s impossible to tell when scaled down. So even if you see unwanted motion blur, camera shake, or just bad focus when viewed large-scale, it might still be usable.
Back to me lacking artistic merit, there are some images that I would toss up expecting little engagement, but then blows up. Here is one that was poor quality (see last point) and still did well – totally opposite of my expectations.
Does this make Instagram the final resting place for your photos? Of course not. But it’s a chance to get your work in front of new people, why would you not want to?