Instagram: The Pros + Cons

Joining instagram, for me, has become more than joining some social media app; in joining instagram, I’ve become part of a community of mothers, photographers, and like-minded people. Whether it be one of those days where caring for two young boys has got the best of me or one of those days where recovering from surgery has me feeling more or less defeated, the community I’m part of on instagram always lifts me up. I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement that leaves me feeling incredibly grateful and humbled daily. That’s pretty special.
I am my own worst critique. Truthfully, I can’t stand looking back at stuff I shot just six months ago because I feel like my vision is constantly evolving. Being able to shoot and post on a daily basis, even if it is just with my iPhone, keeps this vision I speak of fresh and new and ever-changing.
It keeps me humble. There are so many talented people that post award-worthy images every single day.
They say with everything, you get better with practice. And it’s true. Shooting daily with my iPhone has encouraged me to see things differently through my real camera; to adjust settings, expose differently, capture light in new ways. The more you do something, the better you get; plain and simple.
Never before have I thought so far out of the box. Scrolling through my feed, little seeds are planted and, in time, they sprout and grow into something entirely their own. I’m sitting on so many ideas that literally sprint back and forth in my mind and the creative energy soothes me like heroin to an addict.
I’ve met people through instagram that quickly became real life friends. And friendships are always beautiful and treasured things.
Instagram has been a great way to connect me with clients. It feels so good when someone contacts me about a session and mentions they found me via instagram. To me, this means that they like my work on a daily basis and that’s one of the best compliments around. I consider it one of the biggest honors and privileges to photograph other people and/or families, so to be chosen in an era where the photography market is saturated with photographers, it’s pretty special.
I love supporting others. Though it takes a lot of time and preparation, I love taking over the @childhoodunplugged feed because I love getting the opportunity to showcase the work of others. It feels so good to give back and introduce others to images that have touched me or influenced me in some way. Again, this speaks -in part- to the beautiful instagram community.
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Art gets monotonized. It’s bittersweet. At some point, someone snapped a lovely picture of themselves from above enjoying their latte and the next thing you know there were a thousand photos from other photographers with their favorite book on the table and their hand holding their coffee mug, from above. Same thing with shadows on the wall; makes me wonder if any of us can refrain from placing our kid directly in the afternoon light on the wall in an effort to create something we saw before. Want to know what kind of shoes someone owns? Just search their feed for a #fromwhereistand photo; pretty sure we all have one. I’m guilty of these too, so in no way am I pointing fingers or naming names. We influence each other and, as I said, it’s bittersweet.
Art produces energy and, at times, I sense a negative energy; I think it stems from some sort of weird competitive aura. People get all weird about how many likes they get on their photos or how many followers they have. I hate having to wonder if people tag me in an image because they are hoping I tag them back (and thus bring them some new followers) or because they really care #widn (what I’m doing right now). I’ve read posts where people have admitted to feeling anxious over what to post and if people will like it. Others have attested to being in “posting ruts”, which insinuates that there is some sort of weird inner pressure to post something even when you’re not feelin’ it. People get carried away and seem to lose all sight of perspective.
By the same token, I recently learned that there is an app that notifies you of when someone “de-follows” you, which I think is just pure craziness. Again, when it becomes more about the numbers and less about the content or the relationships, a tragedy has occurred. I personally like following many different people who shoot a variety of things and in an effort to keep it intimate, I like to keep the number of people I follow to a minimum. And thus, I “un-follow” people all the time so that I can follow someone new instead. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like their work, not at all. You wouldn’t go to a museum over and over again if they continually featured the same artists, right? I like to mix it up and it hurts my heart to think that some may take offense to that.
There are a ton of very, very successful photographers that don’t have a huge instagram presence or following. So, when I come across someone who hangs to every follower as some magical number that’s going to launch their photography career, I’m reminded that there are small picture thinkers and big picture thinkers. The take home message: ignore

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your number of followers.

Let’s be honest, it’s a time suck. And talk about sending the wrong message; “No, Hooper, you cannot watch another episode of Curious George” -says the mom who has her face buried in her phone as her thumb goes up and down the screen flapping back and forth like a motor on a boat. Perhaps just as important as picking your phone up is putting your phone down. My children are still too young, but I feel for the parents who confess that their children have given them a hard time for spending more time documenting their lives than being present in their lives. It makes my heart ache because it’s impossible to do both.
Robots can take over your feed. Who knew? I know nothing of this nor do I want to, but it’s weird. By the same token, kinda creepy when you see someone you’ve never met steal photos of your kid and post them as if they are their own photos of their own kids. Again, this has yet to happen to me but I’ve seen it happen to many others and it makes me cringe with disgust and disbelief. I’ve also come across others that have had their images stolen and used for advertisements with no credit given to the artist. This infuriates me.
The amount of “likes” you get, or don’t get, on a photo can affect you as an artist. For example, I always get more likes on the photos I post of my boys. As soon as I post a well shot image of my best friend, or husband, or a plant, I don’t get as much love. You have to remember the platform you’re using. The general public seems to like bare naked baby butts over an artistically shot image of a plant. It’s important to remember that not everyone on instagram is a photographer, rather the instagram community as a whole is a mere representation of the public in general. I don’t let the amount of “likes” I get, or don’t get, affect what I shoot or what I post.
What are your pros and cons to using instagram or social media in general?
*All images shot with my iPhone 5

