Instagram: The app that changed this technoslow’s (commuting) life.

Or at least, one part of it. Instagram has utterly changed my mind about shooting with a mobile phone. 

Not too long ago, I was trying hard to get enthusiastic about shooting with the camera that was always with me. Yes, it’s convenient, but also laggy, un-ergonomic, takes forever to autofocus, and photos came out flat – low contrast and generally unexciting. There was no love in it.

The few apps I’d been using up to that point were slow, cumbersome and only saved low res versions of anything. Downloading and photoshopping – all well and good, if you’re not after the instantaneous goodness of social networking. Which i am, if i’m shooting with a phone.


A few weeks ago the internet was abuzz with the newly released Android app for Instagram. And just like that, I started to enjoy shooting with my phone. What Instagram has given me that I haven’t found elsewhere:

  • Quick processing of photos on the fly with presets – no more dissatisfaction with unfinished images
  • Full resolution results

It’s amazing how the two in combination have suddenly upped my motivation to the point where my commute series is being continued exclusively via my phone.

The biggest change in all of this is my outlook on the whole thing. Honestly, my mobile – tortoise-like performance, un-finger-friendly touchscreen – is still an annoying device to shoot with. But being able to “finish” my images in the device itself has given the exercise ultimate satisfaction at the end. Because of this, I have the inclination to learn to overcome the irritants and get on with making pictures.

Other perks of Instagram:

  • Mass posting to various other social networks like Twitter and Facebook
  • Its own little social ecology

I’m new to the social side of Instagram, but I’ve found some brilliant photographers sharing their work in there. Inspiration, served with every refresh.

My Instagram activity
 is largely confined to pictures taken while commuting. Shooting on the bus with a phone is perfect as it doesn’t freak other commuters out the way a chunky dslr does, and it also gives me something to do when I’m too restless to read/write.

I’m loving it. One of the things that has always simultaneously annoyed and delighted me about shooting with a phone is how imperfect the results are – with the subject matter I’m partial to, you’re usually stuck with the first shot you take, because your subject would either have flashed by, or gotten off. Horizons are never straight, people are ridiculously distorted if the bus is moving too fast, lighting is often questionable, level of detail not great… I could go on.

But at the same time, that’s half the magic of it. Getting a shot right makes it that much better, especially when I’m having to compose a square picture in a rectangular frame. That took some getting used to, but has opened up some interesting creative choices for me – choosing the appropriate crop is another level in the process of elimination and makes things all the more interesting.

Nothing I’m saying here is new, of course. Specific technology aside, the same principles apply elsewhere in photography. But this phone camera app business is a fairly recent discovery for me, and I’m finding it’s challenging me to think and shoot in different ways. Yet another facet of the ever-learning journey.


  1. Love it, Charlene! I’ve been enjoying your stream on Instagram but viewing the images here in their larger size glory is just wonderful! I love both the restrictions of IG and the creative possibilities. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks Brian! Yes, I never thought I’d get to this point with a mobile phone app. You’re not doing too badly with it yourself I must say :)

  2. You seem like the perfect match, you and the phone with Instagram. It is so cool to follow your commuter work – that first shot is awesome!

    I like Instagram but I can’t get into phone shooting. I have small periods where I try and do it for a little bit and then loose interest again for months. I just cannot get into it. For DiTL I did have some fun using the phone though, so I guess it’s different when there’s an actual project like your commuter work.

    1. I have to say I can only shoot with my phone on public transport. I still find it annoying to use and haven’t managed to get into it with any other application yet, but who knows (instatug? ha!). Yes, it helps when you’re shooting a subject that is helped along by the kind of results you get on the phone!

  3. I too find it hard to enjoy shooting with my phone. I do try though! Like Flemming, brief spurts…and then I lose interest.

    You, however, are nailing it. Inspiring as always, Miss Charlene!

    1. Thanks Cathy :) You never know though, you might come across the perfect application for phone shooting. Never say never.

  4. Like a few of the other commenters, I’ve never really gotten into the whole my-phone-is-a-camera thing, but this post may just have converted me, at least enough to give it another go!

    1. JP, you have to give it another chance. There’s something quite freeing about accepting the clunkiness of phone shooting and shooting anyway.

      (A few weeks ago, I would not have been saying this)

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