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Instagram Reels or bust: Is photo sharing dead?

Instagram algorithms have been flustering photographers since Facebook purchased the popular photo-sharing app. With the proliferation of Instagram Reels, things have taken a further turn for the worse.

Instagram must be fiercely worried about TikTok. They added Reels once it became clear how popular that app has become. Since then, Instagram Reels have been heavily favored by their algorithms.

It’s now impossible to scroll through the feed without seeing tons of reels from people you’ve never followed. So what does this mean for photography on the platform?

Instagram Reels trounce photo posts

Instagram Reels screenshot

I currently have two Instagram accounts. One is my photography account, which is primarily populated with photo posts. The other is my biking account, mainly made up of Instagram Reels. My biking account has a fraction of the followers of my photography account, yet its reels drastically outperform photos posted on either page.

I recently posted a story about this on my photography account and soon had no less than 20 replies from people similarly put out by Instagram Reels. Some were from photographers who reluctantly have added Reels to their routine. These people told me their experience lined up with mine: Reels are vastly outperforming photos.

Others steadfastly refuse to tackle Instagram Reels, as they just wanted to continue to use the platform to share their photos. Several people were just folks who miss being able to see their favorite photographers’ work in their feeds. The common thread among them all was that the Instagram feed no longer reflects what we want to see. Rather, it’s just Instagram showing us what they want us to see.

Photographers’ problems with Instagram Reels are only just beginning

Instagram Reels

In Instagram’s struggle to become TikTok, they’re trying even further to increase the value of vertical video on their platform. They are already testing a new full-screen feed and have all but admitted that how photos are displayed is a secondary concern to Instagram Reels. They’ve made it so that all public videos uploaded under 90 seconds are now automatically put in the Reels feed.

It gets worse from there. Public photos can now be “Remixed” and placed into Reels by anyone. Instagram was already full of bot accounts reposting your photos without permission or credit before. This alone could be the straw that breaks many photographers’ backs.

Instagram is making photographers look for alternatives

None of this should come as a surprise, though. The current head of Instagram has already said they’re not a photo-sharing platform. This leaves me wondering what point there is to Instagram now. YouTube is much easier to monetize, and YouTube Shorts are seeing a similar boost in recommendations to Instagram Reels, but without leaving the original video purpose completely in the dust.

If video production isn’t your thing, what other options are there? All of the big social media platforms have solidly moved toward favoring video of some kind. The OG photography platform, Flickr, is one of the few photography-focused platforms left. However, its population still seems low and its app is still a little lacking. I do love the idea of Flickr though and hope they can offer us a robust alternative in the future.

Another alternative is 500px. Their take on a photo-sharing platform is perhaps the most unique. Many people use their service to build a portfolio. They also allow you to sell photos (with some caveats). Their newest app also seems to have quite a few issues according to Play Store reviews, however. It also doesn’t seem as robust as Instagram or have the established goal of sharing photography like Flickr.

Has Instagram frustrated you into wanting to leave? If so, what platforms have you tried? Let us know in the comments.

I hold out hope that either Flickr can address their app and population issues, or that someone will develop an app for photography that is able to draw a large audience. Outside of these ideas, working on my own blog on my website seems like the best alternative for now. I’m about ready to throw Instagram in the trash.

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Rafael Jones

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