We all know about fake accounts, followers, and likes that can be bought on instagram, so let's talk now about what else might not be as it appears - the actual photos you're viewing.
There are so many instagram apps that enhance and/or dramatically change your photos that I can't begin to enumerate them all. I'm all for editing your photos, whether it's your DSLR or your phone pics. I'm also not one of those purists that believes you can't touch your photo at all or it's not authentic. Even film processing is pushing, pulling, and adding contrasts and colors to the end product, so I don't buy the idea that Photoshop is some sort of bastardized editing hack. It's also somewhat disingenuous to add in so many "natural" touches to your photo that what you've done is create digital art, and not a photograph. So call it that already. I think it's really tricky to find the balance though, as some things are trends that will fade quickly and leave your photo looking a whole lot like a tribal tattoo around your bicep. You feel me?
I hope to be somewhere in the middle ground when it comes to editing photos, because I do think there is some enhancement that improves the quality and captures a bit of the human eye experience that can be lost in the overall flat appearance of a photo SOOC (straight out of camera). My iphone photo editing process is this: SKRWT for lens and perspective corrections (straightening London facades is a pain in the ass if you were wondering), Snapseed for exposure, and VSCO for filters. That's pretty much it. I do use Retouch for small bits that I don't like, mostly rubbish that's on the streets or near houses on collection day. Retouch is a content aware brush tool that does a fairly good job removing objects. I love showing people how it works because it seems like magic, but I also love showing them what it does if you do something absurd like try to remove a person from a photo. So there's my confession for you, I am literally taking out the trash.
I think most people are familiar with the deceptions that can be created with photoshop in digital photography, but I don't think many people realize that instagram is full of all kinds of fake shit that's become standard because people feel it ticks some sort of value added box. Clearly, I have no opinions on this subject. #smugemoji
So, what's real? It's hard to tell. I'm honestly taken in by some of it at first and left scratching my head about why I can't produce those kind of results. And you'll see that like smoke bombs, bialettis on the mountain top, succulents, latte art, and flags draped on people at the beach, these apps cycle through their own instagram trends. Right now, it seems that the sun kissed haze app (who knows how many or what it's called) is big in London. Here's a tip, there is not that much sun in London! And you'll see these hazy spots made to look like lens flare that show up in photos, in places where the sun couldn't possibly be. I will say it's a bit better than the actual sun ray app, where you end up with heavy handed lines drawn across your photo that look like someone applied it with some sort of glowing ruler.
So, fake sun, fake sun rays, what else? There are apps that let you clone objects from one photo to another, so you can add something like more birds to your photo. Yes, you've seen a lot of fake birds on instagram. I guess they're not totally fake bc someone did take a photo of them first to beef up the final version. (At least I think that's how it works, so don't quote me on that.) There are also tons of apps that let you change the colors in your photos, whether it's desaturating the majority of all but one single brightly colored object (this is so early 00s), or turning your skyline into a blaze of pinky orange. There's fake lens blur (trying to mimic the bokeh you get with a DSLR), there are fake reflection creators, and there are fake mustaches. If you can't spot those though, I'm a bit worried about you.
But don't get jaded yet, I've got some good news! (I've developed this optimistic streak that I can't seem to shake.) For all the digital imitation stuff you may be encountering, there's just as many (and hopefully more) great photos and photographers on instagram, so don't assume everyone is an evil mustachioed man drumming his fingers as he tricks you into a double tap. I've realized over the last few years that it's also a skill to be able to identify the qualities of a good photo. Obviously that can be quite subjective, but I think training your eye to identify the elements that make a good photo for you personally, is worth it in our modern image laden world.
And lastly, you want the realest of the real? I was identified yesterday by a Fabrique employee at the Notting Hill shop. That's not the best bit. No, the best bit is that she works at the Seven Dials location and was only visiting that location. And that my friends, is a true reflection of the frequency I visit Fabrique and take photos of cinnamon buns.