The day that cameras were introduced into cell phones was one of utmost importance in technological history. Finally, two of humanities’ favorite digital devices ingeniously combined into one, for convenience of an increasingly lazy consumer audience. Yes, at first the quality of pixel resolution was nothing to brag about. However, it was better than the prior colorless flip phone that only had “Snake” or “Reversi” to feed the need for hand held entertainment. This technological innovation was a discovery that neared that of Columbus’ in 1492. Now people can take pictures of anything and everything at the spur of the moment. A beautiful sunrise? Check. Newborn kittens? Check. A great hair day? CHECK. Not only that, but one could take the pictures and instantly text them to whomever urgently needed to see them the most. The marriage of the two beloved luxuries was seemingly one with a fairy tale ending.
As the development of cell phones advanced, so did the camera inside of them. In just a few years, cell phone owners all across the world could use flash and zooming features formally only enjoyed on regular, much less multi functional, cameras. It seemed as if overnight, everyone in the world who owned a cell phone was instantly a photographer. Still, these photos were commonly emailed to oneself or a friend to be downloaded then printed or put on the internet for one reason or another. It wasn’t long before it was decided those aforementioned steps were far too tedious and led to too much time between taking the picture and sharing it with the world. Thus brought the world to present day life, one that enjoys the easy and quickness of social networking photo sharing applications for smart phones.
According to Top Ten Reviews, there are more than 200 photography related applications available on the IPhone alone. When it comes to photo social networking, Instagram, Snap Chat, Facebook, and a newly introduced Cinemagram are the main options on the market, according to an article in Tech Crunch. However, Cinemagram is a hybrid between video and photo sharing, allowing pictures to be slightly animated. It has not quite taken off as much as the others have. The article claims that Instagram has blown up in the mobile sphere so largely in the last two years because it has “nailed the basic use case of sharing photos with friends from phones.” Snap Chat is the next contender because it allows for the same concept, except for a more private person to person exchange.
Instagram is a mobile application, initially only available on IPhones, that allows millions of users to take pictures and instantly share them with their friends via other social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Users can take their photographs and run them through various filters of their choice to enhance the colors or add graphics. A location and caption could be added to the pictures. The fast, simple, and fun way to instantly share memories, as well as literally anything else in the world now deemed ‘worthy’ of documentation, is what makes the app so popular.
According to an article on Mashable by Emily Price, since its creation by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Instagram has been generally gaining 5 million new mobile photographers every week. It quickly surpassed 50 million users after it was opened up to the Android because of its remarkable success on the IPhone. Originally a zero-revenue start up, now the company is at least worth $1 billion to those intimidated by its successes. Instagram posed a threat to Facebook, the biggest social networking site on the market. It didn’t take long before Facebook had an eye out for its competition and wanted to get in on it before it got any bigger. To make sure it did, on April 19, 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion.
When scrolling through the home screen on Instagram, one could argue it does not resemble that of a typical family photo album. On Instagram, anything a toddler can point a camera at and click a filter for is suddenly very artistic and edgy. It is typical to see anything from a friend’s half eaten dinner to their wedding pictures. The range is unbelievable and maybe that’s what makes it so fun. However it does make all things, even things unimportant, random, and sometimes even inanimate, eligible for a photo op for the first time ever. Back in the day, photographs were reserved for only the elite. Each one was valuable to its owner. The nature of photography as the world knew it for so many years has inarguably changed into something else.
Not everyone appreciates the convenience of having photographer-like abilities at their finger tips. Samantha Allred, a working photographer and student for many years, is frustrated by what these photo sharing apps have done for the professional community.
“Photography used to be an art. You used to have to make each shot count, because taking a picture took minutes. Developing photos was precise and tedious.” Allred said. “Now with digital technology you can take hundreds just to get a couple of good ones. Anyone can do anything without ever knowing the skill it required at one point. There is no motivation to learn. It makes me wonder why I’m bothering to educate myself. Why? What’s the point in being one of the few that take it seriously?”
Pictures these days are snapped with more frugality and carelessness than ever before. Photos are becoming less and less staged or preemptively prepared because people tend to just snap quick shots of the things already around them. The line between professional and the amateur is increasingly blurred with everyone having easy access to the same advanced options to enhance a picture. However, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Hell, I caved in and got Instagram. Because even bands and artists and organizations I love, even they use it. And I think seeing what inspires the people I admire and respect, I think that’s a great tool.” Allred adds. “But it is also a tool that promotes a, ‘food, food, booty shot, nails, cat, food, food, cats, cat, booty shot, food’ ever present pattern on the dashboard.”
