John Saddington didn’t like the terms of service of most online photo sharing services. He wanted to keep ownership and control of his photography. He discovered that there were many other photographers who shared his concerns. John wanted to combine the power of the WordPress publishing platform — something he’s also quite passionate about — with his love of mobile photography. So he did something about it.
He started a Kickstarter project to create an application — Pressgram — that would allow iPhone photographers to share their photos with the world while retaining full ownership rights.
The premise is simple: I wanted to post filtered photos from my iPhone 5 but without worrying about any privacy or licensing issues (and we’re not interested in asking you to upload photo IDs). In other words, I wanted complete and total creative control of my images and content (as well as the page views).John Saddington
I know this thinking resonated with me. I was one of the many people who were upset ( no … PISSED OFF ) when Instagram changed its terms of service (TOS) soon after being acquired by Facebook. I didn’t feel ok with seeing my child’s picture on a billboard advertisement for Facebook? What about my wife’s photo next to an ad for vaginal herpes medication? I was so pissed off I said goodbye to all my followers, downloaded my images and deleted my Instagram account1.
The Instagram API limits exports to 612 pixels. So my downloaded images were the tiny, grainy images that look so great on a small iPhone screen but look like garbage on a large computer display.
If I wanted to publish my images to a self-hosted WordPress blog, there were a few WordPress plugins that allowed me to import images directly from Instagram but again only at 612 pixels. I wanted full creative control of my photos and to license them on my terms2.
On Instagram — or any social network — my followers are not mine. They are Instagram’s. Once I deleted my Instagram account I also lost all my followers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have those followers comment on my photos via a WordPress blog that I had complete control over?
Why not have complete control over how my images are represented and still get the social sharing benefits of Facebook or Twitter? Why not keep control of my photos while using social media to drive traffic back to my web presence?
Photographer Aaron Hockley summed it up nicely in a blog post:
It’s possible to have both our social-emotional networks while also owning our photos in a more permanent location. I look forward to seeing Pressgram in the wild!
John and his team have worked tirelessly for the last few months to bring his ( the community? ) vision to reality. A few weeks ago the app was submitted to the App Store for approval. It was rejected. Apple wanted some design changes. John’s team made some changes and the app was resubmitted for approval. And was rejected again. Changes were made and the app was submitted to Apple for the third time. This time the app was approved. It was well worth waiting for.
Getting started is easy enough. Download the app from the iTunes App Store and create an account via Twitter, Facebook or email. You’ll want to check your email inbox for your temporary password.
The first thing you’ll want to do is complete the social profile for your Pressgram account. Tapping the area with your profile photo will take you to your profile page. Tap the little pencil and fill in the form with your name, your website and a short bio. You can also change your password or make your Pressgram account private.
Now it’s time to set up your sharing options. Head back out to the main menu and tap the little gear icon. This will take you to the Settings menu.
You can add the settings for your WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress blog so that you can optionally post content. The support team has put together an Knowledge Base to help guide you through this.
In the Setting menu, you can adjust your social media sharing and iOS notifications options. Pressgram supports Twitter and Facebook and I expect John has more planned for a future release.
Ok. Now setup is complete you are ready to start sharing some photos. You can either import an existing photo from your camera roll or snap a new one. All photos will be square by default. There is a grid overlay to help with compositions and flash and rear front facing camera toggles. After you capture or import a photo, Pressgram will walk you through choosing a filter — there are some very nice ones — putting a border around your image or adding a blur effect. Instagram users will be right at home with the options. Once you are doing tweaking your image, Pressgram will take you to another screen. Here you can add some text to go along with your image post to the Pressgram network. You can also add hashtags and choose which blog or social network to share your content to.
Tap the little check mark and, voila! You have just joined the revolution. I spent quite a bit of time looking through the images in the Popular photo feed. Tap an image to bring up a screen with just that image.
Double tap to “heart” a photo. Tap the little quote box to leave a comment. You can do @name type mentions in the comments. Tapping the … brings up a menu to report inappropriate content or share the image to Twitter or Facebook. Tapping the avatar for the photographer brought up his or her profile. You can see the photographers stats and if you choose to, follow him or her.
The app packs in a lot of the basic features that I think someone switching from Instagram would want. I know some people hate the square format but I love it.
There were some early birthing pains. About 1000 people signed up in the first few hours and John had to rapidly scale his AWS servers. Even though I posted early in the morning ( around 6:30 AM ) my images did not show up on Twitter or Facebook until the afternoon. At the time of this writing, no images have posted on my blog.
But, I have high hopes for Pressgram. I am already counting down the date to deleting my Instagram account ( again ) and enjoying my freedom from the tyranny of Instagram’s TOS.
John wanted to change the status quo. He wanted a revolution. I think he has succeeded.
You see, this is a revolution in thinking – a way of freeing ourselves from the shackles of corporate greed and commercial exploitation to finally have true creative freedom through the publication of our own great work.John Saddington