Instagram Terms of Service

So, you have probably heard that Instagram have updated their Terms of Service, which, in typical legal language, is a little ambiguous, but it does seem they are stating that they will take the rights for any images you take through the app. They then basically state that they can use these images as they see fit, with no recompense to you. This caused a large stir amongst the users and wider industry.

Instagram made the following Twitter update to say they recognised the drama:

This story has caused quite a backlash from photographers and avid users who now fear that Instagram could be making money form their images. As expected Instagram, (who’s owned by Facebook if you didn’t know) were quick to come out and defend themselves:

As you can see, the blog post seems to reverse most of what they originally announced. Whether they really did get the original language wrong, or were just terrified of angering, and subsequently losing their user base, we will probably never know.

There are a few things we can learn from this however.

1. Always read the terms and conditions of any service you use. I’ve also seen a number of photography competitions that also use fairly vague language which would potentialy pass the image rights to themselves and of course any future revenues. As photographers, retaining the rights to our own work is paramount. Nothing is worth giving that up.

2. There are a vast number of ‘apps’, photography based or otherwise, that we can install and use on our various digital devices. Many of these are free. Ultimately however these apps need to make a profit as at the end of the day, those developers need paying. We seem to have a growing culture of expecting things for free, but this cannot be. Either we ‘pay’ by being subjected to advertising, or we pay a traditional monetary fee or subscription.

Anyway, lets hope Instagram are true to their word and will not either take the image rights from the users, nor profit from selling their photos.

Are you an Instagram user? Will you continue to use the app, or has this issue by passed you?

Who needs a ‘proper’ camera when you’ve got instagram on your phone?

If you have a mobile phone which is less than a few years old, you will no doubt have a pretty decent camera on it. I’ve just upgraded to the HTC One X, which comes with a 8 mega pixel camera. It’s has a 28mm lens, with it’s widest aperture being f/2.0. Which gives you some good flexibility for taking a range of shots in a number of conditions. If you’ve seen any photos taken on a phone recently, you will no doubt have been very impressed with their quality too. Add to this the range of specific photo apps you can now get, which allow you to add arty affects, and you might question why you would need to bother getting a proper camera.

The problem is, your phone, and Instagram style apps, are not very flexible. And whilst the photos on the phone itself, or on Facebook/Twitter, look decent, if you ever wanted to print them out and make large prints from them, they would look pretty poor very quickly.

There’s a good reason why the latest top of the range cameras from Canon and Nikon cost in the £5k region for just the body, and some long zoom lenses getting up to £10k, and that’s because they will produce the highest optical quality for any situation. You’d certainly question your wedding photographer if they just turned up with an iPhone loaded with Instagram.

8 mega pixels might sound like quite a lot, but it’s not just this number that equates to a good image. The sensor on which the camera captures the light, is also a crucial part, and on a phone, these sensors are still very limited. For example, in dark conditions, you will need to adjust (or at least the camera automatically does it for you) the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The benefit is that you can still take photos at night, or indoors, but the downside is that you will introduce a lot of ‘noise’ to the image, massively reducing the overall quality of the picture. You can see noise in an image when it looks ‘pixalated’, which is even more noticeable should you want to increase the size of the shot. Try taking a photo with your phone, in low light, and then printing it out at A3. I bet it looks awful. You might be thinking, “hang on, what about the flash?” and it’s fair to say of course that by using the flash you can increase the light in the picture meaning the sensor doesn’t have to be as sensitive, meaning less noise, and in theory a better quality picture. However, the flash on phones, whilst bright, are also very harsh, and often give ‘red-eye’ to anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in the way. A proper flash gun, or even studio lighting will win hands down, every time.

The old adage that the best camera is the one on you, is very true, and these days you will nearly always have your mobile phone on you, and therefore a fairly decent camera, but should you want to do anything more than just show your friends the photo on your phone, or share it on Facebook, you still need the proper equipment, and just as importantly, someone who knows how to use it.