Are we currently entering an era in which natural, unedited photos will be just as outdated as film?
There’s reason to wonder, given the Photo-Filter Wars going on in the mobile-app world this week. In case you missed it, here’s a quick timeline:
* On Sunday, December 9, Instagram, a free mobile/social photography app for iOS and Android with 18 image filters, discontinued its Twitter photo integration. Your Instagram photos can no longer be viewed in Twitter online or in Twitter’s iOS or Android apps. But you can still tweet links to Instagram photos, and your followers can click them to see the images on Instagram.com. Instagram’s goal is to push people to view photos on its own website instead of Twitter. (BTW, Instagram also added a new black-and-white filter called Willow.)
* Not to be outdone, Twitter added eight image filters to its free iOS and Android apps one day later. The filters work well but are fairly standard: Vignette, Black & White, Warm, Cool, Vintage, Cinematic, Happy, and Gritty. (The filters come from Aviary.) The ability to preview one image with all eight filters applied at once is a unique, nice touch. Twitter apps also now include cropping and auto-enhancement tools.
* Today, Flickr released a major update to its iOS app that adds 15 filters, each with an exotic animal name such as Ocelot, Chameleon and Wallaby, which are fun but not terribly descriptive. You can share your masterpieces on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr or via e-mail.
Back to my question: With all these mobile camera-app filters, will regular photos become a thing of the past, especially those images shared over social media? I doubt it. For one thing, adding a filter to a photo requires making a choice (which filter?) and taking an extra step, and often, people just want to upload photos to Facebook as quickly as possible.
Also, I suspect many people will grow bored with filters after a while.
Maybe that’s just me. I don’t use filters much at all, to be honest. A good photo tells a story all by itself, one that’s worth sharing. A filter added to that image can alter or even obscure the story it tells.