Instagram and the Future of Photography

An article from the Sunday edition of The New York Times is sparking controversy – not because of the content of the article, but because of how the photograph adjoining it was taken. The photo was taken by Nick Laham of Alex Rodriguez in 2012, and it was taken on an iPhone and edited entirely through Instagram.

NYT Cover

With the cover came blogs lamenting the end of photography. But this isn’t the end of photography, it’s the renaissance. More people are taking photos today than ever before – snapping and sharing moments from every day life to documenting world-changing events. Professional gear is becoming easier to use, and amateur gear like phones and point-and-shoots are becoming more professional in quality.

Similar end-of-days speculation occurred about journalism with the increase in popularity of web publications over print. Yes, large publications have taken a hit. But news has flourished with any person being able to tell or break a story through social media, blog platforms, and user-generated content. We now have more voices and less gatekeepers.

The same cycle is happening with photography. To be a photojournalist, you once needed thousands of dollars in gear and software. Now, we have the gear, software, and publishing tools in our pockets.

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Redesigns Veer Towards the Visual

Following on the heels of Facebook’s news feed update, The New York Times has announced their own site redesign. The new layout pulls inspiration from app design with sliding components for commenting and section selection. But the change that stands out the most is the focus on photography.

The top of the page features one large image and a headline with thumbnails and headlines lining the top of the page. These visuals are used to keep users on the NY TImes’ site, increase clicks, and help to tell richer stories.

The New York Times and Facebook aren’t alone in launching visual-focused redesigns. This week, Rdio launched the new layout for their app which also follows along with the visual theme with cover art as the focal point.

We know that web designers are switching to more visual formats, but why? Sure, it’s prettier, but what does this new aesthetic stem from?

Evidence over the past few years has shown that visual content does better than text alone. On Facebook, posts with photos and videos drive the most engagement. Pinterest is winning the e-commerce side of social media because of its visual-focused layout, which is why Ebay revamped their layout to mimic them. Visual design stems from the visual revolution’s ability to attract more attention, traffic, and therefore revenue.

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Front Lines of the Visual Revolution

February 20, 2013 Add Comment Monica Watson

Is it visual? Is it engaging? Is it designed well? Those are three questions every content creator or marketer needs to ask. The three companies featured in this week’s Front Lines of the Visual Revolution are answering those questions and innovating how social photography and online interactivity can be used.

1. Fashion Week’s Instagram Moment

Photo by KCDWorldWide

For designers trying to spread the word about their products it’s definitely frustrating to see all the photos shared on social media being out of focus. Fashion is a visual artform, and a major part of generating success is getting images of your designs seen by as many people as possible.

That’s where the “Instagram moment” comes in, with designers like Prabal Gurung having models pause midway down the runway for those on the sidelines to snap and share photos on social media. Designers know that the fashion writers, editors, and celebrities sitting along the runway have their own audiences online, meaning that  their work has the potential to be seen by thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of people outside of the hundred or so actually attending the event.

The Instagram moment shows just how powerful social and visual media have become to businesses. Visual content is the most shared and the most engaging, and fashion industry professionals are utilizing that potential.

2. Unveil

The original Picasso interactive graphic that inspired Unveil

The New York Times‘ is innovating the digital ad space by taking inspiration from their editorial team. The product is called “Unveil,” and allows users to run their cursor over an object to reveal another underneath. It was first used by the Times’ newsroom on an interactive image of a Picasso painting where users could discover another painting underneath, but it is now being tested on a new round of ads for Wisk.

The lesson to pull from this: if you want people to see your ads, make it something worth seeing. Advertising that is useful, fun, and visual holds people’s attention. Newsrooms are constantly innovating new ways to tell stories in more engaging formats, and advertisers are taking note.

3. Vimeo

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We talked earlier this week about Sprite’s innovative use of the Gif, and now Vimeo has purchased Echograph – a gif creation app. Vimeo was quick to deny that this was in response to Twitter’s Vine app, but the trend towards short and shareable video clips is definitely not on the decline.

Vimeo is not new to the visual revolution, considering they’re a video sharing platform. However, their content tends to be on the more professional or artistic side versus what would be typically found on Youtube. It will be interesting to see how and if Echogram will fit into that model.

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Front Lines of the Visual Revolution

January 30, 2013 Add Comment Monica Watson

1. Vine

Of course this week’s Front Lines post has to include Twitter’s new video recording app, Vine. In 2006, 86 billion photos were taken. In 2012, that number shot up to 380 billion. Twitter is losing the photo battle against Facebook, but the company sees online video as the next big platform. Camera phones and apps like Instagram made photography more accessible to everyday users. Now with most smartphones coming out with HD video recording capabilities, technology will do for video what it did for photography.

2. The New York Times

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With such a huge increase in photography over the past few years, publishers want to find different ways to tap into the content and talent. The New York Times is using the opportunity to discover new photographers with the New York Portfolio Review, powered by Chute. Users can submit their portfolios until 11:59 PM on Feb. 13, and 150 budding photographers will have their work reviewed in-person by the photo editors at the Times.

3. Puppy Bowl

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The Puppy Bowl is the best sporting event ever. Let’s be honest, an event that includes a kitten half time show has no equal (sorry Beyonce). The adorable athletes are actually shelter animals looking for homes, and the Puppy Bowl helps get them adopted and generates interest in viewers to go out and adopt from their local shelters. Animal Planet is doing some pretty awesome online visual campaigns around the event this year too. Each puppy has its own video profile, and there’s a live puppy cam for audiences to get their puppy fix before the show. The Puppy Bowl website and app are visual feasts for puppy lovers – a niche market of Animal Planet’s audience.

TV ratings continue to decline, so it makes sense for media companies to create secondary visual content that creates a more personal experience for specific fans. With Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube on the rise, users no longer need to rely solely on television for their entertainment. Media companies now need to give viewers a reason to watch TV, and the opportunity to have a more intimate and visually engaging experience does just that.

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