How Instagram’s Cheesy Photo Filters Have Made Us More Creative

With the advent of mobile optimized tools like Instagram and Flickr and Hipstamatic and the such, a common grumble amongst professional communities is how they’re nothing but cheesy toys that are 'cheating' and 'not professional' and 'have taken the art out of photography’ and 'blah blah’.

I know.

I was one of those people.

But after rediscovering Instagram the past few months since deleting my original account two years ago as a futile act of defiance after the billion dollar Facebook acquisition, I've come to realize, that couldn't be further from the truth. It's far from cheating and it's actually quite the contrary, it’s incredibly liberating…which just so happens to be a prerequisite for the most creative of all art!

Basically, here’s my take: just because I don't know how to make something look like an old western scratched sepia photo print in Photoshop, or I don’t have an old western camera with old western film and old western chemicals and an old western darkroom to process in, doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed to express a vision that happens to be in the style of an old western scratched sepia photo print. If I had to learn how to do it, or save up to buy all them old western stuffs, I'd end up spending hours, if not days, or perhaps even months, detracting from continuing to engage the original spark of that imagination by developing the story or idea. When I see something and want to see it in an old western scratched sepia photo print sorta way, I can do it with the tap of a button, allowing me more energy to concentrate on refining the overall vision. This, consequently, allows me to be more creative without the fear of technical gibberish slowing me down.

Essentially, with the quick one step filters we actually have tools to help us express a creative vision that runs quicker and closer to the speed that our mind conjures it up. In many cases, it even gives us ideas that we wouldn’t have had before, conjuring up certain emotions and feelings based on how that image looks based on how we decided to treat it. Our imagination becomes something that stays 'on' at all times, allowing us to visualize and create and refine and build upon the wily creative spark when the elusive bugger decides to actually show up. Moreover, in my case, it's allowed me to retool and re-envision many images I already have, and present them to an entirely new audience who may never have seen them otherwise.

And I think we’re all starting to catch up with these sorts of thoughts. Yes, when these ‘toys’ were first brought to market, it was easy to dismiss them as meaningless and short-lived and a ‘fad’ and all that gobbledegook. But heck, we didn't know any better because we’ve never quite seen anything like that on a mass consumed scale. But since then, even institutions that have prided for over a century about the quality of their images and media output, like National Geographic and Smithsonian and Getty Images, have adopted Instagram and Twitter accounts, and in National Geographic’s case, even has a section in their digital publication format surrounded by that iconic yellow border, dedicated to the Instagram feeds of their photographers in the field. And some of my favorite professional photographers have embraced the mediums as well. In a short 4 years, Instagram has become an institution in itself - creating celebrity Instagrammers that have led to extremely profitable small businesses based on their feeds, while simultaneously building a rabid fan base large and influential enough to command a billion dollar pricetage by Facebook. And, well, if Facebook bought a toy, well, it was a damn expensive one!

Additionally, the fact that most 'professional' and 'prosumer' cameras these days are equipped with built-in wifi, like the Samsung NX30 and Samsung NXMini I've been using lately as part of the Imagelogger program, allows you to immediately take a high quality photo and transfer it to your mobile device for processing and idea that seemed preposterously foreign just 5 years ago.

Anyhow, I suppose what I’m getting at here is that I’m finally beginning to let go of the idea that things need to stay the way they are or the way they’ve ‘been.’ After all, in reality, nothing at all has ever stayed the way it’s ‘been.’ Ever. And heck, who would really want it to!? So if I, as a creative, don’t adapt and embrace the tools (and toys) that are available to us in these insanely exciting days, then, well, I’m just gonna end up left by the wayside, while everyone else has all the fun.

Screw that. I wanna have some fun too!

For more of my madness: Instagram: @wasimofnazareth Twitter: @wasimofnazareth Google+: Facebook: