The rivalry burns on. Which is better: Canon or Nikon? Or, these days, Fuji, Sony or Pentax? Before you get ready to argue the virtues of your beloved brand, hear me out. No matter where your allegiance lies, isn’t the best camera the one you have with you?
The one I always have with me these days is the HTC One M8. Yes, HTC of cell phone fame. And my new favorite medium for sharing photography is Instagram. The purists out there have probably stopped reading at this point—after all, what artistically viable photography could come from a cell phone, be posted on a frivolous social media platform and have any real merit?
A year ago I might have agreed. Then, something happened that changed my view—I got a new full-time job, a job that soaked up all of my spare time. Ironically, I now had the income to afford new photo gear but not the time to go out and use it.
As my hours at work increased, my photography languished and I mourned the loss of my creative outlet. Extended stints in lush landscapes were not on the horizon for me. I desperately needed to find a way to keep my artistic eye in focus. All along, the solution was close at hand.
I had never given Instagram much thought. In fact, I avoided it for years while many of my coworkers were active Instagrammers. Combine this with living in one of the most photogenic cities in the world—Charleston, South Carolina—and finding myself in need of an upgrade to my cell phone, I began to see how these things could come together and fill my photographic void. So, I created an Instagram account, and my new obsession was launched.
Instagram is a vast photo community used by pros and amateurs. All genres of photography exist there. In my first couple of weeks as an Instagrammer, I did a lot of viewing and very little posting. There was an amazing array of quality photos to see. During my lunch break I could scroll through the main feed and enjoy the creative mobile visions of countless talented photographers. I searched out some friends and fellow photographers to “follow,” and soon I had followers of my own. There was a bit of insider lingo and protocol to learn, but I began to see and compose photos in that ubiquitous square format.
Hundreds of apps are available to process images and allow for creative interpretation. Walking to work, I could snap the gorgeous and prolific window boxes along my route, process and post the photo while I waited in line at the coffee shop, and have people respond to my images before I got to my desk. The photographic possibilities were everywhere, and I didn’t need to wait until I had the time or the backpack full of gear to grab a capture. I was hooked. Maybe even addicted.
There are a dizzying number of photographers using these tools, and the positive network that exists within Instagram is amazing. Giving and receiving feedback on photos is simple and gratifying, and connecting with photo editors is a real possibility. Serious career-minded photographers are using Instagram to share and connect with their audience. (There are apps available to convert your traditional DSLR captures to the Instagram format.) Professional photographers are even being hired to shoot specifically for Instagram. This is not just a frivolous social media fling, it’s a powerful marketing tool and a viable creative outlet.
I haven’t turned my back on serious nature photography, and I don’t plan on selling my Nikon any time soon. I’m saving funds and vacation days for a nice photo trip. But the accessible stream of creativity found on Instagram and my always available HTC will certainly remain a part of my photographic arsenal for years to come. If you want to join in the fun, you can follow me on Instagram, @suzan.c.brand, and I’ll be happy to follow you, too.
Suzan Chiacchio Brand is a nature photographer with interests in landscape and adventure.
PhotoShelter has many free, useful guides, including The Photographer’s Guide to Instagram. Go to: http://www.photoshelter.com/resources.