There’s been a toxic narrative about photography on Instagram for years now. Its algorithms inhibit forging meaningful connections around your own photography, and with those you might want to engage with. And this ‘photography app’ actually promotes video over photography – it's a Reels and Stories playground, while photo galleries lurk in the shadows.
Twitter is no better than Instagram for photographers, and for different reasons other than its often negative culture and all-round recent unravelling. There are real limitations on how you can actually share your photos, and aggressive file compression prevents others from enjoying your photography in all its glory.
If you’re not already familiar with Threads, we've got a guide to everything you need to know about Meta's Twitter rival, plus supporting content including 7 things you need to know about Instagram's Twitter killer. For photographers specifically, the new app combines the best of Instagram and Twitter – being directly linked to the former – and adds a little extra goodness into the mix. And it’s still in its honeymoon phase, so hopefully it will only get better.
The initial reaction from photographers to Threads has been largely glowing. Professional astro and landscape photographer @aaronjenkin reacted, “This is the new photo sharing app”, and he’s not alone in feeling this way. So let’s unpack why this could be true.
Showing your photos how you want
Serious photographers who use social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter to grow their business are hamstrung for various reasons, and one of those surrounds the limitations the platforms impose on how photos are presented.
Most pro camera sensors have a 3:2 aspect ratio which flipped to portrait format is 2:3. Twitter and Instagram cannot accommodate this format, being limited to a 3:4 aspect ratio. If you shoot in portrait format, you lose detail from the top or bottom of your photo. Third-party apps are a workaround, whereby you add a border to the sides of your 2:3 images to create a 3:4 ratio, or you can bite the bullet and crop into the top or bottom.
Not so with Threads. I’ve seen 2:3 photos, and photo carousels in mixed aspect ratios, all displayed in full. Even 16:9 videos flipped to a portrait format 9:16 are displayed with no top / bottom crop, and no messing around with third-party apps. Threads is a no fuss photo sharing app right now.
Aggressive compression also limits viewers from enjoying images at their full resolution. Of course, looking at a photo on a smartphone isn’t the best way to enjoy photography at the best of times, but compression further reduces image sharpness.
Initial signs with Threads suggest that less compression is being applied to photos than on Twitter – you can pinch zoom and there’s still plenty of sharp detail there.
There are early image limitations in Threads, however, like how landscape photos don’t rotate when you turn your phone horizontal. I’d expect something like that to be fixed, but it's worth flagging. No auto-rotate aside, though, it's so far, so good, and Threads is already going some way to appeasing serious photographers.
A fresh chance for meaningful engagement
Beyond the capacity to showcase your photos adequately, it's become increasingly harder to engage in meaningful conversations around photography on Instagram, and even Twitter.
Instagram is pushing ads, which are nowhere to be found on Threads… for now. There are workarounds to help you curate what you see in Insta, but it’s another process to deploy. It's also a shared feeling among many photographers and users in general that too much engagement on Twitter is... well let's just call it unwholesome.
The following may sound corny, even lofty, but Threads is a chance to start again. Be who you want to be. Engage with who you want to engage with. Share what you want to share. Curate your connections, and let real conversations begin. It’s early days, and I’m interested to see how this will play out, but I want to be optimistic.
How long will Threads stay this way?
I was an early adopter of Instagram – it was the first real outlet for me to share photos, and gave extra meaning to my creative endeavors.
But as the Instagram app evolved I became less involved. After its Meta-fication, human engagement decreased, and ads appeared, uninvited. The waters muddied a long time ago, and TechRadar published an article exploring why Instagram is broken for photographers back in 2021. As for Twitter, I’ve never really used it for sharing photos; there are too many limitations, plus, I wasn’t engaged in photo communities in the same way as on Insta.
Threads feels like a fresh start; new connections and communities are being formed, and I can share photos how I want. I like Threads now, though I’m cautious as to how long it will stay this way: it took Instagram many years to unravel for photographers, and Threads piggybacks Insta, and its growth curve is already rapid, and that’s potentially bad news – it could be like milk left out in the sun.
Right now, I want to spend time in Threads in a way that I don’t with its sister app – a so-called ‘photography’ app, as I've mentioned – or with Twitter. This new app is actually a genius move on Meta’s part and it’s now clear: Instagram is for video, Threads is for photography. For now, at least…
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Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.