Is Instagram Helping Or Hurting Travel Photography?

It’s always fun to look at vibrant images of faraway destinations – a sun ray hitting the perfect piece of sand on a beach, an indigenous woman selling fruit at a weekend market or a mountain glowing 10 different shades. And, with all of the photography technology and apps we now have, it’s making it easier and easier for people to take flawless and exciting photos.

Do you ever wonder, however, if using these kinds of doctoring tools affects the ethics of photography? For example, is looking at a white sand beach that’s been photoshopped and filtered through Instagram really giving people an accurate view of a destination? Is heavily editing your photos, in a way, cheating? Travel photographers and travel editors from around the world weigh in on the subject.

One problem some are seeing with using instant-editing apps like Instagram and Camera+ is the photos can be somewhat misleading. It can give a sense you’re not getting a truthful depiction of a destination.”Sometimes images look a little too perfect. I like them to look a little more real,” says Mike Richard, editor of Vagabondish, a top-rated travel website.

For example, if you take a look at the photo above of Las Tijeretas on San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands, you’ll notice it looks completely different from the photo below. By using an Instagram filter on the top photo, the photographer has invoked an entirely different feeling of what the destination is like.

Lola Akinmade Akerström, whose work has appeared in publications like National Geographic, BBC and Forbes Traveler, agrees that travel photography should be about capturing a sense of place and culture as accurately as possible, instead of simply trying to take as many photos as you can in 10 minutes. For her, taking the viewer to a place as honestly as possible is “very different from fine art photography, which a lot of these filters and HDR effects cross into.”

She continues, “I personally won’t want to go somewhere where the sky is neon blue, the buildings appear more 3D than in reality, and people walk around looking like caricatures.”

Still, there are those travel photographers who are pro-Instagram, even using it themselves. Travel photographer Ken Kaminesky, who shoots commercial lifestyle images for stock photography, believes Instagram is all about having fun with your pictures. Additionally, because art is about perception, it’s all about how the photographer sees the shot, and how the viewers, in turn, perceive it.

“The photographer takes the pictures, not the camera,” he explains. “It still has a lot to do with your eye and how you compose things.”

Kaminesky also sees the benefit of using Instagram as a teaser for upcoming projects, showing his followers what they can look forward to with current and future assignments. For him and many other photographers, Instagram has many benefits in terms of social media sharing, helping to engage and excite their audience.

J.D. Andrews, editor of earthXplorer and travel photographer and videographer, sees the usefulness of Instagram, although believes it is more useful as a social media tool, more so than an article enhancer.

“When I’m shooting somewhere and I have the time, I always get the shots I need with my Canon, and then have fun with Instagram,” explains Andrews. “[If I were to use Instagram in an article], it would depend on the post. If it was about camera apps, sure. But most of the time, I only use Instagram for fun, ‘in the moment’ sharing.”

Kyle Marquardt, a commercial photographer and photo safari guide, agrees that Instagram is more for having fun than professional photos you would sell. Moreover, he believes the app allows people who would not usually be interested in photography to have fun with the endeavor. In fact, his mother, who had never used a camera before, bought an iPhone and became obsessed with Camera+. Now, she loves photography.

From the enthusiasm that apps like Instagram generate, photography becomes a more recognized medium. Many people will become interested in purchasing higher quality cameras, where they can learn what quality photos really look like.

“There is a lot more casual photography floating around now, and if a photographer puts work into a stunning, well-lit shot, then people are going to notice that gem amongst all the hastily executed and processed mobile photos,” says Marquardt.

How do you think Instagram is affecting travel photography?