Michal Dzierza
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DSLR pictures on Instagram. Do they bother you?

Instagram image by Giron, via Extragr.am
Instagram image by Giron, via Extragr.am

UPDATE: This is a very old post. Since I originally wrote it in 2011, I've started uploading non-smartphone images as well. Instagram has become much more than just a place for smartphone photography, so the post below is less relevant.

The iPhone, initially derided for its poor camera quality, has undoubtedly convinced many amateur, semi-professional and professional photographers to expand their photographic horizons.

Hundreds of apps, with hundreds of effects, have made quirky, interesting, weird, vintage etc. photography an everyday phenomenon. People have been able to go beyond web-based sites to share their photography and acquire new techniques and often many new fans.

The words iPhoneography and iPhoneographer, however clumsy, have entered our daily vocabulary. iPhone images are present everywhere - from iPhone-specific apps and galleries, to online photo-sharing sites and news outlets.

But should it work the other way round? Should non-iPhone images 'infiltrate' iPhone-native apps like Instagram?

I've noticed more and more DSLR-quality images being posted on Instagram and initially I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it. On the one hand, why not? Pictures are pictures, right? No matter how or where you take them. If you can add iPhone images to Flickr, why not add DSLR images to Instagram? It's all part of the fun.

Yet iPhoneography is about using the iPhone to take - and modify - your images. The clue is in the name. So what motivates people who post their photoshopped-to-death images on Instagram? And can adding non-iPhone images to services like Instagram or Hipstamatic be seen as cheating?

Well, try this Flickr discussion. Started by someone totally outraged by such practices:

I hate when I see pictures taken with profesional cameras, why do people do that? flickr is for that not instagram !!!

says Hans Stockholm. And instantly gets backed by a bunch of people who also find it equally outrageous that Instagram can be used in such a way. Some claim it's simply uninteresting.

But then you have people like pdexposures, who seems to be absolutely fine with that:

Sounds like some people need to get their panties out of a punch. It's a photo sharing program, I share iPhone shots, Dslr, 35mm, polaroids, instax and more types of film on my stream. None of My followers complain and they often lead to discussions about other forms of photography including tips and tricks about the medium that shot was taken in.

I had my knuckles rapped after my criticism of Hipstamatic (or rather: my criticism of one person's reliance on Hipstamatic as a source of creativity). That discussion polarised people, although a few came to my defence. And it seems the latest "should we/should we not" iPhoneography discussion has gone the same way.

There are similar discussions all over the web. On getsatisfaction.com official Instagram reps admit they themselves find this issue a bit confusing and get plenty of support from other Instagram purists. On the same site, however, another similar thread has been hijacked by the 'whatever' camp.

I use Instagram to upload iPhone images only. I prefer it this way. I did upload one DSLR image once, then someone asked me whether it was taken with the iPhone and I felt like a cheat. Taking photos with the iPhone requires certain skills - from the way you handle the phone, to how you deal with shutter delay to how you see and frame the world through the screen. Therefore when I see a good image taken with the iPhone - regardless of whether Instagram filters enhance it or not, or whether it's been modified using other iPhone apps on top of Instagram  - I know this guy has mastered a particular skillset. And I like that. But that's just me. I understand many people won't care about whether an image came from the phone or a high-end DSLR camera as long as it's 'nice'.

So where do you stand?

By Michal Dzierza