Why I love Instagram.

I admit it: Part of the reason I was really excited to get an iPhone was because I wanted to join in on Instagram.

I never gave Instagram much thought until Sandra Juto started creating iPhone photos with it a little more than a month ago. Sandra describes the app very well as being “like a Twitter for pictures”. She’s exactly right—Instagram is to photography what Twitter is to blogging. The former doesn’t take the place of the latter, but it’s good fun and the results are nice to look at.

I admittedly tend to be a little on the sour side when it comes to faux-old stuff, whether it’s lighting or clothing or photographs or whatever. I have a lot of respect for photographers who still shoot with film cameras and who have kept alive traditional processing and printing techniques despite (though not necessarily in lieu of) the surge of digital cameras that has nearly devoured the film industry. It makes me a little sad to see faux-Holga or faux-Polaroid effects on digital photos for that reason—especially when those effects are so immediately identifiable as such.

But really, I need to get over myself.

See, here’s the thing: ANYTHING that gets people to be more observant of their surroundings and helps them to not be afraid to experiment with expressing themselves visually is GOOD. It’s easy for a designer to roll their eyes when a “commoner” (heh) decides to play around with type and design their own book cover. A painter can snicker at a housewife who sets up an easel in the backyard to paint flowerbeds. I get it, I really do. I’m not a photographer by any stretch of the mind, though, and a fear of being judged in my ability to take a decent photo against the skills of someone who can define themselves as such has really gotten in the way of me feeling like it’s okay to pick up a camera. I’m always embarrassed by how lousy my photos are—there are a lot of things I wish I could do better, and taking pictures is at the top of that list. I took traditional photography classes in art school, and I always felt like I should have sat at the back of the room. I just don’t have whatever it is you need to have. So I’m a graphic designer instead.

But anyway. Instagram!

The best thing about Instagram is that the photos are ultra low-res (612×612), so there’s no need to ensure that they will need to look good in print. The iPhone and the web are the final destinations, so it’s all very low-pressure. Everyone else using the app is shooting at the same resolution, too, and everyone has access to that same set of pre-fab filters. No pretention whatsoever. I love it! The immediacy and lo-fi quality reminds me of the way Polaroid 600 film was regarded when I was a kid—no waiting, no fussing, and absolutely no expectation that the resulting photo was going to be museum-quality. Just instantaneous FUN. Plus, there are definitely plenty of times when I might feel a little silly pulling out my camera to take a picture of something, but a little iPhone? So handy, so easy, and so inconspicuous.

It’s important to just see the fun side of stuff sometimes, and it’s okay to create stuff that isn’t perfect or high-end. In the end, it’s good to just be creating for the sake of creating. Even if it’s just for yourself, and even if everyone else is doing it too.

If you have an iPhone, download Instagram (it’s free!) and see what you think. You can find me there as doorsixteen. (And if you don’t have an iPhone, you can see/subscribe to my Instagram photos in this feed.)

Nothin’ fancy. Just fun.

67 comments
  1. SallyMay 20, 201112:01 am

    “ANYTHING that gets people to be more observant of their surroundings and helps them to not be afraid to experiment with expressing themselves visually is GOOD.”

    So true! Love this post, Anna! And looking forward to more Instagram goodness from you!

    [Reply]

  2. annieMay 20, 201112:06 am

    i really, really love the observational and around-town shots you’ve been posting since you got your iphone! like, really really. they are pretty glimpses into your world, and i am enjoying them endlessly – i just wanted you to know!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Annie! That means so much to me coming from you. Thank you. xoxo

  3. MargotMay 20, 201112:44 am

    Spot on. Totally feel you on this! I get all stage-frighty when I’m behind the camera too. Which I find limiting as a freelancer & blogger. I’ve been kicking myself for it, but yep, I need to suck it up. Instagram’s definitely helped.

    [Reply]

  4. Vicki @ Piccolo Takes AllMay 20, 20111:08 am

    I love my iPhone(3Gs), and I love taking pictures with it. As a matter of fact, I blogged a somewhat similar sentiment to yours a while back. I do love the way Instagram photos look. However, I can’t seem to latch on to the app as a whole. I like the filters and everything, but the user interface and the automatic posting is annoying to me (I can’t get into Twitter, either). I actually prefer Hipstamatic. I enjoy choosing the “film” and “lens” BEFORE taking the picture, and then the anticipation of waiting to see how the image turns out. Sometimes they are “eh”, but sometimes they come out great, and that’s all part of the fun!

