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Accessible Ways to Diminish Photography

• Pros and cons of online photo editors 
• Photographer Sara Tollefson discusses trends in photography
• Locals name their favorite photo editor

Is Instagram Ruining Photography?

Smart phones are changing the way we take, edit, view, and value photos. Apps like Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic are altering the way smart phone users perceive photographical value. Social media frequenters post images that they’ve filtered through Instagram (an iPhone App), Pixlr-o-matic, PicYou, Picplz, or a host of other online or mobile applications. While each have unique aspects, all are purposed to filter low-quality photos in an interesting way. Commonly, it makes the images look like polaroids circa 1970.

“The reason they do this is because of faux-nostalgia. People, and in particular brand marketers, have associated good times with the past, and “vintage” things — wine, clothes, cars — with higher quality…There’s also artificially altered expectations: it may be a terrible cellphone picture but it’s great for a polaroid.” – Laurie Voss, computer scientist and writer for

Pros & Cons of Free Photo Editors


• They are FREE

• They are usable anywhere (with internet connection)

• They are web compatible

• They are incredibly easy to use

• They make pictures look cool


• They take away from the photography industry

• They eliminate pixels- compromise quality

• Their effects are generally uniform

• They enable users to find less value in high quality photographs

Professional Viewpoint

Sara Tollefson, a recent Cal Poly graduate, works as a photographer  in San Luis Obispo. Sara studied photography while at Poly,

A photo of my brother and I altered with Pixlr-o-matic filters.

so she understands and appreciates the art it takes to make a quality photograph. Here’s what she had to say about the shift in photography:

Emily: What are your thoughts on the growing accessibility of cameras and photo editors?

Sara: I wish that photography was still film because I know my passion would be all the same and people wouldn’t be undermining it or saying how simple it is. You wouldn’t be going and doing two clicks and uploading a filter and having some neat-o effect and call yourself a photographer. Or you wouldn’t be buying a camera, an SLR camera and thinking that you were a photographer without having the knowledge or experience of working with lighting or with people. Or just the aesthetic compositions and things like that. And like a lot of art, there’s a misconception that you areborn with it or talented, which definitely is the case for a lot of people, but it is a skill that takes a lot of practice and knowledge. 

Emily: So are applications like Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic and other online or phone applications that put filters and borders on pictures undermining photography? Is that changing the industry at all?

Sara: It’s funny because it’s something I haven’t really thought about before. Because it feels so minimal and subtle. But, probably yes, because that sort of thing, like wanting to have a nice picture of yourself, when you can just download a free app and have something instantaneous does take away from the market of people who would go to a photographer. To have cute pictures of your friends nicely done, when you can just download some retro filter and be satisfied. Also, today’s consumer is more satisfied with lower quality images than they have been in the past. So it doesn’t help a competitive photographer in a day and age when people will compromise quality and be satisfied for something with a lower quality, so they’ll be paying less money and getting less, and be ok with it. 

The Buzz

What do amateurs think about these easy-to-use photo editors?

“I like Pixlr-o-matic. I think it’s a fun way to edit your pictures. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to know a lot about picture editing and software and all that stuff, which is good for me,” said Kelsey Markley, a local hair stylist.

A pixlr-o-maticized photo of Kelsey.

Meghan Pranger, a fourth year engineer said, “I like Pixlr-o-matic because it’s really simple, and I like how it has three steps and it’s not overwhelming. I’m not very good at Photoshop, so I wouldn’t be able to manipulate all the different tools and know which filters to use and what they’re called. I like how [on Pixlr]  you can honestly just scroll through and choose your favorite effect. I’ve also done it before on random, and it gives you random combinations, and if you go through it enough, sometimes you get lucky.”

Meghan's photo, filtered through Pixlr-o-matic.


One response »

  1. Pixlr has such a cool way of giving a rather boring picture a little creativity and life. 7:40 am class and waiting at the bus stop photo op anyone?? Nifty filters and shady borders will help! Also, I like how there’s that rustic look to it 🙂


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