Snapshot vs. Photograph – An abridged explanation for Instagram users

This isn’t any shocking news to those who know me, but I cannot stand Instagram. I concede that it’s not really the technology’s fault per se, but I think it has set photography back 10 years among casual photographers and undone some of the progress made in the recent DSLR revolution. Annoying filters aside- which make pictures look like someone dragged them into the mud, the biggest thing Instagram is guilty of is teaching photographers that when they have a picture that cannot stand on its own merrit, adding a bunch of ugly shit to it will make it a masterpiece.

Before Instagram, covering up a bad photo was usually done by making it black and white, tilting the camera at an extreme angle, or using selective color; however, those required a certain amount of effort at least. To make a photograph stand on its own merit however takes the most effort and commitment to photography which sadly many are not willing to make. Take this example for instance:

Snapshot of Mecom Fountain in Houston

This is a snapshot I took. Technically it’s not a horrible picture – I mean everything is in focus, the exposure is more or less correct, etc. but it’s not really an interesting picture. The Instagram mindset to make it interesting would be to slap on some random filter and voila!
Bad example
“I AM AN ARTISTE!” You’d post that piece of off color art to your facebook and get pats on the back for being such a visionary.

If you want to make a photograph however, it takes a little more effort – really not that much more. It was already sunset so all it took was to wait another 15 minutes for the sun to go down to make the sky darker naturally and bring out the glow of the fountain. The technical detail is not hard at all because all it took was a tripod and even though I shot this in manual mode, an auto mode would have more or less done the same thing. It also didn’t take much effort to move in closer and use a wide angle lens to make bring the eye of the viewer into the picture:

Mecom Fountain in Houston

The above photograph has no gimmicks. Just a lit fountain in the evening. It speaks for itself and can stand on its own merit without the need to throw shit on it to make it stand out. Even with a camera phone it would have been a better picture than the other one so it’s not necessarily about the equipment.

While out there I thought I’d try to take a panorama picture too which turned out decently enough. I wish there was an easier way to show panoramas without crazy plugins.

Mecom Fountain in Houston

In my experience, for night pictures, the early evening has a much better light if you want to get the rich dark blue skies. If you wait too long, the sky would either be black or the refraction from the street lights overpower it and if you take your pictures at sunset, the sky is not rich enough and the subject is not as dramatic.

This was the last shot for the night:

Bloch Cancer Survivors Plaza


One thought on “Snapshot vs. Photograph – An abridged explanation for Instagram users

  1. But you know not everyone out there is looking to be a great photographer. Before Instagram they shared crappy cell phone photos because they wanted to share their life, not because they are trying to practice an art.

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