    [Reply]

  5. sandraMay 20, 20112:09 am

    what a great post you’ve done here anna! when i posted some of my instagram-pictures on my blog people were upset (!) about it. the more the merrier, i say :) great web-version you’ve found, much nicer to look at than webstagram!

    [Reply]

  6. traceyb65May 20, 20113:05 am

    one more reason to get me to an iphone … as if i REALLY needed any more reasons *sigh* i love the comparison to polaroids, keeping it fun and fresh! enjoy, i’ll be joining you soon, no doubt … xt

    [Reply]

    Lisa /

    Yep…
    Anna you should be endorsed by Apple! Everybody has been raving about iPhones, and I have just been mentally rolling my eyes, getting completely bored. But a few of your posts, and the adjoining comments, and I’m much more tempted!
    I think it’s because people have just been showing me these silly apps that I have no interest in- I’m not gonna fork out money for a phone that can repeat what I say with a catlike voice, however cute a novelty that is. A phone where you can choose a really fancy wallpaper and take casually chic photos- now that’s a completely different matter…

    I really love the photo with the quiet street and the red brick building by the way.

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks! That’s Gay Street in the West Village. It’s such a pretty spot—I can’t imagine it being possible to take a bad photo there. :)

  7. AizaMay 20, 20115:00 am

    I love Instagram!!! :)

    [Reply]

  8. SüskMay 20, 20115:22 am

    I am so glad you were able to articulate the “photo fear” so well! I have some photog friends who have shamed me into feeling like I just clubbed a baby seal if I put the dial on “Auto” on the digital camera. Sometimes 40 button-pushes and adjustments to get the same effect that bumping up the brightness a notch in Photoshop would do seems a bit…much. Especially when I could be stuffing my face instead. Ha. But seriously, I’m glad you put the feeling into words. Word up, sister!

    I love these photos- especially the from-above-with-blur ones- they remind me of a tiny model town- something I wouldn’t normally associate with New York! Loverly!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yes!! This sounds exactly like me (right down to the “stuffing my face” part, haha). It’s a rare day that I take my camera off of “auto” mode—and you’re right, I think that comes from being a designer and being used to have to constantly correct and adjust and change existing photos. Sometimes I really just want the snap right away, and if I think about it too much, I lose my courage and opt to not take the photo.

    I’m not under an illusion that I’m going to become a fantastic photographer via Instagram or anything, but it’s definitely okay to have fun and play a bit. :)

  9. tigressMay 20, 20116:05 am

    ugh! my iPhone is so old I have to wait to get a new version before I can get instagram. but it still can actually, you know, make phone calls. so I am waiting, but it’s killing me!

    [Reply]

  10. Squeezed of ShoreditchMay 20, 20117:25 am

    My favourites are the modern symbols (the Apple logo, the designer shoppers) pictured in the retro style. That idea really works.

    [Reply]

  11. heatherMay 20, 20119:45 am

    Ditto on the instagram love. Love your taxi cab and aerial views!
    I’m loving my new iphone too. I think there are a lot of useful apps that get overlooked. My husband got his a few months ago and it’s already helped out a lot with his business – you gotta love a phone that actually helps make you money. ;)

    [Reply]

  12. jodiMay 20, 201110:00 am

    yay! i love instagram. so happy that you have joined the fun.

    [Reply]

  13. JennieMay 20, 201110:04 am

    “It’s important to just see the fun side of stuff sometimes, and it’s okay to create stuff that isn’t perfect or high-end.”

    Wow, that is really resonating with me this morning. Being a professional in the design field makes doing that so hard sometimes. I get creative anxiety SO much with personal projects because I just worry “Is this good enough?” “What will people think?”. Then I start avoiding things that should be fun, such as drawing pictures and blogging because it’s just stressful. I get into this mindset that everything has to be a perfectly curated project, and it just sucks the fun right out of it. Thanks for this post, and keep on with your Instagram!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yep, exactly. And I think that’s true for a lot of folks with perfectionist tendencies, not just designers (though of course it’s rare to find a working designer who’s not a perfectionist!). It really gets in the way of progressing and growing and learning, doesn’t it? And of course you DO get better at things the more you practice and experiment.

    I’m still afraid to pick up a pencil and draw, though. ;)

  14. michelleMay 20, 201110:10 am

    <3 me some Instagram! i've been a terrible blogger, but have managed to keep up with posting to my Instagram almost daily. it's such an easy platform to use & although i've not delved into the social aspect of it, i've used it as sort of a personal challenge to document each day with a photo. also, what an awesome way to view all of your photos in one place with the feed. been a d16 reader for years & now following you on instagram. :)
    -minam0ri

    [Reply]

  15. TinaMay 20, 201112:13 pm

    I’ve been holding off on the iphone or ipad, or even that damn kindle. But your post makes me want to get an iphone simply for instagram. Dammit.

