No two Instagram feeds are identical, but scroll through a typical outdoorsy Canadian’s photo app and you’ll see a lot of similar images. Blondes in floppy hats (or bikinis). A tent in an unlikely—and probably illegal—location. Sandy feet and #vanlife.
And, oh, so many selfies.
Apparently this is what we love. Instagram is the fastest-growing social app in Canada. More than one-third of us have an account and 60 per cent of users log on daily for an average of 28 total minutes.
Many have debated what all this gazing at perfect people in perfect places does to our mental health. But for an app that promises better photos, there’s surprisingly little discussion about what influence Instagram has had on the craft itself.
To find out, we asked influencers, photographers and creatives to weigh in.
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Hey everyone, I'll be on #outexlive here on Instagram tomorrow at 11am Pacific time chatting about what it's like photographing polar bears and in the water with icebergs in the Arctic! I'd love to see some of you join in! . . . . #outex #iglive #instagramlive #arctic #arcticadventures #adventurephotography #adventuretravel #underwaterphotography #polarbear #polarbears #iceberg
Trail-builder, polar guide, photographer
"Instagram has diluted the pool. It’s harder than ever to make a living as a photographer—in the action-sports industry especially. And it’s homogenized things. Instagram rewards a particular style. Lots of amazing, original and unique ideas are pushed aside for formulaic stuff, like the blonde girl in a sun dress.
I do like that it gives me a place to display the B-side images, interact with my audience and talk about environmental issues."
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Senior photographer for Arc’teryx
"I love that it is an immediate connection to a community of interesting, creative and inspiring people who I would not otherwise cross paths with. There are a lot of amazing illustrators on the platform and I follow a lot of conflict photographers and photojournalists.
So much of action-sports photography just captures one moment—peak action. That’s one element, but a good photo can tell so much more. Photojournalists know how to tell a story with their photos. I’d never have the exposure to their work without Instagram."
"I think it’s made us all better photographers. I used to teach photography and my students would struggle just to get an image sharp or figure out how to expose it. Our phone and Instagram filters level the playing field. It’s made photography more accessible. No one is limited by technique, finances or where you live.
Instagram created this giant pool of talent, like a think-tank for creativity. I see what others are doing, I know what’s humanly possible and how good it can be. It pushes me to try harder and communicate better."
Mountain bike influencer
"I think Instagram is a tool for inspiration. I saw a video on Instagram that was so much smoother than anything anyone else was doing. I messaged the rider who posted it to find out how he shot it and bought the equipment the same day. I took the idea and applied my own style. It was a game-changer for me.
It’s also an amazing way of connecting with people. I was in Israel last year and our plans fell apart. Eleven o’clock at night I had nowhere to go. If it was 10 years ago I would have had to look for a hotel. But before the trip I had connected with a rider on Instagram who lived in Israel.
I messaged him and, even though it was late, he invited me over to spend the night. We became friends. Because we shared the same interest and could look through each other’s feeds, we trusted each other."
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@matt.yaki.mtb and the supernatural granite slabs of Powell River, BC
"I always relied on publications to decide what images an audience would see. Instagram gives me my own audience. Over 20 years of shooting, I have thousands and thousands of images that have never seen the light of day. It feels good to share them. For my craft, for the places I’ve been, for people I shot, it’s a way to give back and give recognition and thanks.
A con is that the medium zaps inspiration. There’s no time to stop and soak in what you’re looking at. The screen is so small and you just keep scrolling. It’s not like sitting with a magazine and digesting what an image makes you feel. The purpose of photography is to slow down, not speed up. It’s a fatal flaw of the Instagram process—you’re never really seeing the images."
Adventure sport photographer
"Instagram advocates have measured a photographer’s success based on the number of followers and likes per image. The program rewards early adoption and continuous communication. I have had to find a balance in my career and have decided on participating in the platform while setting boundaries.
I like to embrace technology-free days and be 'in' the experience. It has not changed the way I photograph, at least not consciously, as any visual input can always influence indirectly. And I do not make images with Instagram in mind. That being said, it keeps me up to date on what is trending visually and culturally, which is very helpful."
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