Iconic Photos “Re-taken” with Instagram

Iconic Photos “Re-taken” with Instagram

I am not anti-Instgram, nor am I anti-cellphone photography. But there is a tendency to believe that the art filters that are readily available with many cellphone photo apps somehow “improve” reality. Many of the frequently used filters either significantly boost color saturation, or try to give the appearance of an antiqued, polaroid-esque photo.

But this doesn’t mean it’s better than a more true-to-life image. To prove my point, here are a few iconic photos “re-taken” with art filters a la Instagram. Do you agree?

Neil Leifer‘s amazing photo of Ali vs Liston II from 1965. This is arguably the most effective of the “retaken” photos for a few reasons. First, the original format was a square, so there’s no cropping. And because it was shot in 1965, there’s an antiqued look to the photos already. If you didn’t have the original to compare against, you might think that this *was* the original.

I puked a little in my mouth upon seeing Steve McCurry‘s Afghan Girl reimagined. The original was shot on Kodachrome with a perfect exposure and buttery color. The square crop and false color completely destroys so much of essence of the photo.

Many art filters compress the tonal range, and then you have the fake tilt/shift. One of Todd Heisler‘s most moving photos from his Pulitzer Prize winning series on soliders returning from Iraq is completely ruined by creating a false focus. The original image has amazing detail in the plane passengers who are looking out of the windows of the plane as the coffin is unloaded.

Peter Yang‘s portraits have an amazing clarity to them. This reprocessed image of Amy Poehler has a fake center focus, which really kills the detail and superior lighting that is emblematic of his photographic style.

Rich Lam‘s photo from the Stanley Cup riots was one of my favorite images of 2011. The square crop isn’t horrible — I would argue that there is still enough foreground and background information to give you a sense of scene. But the desaturation of this version kills the crazy color spectrum of the original in my humble opinion, and I’m still missing the cropped section.

Take an iconic moment from the recent past. Apply an antiquing filter to try to make it look historic. Flagellate yourself 12 times. Apologies to Toby Melville.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about applying the square crop and art filters to these images is realizing that they still are pretty fantastic images. Martin Schoeller‘s image from TIME magazine is still a great portrait – expression, pose, lighting – it’s all still there even if the crop and the texture of the art filter try its best to ruin it.

So what’s my point? In 2009, Chase Jarvis trademarked “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You,” and he’s right. For that reason, I love the spontaneity of images that are taken with smart phones, and the incredible distribution capabilities of Instagram. BUT, a high quality, well-composed, properly exposed, accurate color image is still pretty awesome too.

I don’t always shoot with a camera phone, but when I do, I like to apply art filters.

Keep snapping, my friends.


Note: I am not the first, nor will I probably be the last, to apply art filters to famous photographs. See more from photographer Andrew Emond‘s Tumblr, Mastergram.

Next Post:
Previous Post:
This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter. He co-hosts the "I Love Photography" podcast on iTunes.

There are 11 comments for this article
  1. Saquan Stimpson at 11:28 am

    Iconic Photos “Re-taken” with Instagram. Do these filters “improve” the original? I personal don’t think they improve the quality of the original. However when applying different filters they can help promote a different feel to the image.

  2. Sophie Carr at 11:29 am

    Your blogs really make me laugh, Allen. “I puked a little in my mouth” – classic! I’m still giggling. Please write more!

  3. Pingback: Iconic Photos “Re-taken” with Instagram
  4. B McCammon at 10:41 pm

    Twenty years from now parents will look back at pictures of their first born…taken with a cell phone and processed with Instagram and wonder how to resurrect the original image. Some photos are just to valuable to apply radical treatments in the name of “adding character”. Some moments deserve to be captured well and accurately. Make a copy and split tone or alter to your heart’s content…but keep the original for the future. Just saying… Bleached flare on a baby is uncool, not cool.

  5. Per-BKWine at 3:23 am

    Why do people think that pictures are improved by artificial effects?

    It’s like photography with silicon implants. Yes, it may produce some short-term wow effect but as time passes it becomes just silly, artificial and quite trite or even tasteless….

  6. Pingback: Photography (as a business) is dying.... - Page 3
  7. Floyd Brown Miller III at 12:28 am

    I don’t know if this is a joke, but these instagrams are awful. In no way do I mean to dismiss the author and I certainly don’t mean to dismiss instagram (@ommmm). I am an avid user; I don’t suggest instagram replaces proper composition or lighting of choice of editing, but these edits are gimmicky. I mean the blur effect on Amy just looks like it was throw on there to make fun of the program. Some users, e.g. MattFrench, pketron, wisslaren, audiosoup etc. do extraordinary things with the program. These are poor crops and poorly selected filters. Try instagram and don’t let these these reformats of classics convince you an iPhone app is worthless. It will never replace a professional camera, but it can’t make up for poor composition, a mistake this selection, internationally or not, makes.

  8. Pingback: Le più famose fotografie riprese con Instagram | Go Tell The Foxes
  9. Pingback: Instagram: Insta-Awesome or Insta-Not « 365 Photographs: A Year in Pictures
  10. Pingback: Pictures of the Week: Instagram | Newscom FocalPoint

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *