Despite being the world’s biggest photo-sharing app, Instagram is pushing full-steam ahead with its plan to focus on Reels and “recommended” content. So where do photographers go now?
Fed up with Instagram’s TikTok-ification, photographers are tentatively moving to alternative platforms that prioritize still imagery — with certain photo-sharing apps seeing a boost in downloads as a result.
If you are thinking of quitting the Meta-owned app and want to find a new photo-sharing service, we have looked through all the options and picked the best ones to replace Instagram right now. As a note, experts believe there is no one answer to replacing Instagram as there is nothing in the market that perfectly replaces it. Artists are encouraged to look elsewhere but think of it as diversification, not as a full-on replacement.
At a Glance
Twitter may not seem like the most obvious choice for photographers. However, after struggling with low engagement for traditional posts on Instagram, photographers have been positing Twitter as the next, best photo-sharing platform.
First of all, Twitter has a reasonably large photographer community and the conversational aspect of the platform means user engagement is typically higher than Instagram or other photo-centric websites. Twitter Spaces also allows photographers to connect with others in the community as well as create and join photography-related discussions with audio.
While Twitter used to be known for its image compression, the web app now supports higher-resolution images of up to 5MB for photos on mobile, and up to 15MB on the web. It also lets users tweet pictures in 4K. In order to enable the feature, users will have to go to the “data usage” section of the settings menu in the Twitter app. They will need to enable both “high-quality images” for viewing, and “high-quality image uploads” for tweeting them.
You may be skeptical of BeReal and its recent surge in popularity. But as it continues to hold on to its number one spot in the U.S. on Apple’s App Store charts, it may be too soon to dismiss BeReal altogether.
Set up to be the “anti-Instagram,” BeReal bans videos of any kind and only allows users to upload still photographs. The app only allows users to post one photo per day and only at a randomized specific time.
BeReal wants users to focus on sharing authentic posts and so there are no editing tools or filters on the app. Furthermore, users do not get to decide when they share a photo. Instead, they receive a notification to post a picture in their current surroundings and receive a two-minute timeframe to do so.
However, you can still post a late BeReal without any real consequences, other than the fact that your friends will be able to see how late your post was. In the right corner next to your post, you’ll see a time stamp noting when you posted your BeReal — whether that was 20 minutes late, or 20 hours late.
When the shutter button is pressed, BeReal captures using both a front and rear-facing camera, making it impossible to hide behind the main camera. This bi-directional capture feature means that viewers gets a complete snapshot of what the poser is up to at that moment.
BeReal proudly claims that its app will not “make you famous,” and “if you want to be an influencer then you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.” But this may not be strictly true and there may be ways to showcase your photography on the app.
BeReal has two feeds: “Your Friends” and “Discovery.” The Discovery tab lets you see BeReals from people all over the world and request to add them on the app, even if you are not friends. So if you want to post photographs for everyone to see on the Discovery tab, you can tap the button at the bottom of the screen after taking your BeReal photos.
Admittedly, BeReal is still in its early days and is still fairly limited. But there’s legitimate interest in BeReal right now and if that continues, there will likely be additions and updates to the app. It is also worth noting the app is ad-free, and consequently some users have said BeReal has that feeling of nostalgia reminiscent of the halcyon days of Instagram.
A pioneer in digital photography-sharing that had the loyalty of serious photographers in the mid-2000s, Flickr has been seen a growth in popularity in the recent months.
When Flickr began its journey in 2007, and with no Instagram around, it was the most popular site for photo-sharing. Though Flickr is not at the height of its popularity anymore, the platform still boasts over sixty million monthly active users across the globe, which makes it a worthy Instagram alternative for 2022.
Flickr offers a nice range of features when you upload a photo on the app. In addition to a comments section where other Flickr users can discuss your photography, you can also post information on where your image was taken, what camera it was taken on, and at what aperture. You can also organize your photos into albums and batch edit the information on the pictures.
The app has two types of accounts: Free and Pro. Flickr’s current Free accounts come with a variety of limitations. While users can only upload up to a maximum of 1,000 photos on free accounts, they are not allowed more than 50 nonpublic photos on the platform. The free account also includes ads.
While Flickr’s Pro account offers unlimited uploads and unlimited nonpublic photos, it will set users back $8.25 a month, $72 for one year, or $133 for two years.
