The Writings

Life Imitating Instagram

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It made me want to punch a hole through my computer screen. Browsing the internet, I was partaking in my usual morning routine involving waking up to a cup of coffee (or three) and reading up on the latest news involving photography or anything else, for that matter. And there it was. “Mount July DSLR Lens Filters Will Be Like Instagram Filters for Your Camera.” Fuck me running.

People are adorable. At one point, the mentality was, “I can tweak it in Photoshop” and they would buy some $30 filter pack to convert their photos to look like and imitate film. Or they would buy Hipstamatic or download Instagram to achieve that analogue camera look as they took selfies or pictures of their cats. And now this. I get it - photographers have been saying all along to “try to get the shot perfect IN-CAMERA”; I just didn’t think two Stanford product design students would take that literally with these filters.

Olivia Vagelos and Martin Bush are the culprits, starting a new camera filter brand called Mount July, which features multi-color graduated filters you can twist and screw onto your camera’s lens, no matter who the maker is. And hey! That’s not all, boys and girls! You can “STACK” multiple filters together and rotate them for even more color options! Wowwy ka-ZOWWY!

The hilarious part about this is that they claim these are for both digital AND film photographers, and you can add a touch of color to your film footage without having to do all that nasty work in a video editing program. Because Lord knows aspiring filmmakers should attempt to replicate radical coloring techniques of your shots like filmmakers of yore did to The Wizard of Oz and such.

All snark aside, it’s not like this is the worst thing to ever happen to photography. Being honest, I’m not harmed with these circulating and finding their way into the market. Hobbyists and hipsters alike can enjoy adding a little extra something to their photos without having to find some mediocre filter or spend a boatload of money downloading programs to achieve these kinds of results. It’s just... whyyyyyyyy?

To answer my own question, I know why: it’s American. It’s human nature. People want to achieve something without having to put in the work. An instant fix. Rather than figuring out how to create these types of looks - or, heaven forbid, a look and style of your own - they can simply pick one of these filters up and duplicate their Instagram success with their DSLRs. But, further answering my own question, it’s just lazy and uninspired, and seeing the results, frankly... it doesn’t look that great.

What’s truly funny in all of this is that, no matter what, people always seem to want to replicate something from the past and put a modern spin on it. Kids who were born into the age of computers dream of the good ol’ days of film and try to duplicate that feeling of a nostalgia they’ve never experienced in anything they can. Hipsters pick up lomography cameras for the purpose of standing out and looking cool. Good for them. That’s not the purpose of photography.

On the flip side, I find it hilarious to hear photographers like Scott Bourne state in a recent blog post how “film isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” and essentially write off that it’s an old, useless technology. He even goes as far to say that if you’re fixated on the process of film, “you are probably not making great images anyway.” He states that “the image is what matters. Period. How you got it is only important to you and those in the camera club you are trying to impress.”

Both ends of these perspectives is hilarious to me. To argue, yes, it IS all about the image, Mr. Bourne. Part of the image is how it is made, and as a recent film convert, there’s something enjoyable about the PROCESS in making the image with a film camera that I just don’t get with digital. I will ALWAYS use digital for work, but when I look at some of the images I’ve captured through film, I have even more pride in that shot because of what it took to achieve it. Knowing that I also couldn’t achieve that precise look and feel to the image had I shot it in digital, even with the new tools and techniques I have learned, makes it all the sweeter. And I don’t think I nor my photos would fall under “not making great images anyway.”

Meanwhile, folks are still trying to replicate film without actually shooting in film. There’s a certain amount of difficulty, sure, but what’s the joy in taking a photo with some makeshift filter - whether that’s on Instagram or on your lens - instead of actually having to learn and use your photography know-how to achieve the results?

That’s like not studying for a test, then looking over the shoulder of the smart kid in class to pass. You haven’t learned the information yourself, and if you’re ever questioned on it or have to recall that information later an, you will be unable to pull up the data and apply it on your own. If you want to take better photos, you have to actually put in the work. If you’ve ever wondered why you’re unable to get those photos like the pros do, how about you start there at the “am I putting in the work to get to that point?’ question.

There are plenty of tools out there to enhance the photo-making experience and make life easier for hobbyists and professionals alike. While there will always be grumbles from the photography community, we can never immediately get rid of fads; we just have to ride them out. And sure, they may make reappearances down the line - take a look at boy bands like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys - but they’re always going to be just that: fads. To stand the test of time, you have to genuinely and authentically put out a product that is unique and something you are passionate about. We don’t look at bands like Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or even The Beatles and Rolling Stones, as “fads”. And there’s a reason for that.

And they didn’t take so many photos of their lunch on the tour bus, either.

Until next time,

- Patrick