Instagram has arrived as one of the most popular, and surprising, social networking apps in recent memory. The app allows you to alter photos that you have taken, adding filters that often make them look as though they are aged and degraded. This aesthetic has taken off and adds a new look and perspective to your images, often reflecting the post-modern sensibility that permeates through youth culture. On the iPhone, Instagram takes the form of a social networking app with a photography component. There is a friend’s list and contacts like with Facebook, but its primary purpose is to post your altered photos. Here is a look at how to use Instagram on the iPhone, tie it into other social networking tools, and how to integrate it with your regular camera.
Once you download and install the free Instagram app you will need to start up an account so that you can use it. Hit the Sign Up button at the opening screen, which is displaying a number of image examples, and you will then enter important information such as your email, username, password, and phone number if you want. You will also be asked to include a photo of yourself, which is similar to a Profile Picture on Facebook or other social networking sites.
After you have created an account you will have an interface that is similar to Twitter and Tumblr. In your Home tab you will be able to scroll through different people that you “follow,” yet their unique contributions will be restricted to images they have altered with Instagram. You have the ability to Like or Comment on images, as you would in any thread based website. To the bottom right of a post will be a button with an ellipsis that you can press. This will allow you to either flag the post for administrators to look at or to Tweet it, which ties in the iOS’s integrated Twitter function.
The start tab, which is to the right of the Home icon, will just show you photos that are popular in a large quilted grid. This is a nice option for simply browsing around at different images that are going viral, yet it is not restricted to your friends list.
The center button is the primary function of Instagram, and it appears as a camera. This actually opens up Instagram’s camera function, which is both a way of taking pictures with a variety of options or opening previously taken pictures so that you can apply filters. At the top you will have a task bar that gives you a number of camera sub-options. There will be a lightening bolt that will allow you to control the flash both in level of degree and whether it is on at all. You will also be able to determine which iPhone camera you want to use, the front or the back. The water drop will allow for a fogging of the image at a determined degree, which is in line with its focus on altering images.
Once you have taken the image a lower task bar will come up with a list of Instagram filters that you can apply to your image. These will be options like adding a brown to it, degrading it, desaturating it; adding strange effects, and making it look older and worn. Once you have done this you can hit the green check mark and it will move to the posting stage. Here you can add a caption and a geotag, and if you have configured Twitter, Facebook, and your Email to it then it will send out to those feeds as well. When the photo is done it will also be sent to your iPhone’s Photo section, where it will stay and can then be used for whatever purpose you want.
In the photo section you also have the ability to load up images that you have already taken by hitting the button in the lower left hand corner that looks like two overlapping squares. From here you can browse through your photo albums until you find the image you want and then bring it into Instagram. From here you can apply the filters the same way as if you had taken the image and then post it to your account.
The heart tab will show you options of looking at photos in groups from your feed or even the latest news from your account, such as who is following you or what is going on with your friends’ accounts. This is a nice option if you are really trying to grow your network rather than just take photos to alter for your own use or tie into Facebook.
The final, far right, tab is going to allow you to deal with the important settings with your app and account. You have the option to find and invite friends, as well as search the entire Instagram site. Under Photos you can look at and adjust the photos that you have on your account, which is a way of assessing your profile and what you have posted. You can also see all the images you have liked.
Under the Account heading you have profile editing options and sharing settings. Here you can add Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, and Foursquare to your Instagram account, where as Instagram will post on these social networking sites whenever you share an image. This requires you logging in and connecting Facebook, or whatever the preference is, to Instagram.
At the bottom of this area you have the ability to turn on a switch that will make your photos private, which is important if you are simply using Instagram to get altered photos but are not interested in sharing them to a friend feed. If you do this you will need to approve the people that will see your images, and this can be nice for feeds that are relatively sensitive and that you do not want to share with the entire diversity of Instagram.
The app itself still has settings outside of the software in the way that most iPhone apps do, but this does not affect the actual functioning of the account but instead just the way the app works. If you go into Settings go down to where the apps are listed, which is below all of the internal iPhone functions. When you select Instagram you will get two switches: one to save the original photo and one to save the filtered photo. The default is set to not save the original photo but to save the filtered photo, which is likely the best way to keep things since you will want to the filtered image yet the unfiltered image is not necessary when using the program.