Instant Baseball, published by Cameron + Company, is a book of my baseball Instagrams that comes out in April of 2013.
Oh man did this week’s Instagram news cause me to stress out, freak out, and practically break out into a rash. When Instagram announced a change to their terms of service on Monday my first reaction was that I was sad. Then I was angry. For the past year I have had an amazing time taking pictures with my iPhone 4s and pumping out Instagrams through the free app. I loved the aspect of self-publishing and sharing my images over a growing network of followers. I also enjoyed following the lives and creativity of many of my friends; photographers, editors, sports writers, moms, dads, and kids. In the new terms Instagram told users their photos could be sold for advertising purposes without their consent. This was not good. No professional photographer in their right mind could allow this. Photographers whom I respect and admire all over the world began deleting their accounts. I would have to do the same, but I did not want to do it right away.
The change in terms was not to take effect til mid-January of 2013. Being the idealist that I am I hoped that in the following month Instagram would come to their senses and drop the new terms. I was having too much fun with Instagram to let it go. I have a book coming out in April with my baseball Instagrams from the 2012 season. I would look like a complete jackass if I was the only pro left standing with an Instagram account this spring trying to promote a book. I would have to delete my account. The thought devastated me. This was a nightmare. I am a total chickenshit in so many ways. Would I have the guts to stand up to Instagram and tell them to shove it up their ass like I should? I was really hoping I would not have to come to this decision.
I earn my living shooting big league baseball games for Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball with my Canon digital SLR’s and Canon lenses. Baseball action is my bread and butter and has been since 1987. However, with the advent of Instagram my entire world changed in 2012.
Beginning in spring training in Arizona last February I started to mess around with my iPhone shooting baseball. Because of my iPhone I was seeing the world in a whole new way. The game of baseball looked beautiful as a series of colorful squares and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the regular season to start so I could continue shooting the game I love in the Bay Area with both my Canons and my iPhone.
By the time the regular season opened in April I felt like I was shooting baseball for the first time ever, through the lens of my phone and the square format of Instagram. I started looking at everything with a fresh set of eyes from the moment I walked onto the fields in Oakland and San Francisco about three hours before each game. It was like I was a newborn photographer, seeing things for the first time.
Shooting Instagrams kept me fresh and excited as I covered one of the most exciting baseball seasons ever in the Bay Area. With contending teams playing in both Oakland and San Francisco there was never a dull moment covering the A’s and Giants. It was a great time to be a baseball photographer.
Fast-forward to October and both our teams were in the postseason and playing exciting games. By the time Halloween arrived my Giants were parading down Market Street in San Francisco celebrating their second World Series Championship in three years with their fans. From the first pitch of spring training to the last bit of orange and black confetti falling on the ground on October 31 I was there to see it all, and record it with my iPhone.
On Tuesday I was contacted by wired.com’s RAW FILE blog to comment on the situation. I told them I was not ready to jump off the bridge yet, and that I hoped Instagram would change their minds. Within a few hours Instagram backpedaled and said this, “To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear. ”
By this time many photographers like Richard Koci Hernandez began putting black squares in their Instagram feeds as a sign of protest. Chip Litherland posted a very creative jab at Instagram expressing his anger. National Geographic announced they were suspending their account. I was still holding out hope that Instagram would come to their senses.
Yesterday afternoon Instagram announced that, “we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.” They actually caved in under all of the pressure. They also said this, “Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.”
This was very good news. My hopes came true. When I woke up this morning I saw this post on Instagram from National Geographic saying they were back. All was right in my world again. Or was it?
Sure, all of these Silicon Valley companies like Instagram need to make a buck somehow. It is rare for a company like Instagram to start out as an Internet darling, sell to Facebook for a billion dollars, and still be the cute little free app that everyone loves. They need to figure out a way to monetize their service- but they really need to keep their hands off my pictures.
After this week’s mess I think they will proceed with any future changes under much more caution. The masses spoke this week- loud and clear. Did I speak up as much as many of my friends and colleagues did? I am ashamed to say I did not. I waited. And waited. I did not help the cause very much. Thankfully everyone did not take the wait and see attitude like I did.
Many photographers hate Instagram. They hated it before this mess and will always hate it. The terms of service they reverted to from 2010 were never perfect. As someone who has embraced social media some of the vagueness in the language didn’t bother me so much. Was I being naive? Maybe. But I did not interpret the original terms to mean Instagram would take all my pictures that I owned and integrate them into a new stock agency so they could license my stuff all over the world.
Thank you Instagram for coming to your senses. Thank you to the entire photography community for sticking up for what is right and having the guts to stand up and have your voices heard. I am indebted to you all. Next time I promise to do a better job of standing up with all of you for what is right. Because of you I will get to continue to have fun with Instagram. That is the true bottom line for me. As a 47-year-old photographer who has been around for awhile Instagram helped make photography fun for me. I can’t wait for spring training to start in two months so I can start shooting again!