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Gear & Apps

Is Instagram Destroying Itself?

By Holly Roa on February 12th 2017

Instagram’s role in the photography world can’t really be overstated. Photographers of older generations hardly believe it if you tell them that art directors are combing Instagram in search of photographers for ad campaigns and that it actually DOES matter how many followers you have. But how did Instagram become this, and are they on a path to self-destruction?

[RELATED: Instagram and The Future of Editorials]

DigitalRev explores Instagram’s story in their video, ‘Instagram Is Repeating Its Own Mistakes!’ Little known fact: Instagram had its beginnings in 2009 in a Foursquare-esque app called Burbn. Burbn’s creators soon realized that its users were most interested in sharing images and felt that Burbn was trying too hard to fulfill multiple purposes when they could be more efficient by focusing on one. They created a new app to focus solely on what they had seen their users cared about the most – photo sharing. From the concepts “instant photo” and “telegram,” the Instagram app was born and spiraled quickly into a household name.


However, in 2012, Instagram was purchased for a billion dollars by a company notorious for its desire to be all things to all people and keep its users wrapped up in its ecosystem as long as humanly possible – Facebook. Under Facebook’s control, Instagram introduced ads and boosted posts, and after failing to acquire Snapchat, pulled a very Facebook-like maneuver and incorporated their own take on what gave Snapchat its success, what Instagram calls Stories.

DigitalRev theorizes that by incorporating more features, Instagram could end up with the same problem Burbn had that gave way to its inception. Its initial success stemmed from specializing, but as it broadens in emulation, it risks deteriorating the specialization that made it successful in the first place.

What do you think of the changes Instagram has made? Paving the way for future success, changing too much or in the wrong ways, or something in between?

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Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Craig Brown

    All I know is that I want more followers and it’s like pushing the proverbial uphill. I post regularly, follow for follow, like for like, hashtags, act on all the advice that is out there.

    I would walk across a mile of hot coals for an art director to discover me there and hire me to create some content.

    Check my style;

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  2. Rocco Richardson

    Im sorry, I have to respectfully and completely disagree with the first sentence of this article (or a part of it) that …”it actually DOES mattter how many followers you have.”  Im sorry this is simply not true and an amazing and very educational website like SLR lounge should do a better job of informing exactly what something like instagram is and what it is not.  

    Yes, it is a great tool and having lots of followers on a (currently) active social platform can be an asset (or a detriment in some cases).  

    Just like having and using a  70-200mm lens is a great tool and can be an asset or  (or a detriment in some cases….)

     …NEITHER actually matters to your end result as a pro photographer in the year 2017.  

    What actually matters is what SLR Lounge has taught me since the beginning of my photography journey…THE WORK.  Its not about the gear, or the trendy social flavor of the month……as this article (maybe indirectly points out) Instagram is a bought and sold trend three times over and will eventually be irrelevant.  

    What doesn’t change and what ad agencies and clients notice the most , and will pay the top dollar for and you can vehemently  defend and stand by no matter what…is GOOD WORK.  

    Spend more time making great pictures and less worrying about followers and the money will come (and last).  

    Case in point, Lin and Jirsa did not become successful because of instagram and when instagram folds someday or is not relevant anymore (and it will be eventually….see Flickr….) people will still use and pay top dollar for Lin and Jirsa’s work.  

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    • Holly Roa

      Hi Rocco! I suppose you’re correct that worded as an absolute that phrase is arguable. It doesn’t necessarily matter to everyone. However, art directors do look at Instagram in search of talent. The more followers, the greater the likelihood that your work will be seen by someone who wants to hire a photographer with your aesthetic for commercial work. It’s more common than you might think. The visibility a strong social media presence grants you is valuable.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Rocco, I’m afraid I have to disagree with you there. While followers are not everything and popularity is no measure of quality, depending on your marketing strategy, and more so what genre of photography you’re in and what your goals are, followers DO matter. Whether a particular generation cares to admit it or not, IG is where the eyes are, and no longer is IG a place for selfies and pet pictures alone (and hasn’t been for a while), but it’s, as I’ve often said, the destination for the curatorial and editorial. 

      I speak with various brands and manufacturers of camera equipment, and then merchandising lines and to them followers matter. I know of very large camera company now that won’t even look at you to feature or work with or represent if you don’t have 50k minimum. 

      There are architectural groups and real estate marketing firms who look directly at engagement and followers when considering the style of work and person they go with. Not to mention model agencies look for this too when looking to represent models (often if you don’t have min 5-10k as a model it’s not a good thing), and photographers too. 

      So again, it does matter, but more to some than others. Can you be successful today without it? Sure. But to deny its validity is not really inline with the reality for many. 

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