How well do you know Instagram?

You probably use it, but perhaps you don’t know its history or all its... tricks.

In 2010 two young men, Kevin Systrom (born in 1983, software developer from California who worked for 2 years at Google) and Mike Krieger (born in 1986, developer of Brazilian origin who moved to the USA to study at Stanford where he later met Kevin), created an HTML5 based location-sharing service known as Burbn. Seeing the potential of this service, two venture capitalists, Baseline Venture and Andreessen Horowitz, decided to finance the two young programmers with US$ 500,000, thus helping them to develop the first version of Instagram. This new app, different from the original project, allowed taking photos and sharing them (and also to location-reference them) through the Internet. The app was launched on Itunes Store on October 6, 2010.

Luca Silva e Andrea Dovichi - Studiowasabi.com

Many of us have a passion for photography and being able to take interesting photos with an iPhone allows to quickly mass diffuse them (after just 2 months, about 1 million people are using the app). One of the most interesting - and, if we want, attractive - characteristics is that it is possible to turn a simple photograph into a captivating one without being an expert in this realm. How? Simple! By using the “digital filters” that recall, and partly replicate, some features of both analog photography and of the old cameras that took them. An element that probably helped Instagram’s popularity is certainly the passion for retro-photography that is becoming increasingly popular today (just think about the Lomography phenomenon).

At the start, just a few filters were created (with B&W effects, saturation, tone change) but within a few years, these increased to 20! (For the list and features, you can visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instagram). Here they are. 1977, adds a faded pink hue. Amaro, light contrast, focus on pale tones. Brannan, low-key filter, focus on grays and greens.

Earlybird, faded and blurry, concentrates on tones of yellow and beige. Hefe, traditional color with gold and yellow hues. Hudson, vignetting, with light bluish tones. Inkwell, B&W high-contrast filter. Kelvin, Super-saturated retro photography with fell. Officially called “Lord Kelvin”. Lo-fi - Slightly blurry, with saturation of yellows and greens. Mayfair, gives a warm pinkish tone and a subtle vignetting. It is the latest filter supplied by the most recent version. Nashville, Blue-magenta hues, with fell. One of most widely used filters. Normal, no modification to the photograph. Rise, gives photos a nice glow and warmth. Created by Instagram photographer Cole Rise. Sierra, warm filter that supplies a bright, vibrant tone.

Sutro, sepia-like tones, with emphasis on reds and yellows. The entire image is darkened.

Toaster , over-exposure, slightly blurry. Valencia, high contrast, slightly gray and brown. Walden, washed-out color with a slight bluish hue. Willow, B&W with a slight fusion effect. X-Pro II,warm saturated effect with emphasis on yellow tones.

The most popular filters in the world are (data as of June 2013): Earlybird, X-Pro II and Valencia that have rather similar characteristics, emphasizing warm colors (yellow, red, brown) and modifying the photo’s saturation, focus and contrast. Most members, however, prefer not to use filters and adjust their photo based only on brightness and blurriness and add a frame.

Another important characteristic was to implement hashtags in the app (through the symbol #). These are words that can be added to the photos’ comments to help classify photos based on themes and locations, thus facilitating research based on one’s interests. Among the most widely used globally: #love, #instagood, #me, #cute #follow (an updated list can be found on: http://top-hashtags.com/instagram/ ). For what concerns the most-photographed places through Instagram (data as of December 2013) here is a classification:

1 - Siam Paragon, a mall in Bangkok, Thailand.

2 - Times Square, New York

3 - Disneyland, California

4 – Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas

5 - Disney World, Florida

For the rest of the list (http://blog.opodo.it/luoghi-piu-popolari-su-instagram/)

But let’s return to speaking about the past. In 2011, after introducing this series of implementations on Instagram, veritable communities who use the app began to sprout all over the world: Instagramers. It all started with Philip Gonzalez, creator and organizer of Instagram theme events (he started talking about this in his blog and soon decided to assume an “active” role), like instawalks and instameet (true dedicated events). Philip soon becomes a very famous and important figure in technology and novelty environments. Instagram becomes even more famous in the world thanks to the interaction of instagramers!

And what about Italy? Well, in April of 2011 Ilaria Barbotti, curious about the app, contacted Gonzalez to create the Italian community: Instagramers Italia. Soon afterwards, other Italian users from different cities joined Ilaria, creating a national network. The first instameet was organized in June 2011 (http://www.ninjamarketing.it/2011/06/20/instagramer-di-tutta-italia-pronti-per-il-clicknshare-collettivo-evento/ ) and was an instant success. Today, it is an association with lots of local communities http://instagramersitalia.it/instagramers/ (among them, Tuscany stands out ;-) ) presided by Ilaria Barbotti, secretary Orazio Spoto, treasurer Antonio Ficai, councilors Marco Bottalico, Nicola Carmignani, Emanuela Damiani, Nicola Pasianot, Alessandra Polo and Gianpiero Riva. The association also supplies consultancy to companies in need of technical support for promotion on Instagram. Furthermore, the association coordinates the different local groups organizing the activities, challenges and events in the area.

A further novelty took place in April 2012 (up until this moment, users totaled 25 million) with the release of the app for smartphones with Android operating system. At the beginning, developers had not expected to opt for this platform but after widespread diffusion in the field (mainly due to the spur by Google) these users, too, were satisfied, and it was a hit.

The perception of photography is moving towards “mobility”, the concept of mobile photography is born. This has certainly caused discussion - at least initially - among photography professionals and neophytes to the world of digital photography. And indeed, it is to highlight this new conception of photo technology that several exhibitions were born. To further broaden the concept of the universality of mobile photography, according to which anyone in possession of the proper instrument (a smartphone and an Internet connection) can have his or her moment of glory, Instaphotoshow is born (http://instagram.com/instaphotoshow) a photography challenge on Instagram, featured at Lucca’s Must Museum. The challenge, whose theme is “color”, was developed in six weeks (each week was dedicated to a different color: red, green, blue, orange, purple and yellow). For each color, the best 50 photos were chosen and then printed on photography paper and exhibited for another six weeks. Public response was very strong also because on inauguration day, side events to the exhibition were held featuring Instagram as their main theme.

What more can we do with Instagram? We can create beautiful gadgets. What kind? Beautiful prints of our photos, a poster for example, a painting or even a puzzle. We can create small magnets to decorate the fridge, mini-books and mini-albums, T-shirts and even (one of the latest novelties) marshmallows – thanks to printing with sugar on the surface. And there are also extended potentials: Impossible Project, a special app that, if loaded with Polaroid cartridges, allows printing the photo taken with Instagram immediately. A true return to the origins for lovers of photography!In 2013, two new functions were implemented: the first was the possibility of making videos (that last max 15 seconds) decorated with special effects and to film several different situations and then edit it all to create a whole.

The second was being able to send personal messages containing photo and video attachments, distinguishing between the different contacts - sort of an Instagram internal chat.

These innovations have attracted the attention of many users but their success has not been so sensational; it may take some time for all these features to be assimilated. In any case, the important thing in order to always maintain high interest by users is to consistently strive to improve the functionality of the service because, like in all fields, there’s no turning back! *

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