I’ve been a hobbyist photographer for the past 10 years. Pretty much synched with the birth of my daughter who is today happy to enjoy 15,000 pictures of her first week in life The time was 2002 with the first decent digital camera out there. My first one was a Kodac DC3200 and was a great tool for me to learn the basics of photography. Then I moved to a Canon G2 before switching to a Canon SLR as Digital SLRs were costing an arm, a leg and everything in between. I made the mistake to rent a Leica M6 (At Keeble and Suchat in Palo Alto) so I could understand all the fuss about these cameras and feel confident that it was for snob. Huge mistake … I had to have one the following week, and another one, and another one … Oh and how about a Rolleiflex, oh and a Hasselblad, oh and look at those nice Russian Camera. At some point I probably had more than 20 working camera at home … And a few lenses. I was processing my own black and white and really, really enjoyed everything about photography. I was carrying a huge bag with many camera inside at all time. Then life catched up. Lots of traveling, different priorities. Sold most of the camera (Kept the Leica. Come on!), still have 300 rolls of film in my basement, and settled on a mid-range Canon digital camera for family events.
Beginning of the year, I’ve purchased an iPhone 4S to replace my Android HTC Desire (which takes crappy pictures) and started playing with it. I “discovered” Instagram back in May during a photo trip to Seattle with one of my good friend. We decided to shoot only with our iPhone for 2 days. I fell in love with the simplicity of the combo iPhone+Instagram. Reminded me of the time of my Leica + 50mm lens. No zoom (zoom with your feet!) and I’ve always liked the square format (Makes you think differently). Instagram allows me to give some “pop” to my photos (mainly contrast) and I’m able to share my pictures with a very private group of friends around the world. When I travel, it’s also a great way to keep in touch with the family as well (FaceTime does help too).
You can see some of my favorites pictures of 2012 on Flickr
I wasn’t surprised by yesterday Instagram’s announcement. This is a business, publicly traded with revenue expectation. There is no free lunch in this world and Andrew Lewis hit it right on the nail yesterday: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”. A business cannot survive without a revenue stream and it is clear that users are not willing to pay for popular social networks (not yet anyway). So they will see ads, a lot of them! Facebook is expected to quadruple its $339 million on mobile ads by 2014!
Would I rather see no ads? Sure! I hate ads but if they are subtle enough, I can deal with them. And I believe 90% of Instagram’s users can probably deal with them. Do I care if they use my own pictures as part of these ads? Not really, especially with their latest clarification.
The real issue is probably more for professional photographers rather than people shooting cappuccinos and cats. Instagram allows them to build up an audience which leads to commissioned work while getting instant feedback and interaction. They’ve been hooked to a powerful drug and now the pusher man has decided to take his cut. New terms revealed yesterday, suggest that these photographers will help Facebook to become the biggest stock imagery agency out there. They will basically feed their new and powerful competitor. A lot of photographers are concerned and I can understand why. But I can bet a lot of them will remain on Instagram after January 16th when the new TOS take effect. Including National Geography who put their account on hold yesterday.
As Tim Barber said: “if you want a free, fast, beautifully designed, complex digital image platform on your telephone that enables you to communicate in a revolutionary new way with an ever expanding global network with no strings attached, build one yourself or quit your whining.”
For private users, like me, it sounds like a non-issue, especially with the revised statement by Instagram released today. I was indeed a bit concerned that my pictures could be used in ads outside of Instagram. This is not the case as of today and this is a good thing. Second concern was about who would see my pictures in ads. I would have been eventually concerned if pictures of my family would be used in ads outside my private network. The revised statement is clear: Only people following me would see ads that could include my own pictures. Well, I don’t care because they’ve already seen these pictures! So go ahead Instagram, takes my pictures and create ads and make a few bucks! I’m happy to help the platform which has rejuvenated my passion for photography!
My biggest disappointment with the whole thing is around communication. It would have been nice, for a change, to see one of these powerful social network, to reach out to its community and open a communication channel to discuss its monetization plan. Facebook has a long track record of communication blunder and they’re not getting any better …
Call me naive, but for now: Long live Instagram!