Archivi categoria: instagram

The Real Reason You Suck on Photo Sharing Sites: The Bots are Beating You

Photographers join photo-sharing sites for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as a need for recognition and the occasional pat-on-the-back. In fact, I suspect that’s the reason most people join these sites in the first place; a little bit of recognition is worth big dollars in the feel-good bank.

Sometimes they join those sites to promote their work for financial reasons, either to sell prints or services. In the post-Instagram era, I suspect that many people join in the hopes of growing a sizable enough audience to attract sponsors… and maybe trips and cheap booze.

Whatever the reason, the simple fact is that once you started posting, you are in competition with every other photographer on the site. Whether you like it or not, your photographs are judged alongside those of the entire membership—rank amateurs and seasoned pros alike. The aim of the game is to get your photograph in front of as many eyeballs as possible and that means playing the like-you-like-me game, getting involved, interacting, posting comments, replying to discussions… you know the drill.

But what if I was tell you, Neo, that you were doing it all wrong, that many of the people you thought you were competing against in this photographic game of life were not honest photographers working hard to get their photos seen? What if I was to tell you that this playing field is not only hilly as f**k, but littered with the spent corpses of a thousand disillusioned photographers?

Hmmmm? Take the Red pill, Neo, and follow me down the rabbit hole.

How to Win Bots and Influence People

Right now, at this very second, an army of bots, scripts, and hacks are hard at work on all of your favorite social media and photo-sharing sites.

These tools come in a wide variety of formats, from simple macro-based scripts, to polished commercial apps, all the way up to cloud based services with slick websites and monthly subscriptions. If you’ve ever wondered how some people seem to suddenly bloom in popularity, seemingly out of nowhere, then the odds are that they’re using one of these commonly available tools.

Like most social engineering, the techniques employed by the designers of this software relies on the way that we humans interact with such social sharing sites. They work by blowing smoke up your arse and making you think that someone 1) liked your photo, 2) thought so much of it that they took a minute out of their day to comment, or 3) loved it so much that they shared it with their friends.

Feeling the glowing warmth of that smoke, you of course reciprocate and like, comment, and share back, because that’s the nice thing to do and you’re a nice person. Well, sorry mate, but the odds are that the vast majority of times this has happened to you, you were giving a bot a hand up.

If you’re a minor league photographer with a couple of hundred or thousand followers, even if you’ve just started out, the traffic you’re seeing on your photos will have been grossly inflated by artificial likes, comments, shares and follows. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it was the Red pill you swallowed, not the fingers-in-ears Blue pill.

Don’t choke on it, we have more to discuss.

Macro, Script, Hack, Cloud

Let’s start with one of my personal favorite sites (heavy sarcasm) 500px. I wrote an article about 500px, five years ago, and it continues to be the most viewed article on this site by some margin. One of my complaints about the site was that photos were being up-voted irrelevant of quality. I don’t know why I didn’t see it at the time, but it’s obvious to me now—this is the result of heavy bot usage.

You can get a wide variety of tools to improve your standing on 500px. Why not begin a simple new user bot. This Python script available for download on Github will “automate the process of following new users on 500px.com.” That’s right, just fire up this little script, let it loose with your account, and before you know it you’ll be racking up the reciprocal follows from guileless punters.

For a more sophisticated tool, how about we check out our old favourite Flickr? Admittedly having a popular presence on this site is nowhere near as useful as the same thing on Instagram, but it’s still a helpful thing to have.

The Flickr Attention bot will mass follower, mass favourite, and mass comment and favourite.

Our Bot Who Art in Heaven

Such is the sophistication of the modern popularity bot that these days you can buy yourself a subscription to a cloud based service. These are particularly popular with Instagram users looking to increase their fanbase and not prepared to, like, be good at taking photographs.

Over at Instagress they’re not hiding their light under a bushell—in fact their front page proudly claims that their tools can:

Accelerate your life on Instagram for more targeted likes, comments and follows

For a very reasonable $10 a month, their cloud-based services enables you to:

Create a small robot clone of yourself with the same interests and style, and then let it work for you on Instagram

All the goodness, none of the calories friends. Or how about Gramista – it’s four times the price of Instagress, but they do promise that:

Gramista will automate liking, following, and unfollowing just like a human being would.

That’s right, not only will their product pointlessly follow people in a shameless effort to boost your own flagging viewer numbers, but they will also unfollow you if you don’t return the favour! It’s hilarious isn’t it.

Over at RoboLike, for a commendable $13.99 a month you can automate both your Instagram and your Twitter interaction. The team say that:

With the Robolike Instagram auto bot coming in at around 80 likes per hour and Twitter auto bot at 60 per hour, you get way more exposure to your account then you can do alone. Put your thumbs to rest and let us do the liking for you.

Because god forbid a photograph receives an actual human response of some sort. It’s pure gold mates.

