How To Make Your Photographs Look Amazing Again

Despite trying a number of times, I just haven’t been able to get on with Instagram.

One of the major stumbling blocks for me is that it’s such a mobile based platform.

Fine for quick snapshots between family and friends, but not for photography that’s more intentional and artistic.

Why would someone who would like others to appreciate their work, their vision, their art, to the full, want it seen on a screen just a few inches wide?

How can you possibly convey a gritty portrait, a stunning sunset, or a glorious flower on such a small screen – many magnitudes smaller than life sized?

Well, in my view, you can’t.

My main machine for viewing photographs until recently has been my old 2008 MacBook Pro, with its 15″ screen.

I still use this to upload photos from my digital cameras, then back up with Google Drive and an external HD, but as some applications will no longer update, for my day to day online experiences – mostly reading blogs, writing for 35hunter and viewing photos – I bought a 14″ HP Chromebook.

It doesn’t have the same class of screen as the MacBook, but is decent enough, and of course at 14 inches is massively larger than a phone screen.

Since last March, I’ve been working from home for at least a part of my working week, and since January it’s been over 50%.

My 21″ work monitor was decent enough as a second screen to my laptop – I had the laptop in front, using its keyboard, then an external mouse, and the big screen behind and above, as an extension to the laptop screen area.

But, I realised I could also easily hook up my, and my daughter’s Chromebooks via a neat USB-C to HDMI converter.

I thought a larger screen would be a worthwhile investment, given how much time we’re using it (me working from home, and writing in the evenings, her learning from home on it the days I’m not here).

So we bought a fairly inexpensive 27″ monitor, and the difference is vast.

As I said, photos looked pretty great before on my old MacBook, and more than decent on the 14″ Chromebook. Both of course being vastly larger than a typical smartphone screen.

The 27″ monitor takes the viewing experience to another level.

Viewing my own photo archive on Flickr I’m seeing details in the images I’ve never seen before, and my best photographs look even better.

It’s one of those purchases where you wonder why you didn’t make it sooner, such is the genuine enhancement over what you had previously.

Especially as I’m supposedly a photographer with a strong visual sense!

So, if you want your photos to look even better, I highly recommend getting a larger screen and hooking it up to your laptop or desktop computer (or even your phone or tablet, if they have the connectivity).

In fact the Chromebook plus 27″ monitor cost under £400, which seems a fantastic buy when the same money will probably only buy me about a quarter of a new MacBook with a 13″ screen!

How do you usually view photos online – yours and other people’s? How could you improve the experience to enjoy and appreciate the images more?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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33 thoughts on “How To Make Your Photographs Look Amazing Again”

  1. Instagram is a total joke. Honestly, I don’t get why people use it, least of all artists, and especially photographers. I just don’t understand at all… But then again, I don’t get why people use that other life-wasting site/platform owned by the same company, either. It, too, is a joke.

    1. Absolutely agree P. I used Facebook for about two years (approx 2008/9) almost entirely to keep in touch with a dance scene I was involved with at the time. Once I left though, I never looked back, and that was over a decade ago, when it was nothing like as toxic and sinister as it is now. Glad I’m not the only one that doesn’t get Instagram either. It is like some huge joke, the emperor’s new clothes…

      1. I probably read more text on my phone than any other device, just because it’s most convenient. But yes for images a bigger screen makes a massive difference, whereas with text the screen size obviously doesn’t matter much, as long as it’s legible.

      2. I read articles, emails etc on my phone mostly, and actually I’ve been looking into using my iPad more for reading in the last couple of weeks. There’s a new app that links in with our local library services, plus I’m trying the Kindle app again for a few books and comics.

  2. Hence why my ‘preferred format’ is the tiny snapshot size 640×427/480 which should be accurately visible on just about anything.
    But yes, sometimes you need to see an image large in order to get maximum effect. It just isn’t all that practical in the technology age. Price digital photo frames and you’ll see what I mean.
    I normally use a 15″ laptop – on my lap. I have a 17″ as well, but there’s no noticeable improvement over the smaller size. It is more difficult to handle, however. What I’d like is one of those gaming laptops with the higher resolution display, but they are ridiculous money because you’re buying a lot of other ‘performance’ that isn’t really an asset to the photography.

    1. Ha yeh, sounds like cameras these days, people pay a fortune for one particular feature they think they can’t live without, then never use 95% of the other capabilities of the camera.

  3. Hi Dan. I’m using the 13inch MacBook Pro to view, edit photos. IG is a big joke, I agree. I use it less and less and hope one day will stop completely… I don’t feel attached to the app but to the people that I connected with on there.

      1. Yeh, it’ll be interesting to see how Instragram evolves and how long it lasts. I find it quite amazing that sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become so mainstream that TV shows display hashtags etc, and “everyone” seems to have an account. But these things change and something will eventually replace them.

  4. I have never been on IG. I guess I’m not missing anything?
    I have a 32 inch 4k monitor that I now get to use at home. But even my old 22 inch monitor is pretty good for viewing and editing. I guess it all depends on your viewing distance.

