Joining Instagram, enjoying Snapseed

There can’t be many people who feel the need to explain why they’ve got an Instagram account but it seems I’m one of them, probably because I wrote recently about what I didn’t like about it.

I hope that I stayed on the right side of snobbishness, unlike The Guardian’s art correspondent who seems to have had a crisis of confidence after realising that everyone around him was taking photos just as he was. Whether Van Gogh worried about other artists painting sunflowers at the same time of him is unknown to me. I can understand his frustration in some ways – at wedding services that I’m conducting I now ask for people not to take photos during the vows because the bleeps, flashes, and general distraction can take away from the most important moment of two people’s lives. But the point the critic missed is that the happy snappers around him weren’t trying to create life-changing art, they were capturing a moment to share with others. Sharing is a human reflex that social networking allows us to do on an industrial scale. Maybe this leads to too much information and too many photos but it also means that we have a democratic art form, with an ease of production, publication and immediacy like nothing else.

Even the professionals, whose cameras cost thousands, are getting in on the act. Dan Chung took some amazing pictures at the Olympics using his iPhone and not much more. Ken Rockwell says, “If Cartier-Bresson was starting today, he'd be working unseen with an iPhone, the ideal street, candid and life-documenting camera.” Why? Because great photography is about composition above everything else.

The challenge is to make photos which tell great stories. That was always my Instagram angst: it tempts us to make all the stories sound the same. I still get frustrated with thoughtless use of vintage filters, tilt-shift near-misses, and the non-negotiable square crop, but I also like looking at great pictures, and seeing what my friends are up to. So I’m embracing it, as well as keeping Flickr for non-mobile, non-square pictures.

But, my now-fellow Instagram users: please, please, get Snapseed on your phone. It’s got plenty of filters but also allows you to fine-tune your image in all sorts of other ways, making the editing process genuinely creative. It doesn’t take long to get familiar using it and now that Google has bought it, it’s free. I used it to make this year’s Christmas card image, from this to that...