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7 Responses

  • Social media is tricky. I always waver between loving it and wanting to quit it completely. There is something alluring about posting something and having that instant gratification of multiple “likes,” but NEEDING that starts to get into dangerous territory. I miss the days when my world was a little smaller and I didn’t have 400 “friends”; I had, like, 5–the people I saw/talked to on a regular basis. It gets to be a popularity contest and it’s competitive and strange. I joke with Chris, “If I don’t post about this on Facebook, did it really happen?” I think it’s just about staying real with intention…why am I posting this? what is my purpose? is this enhancing my life or wasting time? I don’t see social media going away, so probably have to find a balance.

  • Wow, this is a great post! Lately, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Instagram. I’m a SAHM and aspiring photographer. I love how inspiring IG can be – and how, when I’m too busy to pick up my “big girl camera”, I can continue to shoot with my iPhone – and continue to expand my prospective and my “eye”. Also, I love to meet other like-minded mothers! That all being said, it really is a time suck and a huge distraction. In moderation, it’s great. (That is how I found you)! But too much – and it’s just another thing that takes you away from those beautiful real life moments with your children. I’ve also come to a place where I’m going to shoot what I like as an artist – not what I think will get me the most likes. There are even times when I’ve posted something, then taken it down because I don’t feel that it’s really something that I like that much – even if other people like it. Does that make sense? Crazy. I guess, at the end of the day, the trick is to not take any of it that seriously. I post what I like – and keep my IG active despite all of these things because I absolutely LOVE the art of photography. By the way, your stuff is absolutely lovely!

  • I love all that you’ve brought out in this post. (I just recently discovered your feed from your photoshoot with the Kraus gang, and really admire the way that you captured their family.) Although I have discovered a few things about instagram that creepy me out (the photo stealing that you mention as well as some role playing game using photos of other people’s children,) I really do love it as a community. I love it that I can set my profile to private, and make sure that my followers *seem* safe and genuinely interested in my feed before I let them into those moments in my life that I find dear enough to post. I love it that I feel like I can post as often or as little as I like. And I really, really love the interactions I have with my “followers,” though I would be more apt to describe them as friends. I don’t waste time worrying about numbers because it is really my own little journal of what is important to my family as a given moment in time (and actually, because I have not given up on having my photos in printed form, we’ve made a little “best of” yearbook for the past couple of years that holds our favorite IG photos from my feed.) I post less on my blog because of the “little moments” documented quickly, but I actually find that it inspires me to be quick with the lens and then more involved in the moment.

    Again, so glad I discovered you on instagram and here as well. Your work is beautiful.

  • Just found your site and think your photographs are lovely. This is a really timely post for me. I used instagram a few years ago and then stopped when people I didn’t know were commenting on photos of my infant. I got nervous (but, I was nervous about everything then – new Mom syndrome). I also got frustrated with the interface and I can’t remember why. I’m a graphic designer, not a photographer. So I also felt like my time was better spent on other social platforms (website, facebook, blog, etc.). However, I have recently been rethinking if I want to bring instagram back in to the mix, merely out of a desire to connect with other creatives. I’ve been working from home the last 3 years and while I love being available for my family, I do miss having daily dialogues with creative co-workers. But as you mentioned in your post, instagram is the general public and that may not give me the type of connection I am searching for. Time is precious, I think we have to decide on which social platforms make the most sense for each of us.

  • My biggest Instagram hate is that when you sign up for an Instagram, you have to agree with the terms which include that Instagram OWNS the copyright of the images you post… It’s basically not ‘your’ photo anymore…

  • All of this. I’ve felt all of this recently. Thankfully the pressure and weirdness was fleeting pretty quickly once I put the phone down and went, “Did I really just think that?!” It’s true. It’s some weird competitive thing, especially with friends in your inner circle that have kids the same age as yours and another mutual likes their photo but not yours. It feels very middle-schoolish for twenty seconds before you snap back and realize wth you’re actually thinking. But it’s there – every. time.


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