Kevin Systrom on Instagram’s New Terms of Service

Following backlash from the Web concerning the new terms of service for Instagram, the co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, offers a classy, tempered response:

Advertising on Instagram From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.

I am still wary of the connection to businesses that my photos may have, but at least I can rest assured that I own my photos and they won’t be sold without permission. For now, I am staying put with Instagram.

Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook: Ten Nyman on Packaged Lives

Ted Nyman hypothesizes in his post “The Horrible Future of Social” that our obsession with digital services is cheapening our lives:

We have begun to pollute and desecrate and cheapen all of our experiences. We are creating neat little life-boxes for everything, all tied up with a geo-tag, a photo, a check-in; our daily existence transformed into database entries in some NoSQL database on some spinning disk in some rack in suburban Virginia.

The end-game is this. Slowly, gradually, without realizing: we stop participating in our own lives. We become spectators, checking off life achievements for reasons we do not know. At some point, everything we do is done soley to broadcast these things to casual friends, stalkers, and sycophants.

It’s a profound observation.

Today, I got my first Mayorship badge on FourSquare. But I didn’t know how to feel about it. Was it an actual accomplishment? A momentary boost of ego, sure, but what does it matter a week from now? A month? A year?

Wyoming and Yellowstone via Instagram

At the West Thumb Basin.

I just recently returned from a fifteen-day road trip out West. Along the way, I ate amazing barbecue food in Kansas City, saw the most gorgeous sunset in rural Kansas, crossed paths with celebrity mechanics in Colorado, and made way too many photography pit stops while getting to the ultimate destination, Yellowstone National Park (where we spent seven days). I have been slowly editing the images I have taken in and around the park with my primary cameras (Canon 7D and Canon 5D Mark II) as individual posts on my photoblog, Erudite Expressions; that Yellowstone gallery is now complete. Here, I wanted to highlight some of the mobile photographs I captured during this trip, most of which were taken with Instagram on my iPhone.

Stopping in rural Wyoming

Stopping in Rural Wyoming.

One of the most fruitful stops was this unassuming place called Cowboy Cafe in the town of Dubois, WY. Don’t let the tiny size fool you: the food here is spectacular. We met a group of people inside who said they’ve been coming to Dubois for fifteen years, and for every year they come, they have their breakfast, lunch, and dinner here. The TripAdvisor reviews aren’t wrong here. This hole-in-the-wall is a must when stopping in Dubois (or perhaps even making a special visit out of your trip if you’re in the Jackson Hole/Grand Teton area). The pies here, made daily, are to die for.

Cowboy Cafe

Cowboy Cafe in Dubois, WY.

A horse farm in Dubois, WY.

Tire tracking in Dubois, WY.

Population: less than 1,000. Amazing small town atmosphere.

Perhaps a better view of this scene on my photoblog, but…

The Tetons.

Fall approaching in Yellowstone National Park.

Crystal clear lake.

The most popular feature of Yellowstone National Park (also presented here in long exposure form)

The world-famous Old Faithful geyser.

Because of the wind gusts, it was a not-so-uncommon occurrence with people losing their hats at the park. Here, I document a white hat lost in the Grand Prismatic Spring area. Compare to the photo of “The Red Hat” lost at Mammoth.

The Lost Hat.

A hot spring at the West Thumb Basin (next to Yellowstone Lake):

At the West Thumb Basin.

Fall colors at Yellowstone.

An out-of-this world scene at Mammoth Hot Springs (compare to this photograph):

Mammoth.

We spent a few days in West Yellowstone, Montana. Among other things, the town is famous for these decorated bison found on its streets. You can read more about this initiative here.

Buffalo statue at West Yellowstone, Montana.

Sunset in West Yellowstone, MT.

I took a late evening bike ride to the far edge of the city of West Yellowstone. I wound up on this rural road and saw an incredible sunset in the distance:

End of the road. Remains of the day.

On the way back from Yellowstone, we took a different road: I-90 in Montana to I-25. We stopped in historic Sheridan, WY:

Old railroad. Sheridan, WY.

Exploring Sheridan, WY.

This was a peculiar sight. The word pharmacy spelled in Russian Polish on the back wall in Sheridan, WY:

Pharmacy.

And what would a trip to Wyoming be without a stop in one of its greatest store specializing in barbed wire?

The best store in all of Wyoming.

I have dozens of more mobile photos that I captured on this trip, but the significant ones I’ve profiled in this blog post. If you’re still curious to see more photos, I highly recommend checking out my Yellowstone Gallery and reading through the captions of each individual post. This was an amazing road trip, if my photos are any indication :).

Instagram Photos in Sports Illustrated Magazine

Brad Mangin shares his story of how Sports Illustrated picked up his Instagram photos and is publishing them in the latest issue of the magazine. The set consists of 18 baseball photos spread over six pages. He describes his process in this blog post:

I shoot all of my pictures with the native camera in my phone. All editing and toning happens within the iPhone, too, using a few of my favorite iPhone apps. Once it looks good, I import the final image into Instagram. The final step in my workflow involves uploading the images to my PhotoShelter archive, which is where editors like Nate can easily view and download them for publication.

Some of my favorite apps include Dynamic LightSnapseed, and Camera+. I really love Snapseed for converting images to black and white and for toning my images. Dynamic Light is my favorite app for making a sky look dramatic and for adding great color to images. Once I get the image into Instagram I usually apply the Lo-fi filter and border if I want high contrast and rich color, or rich black and white. If I want muted colors with an old-school look, or if I want to make a black and white image into sepia-toned I use the Earlybird filter and border.

This is good news for photography and Instagram.

On Instagram and Facebook

This piece by Paul Ford who compares Instagram and Facebook is well-written, savvy, and less “tech-y” than anything I’ve read since the announcement.

Remember what the iPod was to Apple? That’s how Instagram might look to Facebook: an artfully designed product that does one thing perfectly. Sure, you might say, but Instagram doesn’t have any revenue. Have you ever run an ad on Facebook? The ad manager is a revelation — as perfectly organized and tidy as the rest of Facebook is sprawling and messy. Spend $50 and try to sell something — there it is, UX at its most organized and majestic, a key to all of the other products at once.

To some users, this looks like a sellout. And that’s because it is. You might think the people crabbing about how Instagram is going to suck now are just being naïve, but I don’t think that’s true. Small product companies put forth that the user is a sacred being, and that community is all-important. That the money to pay for the service comes from venture capital, which seeks a specific return on investment over a period of time, is between the company and the venture capitalists; the relationship between the user and the product is holy, or is supposed to be.

Also, props to Paul Ford for one of the best analogies I’ve read in a long time:

In terms of user experience (insider jargon: “UX”), Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever — a chaotic mess of products designed to burrow into every facet of your life.

Definitely take five minutes out of your day to read the whole thing.

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Unrelated, but “How To Say I Love You” is one of Paul Ford’s gems from last year. A must-read.

Facebook Acquires Instagram for $1 Billion

Well, this is huge news in the tech world today. Facebook acquires the photo app Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock. Here is Mark Zuckerberg with the announcement:

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

This is the pivotal reaction from Instagram’s founders:

It’s important to be clear that Instagram is not going away. We’ll be working with Facebook to evolve Instagram and build the network. We’ll continue to add new features to the product and find new ways to create a better mobile photos experience.

Based on the above statements, the Instagram app should still remain the same. I hope that’s the case. Something I value deeply is ability to post items on Instagram unaffiliated to my Facebook timeline/stream. I feel the same way about discovering other photographers using the app.