The Instagram Experience in 2024

The Instagram Experience in 2024
Photo using work by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Is Instagram as bad as they say?

Last year I surprised myself. After writing about giving up social media, I joined Instagram.

What on earth possessed me?

In truth, I had to find out if photo sharing was dead or alive on the super behemoth.

When I used Vero it was full of ex-Instagram users who wanted a genuine photography app and sought a home on Vero. Many claimed Instagram had abandoned photography in favour of TikTok style videos.

There was much moaning and gnashing of teeth.

Instagram followed TikTok with reels, and several years before with Snapchat-like stories.

Instagram did prioritise video shorts over photography. Instagram’s CEO provided the evidence by exclaiming to the world that the future is video. But the Instagram algorithm is changeable and nobody can know for sure.

Video madness, evil algorithms, and sin of all sins, advertisements. Could anyone share photos and enjoy the experience?

Before one final heave-ho of social media lets find out if I could use Instagram without selling my soul.

My Truth About Instagram

To my surprise, Instagram is like Vero and Glass. Users share images. They follow or unfollow each other and leave comments. On average, they behave. I was able to use the platform without much of a learning curve and got into the rhythm.

I admit I had low expectations. This was due to statements I read on other platforms about the burning pit of hell they had escaped from.

In no particular order, below are my findings after 96 posts across six months.

I should warn you. I wrote this review from a photographer’s perspective. I am someone who enjoys capturing images. I use Lightroom and hold a dislike for anyone showing their Kardashian bottom.

  1. The Instagram App works

The Instagram app works with few outages. Across the six months there was an outage or two but they passed me by.

The app can be confusing at the beginning with stories, reels, and a maze of settings. But you will find your way.

I enjoyed the baked-in features to help turn your photos into video reels with music. While I thought I would despise video, the idea introduced a new avenue of creativity. The app is hard to criticise as it does what it’s supposed to do.

I am in a minority. Some recent iOS App Store reviews are negative. But they have issues with the company. They dislike the changing features and despise sponsored posts.

  1. Growth is hard work

After six months I amassed 175 followers. After three months, I lost motivation and was content interacting with only a few people.

I did not use third-party apps for managing followers due to privacy concerns. Also, I avoided following back people who did not engage with my work.

I am convinced many Instagram accounts use tools to follow people without engaging. Instagram appears to remain a bastion of robotic social media habits.

  1. Instagram is where local people hang out

With billions of users it's no surprise I can find local people on Instagram. My local cattery is on Instagram.

I enjoyed following the work of local photographers. I got good location ideas from them.

You will find local people on Instagram. They are there more than on other photo sharing platforms.

  1. Bad behaviour exists

Engagement remains with a narrow band of fellow users. There is no way I am convinced 175 followers see my images.

Some people who have followed me, and I followed back in return, like a sample of my posts to begin with and go silent. I don't know the reason. But, I suspect some people hunt down followers. If you follow them back, they will either silence you in the settings or you will get lost in their feed.

I've experienced the follow-unfollow trick and many spam accounts. These include private feeds and risky images. Managing my account is time-consuming. How do people cope with thousands of followers?

I struggle to work through the feed and comment on the best images. They come from 175 people, let alone thousands.

Photo based on work by Максим Власенко on Unsplash
  1. Engagement is hard to find

The definition of success varies from person to person. If you are an influencer, one measure of success is the follower count. For me, I wanted to find a small group of people with whom I could share photos and engage with.

Developing a conversation is challenging. It is rare to go beyond one comment and one response.

If there is one button I use every day it is the ‘Remove Follower’ option. I am suspicious of those who follow me without responding to any of my pictures. And of course there are the beautiful girls who follow me. Examples are Michelle736142 or Tania56784329917. They like my pictures and show off their implants.

  1. Reels can be fun

The general advice is if you want to succeed on Instagram you need to make reels or short videos. This has annoyed many photographers. But, it helped me indulge in a different form of creativity. I have of course taken the easy way and turned a series of photographs into video.

Many third-party apps can help you make reels. The Instagram app itself has a simple reel generator.

  1. Hashtag stew

Sharing photographs through the Instagram app is easy. You hit the plus symbol. You choose your picture or pictures. Skip the editing options and write your caption. You will need to add many hashtags to get your picture noticed.

It takes practice to think of the most relevant hashtags. You need to think of the variations, for example:

#LongExposure and #LongExposurePhotography and #LongExposurePhotographyExceptOnPublicHolidays etc.

Hashtags failed to get traction or reach. But, some users follow specific hashtags. You might have a different experience.

My preference is one used by Glass whereby you can choose up to three categories from a predefined list. Simple and concise.

  1. Noise in your feed

There are two types of noise encountered when scrolling through your feed.

The first is music.

When you post a picture you have the option to add a song or piece of music from Instagram’s catalog. Music can add some atmosphere. If you double-tap to ‘like’ a post but are slow, you can unmute the sound. Then, everyone around you knows you’re not reading the news.

The second type of noise is the incessant advertising and sponsored posts in your feed.

To avoid ads, click the Instagram logo in the top left. Then, choose ‘Following’ or ‘Favourite’. This allows you to scroll through a feed of only people you follow. The downside is that it is easy to swipe out of the feed, but it's a good option.

  1. Does Instagram make me a lazy photographer?

One thing with social media is the hamster wheel of posting.

I have an insufficient supply of photographs to post every day. Regular posting can help maintain your profile. For me, regular posting means I share pictures that are average with only one or two stand out images.

It's unfair to expect every photo to be a ‘banger’. But, the need for volume in regular posting is making me lazy as a photographer. I would prefer to plan a photography project, be patient, and post on an infrequent basis.

  1. Reels are silly

Did I say reels can be fun at number six? How silly was that? It looks like many users have grabbed the reel life experience with both hands.

The beautiful.

And the scary.

What did I enjoy on Instagram?

Discovery of local places and local photographers.

What did I enjoy the least?

The time and effort to remove spam accounts from my follower list.

Sum Up

Instagram was a surprise. It can be good if you think for yourself and choose who you allow into your network. It’s up to you what you make it.

Ignore the negative hype and the influencer attacks. The influencers remain on Instagram because that is where the masses are.

The Instagram experience leads to an important question.

If you refused to share your photography with the world, would you keep taking pictures?

If you share photos to seek appreciation, even if the 'likes' are superficial, your practice is at risk.

I use photography as a form of meditation. It is an accompaniment to exploring new and familiar places. It requires a keen eye and a fresh perspective. For me, photography is about the process, the experience. The actual images are a byproduct.

Instagram is fine but don't take it too seriously. I'll be sticking around.

The Foto app and one last try

One benefit of sponsored posts on Instagram is discovery. In February 2024, I joined the newest group of beta testers. We were testing a new photography app called Foto. Foto promises to be different with no ads, no algorithms, and respect for the art of photography.

In the months I've been using it the quality has shone through. Two developers with a vision and a plan have done a mountain of work.

Would you support Foto? Foto is due for public release later in 2024.

I discovered Foto thanks to Instagram.

Thanks for reading this far. If you found this story helpful, please consider buying me a coffee. It would mean so much. 😊

And why not connect on Instagram?

Alan Marsden

Alan Marsden

Enjoying shutter therapy through different genres. Writing on the experience. ⛰️ landscape ⏳ long exposure 🚦 street ❓and the random