    [Reply]

  16. KaraMay 20, 201112:26 pm

    Oh Anna, I don’t know why you are so down on your photo abilities. Your photos are lovely, instagram and otherwise.

    I too have had mixed feelings about faux polaroid and holga effects, especially as someone who still shoots the real deal. So I’ve started thinking of them as just another kind of photography, rather than a fake version of something else (kind of the same way I regard vegetarian meat substitutes). But, as you said, these accessible effects democratize artmaking, and there’s no way that I can be against that.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I’m down on just about everything I do, hahaha. Thank you though, Kara. That’s nice of you to say. I’ve just never felt like I have a photographic eye.

  17. melani raeMay 20, 201112:38 pm

    I used to feel the same way about fake old-timery and film. But once I realized just how damaging the developing of film is to the environment I got over it. I’m 100% behind digital now.

    [Reply]

  18. EmilyMay 20, 20112:24 pm

    I will check this out! I currently use Hipstamatic, which can act sort of whacky sometimes. Thanks for the tip!

    [Reply]

  19. DoloresMay 20, 20113:53 pm

    Oh I love iPhone too (and your blog!), It makes taking fotos so much easier when you don’t need to carry a systems camera with you all the time. I have gone coco to Hipstamatic, but I have to test that Instagram too :)

    [Reply]

  20. StacyMay 20, 20114:44 pm

    Anna – think you might find this article interesting!
    Supposedly digital camera sales are dropping and analog camera sales increasing :-)

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20062810-93.html?ttag=fbw

    [Reply]

  21. Lonely Wife ProjectMay 20, 20116:50 pm

    I’m thinking about making the switch to iPhone and i have to admit the Instagram app is a major reason. BTW, your photographs are gorgeous (the recent concert photos are a great example). You have actual talent!

    [Reply]

  22. Melissa KlotzMay 20, 20117:52 pm

    You should try Camera+! I love it so far. It has more options than Instagram. http://campl.us/

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Much of what I like about Instagram is the lack of options, though. It’s those limitations that make it so much fun!

  23. Mamma BiscuitMay 20, 201111:08 pm

    Anna, you have a great eye for taking photos (cropping, composition and subject matter) and I personally have enjoyed the photos you’ve shared throughout the years. I can also relate to the discouragement that comes along with too many options! I’m guessing that Instagram recreates the same quality and look with just a few options which leaves the user to focus more on subject matter or being in the moment and capturing it! With that said, the iPhone stills scares the hell out of me……along with Twitter! I have such a highly addictive personality and currently, I can only handle Mamma’s Blog and Facebook but I do carry my digital camera everywhere I go and for now, I adjust the colors and lighting in photoshop of everything I take! (Thanks for those actions by the way ;-)

    I love that taxi cab photo very much!! NICE! and I see some lovely vignettes of Washington Heights in the mix….what a way to represent!
    xo
    The Biscuits!

    [Reply]

  24. JeffreyMay 21, 201112:59 am

    This was a very lovely and well-written post. I haven’t been using Instagram as of late, but now I feel suddenly compelled to once again. Thanks Anna!

    [Reply]

  25. LizMay 21, 20115:23 am

    I’ve loved the recent posts and love the fact that although I found your blog when looking for a bit of DIY info – and still think of your house as the focal point of your writing – you’ve had me hooked with to dos, lipstick and instagrams.

    By the time I’ve come to comment others have said all I wanted to say and it felt a bit lame to say ditto. I know it’s off post but I wanted to send you best wishes; I hope the next year brings you happiness and all the little and big things you are looking for. (And on a selfish level, I look forward to reading about some of it here.)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks, Liz! That’s nice of you to say. :) And yes, the focus of this blog really is just me, me, me…or at least what’s interesting to me!

  26. jennyMay 21, 20117:59 am

    Love this – lots of good stuff, not just the photos!
    And the comments, too! Eg Liz’s: “By the time I’ve come to comment others have said all I wanted to say”. Me too! But I’ll say it anyway!

    Sounds to me like this instagram thingy has given you the freedom to create without judging yourself before you even start. I think that’s somethign lots of people suffer from – I know I do. Consequently, nothing gets done!

    Brava!

    “ANYTHING that gets people to be more observant of their surroundings and helps them to not be afraid to experiment with expressing themselves visually is GOOD.

