Why Instagram is Bad for Photography

In my talk at Google I shared the notion of ‘digital share-cropping’:

Don’t upload your photos to Facebook or Instagram if you desire control and freedom in your photography and artwork.

A demetricated future for photography and artwork

FYI: Facebook owns Instagram
FYI: Facebook owns Instagram

The problem of Instagram for photographers:

You end up making photos to ‘optimize’ your likes and followers, instead of innovating in your photographic artwork.

How Instagram (subtly) trains you.

This is how the Instagram algorithm works (based on the Facebook News Feed Algorithm):

  1. You upload a photograph
  2. You get a certain number of likes
  3. You experiment uploading other types of photos, and you soon discover through trial-and-error that certain types of photos get ‘liked’ more than others.
  4. Because we are suckered by metrics and like numbers, we will start to ‘optimize’ our photo uploads based on photos we think will get more likes (instead of making more risky, innovative, and unusual photos we actually might like more!)

Why is this bad?

Let us say you have a certain photograph you really like, but it is so ‘weird’ and unusual. You might NOT share the photo, because you are afraid it won’t get a lot of likes.

Or even worse– you don’t innovate, because you have been trained to stick to a certain photographic formula. You never innovate or change your photo style, because the initial formula that made you famous becomes a creative prison for you.

Creative prison

erickim-kkk nazi

For example let us say you get really famous in photography for black and white photography. But you get bored of monochrome and want to shoot color photography. You might NOT experiment with color photography, because you know your fans already love your monochrome images, and you’re afraid of ‘losing followers’ or ‘upsetting your fans’. You become a prisoner of your own success (the success trap).

Instagram is no longer for photography


Instagram (when it started) was a great platform. I think the founders (who recently left Instagram/Facebook) really loved photography, and had good aims. But now, Instagram has become some strange ‘lifestyle’ app. A way of ‘flexing’ your “lifestyle” and possessions. No longer art-photography focused.

Why Instagram is bad for photography


This is what happens over time:

Fewer and fewer photographers end up building their own websites, their own blogs, and their own platforms.

Why? Everyone wants the quick sugar-like feedback of Instagram. It is true — having Instagram will help you in the short-term. But if you’re interested in long-term thriving as a photographer-artist, Instagram is the WORST thing you can do for yourself.


I can say for myself deleting my Instagram around 2 years ago has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my photography and personal creativity. I was able to explore new forms of creative self-expression, able to innovate on this blog and my portfolio website, and more. Procreate, iPad, illustrations, making music, making beats, making poetry, and so much more.

I feel free!

Life after Instagram is 1000x better. I have focus, clarity of thought, and less anxiety associated with: “What will I upload to Instagram today?” Less disappointment with not getting as many likes as I would like.

One major step in de-metricating my life.

  • cindy cruise eye
  • silhouette
  • Iliad

Practical steps

From Ben Grosser's "Reload the love!"
From Ben Grosser’s “Reload the love!”
  1. Make your own website/blog. My basic thought: everything you would otherwise upload to Facebook or Instagram, just upload it to your own website/blog.
  2. If you want honest feedback on your photos, upload them to arsbeta.com
  3. Just delete it: Don’t over-think it. Delete your Instagram. I think you can delete Instagram without a ‘net negative’ in your life. In-fact, deleting your Instagram will probably make you 1000x happier and more creatively productive. I still think it is wise to keep your Facebook, as it has become a type of digital directory of sorts.
  4. Demetricate your life: Install plugins to block numbers (Ben Grosser’s Facebook Demetricator). Also available for Twitter. Link to Chrome plugin. Also interesting to checkout ‘reload the love‘ (randomly changes your likes).

A life without Instagram: a better life for us photographers!


Delete the gram

  1. Why I Deleted My Instagram
  2. Build Your Own Instagram!
  3. Death of Instagram
  4. Why I am Anti-Instagram