Thursday, November 15, 2012

Can Instagram Make You More Creative?

Like the title asks, can Instagram make you more creative? I don't mean that it comes up with the ideas for you, but with all these programs that supposedly "enhance" your images, it's important to understand that there are significant differences between ones like Histagram vs. ones like Instagram. That difference can become a useful tool.  

With Histagram the choices are being made for you - even if you put it on the less "random" setting, you're still using its muscle to create the strength of your image. Whereas with a program such as Instagram, you're taking a picture and applying various changes. The changes really just give you previews of potential pathways - but you're in charge. 

There used to be a great function in Photoshop called "Variations." You'd open up an image in its dialog box and you'd automatically be given a preview of the image with a wide range of color and contrast changes. It allowed you to previsualize what would happen if you added more warmth or cooled it down. It didn't go beyond that, but it was a great function and I missed it once it was gone. 

I think that's what I like about Instagram and plug-ins such as Alien Skin's Exposure software. They give you the ability to take your image and use it as a sketch, or a foundation, to see where you could go from there. That's what's fun about Instagram - it gives you that previsualization - it can show you a whole set of variations with visual approaches you might never have thought to make.

The above image is a really good example. I had a very specific idea (I seem to start with a lot of those) about what I wanted the image to look like. It wasn't until I was going to "test" it out on Instagram (to see if anyone thought it was a real location) and I was hitting the different filters, when all of a sudden I saw a great direction.  Instead of a deep heavy moody aesthetic that many of my images use - I saw a very low contrast, fairly warm and slightly textured approach. I had never thought of doing that before and loved it.

One of the things that people liked so much about film is that it truly gave you unexpected surprises - and that's something that's really less interesting about digital - you can bring it into Photoshop...but it's harder to have a "happy accident."

So I love any situation where I can get out of my head and look at something through someone else's eyes - and really that's what programs like Instagram are. They "filter" your image through someone else's aesthetic. Doing that gets you to a point where you might be open to choices that you have never made before. It's a bit like "It's A Wonderful Life" where he gets to see what his life would have been like - well in a way, you get to see what your image would have been like if it was taken by ten other people - and incorporate that.

These programs give you the ability to ask yourself a wide range of questions:

 Do I like that? Why? 
What is it about the contrast level? 
Do I like seeing in the shadows, or do I not want to see into the shadows? 
Do I want mid tones? 
What should happen in the highlights, should they be blown out? 
Should they have texture in them? 
What about the tone? Should I stay cold because that's what it was? 
Should I stay neutral to take away the subjectivity? 
Should it be warm because it has a more human touch to it?

Used as a tool, these programs give you the ability to figure out what you value and why - and by figuring those things out - I think you're on the road to becoming a more creative artist. 

p.s. To try variations in Instagram and save them to your Camera Roll - but not post them...switch your iPhone to Airplane mode (just remember to delete the "failed" shots from Instagram before you switch back. 

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