    It’s important to just see the fun side of stuff sometimes, and it’s okay to create stuff that isn’t perfect or high-end. In the end, it’s good to just be creating for the sake of creating. Even if it’s just for yourself, and even if everyone else is doing it too.

    Just instantaneous FUN.”

    [Reply]

  27. BrightMay 21, 201111:02 am

    Love, love, love Instagram. I have a very nice digital camera that I never really use but always think of when I see something beautiful in my world. Having the ability to capture that moment and share it makes me incredibly happy.

    I also love the pictures with the cars: miniature town diorama! I feel like a little kid, watching Mr Rogers.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I love that you made a Mr. Rogers comparison! I know exactly what you’re talking about….the Land of Make-Believe. :)

  28. ReidunnMay 22, 20114:59 am

    Love your instagram photos Anna. Makes me want an Iphone for the first time.

    [Reply]

  29. jez riley FrenchMay 22, 20117:49 am

    Hi Anna,

    found your article via Sanda Juto’s blog. I publish a free pdf arts magazine every month & wondered if you’d be interested in allowing this article to be published in there along with some of your instagrams ? am planning an issue on instant photography (polaroids, instagrams etc). my email is tempjez@hotmail.com

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks for the interest, jez, but I’m not I interested in having my blog posts published anywhere else. Feel free to link to this post, though, and/or to excerpt a quote/photo.

  30. lindsey clareMay 23, 201112:00 am

    Oh Anna, you expressed this so well. I feel very similarly – I was a bit of a snob actually, about the whole fauxlaroid phenomenon. I didn’t understand why, if people wanted the look and feel of vintage photography, they didn’t just use… vintage photography! But over time I started to understand what you’ve written about.

    Also, I too studied photography at uni, so I can develop you a film but I can’t tell you half the features of my DSLR which I’ve had for years! It’s funny isn’t it?

    [Reply]

  31. Claire GuigalMay 23, 20115:50 am

    Really nice shots! My art school was the National School of Photography in France… I started as a photographer but as you said “I just don’t have whatever it is you need to have”… So I’m a graphic designer and… I design books in Paris. Since February, I have a new blog: 7fevrier.tumblr.com to show to my friends my pictures with my iPhone… I like these particular effects on the pictures (instagram or in my case Hipstamatic), I know where it comes from, the traditionnal processing, but really who cares now? It’s not Art… It’s candies…
    Merci pour les bonbons!
    ps: I’m gonna use your “how-to-cut-an-enje-roller-shade” for my kitchen next week end… Thank you again… Do you say “Parallel lifes” in english?

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    “It’s not Art… It’s candies”

    That’s a great quote, Claire, I love it! So true. :)

  32. NiclasMay 23, 20118:52 am

    Anna, Instagram is great but I downloaded the new PhotoForge2 this weekend and it´s really fun to play with. Instagram is faster, but Photoforge2 has a lot more to play with…

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I don’t want more to play with. I want fast and minimal options…that’s the whole reason I like Instagram. ;)

  33. KarinaMay 23, 20115:34 pm

    Ugh, I want an iPhone so badly. I feel so behind the times with my non-touch screen, app-hating cell phone, and Instagram looks and sounds wonderful.

    [Reply]

  34. DecotalesMay 23, 20115:54 pm

    I love this – was feeling quite happy with my Android phone until I saw what amazing pictures you can create with Instagram and the iPhone – anyone know if there’s something similar for Android?

    [Reply]

  35. Leah AshleyMay 23, 20117:01 pm

    LOVE this app! Check out this out! A whole road trip documented using the app! SOOO FABULOUS! http://fabulousonabudget.com/fashion/fabulous-art-work-in-austin/

    [Reply]

  36. Kimberley BaudelaireMay 23, 20118:32 pm

    Anna, you just gave me permission to have fun (re NOT be perfect). I love you.

    [Reply]

  37. keishuaMay 24, 20111:36 pm

    Yes, I love Instagram and Iphone photography, in general so fun. I use it a lot.

    [Reply]

  38. AinsleyMay 24, 20112:12 pm

    Some of these look like tilt-shift photos. Must be the angle and… does the Instagram app mimic a tilt-shift lens?

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yes, there’s a little tilt-shift option that you can use if you want! :)

  39. Jason Hudson Dot ComMay 24, 20117:04 pm

    I call it Twitter for visual learners.
    And aren’t we all?

    So glad you’re on it. You’re an Instagram superstar. Beautiful stuff.

