Instagram versus VERO for photographers

Instagram versus VERO for photographers

Falko Burghausen
Falko Burghausen
Published: 1 year ago
Updated: 5 months ago
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

There’s probably that frustrating “aha” moment sooner or later for anyone who posts their own pictures on Instagram: why on earth does that featureless, poorly exposed post by someone else get so much attention (aka likes) and their own picture, photographed with a lot of effort and attention to detail, doesn’t get more than a manageable amount of decent likes? And why does it feel like all other photography accounts have a follower count that’s at least in the upper four figures, if not five or six?

There are certainly a lot of things in this world to get angry about (and in some cases, maybe even should). Social media platforms are not one of them. Period.

It helps if you understand how these platforms fundamentally work. In light of the current overflow of many photography enthusiasts from Instagram to VERO, I’d like to shed some light on this topic from a more technical perspective and hopefully contribute a little to the understanding of these platforms.

Instagram – the top dog

Instagram. Everyone knows it, everyone has it, everyone needs it. Or maybe not?

The undisputed top dog has been on the market for many years and has gone through a long journey from being a standalone network designed purely for sharing photos to becoming part of the Meta Group. Over time, new features have been added, others have disappeared, some can be moved more into the gimmick category, others are useful to some degree.

Sometime in mid-2022, there was an update for some users that publicized the Meta Group’s (formerly Facebook’s) new vision of Instagram. The new focus on videos (as well as the algorithm-influenced posting of supposedly relevant posts from other users who don’t necessarily belong to one’s circle of friends) caused plenty of resentment among users. Apart from the fact that every online platform has to evolve and cannot make all users happy in the process: at this point at the latest, the question arose for photographers in particular as to how they should proceed with Instagram.

A photo is – well, obviously a photo. It’s a picture, it doesn’t move, and the photographer had a certain scene in mind when creating it, a certain mood she wanted to capture. Such scenes often can’t be captured as videos, certainly not without an immense amount of effort. So when the meta-corporation nails all photographers (and there are quite a few) in the shop window, so to speak, and considers their sometimes very elaborate images to be of little relevance, these individuals are understandably not amused.

Algorithms are not as smart as you think

In addition, there is a second topic, which I already briefly touched on in the introduction. Many social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or LinkedIn create their feed (i.e. the endlessly scrollable area in which new content is displayed to the user) on the basis of algorithms. These algorithms “decide” how relevant your post is to other users based on a specific set of parameters. With a little common sense, one quickly asks oneself how an algorithm is supposed to “know” what kind of content the other users are interested in.

Let’s take a look at what happens on social media.

You sign up, maybe (depending on the network) enter a few areas of interest, follow the first accounts and see some of this content in your timeline. So far, so good.

Now you might start liking posts, writing comments, or re-sharing content. You share your own pictures or videos and allow the algorithm to slowly build a sort of profile of you and your (supposed) interests. Based on these areas of interest, more content will be shown to you in the Timeline in the future. This is relatively simple, easy to influence (try it out and like only pictures of cats for a week) and still makes sense in a certain way.

Now, as a photographer, you share your own images. Maybe you see Instagram for what it is: just a platform to share and make your images accessible to others. Fair enough, why not. However, Instagram itself wants you to not just sporadically share a few pictures and otherwise not spend your valuable time on the platform. Instead, they want you to be on your smartphone as much and as often as possible, and to remain captivated by one of the most terrifying design patterns ever invented on Instagram: the Infinite Scrolling Pattern. You don’t do that, of course, because maybe you’re a landscape photographer and therefore like to be out in nature a lot. Or you simply have better things to do.

The algorithm, friendly as it is, will punish you for this behavior. It will only show your posts to a few other users and thus unconsciously nudge you towards paid ads, the actual business model of Instagram. So you’re diligently paying money for Instagram to play your posts to more users, gaining a few new followers (who will then bounce back to you once you’ve stopped using paid content), and fulfilling the very purpose of social media platforms in the first place: you’re funding them. Instagram is estimated to have over 1 billion users in total – if even one percent of those users advertise for CHF 10, CHF 10 million has been flushed into Meta’s coffers. Sounds good, right?

