Have Instagram And Other Retro-Look Apps Made Photography Boring in 2012?

POSTED BY , UPDATED ON October 30th, 2019

Instagram And Other Retro-Look Apps Made Photography Boring In 2012?

Behold – the ubiquitous cupcake, lovingly baked, iced and then and shot in a retro-filter and posted to social media with pride. There are also countless ice-creams, hot dogs, blue skies dotted with clouds,  dogs, children, and a collection of fey friends arm-in-arm, wearing retro sunglasses and beaming smiles. Each photo is transformed by a selection of retro filters into something far more magical. We need to ask ourselves, have Instagram and similar retro photo apps finally met their saturation point? If everyone is creating retro photos on their iPads and Androids, PCs and Macs, does that leave all photography in 2012 looking rather the same? Have Instagram and other retro-look apps made photography boring in 2012?


The Story of Retro-Photo Filters

Instagram was bought by Facebook recently for US $1bn. However, the story starts far away from Mark Zuckerberg or other digital marketing heavyweights, in a little known part of the former Soviet Union, during the ’80s with a man called Michail Panfiloff.

Panfiloff created a rip-off of a Japanese point and shoot camera in an optical plant in Cold War-era Leningrad. A couple of students found the camera in a Prague camera shop in the ’90s. They used the same technology in colorful looking toy cameras, and old out of date film, with the associated philosophy of ‘don’t think, just point and shoot’. This gave birth to the same ideas and principles used by Instagram.

The Instagram Magic

Instagram basically mimics this process, but with pixels and bits instead of using a dark room. Supersaturated colors, soft, muted shades and playing around with contrast give a powerful, retro glow to photos.

People are generally amazed when they witness what Instagram and others like Hipstamatic, Camera Bag and Picplz can do the first time. People born in the ’80s and afterward are relishing the chance to enjoy images that were loved in our parent’s generation. But after witnessing countless friends and associates ‘pointing, not thinking and shooting’ everything in the same filtered cadence, it is starting to get a bit repetitive.

Another Rabbit Out of the Hat

Launched in 2010, Instagram got its millionth user at the end of that year. Now after 15 months there is an incredible 30 million users and a billion pictures all over the world. The app for iPhone had an extraordinary five million downloads, six days after it was launched. So where do retro photo apps go from here?

Instagram and the rest, need to continuously find ways to keep people inspired and fascinated by the pictures, or else retro-pics will most certainly reach saturation point. Or perhaps the craze will all calm down and become a niche category of photography in its own right –  only time will tell.