Student guest post: Instagram and VSCO: a photojournalist’s nightmare

Students in MEJO 557, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this site this semester. This is the third of those posts. Elizabeth Chen is a UNC-Chapel Hill student studying journalism with a minor in English. Her favorite book is “The Bell Jar,” and she describes her cat, Stella, as the love of her life.

Social media has become an essential part of culture and communication in the 21st century. Nearly anyone with an iPhone can take great pictures.

The incorporation of social media platforms and photo sharing continues to build a new generation of photojournalists who don’t need a college degree to be published. Among the most popular social networking apps and websites are Instagram and VSCO, two photo-sharing platforms commonly used by individuals and businesses alike.

Instagram, created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, has 600 million monthly active users. Its key features include liking photos, commenting and liking comments.

VSCO, a photo-sharing app created by Greg Lutze and Joel Flory, does not allow users to like or comment on other users’ photos. Perhaps inspired by Tumblr, VSCO allows users to re-blog other users’ photos onto their own profiles. With 30 million active users globally, VSCO primarily targets photographers and artists by introducing high quality editing tools and utilizing the user’s device’s full resolution camera sensor. Although users are not able to like or comment on other user’s photos, they are able to follow other users, allowing them to show up on their feed and frequent the pictures they post.

Naturally, there are limitations within VSCO. The navigation is difficult and confusing — there lacks a walkthrough or instruction tutorial for first-time users, so users are left to fend for themselves. Users are also not able to set their profiles to “private,” so all photos published are available to the public.

Evidently different from VSCO, Instagram’s basis on social acceptance and its user population’s desire to be relevant and well-liked make the app somewhat addicting. It gives its users another platform to seek attention from others, while not actually interacting with them face to face. A relatively new feature added to Instagram is the ability to add a “Story,” which is similar to Snapchat stories and lasts only 24 hours on your follower’s home feed. Nearly everyone on social media has an Instagram account or has had one at one point, making its popularity a strength and advantage over VSCO.

Many large news organizations use Instagram. ABC News, Fox News and CNN are some of the most prominent news outlets, and they all have their own Instagram accounts. ABC News and Fox News do not have VSCO accounts, which shows how VSCO is based more on personal merit and photography, while Instagram’s consumerist tendencies appeal to organizations and large-scaled audiences to share news.

But how will this shape the future of photojournalism?

The ability to share photos instantaneously online has created a new meaning for photojournalism. With the ability to publish material so easily and on so many different media platforms, people have more power to spread information than ever before. International, national and regional communication is at the stroke of a keyboard, making news extremely easy to access or publish. Through this mindset, anyone who uses Instagram or VSCO can be considered a photojournalist – all they have to do is post a photograph.