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Instagram was bought by Facebook for a Billion Dollars

Well that’s not strictly true; a lot of the value is in Facebook’s stock, and can’t be realised for years. But nonetheless, an incredible amount has been spent on a two-year-old (photography? mobile app?) company that has less than twenty staff. Meanwhile, Kodak, maker of Tri-X and Kodachrome films and apparently inventor of the digital camera is going bankrupt.

This is because Instagram allows people to make images that resemble ‘artistic’ photos. In fact, they are like typical Lomography photos but without the fuss and expense of film. I remember seeing Lomo cameras before they were a massive brand when I was travelling in Eastern Europe; poor students bought them and gave them their cool image. The shops now are an interesting exercise in marketing – like the Nespresso shops but for a different audience.

But it’s not just the ability to add some spurious class and serendipity to the myriad snaps of drunken colleagues and bright-eyed cats that appeals; it’s the ease of sharing these images. This drive boils down to a pellet-fed system in which a picture of lunch is posted, and ‘likes’ are garnered within a few minutes. Little is acheived; and no money changes hands.

Instagram is worth money because it has a large user-base, albeit an unpaying one. The idea is that the pictures taken will be indicative of the type of user, so advertising can be highly targeted, and therefore lucrative. It’s also important that word of mouth/ friend recommendation is highly trusted in marketing, so there is potential there too.

To get in the spirit of things, I’ve been using my iPad’s camera and Nix software’s Snapseed (which I highly recommend) to create Instagram-y pictures; I’ll share a couple here…

English Photographer: St Jordi Festival Rose Girl Barcelona, Catalunya
English Photographer: Beauty, St Jordi Festival Barcelona, Catalunya

To create this, I ‘borrowed’ the rose and had the the sun behind the girl so that it reflected off a large white wall behind me. This created a great soft frontal lighting for her face to keep the rich colours; there was another white wall behind to give the impression of a studio, but actually this was made in a train station. Composing with the iPad screen is almost like using the ground glass of a large format camera (except everything is the right way round) in that you’d need a dark cloth to alleviate glare in sunny conditions.

English Photographer: Boy with Crepe
English Photographer: Boy with Crepe

This was lit with a large window behind me and to my left, hence the increased grain on the left side of the little chap’s face.

To really round off my Instagram shooting experience, I got out the old Hasselblad 500cm with it’s Carl Zeiss 80mm lens, and another Zeiss 150mm that I bought in a rather sorry state; it still works well despite appearances. I’ve been using a Polaroid back and Fuji’s FP100c, which is extortionately expensive unless sourced from eBay. Several packs are cluttering up the top shelf of my fridge…

English Photographer: Hasselblad 500cm Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm Polaroid
English Photographer: Hasselblad 500cm

This is great fun to use; with no batteries, there is no light meter, so I have to guess the exposure (or use an iPad app called Light Meter, which is highly recommended). Then, focus has to be set manually, shutter speed and aperture must be chosen to work together for the creatively correct exposure; and the picture must be composed – it is flipped left to right. Because there’s a lot to think about, you cease to think and just act. Using the Hasselblad really brings you into the present moment and really connects you with a scene in a way that’s very rare with other cameras. Normally, developing the negatives at home is another emotional process – it is still remarkable to see the past appear in the semi-darkness on film. But there’s also something very satisfying about preserving the moment using Polaroid film.

English Photographer: Mariner
English Photographer: Mariner

The sunset was to my left, and I had a white wall and a reflector to my right for fill. This is a Polaroid (well, Fujifilm FP100c) scanned, hence the texture.

English Photographer: Identity - Dolphin
English Photographer: Identity – Dolphin

This is part of an unplanned but incredibly satisfying project about identity; I can’t say much about it now, but it should be powerful when it’s completed later this year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos! Let me know what you think about Instagram/ photographing Polaroids with a Hasselblad by emailing Ben (at) English Photographer . com


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