Others like this aspect of the app. Rachel Ouellette, a senior at Quinnipiac claims that her day doesn’t feel complete until she Instagrams at least once, no matter what it is. Her picture album largely consists of her pets, schoolwork or her outfits before going out at night. Ouellette has a reputation for being seemingly addicted.
“I like using Instagram because I feel like it gives me a reason to document pictures of things I might not normally think to with a regular camera.” Ouellette said as she glanced down to her smart phone, a permanent fixture in her hand. “Plus the filters are fun to play around with, since they let you turn an ordinary picture into something interesting to look at.”
More recently, another photo application, Snap Chat, has become extremely popular on the mobile sphere and somewhat of a fun addiction to many people of all ages. Snap Chat was created by Evan Spiegal, a Stanford University student. According to an article in the online publication, Mashable, by Eric Larson, it was launched in September of 2011 and has reached over a billion ‘snaps’ since then. You know the saying, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer!”? Well, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Snap Chat allows users to take a picture and send it to their recipients for their viewing pleasure that lasts on the screen only for 10 seconds or less. Snap Chat has an undisclosed number of users, but does report that they receive an average of 20 million ‘snaps’ per day. Spiegal says the purpose of this app is to allow users to express how they feel , what they’re thinking, or where they are right in that particular moment without the pressure of self editing because of its temporary existence. If they so choose, they can even add a caption or draw on the picture itself. Now the picture received from your best friend at 3 am is no longer just her cat, but it is her cat with a hand drawn mustache and sombrero with a witty caption. Think it’s hilarious? Well you better soak it into your memory fast because, oops, now it’s gone forever.
Susan Wegener,33, is a graduate student and adjunct professor who is a frequent user of Snap Chat. She believes the age of photographing everything in sight can be attributed to the freedom allowed by apps like Snap Chat to take an unprofessional looking photograph for fun without being criticized because it disappears so soon, a flip side to Allred’s argument. She goes on to say the other benefits she enjoys from the app.
“I also think that there’s an element of self-impressiveness there– a kind of need to share our perspectives (and food, dogs, whatever) because we’re proud of them and want people to share in what we’ve done or seen.” Wegener said. “Not that this is a bad thing; I think it connects us when we share these intimate details of our lives.”
When it comes down to it, sharing pictures like these, sometimes silly and sometimes not, is something new and something fun (to most.) It’s a good way to brighten up someone’s daily routine, even if it’s just of ordinary things.
“Often I just snap humorous things, like my friends making funny faces or a cat pic or something.” Wegener said. “But just as often I snap architecture, or interesting light, or a beautiful shape.”
Being able to see things through the eyes of the people you admire is a privilege. It helps gain a new perspective and learn more about what inspires them the most. It’s also a great way to feel closer to loved ones far away. Jenna Forte, a nursing student and debatably Snap Chat’s all time biggest fan, agrees.
“It’s one of my favorite apps! It’s great to keep in touch with your friends who you’re not really with all the time.” Forte said with the utmost excitement and enthusiasm about it. “Instead of just shooting them a text it makes it much more personal and interactive. You get to actually see for yourself how your friends are doing.”
Forte has notifications for her snaps that alert to her IPhone. She uses it dozens of times a day, primarily for sending pictures of her making silly faces with funny captions about her daily activities. It is also common for her to take pictures of random objects around her that make her written text more amusing and visual.
“I think it’s both good and bad the photos only last a few seconds. Some pictures that are sent are really embarrassing and ugly and should never be saved.” Forte said with a laugh. “But at the same time, some come out cute and then they disappear forever.”
It is hard to tell what the future holds for the rapidly expanding photo sharing community. It’s no secret that the quickening development of technology has opened more doors than ever imagined even a decade ago. If nothing else, the photo craze has inspired a new kind of outlet for positive creativity for just about anyone from professionals to children. It has helped the world to see beauty in, literally, all things. But, so what? At least now everyone has an excuse to take the time to slow down and notice their surroundings. Maybe this is just what they needed.