Goodbye Instagram, hello Ello

Jan 17, 2018

Samuel Zeller

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Goodbye Instagram, hello Ello

Jan 17, 2018

Samuel Zeller

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Do you remember Ello?

In the fall of 2014 headlines praised it as “the Facebook Killer”, apparently it was created as an ad-free alternative to existing social networks. Well guess what, it hasn’t died… their founders never intended it to be a Facebook killer.

It was always about artists, and it’s now better than ever.

It’s 2018 and people are realizing how Facebook and Instagram are turning us into dopamine loops addicts. Don’t hide, I know you’re checking your phone when you wake up and seek those extra followers, that virtual recognition.

Like any social platform owned by a big corporation it’s driven by money and revenue, this is why you said goodbye to a chronological feed and saw recommended posts appear in your feed (from people you don’t follow).

Oh did I mentioned the sponsored posts?
Or the sheer amount of ads for bras?

Update after update, Instagram is turning into a marketing monster. And you’re all accepting it because of that sweet sweet exposure. It was once free of advertising and brands, do you remember that?

As a photographer you can’t “grow” on Instagram if you don’t post what the mass enjoy. Yes it makes photographers literally copy each other styles because only some type of images can get big engagement.

Think of all those « outdoor slash explorer » taking pictures of cabins in the forest, hanging feet off a cliff and interiors of a van decorated with string lights. They’re diluting their own work and style by focusing on what will grow their account instead of focusing on developing themselves artistically.


The grid above is the work of 8 different photographers ranging from 50k to 750k followers. Can you tell which photographer is which?

“All my work up to November of 2016 had been social media jobs, like promo posts, ads on my Instagram. Then out of nowhere, I get this huge job that had nothing to do with Instagram and I was valued off my work, versus my number [of followers]. And I was like holy crap, it really put into perspective how small of a bubble Instagram actually is.” Andrew Kearns (490k followers)

The paradox is that Instagram better reward photographers who focus on one subject or style, which is quite bad for those who are trying to find their own “voice” in photography or those who want to just expriment.

No, it’s not because you take pictures of pretty girls in front of neon lights with a 85mm prime lens at F1.4 that you are a portrait photographer.

There’s a great article on the subject over on Field mag titled “how social media perpetuates cliché photography”, I encourage you to read it.

“Success on Instagram comes down to one thing: impressing your audience. But if you are looking for a sense of satisfaction and joy in photography, it seems more and more photographers are finding it all comes into focus when they close the app.” Josh S. Rose

Things will get worse. If you want to know how Instagram will evolve in the future all you have to do is to look at… Facebook.

This year Facebook will likely split the news feed. Non-promoted posts from Facebook pages will be placed in a secondary feed (source).

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has revealed plans to change up your news feed once again. In a renewed effort to help people stay connected, Facebook will be further limiting the number of posts people will see from brands, businesses, and media on their feed. That means your photography page, or your online magazine page will reach less people.

They say that “Facebook is about bringing people closer together and enabling meaningful social interactions”

Just a quick reminder that Facebook is creating shadow profilesfilled a patent to discover that two people know each other by analyzing the dust your phone camera and some other really crazy ideas on how to basically spy on it’s user base to make them view more ads.

“meaningful interactions”

You will also probably see ads inside of your list of Instagram messages just like on Facebook messenger. (And games? Why not?)

Can we also talk a little bit about Facebook and Instagram interface lately?

Do you think there’s enough icons here?
Help! I can’t see my posts anymore!

And none of those user interface updates can be turned off. You have a business profile on Instagram? You NEED to have a “featured stories” and “email” banner that take up screen space and hide one row of your posts.

Oh and this…

Money money money money money

How soon before business profiles start to rank higher than personal profiles in the feed algorithm by default?

I predict that brands will be able to pay to promote certain hashtags and you’ll see posts from those hashtags in your feed. Boom, instant user generated content pushed to your target audience.

But there’s also something that’s bothering me with Instagram, it’s the instant and fast paced sharing, the focus on single pictures. The lack of narrative, the focus on form and not on the meaning.

