The great Gareth Pon

When it comes to social media, Instagram (a photo-sharing platform) is my favourite by far. Depending on who you follow, looking at people’s photos from all over the world is inspirational. It’s also a cool way to train your photographic eye, whether you're checking out images of decor and art works or quirky things and random moments. Especially for me; I’m a trying-to-get-better-at-this-photography-thing iger (instagrammer). I’m @bearwithmeblog if you want to check out my feed.

One of my biggest inspirations is Instagramming hero and fellow Joburger, Gareth Pon. He’s the founder of @igersSouthAfrica – more about it a bit later. Gareth isn't just a hero because of his a-m-a-z-i-n-g photos or his work in building the local Instagram community. He also comes across as one of the nicest, coolest people you’ll ever follow.

I’m honoured that he answered some questions for my little-little blog. And I posted most of them in full because they’re that good. So go get a cup of coffee, read to the end where he shares some great tips and be inspired!

You can catch up with Gareth on Instagram, at Facebook, Twitter and on his cool blog. After speaking to him, going to an InstaMeet in Joburg is totally on the top of my list of things to do in 2014. InstaMeets are real-life get-togethers with other Instagrammers. Oh - and all of the photos posted here are credited and copyrighted to him.

What is it about Instagram, where mostly iPhone or other mobile phone photos are posted, that appeals to you, especially considering how some ‘real’ photographers diss the platform?
I always chuckle a little when I get this question. I come from a background of using DSLRs (digital single lens reflex cameras) quite intensively doing photography and filmography. So I find it funny when traditional photographers ask me this question assuming I don't know anything about ‘real’ photography.

For me, it boils down to the reach, interaction and instantaneousness of Instagram/mobile photography.

Ben Lowy a TIME photographer shot an image with his iPhone that was used as the November 2012 cover. He said this: “For years I have worked with bulky digital cameras always mindful of the technical manoeuvres from setting the shutter speed and aperture to editing and toning on a computer screen. In the last few years, I have discovered that my iPhone has allowed me to capture scenes without feeling that I am once again on the job. To point and shoot has been a liberating experience. It has allowed me to rediscover the excitement of seeing imperfections and happy accidents rendered through the lens of my handheld device.” Ben’s words sum up the ease/convenience of shooting with a phone rather than chunking out a DSLR to grab a shot.

Sure there are shots that I always prefer to shoot with a DSLR, but there's just something a little cheeky when I shooting a shot with an iPhone and get a better photo than some ‘pro’ traditional photographers. Besides, when I post a photo on Instagram, it gets seen by more people in one day than most photographers reach in a year.

But we are not anti-DSLR on the InstaMeets :) We welcome anyone who just loves taking photos and every now and then I will post a DSLR shot to my Instagram.

Could you please tell me about your first Instagram pic?
A few months ago I deleted quite a few photos on Instagram actually, I can't even remember what the first photo was that I posted… Ha, but with the photos that date back to my oldest post I can see how I've developed. The biggest thing I've learnt is how to compose photos better. This has also helped my DSLR work. I experiment a lot with my Instagram, trying new apps, messing with different styles and subject matter. Most guys try to stay consistent but my only consistency is to always change things up.

What do you think it is about Jozi that makes it so Instagrammable (but I guess anywhere and anything can be)?
Instagrammers usually see things from a different perspective; we always look for the next shot. I love how @levonlock puts it when he says: "I try to make everyday things look epic."

Jozi carries a culture and a history in its essence of being – the beauty and the beast in one being. If you can communicate that in what you shoot, you'll never run out of subjects to take photos of.

How did the local South African Instagram community come about?
Initially, it just started off as wanting to take photos of the city. Showing people where you live is part of the culture of Instagram and we were inspired by many international Instagrammers who were showing us their cities.

It then developed into founding @igersJozi  and then progressed into founding @igersSouthAfrica, which basically involved chatting to different representatives in each city to head up communities in their specific city. We now have communities in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, George, Grahamstown and Stellenbosch.

The local community is directly in association with @igers (www.instagramers.com). We organise ongoing InstaMeets, explore the medium of mobile photography and pioneer the local culture of Instagram in South Africa. 

What are your top tips for taking awesome Instagrams?
Photography can be summed up into finding the perfect combination of light, subject and composition.

* Not getting the right angle in a photo is one of the biggest mistakes. Sometimes just levelling the angle of your phone can do so much for a composition.
* Find something that doesn't just look nice, but also tells a story.
* Find unique light. Beautifully naturally lit scenes are all around you. 
* Follow a theme. This theme can be anything from a certain subject matter to a specific editing style.
* Learn from others. Get criticism but don't let anyone dictate your style and don't copy someone else's style.
* Be true to yourself and the medium.

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