Click Farms Are So 2016

You’ve probably heard about the digital sweatshops in Asia and Africa where a small army of impoverished mouse-clickers will descend on your Facebook page and shower you in utterly meaningless likes, all for the price of a Satsuma. Well, I’m guessing that the move to fully automated systems is bad news for the Mumbai economy. Or maybe all those click-farmers have transitioned into the far more lucrative encryption-ransom and fake-Microsoft-support games now. It’s important to keep your portfolio fluid, after all.

Over at MonsterSocial (“Undefeated for more than 3 years. Our 2000 customers can’t be wrong!”) they claim to be:

The #1 automation bot for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter

These guys will let you automate every element of your social media presence. Check out the video below where a dude walks through the whole process of farming likes using stolen or fake Facebook accounts.

I know, right? And if you’d rather not entrust your accounts to a cloud based service then there are many software companies producing apps to help your accounts out of the no-friends doldrums. At BoosterBots they will sell you software to fake your popularity on 500px, Behance, Cafepress, eBay, Instagram, Etsy, Facebook, Pheed, Pinterest, Redbubble and Twitter.

Pretty depressing, huh?

So by now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “F**k it, if everyone’s doing it, then count me in too.”

And that of course is entirely your prerogative. If you wish to engage in the like-follow-share tennis match being played between these armies of bots, then go right ahead. You may want to consider the possible ramifications of using these bots though, should you get caught.

All of the social media and photo sharing sites have policies about this sort of stuff. For instance Twitter has this to say about automated following and unfollowing:

You may not use or develop any application that allows for the following or unfollowing of user accounts in a bulk or automated manner. Accounts and applications that engage in this practice will be suspended.

That seems pretty black and white to me. Over at Instagram their Terms of Service say:

We prohibit crawling, scraping, caching or otherwise accessing any content on the Service via automated means, including but not limited to, user profiles and photos.

Again, that is pretty clear.

Will you get caught if you use these services? If you’re careful, probably not—there are way too many of these apps, hacks, crack and cloud services to suggest that people are getting systematically banned as a result of using them.

I certainly know from my own Instagram account that I pick up bot-rendered comments generated from a script by someone with the imagination of a carrot. The truly unimaginative ones are the guys who just put a smiley emoji in there. Like their brain capacity doesn’t stretch as far as adding the word ‘Nice’ or ‘Great’ before that smiley. Hey look everyone, Nikkos the Mobile Car Detailer from Hungary just said ‘Great :)’ on my photo—it couldn’t possibly be a bot.

Now the guys over at 500px reckon they’re ahead of the curve. In a recent blog post they said:

We have automated systems in place that tell us if you’ve somehow liked 1,000 photos in 3 hours. Or left the same “V F” comment on 100 photos in the last 10 minutes. Bots beware, our ban hammer is hovering right above your automated heads… ready to drop.

To which I say, like hell. These systems can, if used correctly, perfectly imitate the behaviour of an actual human and I defy the 500px development team to prove otherwise.

Yes, some jerk liking 1,000 photos in a couple of hours might attract attention, but someone with a decent enough comment script, with the common sense to like only about 50 photos an evening, with the chops to turn the wretched script off occasionally so that the pattern appears sort of random—you’re not catching them.

Is there a solution to all this nonsense? Of course not. As soon as the number of followers you have became a monetisable asset, it was going to be abused.

You can pick up small-scale sponsorships with as few as 5,000 followers on Instagram these days and at 50,000 you’ll be getting flown to exotic locations and have ‘samples’ appearing in your post. So why would you not try and game that system and get a piece of that corporate sponsorship money? Unfortunately, that makes a mockery out of the entire system, its most popular content (even if it is legitimate) tainted by the stink coming from the shots that have been gamed to the top.

And I’ll tell you something else too: it’s only going to get worse.


About the author: Andy Hutchinson is a photographer and journalist based in South Coast, New South Wales, Australia. You can find more of his work and words on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Instagram for Photographers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Instagram has become one of the most powerful tools for modern photographers.

The platform empowers photographers across the world to have their work viewed thousands, if not millions, of times over. The community behind the social network cannot be underestimated either, openly sharing a wealth of knowledge and inspiring their like-minded peers to take their passion to the next level.

Yet, as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, with great power, comes great responsibility.

The Good

For me, personally, Instagram has been the driving force behind my interest in photography.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passing interest in capturing images. However, it wasn’t until after downloading the Instagram app mid-2013 my casual hobby really took off.

Exposure to the abundant amount of stunning imagery on the platform inspired—and continues to inspire—me to go out in pursuit of capturing just as beautiful photos myself.

It’s what drives me to set my alarm in the wee hours of the morning to check on the cloud conditions. It’s what sends me halfway across the world to explore and photograph new lands so different from my own. And it’s what opened my eyes to entire new fields of photography (such as astrophotography and underwater photography), encouraging me to try my hand at them myself.

The supporting community cannot be understated either.

The shared appreciation for photography brings millions together across the globe on a daily basis. People of different race, creed and class together, sharing their common interest. It brings down cultural barriers and unites people in mutual encouragement and constructive feedback on their work.