    [Reply]

  40. HeatherMay 25, 201112:55 pm

    Thanks so much Anna! I’ve been using Hipstamatic, CamZoom, HDRforFree, TiltShiftGen, and CameraBag…I have always loved those, but I think its awesome that Instagram has a great sharing ability! HOW FUN!

    [Reply]

  41. k bastaMay 26, 201110:19 am

    I agree entirely, Anna: anything that gets people to look deeper / more / carefully & be creative is a good thing!

    Instagram feels like one big, global class project: take a fairly unsophisticated camera and come up with a photo that will look good in a square on a tiny screen, and share with the world. No pressure to be brilliant or perfect – it’s just for fun. Also, I think that shooting photos can be a lonely experience (for non-bloggers)… it’s great to get so much daily feedback and inspiration.

    Look forward to seeing more of your snaps on there!

    [Reply]

  42. PistachioMay 26, 20111:16 pm

    Look at that! I need to get with the program! I had no idea. Thank you for sharing this. We are going on vacation next week and this would be a great thing to have on the iPhone.
    Thanks Anna :)

    [Reply]

  43. CharlieMay 26, 20118:33 pm

    Oh I can SO relate to this post. As someone who was so steeped in the analog world (I bought vinyl records as a teenages.. in the 90’s. Dad still has the ol’ reel to reel player. My Polaroid camera tattoo is unironic, a memorial for my photography teacher.) I hated the onslaught of “faux-toy” camera effects.
    But there’s something about Instagram that I really love- I think it’s the way it has of being a community without being totally overbearing. It’s easy, fun, simple and encourages people to SHARE. And really, isn’t that the best thing we can do with our images, with our point of view?
    And I have to say, being active with Instagram has only fueled my desire to shoot more film. I even bought eight rolls today, to start off the summer right!

    [Reply]

  44. BeccaMay 27, 20117:36 am

    you’re so great about this.
    truly, the only thing I know about iphones is their photo-cool ability, and seeing these pictures makes me want one. but it works with poladroid and such for those broke people such a myself too.
    just a fun, easygoing way to get in some more pictures, right?

    [Reply]

  45. STEFANIEMay 30, 20115:41 am

    Ooh, I love instagram! Adding you now :)!

    [Reply]

  46. CarolineJun 6, 201111:28 am

    I also use Camerabag and Tilt Shift Generator apps.

    [Reply]

  47. SoniaJun 15, 20111:50 pm

    Thanks for writing about Instagram – I’ve had a iPhone for sometime but didn’t know about this app. Downloaded after reading this and haven’t looked back, I find it so useful for my website and Twitter, so much appreciated. I would never have found it otherwise.

    Also, another (belated) thanks for introducing me the joy of garlic scapes. I read your post last year just as I was about to compost mine, I did not know you could eat them! Last year I just fried and added to some other vegetable, this year made good use of them and made a whole batch of pesto.

    So, THANKS!!

    [Reply]

  48. emcoultonJun 21, 20119:32 am

    I love, love LOVE instagram! Amazing, the shots you can get out of it. Thanks for posting this!

    [Reply]

  49. Skinny laMinxJul 22, 20113:09 pm

    Jeez, you DO get a lot of comments, and here I am, adding to them.

    So well put. And boy, am I kicking myself for not replacing my stolen (insured) Blackberry with an iPhone. Instagram! I will love you from afar…

    [Reply]

  50. EmilieSep 26, 201111:37 pm

    I don’t think anyone should laugh at anyone else for trying to get in touch with their artistic side….I don’t know who these artists are who are laughing at the housewives, but I think someone should pop them in the nose! (I’m only sort of joking).

    I think it’s a bit sad that you feel uncomfortable about people judging your lack of photography skills…you clearly enjoy taking pictures, and I think that’s what art is all about…isn’t it? Isn’t the girl taking pictures with her iPhone, or the housewife painting flowers in her garden getting just as much out of it as a “real” artist? (aside from the monetary gain of course, which many of my starving artist friends will tell you is not what art is about).

    Anyways, all that aside, I think you have a really good eye, I like your photos.

    [Reply]

  51. KizaNov 15, 201112:50 am

    How did you get your instagrams to be that size without sacrificing resolution quality?

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. The resolution for Instagram pictures is even higher now than when I wrote this post. The version that gets uploaded when you publish a photo has always been 612px wide, and these here are reduced to 600px. I’m not doing anything special!

  52. francescaApr 18, 201212:57 am

    once again, may i ask how u made the collages of all the instagrams together? did u use photoshop or this there a specific way to do this via instagram app??

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Plain old Photoshop!

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