All it takes to call yourself a photographer these days is to have a camera, right? Even a camera phone counts. People are styling themselves iPhotographers. They even have a magazine dedicated to photography with your iPhone!
This all seems somewhat ridiculous to those photographers who know it takes more than a camera to truly be a photographer. I hear a lot of people complain about apps like Instagram ruining what photography is all about. It’s supposed to be an art form, something you really work on. This stems from the days of film, where it was a long and sometimes expensive process to take a photo, so the photographer really had to think about composition, subject, lighting, and all sorts of other elements. Photographers with this mindset see Instagram as lazy and frivolous. Instagram and other mobile photo apps come with all these preset filters and whatnot, no one really has to worry about if a photo looks good on its own without any help from editing anymore.
But Instagram is a social media site, first and foremost. And while I know photographers that use Instagram as a way to showcase their skills, I use it as a social media site. I use it to capture moments in my life that don’t necessarily warrant me getting out my Nikon. Moments that sort of spontaneously happen, that I need to be quick about if I want to capture them.
My Instagram is pretty much full of my cats and whatever food I eat. Both of these subjects are not something I want or need to capture as a large RAW file, edit in Photoshop, print out and hang on my wall. They’re just moments and things that I want to remember and share with my friends and family. Before Instagram, I would text my parents pictures of my two cats doing silly things. My parents took care of my two furbabies for a while when I wasn’t able to, and are quite fond of Disco and his sister Juri. Now with Instagram, my parents and my friends can see what shenanigans the two furballs are up to!
When it comes down to it, you can use Instagram or a comparable app however you want. Use it creatively, use it to showcase your skills, use it to document your life, use it to share with your family and friends. If you want to be an iPhotographer, go for it! It doesn’t really matter what type of camera you use. Being a photographer is more about how much you enjoy photography rather than whether or not you have an expensive piece of equipment. It’s about you wanting to learn about photography and working at improving your skill and developing your own style rather than if you’re using a Nikon D5100 or an old point-and-shoot Canon. Don’t let anyone talk down to you because of the equipment you use or the ways you choose to share your photography! Even if you’re only using your iPhone and only using Instagram to share moments of your life with friends, it’s still developing your skill as a photographer. It’s still developing your personal style. You learn which shots you like and which you don’t, you learn what sort of edits you like based on what filters you use, you learn that the grid lines provided in the app will help you compose better photographs. Tagging your photos and going through tags to see other people’s photos of the same subject help you develop your personal style and skill, too. If you like the way someone else took a photograph of their cat, try and replicate it! It’s fun and helpful to try and figure out new techniques on your own. You might make a friend out of the deal, too! But perhaps best of all, you can easily look back and see your progress as a photographer, regardless of whether or not you’re consciously trying to improve your Instagram photos.
So matter what anyone says, get out there and shoot!