You’re left as a frustrated user who either…

a) …pays more money and at some point registers that the bill for itself does not add up or…

b) …spends an extreme amount of time on Instagram to be “socially” active (but doesn’t get to take photos during that time) or…

c) …sooner or later resorts to purchased followers.

The latter is then pretty much the greatest act of desperation, because even these bots (no, even with as much as the respective provider asserts, purchased followers are always automatic fake profiles and bots) only cover up the significantly low number of real followers and likes per post.

A long paragraph with somewhat frustrating results. But what exactly makes the relatively new VERO network so interesting for photographers?

Life happens outside.
Life happens outside.
Whether it's VERO, Instagram, or other social media networks, landscape photography happens outside, not in front of your smartphone or laptop. Set the right priorities and don't waste your time chasing followers and likes.
Life happens outside.Whether it's VERO, Instagram, or other social media networks, landscape photography happens outside, not in front of your smartphone or laptop. Set the right priorities and don't waste your time chasing followers and likes.

VERO – the new social media platform for photographers?

VERO has been around since 2015, so it’s no longer brand new to the market, but it’s much younger than Instagram (initial launch here was in October 2010). As of 2022 (and that may well change in the future), VERO does two basic things differently: the feed is sorted chronologically and there are no ads yet.

That is, you simply get displayed in chronological order the posts that have appeared since your last visit to the platform (from the accounts and people you follow). Nothing else. There is no algorithm that pre-sorts or filters, and the positioning of your posts doesn’t depend on whether you’ve dutifully used VERO for at least three hours a day. There is no way to promote your posts via paid ads. The likes or even comments always come from other users who like your posts.

In addition to some post types that are especially relevant for photographers, which I will discuss further in a moment, there are the categories Music, Movie/TV, Book and Place. Even here, there are significantly more options than is the case with Instagram, for example.

VERO offers a few more advantages, especially for photographers:

  • On VERO, if you turn your smartphone sideways, you’ll see the fullscreen version of an image, and images can also be displayed full-screen in the desktop app. This is especially nice for photographs, as you can view the image in an acceptable size and quality and not just in thumbnail format like on Instagram.
  • Besides the post types mentioned above, you can share images and videos, but also links. Instagram, however, does not allow sharing links in posts, but only in the profile description – which means that almost every second post contains the note “Link in bio”. Not very user-friendly, but the user should not leave the app, but continue to use Instagram. VERO does a much better job of that. You can simply post a link in your post or directly use the “Link” category, which then also displays the link preview.
  • Verification via the mobile number during registration creates another hurdle for fake profiles. This step may be viewed somewhat ambivalently from a data protection perspective, but anyone who uses Instagram or Facebook can regard the mobile number as peanuts. After all, this has so far reliably prevented VERO from registering tons of fake accounts. Accordingly, the number of followers even of the better-known accounts is within a realistic range, which cannot be said for the five- or six-figure followers of a mediocre Instagram account.

Especially on Instagram, there are the specialists who follow your account, only to unfollow you a few days later, hoping that you will follow them in the meantime. The background to this behavior is another tidbit of the Instagram algorithm: the ratio of the number of your followers to the accounts you follow plays a role in the relevance of your posts on Instagram. So if you put a lot of time into creating posts (and you’ll struggle to continuously publish high-quality landscape photography, remember Ansel Adam’s famous statement about twelve good pictures per year) and generate new followers with them, you’ll be rewarded by the Instagram algorithm.

But the bottom line is that there is no need for these games on VERO, because due to the chronological sorting, it doesn’t matter what the ratio of followers to following looks like. Unfortunately, this behavior is already spilling over from Instagram to VERO – a typical example of the fact that social media is often not social at all and that one’s own ego is all too often in the foreground.

Perhaps it can be summed up like this: there are tons of tips, apps, do’s & don’ts circulating on the Internet on how to generate more followers or likes on Instagram. At the end of the day, they all lead to the same behavior: you spend more time on the social web. And there are probably really better things to do….

