How Instagram Is Replacing $5000 Cameras On The Catwalk
Professional-looking, non-blurry photos where you can actually see what's going on? How passé.
This week, many editors will scour Getty Images, a comprehensive source of for-purchase wire photos of newsy events, for up-to-date shots of what's happening on and around the runways at New York Fashion Week. Mostly, they'll find what they usually do: clear, professional photos of everything from Anna Wintour sitting in the front row, to models strutting down the runway, to posed shots of stylish women milling about outside Lincoln Center. But they'll also find Instagrams. For purchase.
Like Twitter, Instagram has become a powerful way of sharing information — partly because it's free. Tons of reporters, fashion bloggers and editors, and media outlets all have accounts. The appeal is clear: Instagram's filter makes it easy to take a photo that looks decent at a live event like a fashion show that's hard to shoot on a cell phone camera and share it instantly. Followers get the benefit of pretty clear up-to-the-minute coverage. The medium has become so popular — so standard — that Getty's betting media outlets will want their Fashion Week coverage to look this way off their Twitter and Instagram feeds enough that they'll pay them for it in favor of the many megapixels and fancy lenses of expensive, professional cameras.
For the past few months, Getty Images has been experimenting with Instagram-style shots. In March, they commissioned portraits of the Yankees to be shot on iPhones and processed on filters in the Instagram app, and over the summer, they experimented with Instagram-style photos at a few music festivals. Now, for New York Fashion Week, they have a whole gallery of artsy Instagram-style photos.
Getty spokesperson Jodi Einhorn said that the Fashion Week Instagrams "will be available to our customers on our website at GettyImages.com," indicating that the photos do not appear in a standard Instagram feed, on Twitter, or elsewhere on the web for free.
Getty just has four photographers faux-Instagramming Fashion Week (they mostly shoot events with conventional, professional cameras). Three use an iPhone or Android app to take the shots, while one shoots the photos on his traditional camera, processes the images using the Instagram app on iPad, and then sends them to Getty. The Instagrams are more of a side project, as they are for many professional photographers at Fashion Week. Of its 20,000 Fashion Week photos so far, just 73 — 0.04 percent — are Istagrams.
Getty says they are just reacting to a fondness for Instagram-style photos: "We wanted to offer our clients and customers alternate views that enrich our standard coverage," adding that they want to "anticipate trends and offer options to clients and customers before they even know they need it."
The Associated Press, another major provider of editorial photos, also recently announced a foray into Instagram. During the recent political conventions, they had a feed of Instagrams on their website, pulled from the personal Instagram feeds of reporters and photographers covering the events.
Many fashion-conscious sites are embracing Instagram to great success — Teen Vogue, for example, has over 290,000 followers, and many others — like Refinery 29 and Who What Wear — have close to 100,000. The New York Times has an Instagram account dedicated to fashion (@NYTimesFashion). Staffers as well as two freelance fashion photographers (who also contribute to the paper and website) work together to populate the Times feed. A rep for the paper described it as a "team effort."
Although it feels somewhat counterintuitive to use faux vintage images shot on a smartphone camera when crisp, professional shots are available, it's also telling of the kind of coverage of fashion and entertainment events publications think readers want. While clear, unfiltered photos might provide a more traditional and accurate view of the main event, editors might now believe that readers would rather see yellowed and blurred runway shots or artsy close-ups of some stylish girl's jewelry. Somewhat ironically, Instagram photos might now feel more relatable and authentic to media consumers than images that don't artificially make every place look like it's about to rain all the time.