    1. No I don’t think you are Chris! Yes, good point about viewing distance. Have you seen those devices like a wire frame that go round your neck and cradle your phone a few inches in front of your face? I guess that makes a phone appear as big as watching a big TV the other side of the room. A work colleague of mine watches stuff on Netflix in his lunch break at his desk with earphones and an iPhone propped against his keyboard. Tiny, I couldn’t bear it!

      1. No I have not seen those devices, thankfully…
        In terms of sound and image, back in the 80s up to the early 90s, it used to be all about the best you could possibly have – super high fidelity amps and speakers, and I remember those huge TVs that took an entire room. Now we still have big screen TVs, of course, that cost thousands of dollars – but when you can buy a 4k 65 inch TV for 400 dollars, why pay 10 times more for a 5% increase in quality? And actually… for a lot of people, watching it on a cell phone screen or on an iPad is enough, so why even have a big TV anymore?…
        Once you realize that “good enough” is “good enough” for most people, you understand why the camera market is in the doldrums, as well…. my wife probably won’t ever want to hold a camera again in her life.

      2. I think you’re right Chris, hi-tech equipment hit the masses and became rather lower tech than the best stuff that was available previously.

        People just get used to a certain standard too, so if you always, say, listen to music on an average car stereo, that becomes the norm. It’s not until you hear the same music on higher fidelity kit that any difference becomes apparent.

        I remember about 20 years ago I bought some Grado headphones which were (to me) super expensive at the time (like £100 maybe when the most I’d ever paid before was probably £15). The first CD I put on was Radiohead’s Kid A which was their latest at the time, and just the first few seconds of the opening track I was hearing all kinds of sounds I was previously oblivious too. I keep thinking I should get some more, but only really use headphones when I’m walking, and then I don’t want big ones, the little Betron earphones I paid about £10 on Amazon 18 months ago are great for that purpose…

    1. Thanks Denis, that’s interesting, I should delve into my stats and see if I can gather that kind of information. Yes, the larger the screen, the more the imperfections show up (though sometimes this is a positive).

  5. Good thoughts Dan! I do use Instagram a little, but I can’t say I really understand it’s attraction. It has however helped me to reach a certain audience, including the excellent art gallery who have been kind enough to take some of my prints. My laptop has a 15 inch screen, and is only really adequate for viewing my photos. The very best ones I have printed on fine art paper, and I am always pleasantly surprised at the quality of them!

    1. Interesting to hear about your gallery experience Steve. Obviously some people don’t mind looking at tiny pictures! Printing photos is something I often think I should do more of, but never seem to get around to it. Plus then unless they’re framed and put on the wall, I don’t really know what to do with them.

  6. I think I am shadow banned in Instagram (comments from or towards me banish and seems less than a tenth of usual users can view my profile), and I am glad for it. Social media has this trap in which they make you believe that your life should be ruled by the trends or otherwise you are outdated, and the other is that it sells a false idea of success by persons that in most cases invest in bots to have followers and likes, or a lifestyle they don’t have. Said that I like the format of Instagram, I really have fun using it for some photos that can work in square format, I am indifferent if the viewer will give it just a fraction of second, or even reach me at all; also its speed allows me to expose myself to many different creators around the world as a kind of digital seven-league boots. For my photography I feel it real when it is printed.

    1. I didn’t know you could have a “shadow ban”, interesting.

      Actually you’ve reminded me that when I first tried Instagram it was purely for square photos, and given a little background I had in shooting these (Holga 120N on film, iPhone and a couple of other digital cams with 1:1 aspect ratio setting), it was fun and made it stand out from more heavy duty apps like Flickr.

      It’s a shame they made the decision to allow any aspect ratio, for me it lost one of the unique appeals.

  7. I, too, got a new screen in January – upgrading from the one I got in 2008!!! It’s enormous and I think it’s only 24″ – so now, the combination of new glasses and new screen, I can SEE my work so much better!! Also, if you view Instagram on the larger screen, those photos are enormous too!!
    I have to say though, the square format of Instagram is annoying – I’ve been trying it, but I don’t have many “followers” . . . I’ll get a few new ones, and then lose a bunch so I seem to be holding steady at 73. Haha. But then, I only have 51 WordPress followers, so at least I’m consistent.

    1. Thanks Tania. I don’t think you can upload to Instagram on a desktop/laptop though can you, last time I tried it was via the mobile app only? Plus even on a big screen, the layout still isn’t exactly optimised for a large screen, like Flickr where you can easily see every photo full screen size. Even on an iPad in full screen mode Flickr is a pretty great viewing experience.

      I thought they dropped the square only format years ago? When I started with it about five years ago it was only square and that did make it stand out, and being an occasional 1:1 fan anyway, suited me.

      I didn’t take much notice of Instagram followers, the vast majority seem to be either fake or just someone following you hoping you’ll follow them back and inflate their artificial follower count. All seems a silly waste of time to me!

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