VERO – Falko Burghausen
VERO

Atmospheric landscapes, exciting insights like this article about Instagram vs Vero, and links to other posts on our website: we regularly share new content on VERO.

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Instagram vs VERO – a personal résumé

For me personally, social networks have always had a very manageable value, as all too often the extroverted noise with irrelevant and content-less content gets out of hand. Likewise, I’m personally not willing to spend a significant amount of my time scrolling through timelines and trying to influence an algorithm with my behavior so that my own posts are rated accordingly. That’s different for a network that displays posts in purely chronological order, and it’s a step in the right direction for more quality and less nonsense.

In the context of VERO, there has also been repeated criticism of the founder of the social network. Lebanese billionaire Ayman Hariri has been criticized in the past for the treatment of construction workers at the construction company Saudi Oger, of which he was a member of the management board for a time. You don’t have to be personally behind either the founder of VERO or Facebook, but you should certainly look into both people and decide for yourself whether they can be reconciled with your own personal values.

For me, the switch to VERO was primarily due to the fact that I consider the purely chronologically sorted timeline to be a fairer approach, which ultimately puts the focus more on the content of the posts. There is also a lot of nonsensical content on VERO, and not all that glitters is gold on this platform either. Nevertheless, users have so far been able to gain the impression that they can concentrate on the important things in life and still remain part of the community on VERO.

Of course, VERO doesn’t have the user numbers of Instagram by a long shot, but there are so many deadbeats among the users on Instagram that the sheer number of users isn’t particularly meaningful. Perhaps the motto “small but mighty” is the best way to describe VERO at the moment – whether that will remain the case in the future remains to be seen, and how VERO will be financed in the future is also still up in the air. But even with a paid membership, as it has long been the case with the photography platform 500px, I could live, as long as you are not spammed with irrelevant content.

Excursus: Energy consumption when scrolling through timelines

It has simply established itself, everyone knows it, everyone does it: scrolling through timelines aka feeds. The principle is the same, whether on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, VERO, LinkedIn, you name it. News and information rattle endlessly at the user from a never-ending feed of data and updates. What is just right for the comfortable user, however, comes at a price in terms of energy.

Technically, the following happens in these (web) apps:

  • I open the feed.
  • The app loads the first n relevant posts and shows them to me.
  • I start scrolling.
  • When I approach the end of the first batch of already loaded posts (local remaining posts <= i), the app is already downloading the next batch of data from the app provider’s servers in the background. Always in small packets, because the reloading is supposed to be high-performance and not even noticeable to the user.
  • This sequence is now repeated again and again as long as I continue to scroll the timeline.
  • With each request to the server, the data packets pass through nodes on the Internet, routers, switches, etc.. These are all devices that require power and to which other consumers are directly or indirectly connected.
  • Presumably, my behavior while scrolling the timeline will also be tracked, so that the feed provider can understand what kind of posts I simply scroll over and where I pause. This behavior will be evaluated and there are servers in use again.
  • If training for artificial intelligence is added to the mix, the ecological balance sheet no longer looks particularly good.

There are few useful studies on the impact on the environment when people scroll through the timelines and feeds in social networks. The question is too abstract, the behavior too everyday. Whether the average impact of an Instagram user on the environment corresponds to around 160 meters of driving in a light vehicle, whether it is a little more or less: the fact is that our behavior on the smartphone, tablet or laptop on the Internet also creates an ecological footprint. Continuously loading new content is definitely one of the less (ecologically) sensible activities here.

Social Media networks are just a tool.
Social Media networks are just a tool.
Just think of social networks as a showcase for your photography and don't give them too much importance.
Social Media networks are just a tool.Just think of social networks as a showcase for your photography and don't give them too much importance.
Falko Burghausen

Falko Burghausen

Technical Lead with many years of experience as CTO as well as Software Engineer and professional landscape and nature photographer. Falko goes almost nowhere without his camera and prefers to travel between high mountains and ocean waves to capture grandiose landscapes. He is convinced of Work Anywhere and digital working models and finds that a day without chocolate can only be half as good.

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