How Philippe Gonzalez Started Instagramers Community

Today I’m really excited to interview Philippe Gonzalez, the founder of Instagramers mobile photo community. While Instagramers started as a simple blog about Instagram, thanks to Philippe it has turned into a global hub for mobile photography enthusiasts. In this interview you’re going to learn more about Philippe and his work at Instagramers.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a French-born guy living in Madrid. I worked as a marketing manager in the car industry, and then I joined a startup in 2000. One year later, a telco bought us and I worked at Orange for the next 8 years.

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Philippe Wearing Google Glas

In 2008, I left this company, and now I’m New Media Manager of a TV broadcasting company in Spain. I’m in charge of Internet, communication through the web, smart TV developments, iPhone, Android, tablets and all kind of apps and widgets. My team runs around 22 websites, 17 mobile apps and 40 social network profiles on different platforms.

In my free time, I used to run, go to the gym, go out at night… until I started a blog called Instagramers.com. I love traveling and meeting friends, and Instagramers helps me a lot with that.

How did your journey in iPhoneography begin?

One day through a friend recommendation I discovered Instagram. I never really enjoyed Instagram filters, and I soon switched from the Instagram Camera and filters to other apps like Hipstamatic and Camera+.

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I started to take colorful photos during my trips to Morocco and Thailand, and I quickly understood that Instagram meant much more than photography but a new way to communicate. Social photography is a great way to share your life, your trips and your feelings with friends and unknown people around the world.

How did you decide to create Instagramers?

One day, several users were wondering how to make it to the Popular page on Instagram and I gave them a few tips. These tips were based on my previous experience in social media. They thought it was so interesting that I suddenly decided to help other people with tips. I spent weeks, months writing tips – first in Spanish, then in English.

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I first started with a blog Instagramers.com with tutorials, apps reviews and interviews with highlighted users. Soon people started to email me asking to help them to set up local groups with my Instagramers brand.

We started with Marta Alonso in Barcelona, and then we launched in Madrid and some other Spanish groups. Then London people joined us, and later Paris, Milan, Manila, SF and Singapore… There are 350 groups in the world so far.

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What is the most rewarding aspect of running Instagramers?

During more than 40 years, I have enjoyed helping people. I love to spread the experience I get through my job for example. I’m a serial speaker and I have three conferences just this week in different on-line congresses and I enjoy it very much. I love to share ideas and to start new projects with friends. Instagramers has become an unpredictable source of projects, friends and fun for me.

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What inspires you to take photos with the iPhone?

What inspires me the most are people. I love countryside and landscape photos but I think smartphones are limited for this kind of topics. Even though I have some friends like @timbrado from France who take great landscape photos, I feel more comfortable with close up photos of people, portraits… and I have a special taste for strong backlight effects and silhouettes.

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Tell us a bit about how you normally take photos. Do you look for particular scenes, or do you just capture whatever you come across?

I usually do not plan any photography sessions as I’m so busy that I spend most of my time answering questions or publishing posts on the blog. However, when I participate in a “blog trip” or when I’m fully focused on taking pictures, I usually look for the light. If there is strong light, I use Hipstamatic in black and white for my stream. If the light conditions are poor, I just take pictures for fun. I just shoot souvenir pictures for my older days.

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Could you describe your photo editing workflow? What editing apps do you normally use?

I usually use Hipstamatic on 95% of my photos. Then very rarely I use Camera+, and really if necessary the Noir app… But my workflow is taking many photos of the same topic and just changing the position of my hand, choosing the one that catches my attention, and then editing it in less than 3 minutes. I concluded that long editing destroys the naturalness and spontaneity… and editing usually kills Hipstamatic shots and pixels them too much.

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Could you briefly describe the story behind your three favorite iPhone photos?

I would say that there are some common factors. It’s always a very special moment, and there is always a highly contrasted light providing a kind of mystical atmosphere.

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InstaSunset with @kimberlysunster in Guincho, Portugal

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Sunset on Cristo de Corcovado, Rio, Brazil

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Apple Store, Covent Garden, waiting for @IgersItalia and @IgersLondon buddies

In light of the recent announcements by Apple, do you think the iPhone can maintain its lead in mobile photography?

iPhone is not leading Mobile Photography. Droiders are much more productive than iPhoners in terms of pics shot each day. The real difference is that the iPhone was the first to bet on smartphone cameras and a set of easy sharing tools. If you add that Instagram was “only for iPhone” during its first year you have the key factors to understand why iPhoneography came first.

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I think in the next two years, smartphone manufacturers will try to catch Apple and will bet on new devices with better photo interfaces and sharing tools. The power and quality of lenses is still not the key in my opinion. Not yet.

Instagram has grown from a small photography community into a huge social network. It’s getting more integrated with Facebook and it will start displaying ads soon. Are you still optimistic about the future of Instagram?

Yes, I’m very optimistic as I visited Instagram team a few weeks ago and they managed the integration with Facebook very well in my opinion. They have their autonomy within the Facebook campus and their own team. Mark Zuckerberg understood that users would leave if Instagram was absorbed by Facebook. It would kill its genuine flavor.

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At first, video was not really well received by users, but now it has been fully accepted and it will be one of the main assets of Instagram platform in the next few months. I always said that Instagram was a natural complement of Twitter. Twitter should have bought it first by the way….

Where can we see your work in mobile photography?

I have exhibited very few times and I don’t want to consider myself a photographer. It would be far too pretentious and disrespectful to real photographers.

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You can see some of my pics on my Instagram stream.

Then there are two galleries I especially love on my old flickr account before my Instagram addiction

And finally, there are the two days I spent with McLaren Formula 1 team covering 2012 Monz’s Grand Prix last year in Italy. Spending time with Button and Hamilton inside of McLaren thanks to @JohnnyWalker was incredible.

  • Maria Sacadura

    Loved the interview; very interesting!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed the article and would have loved the answer to one more question…Philippe said, “The power and quality of lenses is still not the key in my opinion. Not yet.” I would love to know what he does consider “the key”!

    • I guess it’s the sharing and community aspects of mobile photography, but I’ll ask Philippe to make sure 🙂

  • Hi all, and thanks for your comments.
    Geri, to answer your question I think that at this moment, the difference between two photographs done with two different mobile devices is not the key and not the a key factor to choose a mobile vs another and we, users, are more interested by the ?operative system and apps available in this Os than other factors.
    Hope I answered to your questions!
    Thanks

    • For most people that’s certainly true, but I do think that cameras are getting more important. This year Apple spent so much time talking about how the camera on iPhone 5S is better.

      On the other hand, I would never get one of those 42-megapixel Nokia phones that you can hardly make a call from.

  • Trishan

    Such a great share. Thanks Phil.
    For me, photography is more on ‘capturing the perfect moment’ rather than setting it up. Operating systems are not playing any role in photography, but when it’s comes to quality, I think yes it is.