Tumblr is another longtime photo-sharing favorite that photographers are returning back to, in the wake of Instagram’s pivot to video.
Although Tumblr reached the height of its popularity in the mid-2000s, it has around 500 million registered accounts and more than 171 billion posts. Furthermore, the platform has experienced a resurgence with younger users in the last year, and now almost half of Tumblr’s active users are aged 25 or under.
Tumblr users can create a blog where they can post photographs and text to accompany the images. They can also re-blog from other Tumblr feeds. It is also easy to set up a shared account for collaborative postings, making Tumblr an excellent platform for photographers to engage with one another.
Tumblr also offers a feature called a “+Post” which lets you lock posts behind a paywall and allows your “supporters” to purchase a subscription to them.
Photographers who use Tumblr will tell you that the platform allows for more creative expression than the other social media giants, like Instagram or Twitter.
Tumblr is free to use. However, if you want to view blogs ad-free, you will either need to pay $4.99 per month for the monthly subscription, or $39.99 per year for the annual subscription.
If you are a film photography enthusiast who wants to find a new space for your images, away from Instagram, then this might be the app for you. Grainery is a new Instagram-inspired, photo-sharing app but specifically for film photographers.
The app’s layout will be familiar to Instagram users, with photos displayed much like Meta’s marquee photo-sharing site. Elements such as follower suggestions, direct messaging, explore page, notifications, and even the fonts are strikingly similar to Instagram.
But unlike Instagram, when Grainery users upload a photo, they can add details such as the type of film used, the analog camera body, and the lens model to the post. Users can even state the exposure value, and say whether the film was pushed or pulled during development and by how many stops.
Once a picture has been posted, users of the app can find an image by searching for a specific camera, lens, or film.
Grainery’s beta version is out now and will launch on iOS and Android soon.
Glass has also reported a recent spike in user activity — with photographers recommending the platform as an Instagram alternative due to its singular focus on photography.
Available on iOS and the web, Glass offers a showcase for photographers where they can share portfolios and also allows organic exploration with a public profile option. Unlike Instagram, users can only react to posts with appreciation and not likes.
“We started working on Glass because we felt like the photo community that existed on Instagram that built the back of Instagram does not exist anymore,” Glass head of community and marketing, Daniel Agee tells Axios, “2012, 2013 Instagram is never coming back. And that internet is never coming back.”
Agee says that Instagram’s advertising and sales-supported model has made it an irksome space for photographers to share their work. So instead, Glass offers a subscription-based service that costs $4.99 a month or $29.99 a year — with no ads, engagement algorithms or data tracking. There is a 14-day free trial available to try the platform.
The fact that Glass is ad-free makes its design notably cleaner than Instagram’s layout, and Agee tells Axios that it even prohibits brands from signing up to the platform.
Founded in 2011, VSCO is an online space for photographers to store, edit, and share their work.
Last month, VSCO rolled out its social network-like community feature, Spaces. The company positions Spaces as a new way to connect with other photographers through visual conversations and shared galleries “around a particular theme, photography style, event, or location.”
The free version of the app comes with a limited number of editing features. However, with a VSCO membership, you will unlock access to over 200 Presets and advanced editing tools. VSCO membership costs $7.99 a month, or $29.99 a year and there is a seven-day free trial available.
With over 15 million active users, 500px offers professional photographers a place to store, exhibit, as well as license their work and get paid for it. 500px used to be the darling of the photo sharing world before it was sold to Chinese stock company VCG and after a series of questionable decisions and a security breach led it to fall out of favor with photographers. It could be brought back, however, given Instagram’s current trajectory.
On 500px, photography is the main focus and users’ images are displayed prominently as part of the platform’s design. The “Discover” dropdown menu allows you to see new uploads by other users as well as images that the editor has chosen to give exposure to. You can see images that users find popular and others can comment on your images too.
The free 500px plan allows you to upload up to seven photos on the platform each week and also has ads. But if you want unlimited uploads, priority support, no ads, a history of “liked” photos, gallery slideshows, and a profile badge as part of 500px’s “Awesome” plan, it will cost you $59.88 a year or $4.99 monthly. Meanwhile, the “Pro” package, which enables users to create a portfolio website and access photography resources, will cost $5.99 monthly or $71.88 a year.
Available for both Android and iOS users, 500px is designed to be used on both mobile and desktop, giving an enhanced viewing experience.
Image credits: Elements of header photo licensed via Depositphotos.