What is Instagram?

Andrew Stucken / 11 December 2013 ( 19 May 2016 )

Find out more about this popular photo sharing social network and learn how to use Instagram with this useful guide.



Instagram is both a social network and smartphone app, where updates are made using photos, not text. 

As with other networks you collect followers and receive status updates from those you follow. 

Linking Instagram to other social networks is simple and enables you to share a photos on them.

The name Instagram is a portmanteau word made up from “Instant” and “telegram”. Think of taking a polaroid snap, adding professional effects and then - by linking it to other networks - posting it on a noticeboard for your friends to see. All in a matter of moments. That’s Instagram.

Follow Saga on Instagram

How do I use it?

Instagram is used almost entirely as an app on smartphones. Once the app is installed, create an account and you can begin uploading photos.

When you launch Instagram it effectively becomes the camera app on your phone. If you want to take a picture using Instagram, you need to press the blue camera button in the centre of the navigation panel. 

Alternatively, you could work with a picture from your camera’s library by pressing the double-square button on the lower left of the screen.

A big part of Instagram’s appeal is toning photos with its selection of filters. You could intensify the colour of a snap of the grandchildren, or add instant retro with a sepia or black and white filter, or scratchy effects and a border. You can upload photos “pure” as well (with the hashtag #nofilter, of course...).

Critics, especially some professional photographers, dislike it for the lack of effort and creativity required. 

But Facebook paid $1 billion, showing how highly it is valued.

Related: A quick guide to Twitter

How much does it cost?

The Instagram app is free, and so is the account.

You might be interested to know there are rivals, especially if you are a Blackberry user. 

Facebook has developed its own photo-effects app called Facebook Camera. Lesser known apps are available for Blackberry, such as Instaphoto or LensBoost, although they lack the popularity of Instagram.

What is the difference between Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr?

Pinterest is a photo sharing social network where - unlike Instagram - you can share photos other than your own. Instagram is meanwhile exclusively smartphone-orientated.

Related: What is Pinterest?

Flickr is another photo sharing social network - built for uploading photos from your computer. The younger Instagram is reacting to the explosion in smartphone photography - more in tune with rapidly-evolving technology and how we use it.

Can I upload videos with it?

With a video app such as Steamzoo, yes. You can, equally, apply effects to your mini-movies.

Find out how to upload videos to YouTube.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.