Friday, 10 December 2010

Hipstamatic vs Instagram - FIGHT!

Well I see that Hipstamatic has been named by Apple as the iPhone app of the year, even though Instagram is the retro photo app that everyone is talking about and, more importantly, using.

Hipstamatic and a slew of similar apps have been written-off by several sniffy photographer types as 'the comic sans of photography'. I kinda know what they mean.

On the one hand, these apps give any old novice iPhone owner the chance to create and share nostalgic looking square-framed photos with the minimum of effort. They spend a fraction of the time a professional photographer might spend trying to achieve similar (although obviously much more worthy!) shots. Trouble is, so many people are using the same apps with the same limited range of filters, that everyone's pics all begin to resemble everyone else's... sort of dumbing down the whole effect... hence the 'comic sans' slur.

Either way, given that the best camera is the one you have with you, the outcome of all this is that, of the millions of digital snaps taken on iPhones each day, an increasingly large proportion of them are at least beginning to look a little bit considered and, er, interesting.

As for, Hipstamatic, well, I have the app along with most of the in-app purchased lenses, films and flash-guns, but, to be honest, I rarely use it. Why?

Well, to be honest,I find it faffy and a little contrived. The whole 1970's Instamatic camera ruse makes the whole thing slow, clunky and hard to use. The excruciating wait whilst 'prints' are 'developed' only adds to the frustration.

By the time you've got to the sharing options in Hipstamatic, well... can you be bothered?

Now with Instagram, only a few short weeks on the App Store, there are even fewer filters available with which to achieve your effects... doubtless more will come, but does it really matter? Not really, because Instagram is not really competing head-on with photo-effect apps such as Hipstamatic.

For me Instagram is social network first, camera app second.

When I first started using Instagram I didn't bother creating a network within it, likening it to Location check-in apps like Foursquare and Gowalla within which you can build a somewhat pointless personal network. Why pointless? Well, more often than not, important check-ins will be shared with your Twitter and Facebook networks which, for many people, are much more established and important.

So, I thought, I don't need another redundant network within Instagram, when the app makes it so easy to share photos on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. This is when I realised that Instagram isn't competing with camera apps. The social network drives the whole thing, and whilst sharing across your favourite, established social sites is easy and important, nurturing an interesting network within the Instagram app itself is very rewarding.

Checking your feed, you'll see the latest shots from the contacts you follow and have the opportunity to comment on or 'like' their work, as well as reading and responding to comments from your own followers (notification that 'you've got comments' is a missing feature... expect it'll show up in a future release).

You can look at the most popular Instagram pictures too and it's here that you realise that many users seem to be playing the numbers game by creating vast networks. This 'gaming' of Instagram could make the whole experience somewhat joyless, as myexperience is that networks of sub-100 followers tend to encourage more conversation and community. I'm not averse to growing my network a little larger (certainly larger than the 50 limit insisted upon by even newer social photo app Path... which I don't understand either) but I'm not in a race.

I should say that there has also been some discussion within Instagram about whether photos created outside of the app should be allowed on the 'most popular' list.

This is because the app lets you select photos from iPhone library for upload, any of which can be take with other apps, other cameras or even be saved from elsewhere on the web.

Driving this discussion was a concern that people may be stealing other people's copyright images in order to get themselves onto the 'most popular' list. I'm sure at least one or two of the thousands of Instagram users have tried this. I haven't and neither would I.

However, I have used images taken by myself in other apps and using other cameras. Some of these I have edited in other apps before importing them into Instagram. Others, I have post-edited in Instagram itself before sharing. These, are my own work and a reserve the right to share them.

So there you have it. Turns out I had much more to say on Hipstamatic vs Instagram than I thought I did.

Do you use either of these apps? Which do you prefer? Why?

Does anyone prefer Path?


  1. Spot on, great write up. I love using Instagram :)

  2. One quick point about the followers ... I do follow a lot of people, but I found it was the only way to browse loads of interesting pictures as there is no other way of seeing them (unlike flickr for example)

    I would like to think that I would cut down the numbers when I have found interesting "international" people that I might not of ever noticed :)

    I do however agree that a smallish community of commenter's is very valuable.

  3. Richard - thanks for your comments.

    Yes, I don't mind growing my Instagram network and I too have discovered people beyond my existing social networks... it's just that looking at those people following thousands, I have a feeling they'd never see a photo from the same person twice.

  4. Excellent stuff! You've picked out a couple of idle thoughts I've been having on this very topic lately. Hipstamatic was the most used camera app on my old 3G as it made up for some of the serious limitations of the camera, since getting the 4 I've found I use it much less but use Instagram more. Yes, Hipstamatic is a bit 'Noddy' but it's an app, if you want a serious camera then I'd suggest using one rather than a phone. I have to admit, I do quite like the quirkiness of the interface although I also hear what you say regarding the processing time. It can be a minor annoyance. 

    The other day I realised that Instagram sits in my camera apps folder but really belongs in a social networking folder. I haven't really explored the social side of it yet, having only followed people I've stumbled across on twitter but would like to build it when time allows, it will stay small though, I agree that if too large, without some method to group and filter, meaningful interactions would become impossible.

  5. Lois

    Thanks for commenting. Yes, Instagram sits with my Camera apps as that's where I first stashed it, but it is much more of a social tool.


  6. Who hates Instagram, anyway? It's very useful for people who love taking pictures, but don't have a professional camera. And you are right Tim, this application is more of a social tool..