Once only available for Apple’s mobile devices, Instagram is now available for Android. To say that Instagram is a photo sharing social network belies its true nature. Instagram appeals to our artistic nature, by providing the tools to turn snapshots into works of art. In this sense, it is a social network for those who love the art of photography. In terms of design, Instagram is similar to Tumblr. Like Tumblr, you follow others, and, hopefully, others follow you. You can like, mark as a favorite, or comment, on the creative photographic art of others.
Instagram is a closed network. You can only join Instagram via the iOS or Android apps. You cannot join Instagram through their Web site. Before the release of the Android app, Instagram had an active membership of about 27 million. With the number of Android downloads for Instagram reaching a million in a single day, membership is undergoing another surge. Many old-time users feared that the Android app would lower the quality of the photographic art. Yet, the photographs submitted by Android members show just the opposite.
Instagram provides only two global privacy settings: public, or private. In the private mode, other Instagram members cannot view your photos, unless they become friends. Instagram also allow you to share your photographs to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and FourSquare. Except for photographs in their blog, the Instagram Web site does not display any photos. Unless your photograph reaches the most popular list, even your public photographs are not viewable on the Web. You can use sites such as INSTAGRID to create a Web presence for your photographs.
For finding friends to follow, you can see if any of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or contacts are also members of Instagram. Similar to other social networks, Instagram provides a list of suggested members to follow, and an option to search for members. A search for CostaRica as a hash tag revealed that there are over 22,000 photographs of Costa Rica already on Instagram. If you like the work of a particular photographer, you can then follow them.
Contributing a photograph begins with either taking a picture with your phone’s camera, or selecting a picture from your photo library. I prefer using the library. I take a lot of snapshots, but only a few meet my standard for being a good photograph. Once you select a picture, the fun begins.
Following the format of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras, Instagram uses a square format for pictures. Thus, your first task is to frame the picture, as the typical mobile cameras use a 4:3 aspect ratio. In the next step, you get a choice of 20 different Lux effect filters that you can apply to the photograph. You can also change the brightness, and rotate the picture. In the next screen, you create the caption and social networks to which you wish to share the photograph. In the caption field you can add #hashtags (maximum of 30) to aid in searching of the photograph by other members. If you are posting to Twitter, you need to keep the caption to less than 140 characters. You can also geotag a photo. However, this requires that you have a FourSquare account to get the geotag.
When you look at the top photographs in Instagram, you will notice that many of them contain special effects that are not part of the Instagram app, itself. This photographs actually use other photo editors to modify a photograph. For example, you can use apps such as Photo Grid or PhotoShake! to combine multiple photographs into one. For special effects, you might try Photo Art – Color Effects. With hundreds of photography apps in the Google Play Store, your Android device can become a virtual art studio.
The Support page of the Instagram site provides information on using Instagram. There are articles covering every aspect of Instagram, including saving your Instagram photographs to your PC using InstaPort. The article on InstaMeets provides instructions for participating in local Instagram events, or scheduling an event. There is already an InstaMeet group in San Jose, Costa Rica. Instagram is a social network for mobile photographers, who like to share their work with other photographers.
The recent news regarding the purchase of Instagram for $1 billion dollars in cash and stocks has raised a lot of speculation regarding why Facebook would spend a billion dollars purchasing a company that was valued at $500 million. Was it because Facebook has failed to generate any income from users that connect to Facebook via a mobile device? Was it because Instagram has become the top Twitter photo file sharing service? Was it because Facebook felt that Instagram was a threat to their #1 status as a photo sharing social network? Or, was it because Facebook lacks a decent photo editor?
Instagram users express a fear that the purchase by Facebook will destroy their social network. A charge denied by both Facebook and Instagram. If Instagram incorporates Facebook’s openGraph into their apps, will this lead to users leaving Instagram, and switching to Tumblr?
This is all speculation, but it keeps Twitter alive with a lot of tweets on the topic.