Yet—as much as we may prefer to remain ignorant—the platform isn’t all sunsets and rainbows for photographers.

The Bad

While Instagram initially fuelled my passion for photography, at times it did—and still does—do so for all the wrong reasons. Too often I find myself chasing likes, rather than being inspired through the art of photography itself.

It’s a fundamental aspect of human nature to revel in others’ appreciation of us and our work. The little hit of dopamine straight into our bloodstream when a red heart appears on the screen is highly addictive. So much so that I—and, I’d wager, many of my peers—pursue it in the absence of a genuine love for the field.

We begin to pursue a digital metric, one seemingly always out of reach. After receiving our first 100 likes on a post, we’re then chasing 200. After attracting 5,000 followers, we move the goal line to 10,000 followers. We pursue short term hits of success at the expense of long term fulfillment. It’s like constantly chasing your tail up a mountain, and never quite stopping to appreciate view up there.

There’s also the wealth of stunning photos which can provide inspiration for some, but has the opposite effect for many others.

When we compare our work to that of lifelong professionals, quite often we can feel deflated—as if their extremely high quality of work devalues our own. Yet this approach can lead down a dangerous path driven by fear. We fear producing and sharing sub-par work, and so it’s safer to take the easy route: do nothing. Don’t shoot and don’t share.

Yet this approach is obviously a self-defeating one. My advice? Don’t let the fear paralyze you. Be bold. Be courageous with your photography.

The Ugly

Then there’s the ugly. It’s one thing to value digital metrics of success, but it’s something else to achieve them artificially.

How many has-been reality stars or Instagram famous models have you seen claim impossibly high follower numbers? Those with highly suspect low levels of actual engagement on their posts. There’s no sense of community with their followers. No respect. Just an artificially inflated follower count so they can sell influencer reach onto gullible brands who don’t—or choose not to—know any better.

And then there’s the fake accounts which drop completely out of context gibberish comments on your photos.

Now, I’m all for hashtags. They’re a fantastic way to have your photos seen and (hopefully) shared by larger content hubs on Instagram. They’re also a great tool to collate photos from certain locations when you’re planning your next shoot. But unfortunately, these ghost accounts prey on certain tags, unceremoniously splurging out offers of want more followers?, check my page!

Finally, there’s the accounts which steal others’ photos without attribution or consent. The worst thing is, because there’s no attribution or link, it’s impossible for us photographers to track when the theft (and it is theft) actually occurs. It could have happened to me every day this week and I would have no way of knowing.

Final Thoughts

Looking back on the above, you’d be forgiven for running scared from the platform in fear of what it’s doing to you and your photography. But please, don’t. Instagram is a wonderful (the best?) platform for photographers to share their work, inspire others and form genuine communities and friendships.

Sticking our head in the sand on the unpleasant issues isn’t doing us, and the photography community, any favors.

While we can’t directly control the fundamental nature of social media and Instagram, we can actively choose to minimize its negative influence on us. To not let it define our worth as photographers and to leverage its power as we continue sharing our passions with the world.


About the author: Mitch Green is a Sydney based Travel and Landscape Photographer. He can be found via his website, through Instagram, or down by the beach at 5am waiting for sunrise.

Pete Souza is Using His Obama Photo Archives to Troll Trump


Former White House photographer Pete Souza has been making headlines lately, but not the way he usually does. Souza, it seems, is using his old Obama photo archives to comment on, mock, and otherwise troll the new Trump Administration.

If you follow Souza on Instagram, as many photographers no doubt do, you’ve probably noticed strange posts like this one, with the caption “Those damn lights ;)”

A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

That’s just one of many examples on Souza’s Instagram of subtle digs at the new administration and President—it’s thought to be a reference to a New York Times article that claimed Trump’s staffers were holding meetings in the dark because they couldn’t figure out the light switches.

But this is far from the only dig and it’s certainly not the most direct. Other posts Souza has shared during President Donald Trump’s first weeks in office commented on everything from the controversial immigration ban (a photo of Obama talking to a young refugee girl), to the lack of diversity of Trump’s top advisors (a photo of four sets of shoes that shows Obama meeting with three top advisors, all women), to Trump’s tense back and forth with the Mexican president (a photo of Obama enjoying a drink with President Enrique Peña Nieto).

There are also photos that have been removed, like the one seen here that comments on the old vs new curtains in the Oval Office (the Trump administration reportedly replaced the red curtains with gold ones).

Meeting with top advisors. This is a full-frame picture. I guess you'd say I was trying to make a point.

A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Merrick Garland. Just saying.

A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Talking with a young refugee at a Dignity for Children Foundation classroom in 2015.

A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Souza’s antics have not gone unnoticed; since the Trump inauguration on January 20th, his following has gone from 285K to a whopping 773K. To see more of his work or decode the rest of the social commentary hidden on Souza’s Instagram account, click here.