Is Instagram dead?
Photo by Dominik Dancs on Unsplash

Is Instagram dead?

Like many of you, I've seen a number of videos and blog posts from photographers who are now moving away from Instagram because the app is pushing deeper into video to compete with TikTok. Some are moving to BeReal, some are moving to Glass, some are moving to Vero, some are rediscovering Flickr, some are refreshing their Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Some are doing all of the above.

But let's back up and appreciate how incredible and unexpected this moment truly is.

For years, Instagram has wielded unprecedented power over the lives and businesses of photographers all over the world. It was the app for growing an audience, getting work seen, and being discovered. Its growth was on track to overtake parent company Facebook, a feat few could have predicted when the app was acquired a decade ago.

And yet, within the span of only a few months, the narrative has changed. TikTok continues to spread like a forest fire, and Instagram is defending its fortress by changing their core user experience to match. They're competing with TikTok by being more like TikTok (the very definition of a "me too product").

But perhaps Instagram knows something persnickety photographers do not. Perhaps the vast majority of social media users are now producing video instead of snapping photos thanks to more powerful phones, higher image quality, and free-to-use music soundtracks. The bar for creating video has been drastically lowered, making photography...well, kind of boring compared to the videos teenagers (including mine) can now stitch together in only a couple of minutes. What was once the exclusive domain of experienced videographers and filmmakers with expensive hardware and software is now accessible to everyone.

Instagram therefore is doing what any responsible software company would do — adapt and change to meet user demand. Photographers and legacy users may not like those changes (I definitely don't), but the audience Instagram is building a product for now is vastly different from the one they started with.

If Instagram truly wants to be a 9:16 television in everyone's pocket, they will have to fundamentally change their user experience to provide the clearest, simplest, easiest-to-use interface for that type of content. And if that means sacrificing legacy users sharing and browsing still images, perhaps for Instagram that's a sacrifice worth making.

Personally, I think this is a good thing. If Instagram chasing TikTok pushes the consumption of still photography elsewhere, it means a smaller company has the opportunity to cater to this audience and provide a better user experience (not to mention decreasing the power one, for-profit corporation has over millions of people). The formation of alternate products and platforms that prioritize still photography, with smaller, stronger, more vibrant communities.

I seriously doubt Instagram is dead or dying, but it's most certainly changing, and is inadvertently creating marketplace diversification at a time when we all so desperately need it.

10 fantastic tools in TK8 (TKActions)

For years I've used TKActions (now known simply as "TK8") to speed up my photo processing workflow, dodge and burn, apply luminosity masks, export sharpened images for the web, and other time-saving tasks. I rely on the plugin, so much so I can't imagine using Photoshop without it.

For those unfamiliar with TK8 and what it can do, I put together a video highlighting ten fantastic tools and features, including:

  1. Dodging and burning brushes
  2. Paint contrast brush
  3. Black and white clipping alert
  4. Orton effect
  5. Color clone brush
  6. Clean dust
  7. Luminosity and color masks
  8. Color grading
  9. Vibrance and saturation masks
  10. Web sharpening

Check out the video below:

Check out TK8 for yourself, and if you do decide to buy it, use promo code DOMINEY to get 15% off.

(Note: I am not affiliated with the developer, nor is this a paid/sponsored post. I purchased the plugin for myself, love using it, and thought it was worth sharing).

Favorite things this week

• Music - Music for Home from Brian Green. Sorta jazz, sorta ambient, sorta Americana. Short, lo-fi instrumentals in a variety of colors and textures. Also check out his Impressions for Headphones for similar work.

• Canon has reportedly told Viltrox to stop selling autofocus RF lenses. I reviewed the Viltrox RF 85mm earlier this year and found it to be a capable, quality lens at an affordable price. Canon won't comment on the matter, but it appears related to patents, licensing, and...well, Canon. It's now been four years since their mirrorless RF mount was introduced in the EOS R, and yet the company still won't allow Tamron or Sigma to produce their own RF lenses. Canon makes great glass, no doubt about it, but speaking as a longtime user, their continued monopolistic behavior is getting really old. Crossing fingers for an RF Sigma ART lens in 2023.

• How much do musicians earn from streaming? According to musician Mary Spender in her video about The Dark Side of Ambition, an artist signed to a label must get 7,343,157 streams of a song per month to earn minimum wage in the UK. That is a stunning statistic, and just goes to show how important alternate revenue streams are for working musicians. Even something as simple as buying an overpriced t-shirt at a show makes a difference.

• Speaking of music, read J-Dilla Donuts from the excellent 33 1/3 anthology of music books. Donuts was, and continues to be, one of my favorite albums from the past two decades. What some may not know is that Dilla worked on this album, in a hospital bed, knowing his time quickly was running out (he eventually died from complications from lupus). And yet, he plowed forward, sitting in bed with his sampler, using what remaining energy and imagination he had left to craft a masterwork of sounds, textures, and samples. The book does a great job of documenting his life, career and influence on popular music.