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News & Insight

Instagram and The Future of Editorials

By Kishore Sawh on January 1st 2015


Instagram is the quintessential expression of modern photography trends, in my humble opinion. From the curatorial to the editorial, as Editorial Director of Instagram, Pamela Chen says, Instagram is all about community, and that community is made up of the most frequent and prolific, if not entirely professional, photographers. But it includes those too. Instagram isn’t Flickr, it isn’t a museum, it is where all the people are, almost in real time, and one of the things the Instagram editorial crew is trying to do, is bring all those people together.

How does one do that? With a company with a suspected value north of 30 billion, Instagram is not just a part of the photographic industry, but almost an industry on its own. Big companies are notoriously poor at creating personal connections and nurturing them, but one of the ways Instagram does this is by featuring certain users, who have projects in the works, on their own Instagram profile. That profile is followed by 60 million people and the exposure of those individuals connects like minds, and interested parties who may not have known that artist existed. The reach is also immediate.



What Instagram has been doing, that many seem unaware of, is transitioning from a purely app-based and digital platform into a physical one as well. There have been numerous occasions when Instagram has staged events with tangible examples of work on the app, and usually, again, done with a sense of community in mind.

There’s a video of Pamela Chen, below, addressing the audience at Magnum Foundation’s 2014 PhotoEx symposium where she delves into much of what I’m speaking of. It’s enlightening to get a better understanding of what Instagram offers, where it is and where it’s heading, and one of the things you should be able to take away from this, is that Instagram is about support for photographers and the craft; and it can be wielded by you for this purpose. It’s a good watch and listen.



This, I think, is key. There’s a lot of noise on Instagram of people posting nonsense or purely fun, or anecdotal, or random things, but if you dial down the noise beyond the selfie chatter, you’ll see that Instagram is probably the best place to spot new photographic trends, artists, subjects, etcetera. At the dawn of a new year, this seems only set to expand and become even more true. I have no question in my mind that Instagram will be used as a full on marketing tool in the vein of magazines and the likes, with professional grade work.

[REWIND: The Road Ahead – The Future Of Our Gear & Industry]

And as a photographer, and one who has even a little reach, it may sound strange to hear from me, but one pice of advice I would offer as the dawn of a new year breaks, is to take Instagram more seriously for your work. You don’t have to be as benighted as many of the users, and when you’re not, you’ll get noticed by other like minds, discover like minds, and be more current. It may have once been the foray of the iPhonographer, but that doesn’t even have the same negative connotations it used to, and it’s no longer only that. Instagram is a benchmark tool now for field testing for pros. It’s sad I hardly use it, but I’ll tell you now, I’m about to start.

Do you find Instagram useful in your business? Do you think it could be?

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    I feel so old not keeping up with these developments in social media.

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    • Kate Hailey

      haha Graham, don’t feel that way, it’s tough to keep up with, without a doubt!

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  2. Diane Colquhoun

    Instagram is my main photo-sharing platform And I prefer it to any of the other ones I have tried.
    I agree with the statement that Instagram is a community.

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  3. Jesper Anhede

    Any idea how they find who they promote on their page?

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    The statement on the front page of Instagram doesn’t appeal to me. I was going to include the front page statement, but it would take away from my comments, so go visit Instagram for yourself.

    Okay, I frequently forget that I always have a camera with me, my cell phone. But I find smartphones lacking in features that SLRs have that I enjoy using. Shutter lag and the autofocus hunting are two characteristics that I hate about smartphones.

    Until last year, I shot film exclusively, which I still use. That is not particularly “instant”. My DSLR doesn’t have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect to my smartphone for uploads, so that is not an “instant” process either.

    My impression of Instagram has been that it is a place for people to apply crappy filters to cell phone photographs. When I shoot B&W film, I will probably use filters, but that is B&W contrast filters.

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    • Martin Van Londen

      What I would recommend is saving your most interesting images from your dslr or Slr and post them regularly. No not use any filters. Filters take away from your brand that you have been working hard to develop. Do not worry about the instant part of Instagram. I would just look at it as the best place to freely advertise your best work to penitential clients. Also find people who work at creative agencies or publications and strike up a conversation with them. You never known where it might lead. These are some things that have helped me be sucussfull. I would also recommend looking at some of the large accounts and see what they are doing that works. @trashhand is one I really like. Good luck! Also feel free to connect with me if you make it on. @Versace_van_londen

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  5. Kate Hailey

    I have been using IG for quite a few years, I’ve shared over 1600 images there, including 2 of my 365 projects. Up until this point I’ve used it only for iPhone photography, but this year I’m expanding beyond that to share images created with any cameras.

    I see more engagement and more future in IG, as opposed to Flickr, there have been so many changes with Flickr’s UI over the past few years it seems to keep pushing my interest further and further away.

    IG isn’t going anywhere, not anytime soon. I do believe it can have an impact on your business, depending on what your business is. Companies like Warby Parker and REI really show off their brands and inspire their audiences.

    I believe if you invest time in it, it could have a pay off. But just like any social network, it depends on your audience, if your audience is using IG, then yes, you should too, if they’re only on FB or Twitter, then perhaps not.

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  6. Steve VanSickle

    Every year that I keep shooting, I make at least one photography-related goals for the year. This may be the year of social media and business, and I plan on using Instagram a lot more.

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  7. Ian Sanderson

    I’m on the fence when it comes to IG, I think t’s got better since they got rid of the fake accounts but I’m still not 100% sold. I might make it my main photo sharing platform of 2015 and see where it goes

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  8. Martin Van Londen

    Instagram is the only way I drive traffic to my site. It works better then paid facebook adds and it’s free. I just wish Instagram would feature me.. That’s the only Grail. It could be a life changing thing.

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  9. Troy Barboza

    I think Instagram is going to be one of the main social medias used this year, it truly is an awesome application and platform.

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  10. Steven Pellegrino

    I’ve never gotten into Instagram. The biggest reason is I’m not a mobile technology guy. I don’t text, check my email, twitter or anything else from my phone. I just use my phone (Android) to make and receive calls. I had fun with apps for about 2 weeks when I first got it, but for me the novelty wore off quickly. That being said, Instagram is definitely a mobile platform. For someone who doesn’t embrace that way of working/sharing, it’s not easy to share or follow.

    I had an Instagram account for a few years, not sure how long, and for most of that time I didn’t do anything with it. I decided to take a few months and put some effort into it – posting regularly, tagging photos, following other people, commenting, etc. But I never gained anymore than about 40 followers. I deleted the account because I wasn’t seeing any kind of return for the effort it took to post photos. I don’t like Twitter either, but there I do see a return for the effort.

    Some people say that if you’re not using the camera on your phone and using your phone to interact with Instagram, then what’s the point? If there was a desktop app that would allow me to do what I needed to with Instagram, I would use it. But writing about and tagging photos on a mobile device, for me, is a pain and takes too long, which is a shame after seeing this video. It gave me some interesting ideas that I hadn’t considered before, but it would still require not interacting with Instagram with a mobile device.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Steven, I wouldn’t feel poorly about your lack of mobile device use at all. As far as your use of instagram, if you find your business isn’t lacking, or it’s where you want it.there’s nothing to say that an established business can’t survive without it. Getting followers takes time, and it does take effort. One of the biggest mistakes I find in the thinking about social media in general, is this notion that simply getting on them will open this whole new avenue of an audience. It’s really not the case. If you’re interested in this, there’s a book by Gary Vaynerchuck called ‘Crush It’ which explains how to approach and think about these outlets, and I think that’s the biggest take away from it – that it takes effort, but it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. Don’t be put off by the attention grabbing title, the material is solid and Gary more so.

      About instagram further, i do think it’s the way forward, at least as an example, but as always there will be a group of people to whom that doesn’t apply. You may be in that group.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      Kishore, I’m very familiar with Vaynerchuck. I’ve been a fan for while now. I don’t know if Instagram is important to my business or not for the simple reason I’m not finding the connections. Again, for me the biggest complaint I have about Instagram is it’s a mobile-only platform. Even when I was very active on it I never checked my phone to see what other people I was following were posting, it just never occurred to me. In addition to that the whole process of typing is tedious for me on a phone or tablet. That’s why I don’t text.

      Here’s an example of why I don’t get Instagram. This past summer I posted a sunrise photo of Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play. I posted the same thing on both Twitter and Instagram. The Cards were having a losing streak and I wrote this with the photo – “The sun rises on a new day at Busch Stadium”. It was current, optimistic and the kind of thing a Cards fan would want to see. At the time I only had about 40 or 50 Twitter followers and about 25 or so Instagram followers. The response on Twitter was something I had never seen before with anything I posted, over 125 retweets and almost that many favorites. I gained new followers and people asked about buying a print. On Instagram I had maybe 5 likes, that’s it. Same photo, same hashtags. Completely opposite results.

      The most response I’ve every gotten on Instagram was in August during the beginning of the protests in Ferguson. When I stopped posting Ferguson photos, I lost most of the people who started following me after I stopped with the protest photos. Being in Ferguson for almost 20 years I didn’t like how the media was showing the city and I started showing sides of Ferguson the media wouldn’t show, all positive, and that turned a lot of people off.

      But here’s what renewed my interest in Instagram – After watching the video I was struck that Instagram can be used as a micro-blog. It never occurred to me to have more than a few words and hashtags with a photo. It was an “aha” moment.

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  11. Albert Evangelista

    Wonderfully said…. I’m a BIG fan of Instagram (aka @aarree). I will be referring this article to my non-IG friends…. :)

    #SorryNotSorry for the #SelfPromotion :p

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