Social Activities for Seniors: Instagram Explained

Social Activities for Seniors: Instagram Explained

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Have you heard about Instagram? No? Let's talk about it, then. One of many senior solutions to stay in touch with friends and family, it's a fun and useful tool.

Instagram is a free photo-sharing application that you can download right to your smartphone or tablet. You can use it to take, crop and enhance — then share — digital photographs and short videos.

Instagram is a Photo-Taking Application and a Virtual Photo-Sharing Session

Like Facebook and Pinterest, Instagram is also a social media platform.  Users can search out and follow other users, so, if you know that your grandchildren are on Instagram, you can type in their names, find them and follow their accounts. In turn, other users can find and follow you.

Instagram makes this easy for anyone who already has a Facebook account — the application can search your current Facebook friends and tell you which ones also have Instagram accounts. You can even set your photo shares to show up in both your Instagram feed and your Facebook feed so that friends who are on one site, but not on the other, can still see your pictures!

What Are All Those Enhancement Filters For?

Instagram's easy-to-use filters were inspired by the differences in visualization and mood that used to be achieved by taking pictures with various classic camera and film types. Just as a Polaroid and a Leica gave a photographer very different focusing and development capabilities, so too can an Instagram user apply  filters to determine the mood conveyed by an image.

You could, for example, take a color photo and enhance it to appear black-and-white, using the "Inkwell" filter, or you could change it to appear in an old-fashioned, sepia tone.

Some of the filters — like "Toaster" — mimic design quirks in the lenses of older film cameras, such as the vignette distortions and light leaks for which Kodak Brownies, Polaroids and cheaply-made import cameras like the Holga were both notorious and beloved.

Others, like "1977" and "Kelvin," were designed to recreate color saturation skews that were common in consumer-grade film stock from the 1950s through the early 1990s.

Why would you want to make a nice, perfectly saturated and focused digital photograph appear like an older, flawed image? Simple: It's neat. It's fun to experiment. And it breeds a certain feeling of nostalgia.

There's a Cool Toolbox, Too

Once you get a good feel for taking photos and sharing them — and for using your filters — you can play around with some of the more advanced features, which allow you to tweak focus, cropping, contrast and other qualities of a photo.

Tilt shift, for example, is an interesting tool that allows you to keep one part of a photo in focus, while blurring the rest, either in a straight line or circular pattern. This tool, again, was inspired by lenses on cheap or disposable film cameras, which often had limited depths of field.

Tilt shift can be used either to alter the mood of  a photo, or to place emphasis on a specific point on which you — the photographer — want viewers to focus attention. It can be used to create a playful sensibility,  to increase the drama of an image, or to produce an image with a dreamlike quality.

Other tools allow you to manually tweak the colors in a picture, shift the brightness level, or rotate the image. You can even use Instagram's tools to add Polaroid-style borders to your photos, increasing the nostalgic feel.

Where To Download The Instagram App

If you have an iPhone, go to the iTunes app store and search "Instagram." On Android platforms, use the Google Play store to find the program. The download is free for both types of phones.

And although Instagram is geared toward owners of smartphones or tablets with built-in cameras, desktop and laptop computer users can sign up and upload pictures via the application's website.

If you want to keep in closer touch with friends and family, Instagram may be your solution. It's not hard to use — it's intuitive enough that even seniors with limited knowledge of operating mobile applications can pick it up fairly quick.

Once you get the hang of it, you can spend hours of fun taking photos, experimenting with the filters and tools, sharing and looking at your friends' and family members' photo shares.

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Bryan Reynolds
June 27, 2015
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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