Why Instagram is Great for Photographers, and Why You Shouldn’t Use It

Why Instagram is Great for Photographers, and Why You Shouldn’t Use It

Instagram is just a shadow of their former self. Photo by Allen Murabayashi

Earlier this year, I wrote an article entitled “Why Instagram is Terrible for Photographers, and You Should Use It.”

Today, I’d like to fully retract that statement because, screw those guys for ruining something fun.

First, no one should be surprised that a business looked to monetize its huge number of users. This is how the Internet works: companies get a meteoric rise in user base with no revenue model (exhibit A: Twitter, Exhibit B: Tumblr), and then struggle to figure out how to make money.

But let’s also be honest, while Facebook doesn’t have Google-like revenue, they certainly aren’t poor. They don’t need Instagram to make money – it’s a gateway drug for social media, and a dominant player in mobile. I’m sure they are looking to get a return-on-investment for their $700m acquisition, but seriously guys.

Google also has many properties that don’t make a ton of money. It’s been hypothesized for years that YouTube is a loss leader for them, and even if that has changed, the more significant observation is that the way we produce and interact with content on YouTube has remained fundamentally unchanged. You don’t give up your rights to videos by posting them. Instead, Google has been smarter about figuring out how to monetize the traffic (namely, ads over videos).

But instead of doing something creative like location-based, paid ads in your Instagram stream, Facebook has decided to just appropriate all your images.

Granted, given the huge number of images uploaded to the service, it’s unlikely that your images will be sold to another company. But for professional photographers, the threat is real. And since the GPS coordinates are on the images, it’s so much easier to find location-specific imagery. Want that Disney image? Eiffel Tower? No problem.

At the end of the day, is my life going to be impacted by Instagram all that much? No, but it was a way for me to stay in contact with friends visually, and I had enjoyed it immensely – from the most creative and artistic of images, and from the top professionals to the last mushroom burger Farah (our Client Services Manager) ate.

So for all of the enormous benefits Instagram has as a distribution platform, and as fun platform, the only advice I have for you now as a photographer is to delete your account.

May Instagram wither like an old Polaroid.

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Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 20 comments for this article
  1. Kristian at 9:53 am

    It’s been fun playing with Instagram, but even me, a non-professional hobby photographer will delete my account now. It is not in my interest that somebody else sell my photos. Even if they’re shot with an iphone and an app.

  2. Ken Kaminesky at 10:06 am

    Well said Allen. How discouraging for FB to do something so backhanded and sleazy. We should all have the courage to halp make their $700 million dollar investment bite them in the posterior. Shame on you Facebook.

  3. Stacy Walsh~Rosenstock at 10:16 am

    Just deleted all of my Instagram photos this morning. Not that I think they were prime advertising shots… but you never know.

    As an alternative, it would be nice if PhotoShelter provided its photographers with a direct path to upload cellphone photos to a specific folder on their sites.

  4. Liam Maloney at 10:34 am

    Maybe this is an opportunity for Photoshelter to make a mobile app that doesn’t grab rights? It might even encourage more people to subscribe… and Photoshelter already has a boatload of pros on board who would embrace the service.

  5. Dan Busler at 10:38 am

    I am guessing that the business plan was always that the images could be sold. We do have an option – add a watermark to your images … not sure how to do that yet (in phone … as it were) . On the other hand, most Instagram images are very bad quality. As for the teenagers – this is a major issue that their photos can now be sold and used in advertising . Question – if you delete the images does Instagram still own all of them?

  6. Laina Colgan at 11:07 am

    While I certain think the recent changes to Instagram are beyond sleazy, I for one will not be running to delete my account. I didn’t join to be recognized for my work but, more for the fun of seeing what my friends and photographic heros choose to share (most of which have stated they do not make the habit of ‘Instasharing’ their best works ie Ed Templeton, David Alan Harvey, Terry Richardson).

    To be completely honest, coming from the perspective of a small-time photog, if one of my images were to be used as a national campaign I would happily reap the benefit of the exposure. Just playing a little devil’s advocate here, I enjoy all your blog posts.

  7. kristjan at 12:21 pm

    For a long long time ive jumped through hoops to be able to watermark images posted through iphone on instagram (impression been my fav). Now I don’t have to do that any more.

  8. Pingback: Chris Odom Photo | Editorial and Advertising Photographer | Blog » Archive » Will I quit Instagram? Thoughts on the Instagram debacle.
  9. Cheryl Hurtak at 1:11 pm

    WARNING: Instagram (wholly owned by Facebook) has a new user agreement… They can now sell your photos to advertisers WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION, and without compensation to you. This is a breach of privacy and security. If you have photos of your children on Instagram, or if you are a photographer posting to Instagram, beware. The only option is to delete your account, you cannot opt out. PLEASE PASS THIS ON.

    Source: Bloomberg News 12/18/2012

  10. Matt at 9:41 pm

    @Laina Colgan
    I don’t remember reading anywhere in the new TOS that stated the user of an image has to credit you as the photograph’s creator. So there would be no exposure to reap outside of your existing network.

  11. Kent Nishimura at 1:24 am

    Patrick is spot on. A photoshelter app is definitely something that would benefit photoshelter members and non members alike. it would be a great way for users of photoshelter to be mobile and social, as well as for potential customers to interact and view our archives et al.

  12. Pingback: Why Instagram is Great for Photographers, and Why You Shouldn't … | PhotoMooMoo
  13. Jessica at 11:47 am

    I personally don’t see the harm of using Instagram. People can steal your photo’s no matter where you put them. Once you put your photo’s online, it’s open for the world to see. If someone wants to steal or sell your photo’s, their going to do so with every will power they have. I have my account as private (to help prevent someone taking my pictures) but like I said, If someone wants your pictures, they’ll take it. The BEST thing about Instagram is that you have so much fan base. I’d say 80 % of people have Instagram. I think Instagram is the BEST thing you should have as a photographer. It’s free, It’s simple. I take my photo’s with my digital camera and then upload them on Instagram and then I get 50 likes or so within a few minutes. It’s pretty awesome.

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