Brian's Photo Blog — Article 672
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Why I Dislike Instagram
Sunday 23 July 2017   —   Category: Miscellaneous
In a previous article I told you about the evening in August 2016 when I joined a dozen or so participants for a photo walk along historic North Mississippi Avenue, sponsored by Olympus and Portland’s Pro Photo Supply, which was led by two Olympus employees. In that article I had written:
At the end, the ladies from Pro Photo Supply told us to put our best shot on Instagram. Within a week they would pick the one they thought was the best and the winner would get a Pro Photo Supply $25 gift card. Because all of the attendees were my age (mid 50s) and older, most of us were grumbling that we did not use Instagram.

I had tried Instagram a couple of years ago and found that it didn’t suit my needs at all, and I hadn’t used it since. But once again, I thought it would be a pity to pass by this opportunity, even though I don’t generally enter photo contests anymore. So I dusted off my account, picked eight of the best photos, and fought through the convoluted pro­cess of getting them into Instagram. It was such a frustrating experience that I plan on writing an article about it in the near future: Why I Dislike Instagram.
So much for “the near future!” Ten months later I have finally gotten a round tuit. There are a number of reasons why I dislike Instagram. When I put a photograph on this Web site — which, as a computer programmer, I built myself from scratch — I am in control of the image size and quality and how the picture is presented. But when I put a photo on Instagram, they are in control of all that. I have to work within their limitations, and I am at the mercy of their whims.

This is unacceptable to me. After all, they are my photos, so I want the final say in how they appear to the rest of the world. This might make me a control freak, but I would imagine that most artists feel this way about the art they have created. In the end, Instagram and I have divergent agendas and goals.

A vivid example of this can be seen in one of the eight photos I uploaded to Instagram last August. To the right is a smaller version of the original photo. Click on it to see what Instagram did to it.

I was outraged to find that Instagram forced my vertical store­front photo into a weird 4:5 aspect ratio even though the original photo I uploaded met their requirements of an aspect ratio in between 1.91:1 and 4:5 (mine was 2:3), and a height between 566 and 1350 pixels (mine was 1080). The bottom 17% of my image was cut off for no good reason!

What makes this so offensive is that I specifically composed the shot to enclude the entire name of the store, Wanderlust and Wildhearts. I felt that those words went really well with the mannequin in the display. So when Instagram cut off the piece of wood with Wildhearts on it, all that was left was ‘Wanderlust and’.

That is not the photo I took! Instagram’s unwanted cropping ruined my photo, and try as I might I could not find any way to avoid it. This was and continues to be totally unacceptable! It was such a pain to get those eight photos into Instagram last year! Instagram is designed for people who take pictures with their smartphone and upload them with the same device. But I take my photos with a high-​quality camera and lenses, and I want to upload the final images to Instagram with my desktop computer.

The first part of the process is the same whether I’m putting the photo on my Web site or on Instagram. I copy the photo from my camera to a hard drive via Adobe Lightroom, edit that image to my satisfaction in Lightroom, export the picture in TIFF format, and open it in Photoshop for final editing and resizing. At this point things diverge for my Web site and Instagram.

Here is the process I had to go through for each photo I put on Instagram:
  1. When resizing photos for my Web site, 1,200 pixels is usually the largest dimension. Instagram has a limit of 1,080px (which is better than the previous 640px limit). Because, as I mentioned above, I want to be in control of the image quality, I want to resize the picture myself instead of letting Instagram do it. So I reopened the master TIFF file and resized the longest dimension to 1,080px.
  2. Once the 1,080px JPG was saved to disk, I had to copy it to my Dropbox photos folder for the next step. I didn’t save it to Dropbox directly because I didn’t want the only copy to be in Dropbox.
  3. Because it was not possible to upload the photo to Instagram from a desktop (or laptop) Web browser, I grabbed my iPad Mini to perform the remaining steps in the process. However, in May 2017, after Instagram had made some changes to their system, it was reported that there is now a workaround which makes it possible to post photos to Instagram from a desktop browser. Rather than going into all the details here, I will let you follow the link if you are interested.
  4. The Instagram app cannot open photos directly from Dropbox, but only from the iOS Camera Roll. So I had to open the Dropbox app, enter the passcode, scroll to the JPG file I wanted, tap on it and wait for it to download, tap on the ••• icon, tap on Export, and finally, scroll to and tap on Save Image.
  5. Once I fired up the Instagram app — it is very disappointing that there is not a native iPad version — I tapped on the icon to add a photo, tapped on the control to choose the source, scrolled down to the Dropbox folder I had previously made in the Photos app, tapped on it, and then tapped on the thumbnail of the picture I wanted to add to Instagram.
The rest of the steps are the same as when uploading a photo taken with the smartphone camera. These five steps might not seem very difficult or time consuming, but when I have to repeat them for each photo I want to put on Instagram, again and again, photo after photo, they soon get tedious and irritating.

In February 2017 Instagram added to their app the capability of uploading multiple photos at once. However the maximum is only ten at a time. The fact that these photos are grouped together, with only the first photo visible in the feed and the rest accessible through swiping, is even less appealing. If you have looked a very many of my photos on this Web site, you may have noticed that sometimes I write extensive captions, particularly if the subject(s) in the photo have historical or cultural significance. Sometimes I link to one of my articles, or another photo.

The primary method of linking in Instagram is with #hashtags and @usernames. For me this is too limiting. And it is a lot easier to link to a Wikipedia article about a certain subject than it is to figure out the proper hashtag for that subject. Or even worse, trying to decide which hashtag to use among a number of similar possibilities. I don’t do social media. In my biased opinion, social media is a huge time-​waster full of useless drivel. Live is too short to waste reading all that junk!

For many people, getting as many followers and / or likes is a major, obsessive ambition. I’m not interested in nor looking for either. Perhaps if I were a professional photographer I would be obliged to play the Instagram game. But I’m merely an amateur (in the original sense of the word, a lover) who is in it for the fun, not for a following.

Some would say that I need to be on Instagram so I will get “exposure” and “be found.” However, with over 500 million users and billions and billions of photos, I’m not so sure that that argument holds any water. I think my photos are just as likely to be found through Google as Instagram. Uploading photos to Instagram — using the process described above — and figuring out the hashtagging is so time consuming that I just don’t have time for Instagram. As I lamented at the end of 2016, I am way, way behind in processing my photos and writing the accompanying articles. It is almost August 2017 and I still have months of work to finish all the photos and articles for 2016. I don’t even want to think about the awful backlog of 2017 photography!

Maybe, just maybe, if I were all caught up with all my photos and articles on this Web site, and I didn’t have much else to do in life, perhaps I would dabble a bit with Instagram. But for the foreseeable future Instagram isn’t even on my radar. #dislikeinstagram
UPDATE 7 MAY 2018: I never, never thought I would change my mind and decide that I like Instagram after all. But miracles do happen! What seismic shift occured for me to have such a major change of heart? Has Instagram suddenly gotten a lot better? Was I wrong about what I wrote above? Have I lost my mind? I answer all these questions and more in my follow-​up article Why I Like Instagram After All.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 672
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Reader Comments
On July 28, 2017, David Rosen wrote:
I agree with your assessment. What do you think of Flickr? I signed up for the free terrabyte of storage.
On July 29, 2017, Brian wrote:
In response to David’s comments: I’ve never used Flickr, so I can’t say much about it. Now that it is owned by Verizon, I wonder if its days are numbered. So many tech companies get killed off once they are acquired by a big corporation.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 672
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