By Ray Potts Arts and Entertainment Editor
The first ever Grand Rapids “InstaMeet”, a gathering of fans of the smartphone photography app “Instagram”, was held on May 18 at Rowster Coffee on Wealthy St.
Turnout was low, but “Instameet” organizer Mark Wynsma, a New York-based photographer and Grand Rapids native, took it in stride and used the time to pass on tips for improving your Instagram feed.
“‘InstaMeet’ is an event scheduled by Instagram,” said Wynsma. “They pick a weekend to hold the event and encourage fellow Instagram users to organize and meet up with one another. Hopefully everyone shows up, has a great time, takes lots of great pictures and connects.”
The “Instagram” tour brought everyone through Heritage Hill, Eastown and some local shops on Division Ave. Although this is the first “InstaMeet” ever organized in Grand Rapids, Mark Wynsma is not new to them.
“My first ever ‘InstaMeet’ was organized in New York City, and we had around 30 people who showed up, so it was a really great turnout,” Wynsma said.
One would think that someone who organized this gathering of Instagram users would likely have a detailed reason for becoming a user of the popular photography app, but Wynsma’s is rather short and to the point. “It was a year ago. It was around 5 a.m. and I was standing in line at Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York, waiting for a Cronut (a croissant donut),” Wynsma said, laughing at the memory. “All of the sudden I thought ‘I’m gonna Instagram a Cronut’, and I set my account up while in line and took my first Instagram picture right there.”
Offering photography advice for fellow users, Mark Wynsma said that the best Instagram photos have good lighting.
“Most people will tell you that light is important in all aspects of photography,” Wynsma said. “This is especially important in mobile photography. You can only do so much with the light you’re given, especially on a smart phone. Also, you’re gonna want to know how the camera on your phone works, so get familiar with it.”
Now some users may take great photos , but are unable to get a large group of followers outside of their friends. Not to worry, Mark has advice on how to gain positive attention from other people.
“Posting pictures that people are interested in really helps,” said Wynsma. “People always tend to be interested in coffee and food, they always get the most likes. This may seem redundant by now, but people seem to like it.”
He also offered a warning to “selfie” addicts; because too many self portraits really just limit you to your friends. “Strangers won’t seek out people with alot of selfies…unless you’re really good looking,” Wynsma said, laughing.
All throughout popular culture, you can see people mocking or lauding the amount of hashtags that are present onsocial media, but Mark doesn’t see it as a bad thing.
“Don’t overkill on the hashtags,” Wynsma said. “People don’t want to see two inches of hashtags on a photo. Limit yourself to clever or relevant hashtags. Whenever I’m out and about I like to tag what city I’m in. Grand Rapids is #grgram, #grmi, or #puremichigan for Michigan state-wide,” Wynsma said. “Also I like to do ones that pertain to the photo, I like to use #bigportrait when I take a picture of someone, #fromaboveandbeyondthetable is one I like to use when taking food pictures, and #fromwhereistand when I take pictures of the ground with people’s feet in it.”
Hashtags are also a way to support your friends.
“Once you get a larger following, you can start making hashtags that really catch on,” said Wynsma. “A lot of my friends like to make quirky and funny hashtags, so I try to use them to support them.”
Grand Rapids is known for its vibrant art culture and its support of local restaurants and businesses, an aesthetically pleasing city means well for photographers.
“I think Grand Rapids is great for users of Instagram,” said Wynsma. “The artistic scene here is great and there are a lot of very photogenic things in this city, and it’s becoming even more photogenic the more diverse Grand Rapids gets.”
Instagram is very popular right now, but everything has it’s high water mark.
“I hate saying this, but like all things, its a trend. So eventually, it’ll fade, “ Wynsma said, while discussing the future of Instagram. “It’s at it’s height of popularity right now, so if it wants to stay relevant it’ll have to change. In New York City, and it’s spreading to the Midwest and the rest of the country, people are using Instagram to promote and market. Eventually, I hope it will become a tool that will connect people with similar tastes and interests and will help people find cool stores, bars, restaurants and cafes in your local area.”
Mark Wynsma set up the hashtags #instameetgr and #wwim9 to track all the Instagram photos that were taken on Sunday, May 18. Follow him on Instagram at @markinthewestwillage.