People just double-tap scroll hundred times per day. They don’t even read captions anymore nor take the time to write replies.

Why is narrative such a difficult concept for young photographers to master? Because it is a concept that they are unaware of. It is something that they take for granted and do not question, something that visual digital sharing platforms do not encourage. Grant Scott

Documentary photographers and photo-journalists can of course share their work on Instagram but they will be mostly ignored by most users. There’s of course exceptions to the rule, but Instagram is tailored for sharing very often on specific themes in order to generate engagement.

Instagram is still great for many things, like discovering new photographers or connecting with people in the real life. But the simple, chronological photo-sharing service is long gone.

So I searched for an alternative.

In the past I explored 500px, Flickr, Tumblr, EyeEm, Unsplash and Behance. They all have good sides but none of them could fulfil my need for a simple social network where I can share my photography.

“Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.”

“We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate but a place to connect, create, and celebrate.” —Part of the Ello manifesto

500px is a money making machine and reward certain types of photography. (It’s also full of bots). Flickr was great, but it’s now a dinosaur. Tumblr is owned by Verizon and crippled with bots and porn. EyeEm is great as a platform to sell your images. Unsplash has a tremendous visibility but your work is then available for free even for commercial use. Behance is great to showcase projects, but not really made for sharing single images.

I still use Unsplash to give away some of my work, Behance for showcasing more projects than what I have in my portfolio and Instagram for running Fujifeed (an online magazine).

But for my personal work and daily visual journal I’m switching over to Ello. No, I won’t delete my Instagram account (hell, you can’t even do that) but I will stop posting on it. Yes, today I say goodbye to 16.7k followers.

Here’s why I chose Ello:

It’s made for true unfiltered creativity

It rewards artists with exposure, but also with money ($71’000 paid to artists in 2017)

You can filter notifications (it’s 2018)

You can flag users and content

Flagging system (gif made by Ello)

You can’t squat a username or impersonate others

There’s no influencers, just artists

Left: edbuzz — Right: sixstreetunder

No stupid algorithm based feed

The feed is chronological (like it should be)

No “recommended” posts injected in your feed

No ads, no sponsored posts, no business profiles

Left: thefilmbruja — Right: teetonka

You can post text, videos, links and combine them

Want to publish a whole interview? Why not

You can tell an entire story in one post

You can upload images of any ratio

Left: emmanuelachusim — Right: kareart

Warning: things get slightly NSFW and glittery below

You can even post nudity (and filter it or not)

Photograph by Joanne Leah (NSFW)

Ello is LGBTQ friendly

It doesn’t censor users (as long as they follow the community guidelines)

There’s a repost button, and it gives proper credit to the artist + auto link to the original (like Tumblr, but better)

It’s optional, you can turn it off (prevent other from reposting your work)

Power to the users

If you’re good, you can get featured for a few months (and get a cool badge)

It’s a great place to share real photography

Photographs by Elias Amari

There’s Weekly giveaways (Ello buy the art from the artist, then give it back to the community)

Collaborations with brands

There’s real curation by real humans

There’s an awesome “discover” tab with 40 hand-curated categories (even cool ones like Cannabis or Skate) that encourage discoverability

On top of that, there’s good communities (run by members and curated) on very specific topics (Cabochons) or broader ones (Photography)

The whole text of a post is indexed by Ello search, not just the hashtags (no need to put 30 hashtags per post)

It’s made by two cool designers

Todd Berger
Lucian Föhr

They have great principles

The user interface is awesome

There’s no bots

Virtually no spam (just bread)

You can sell your work on it easily

Book by smilefootage
Upload an image of your product. Click the $ icon. Add a link to the product on your website/etsy/society6. Publish

It’s not owned by Facebook

Product usage data is anonymized

In addition to allowing members to opt-out of anonymized data collection, Ello respects Do Not Track (DNT) browser settings

Pictures aren’t super small

And they’re not compressed to shit

Painting by claudiakaak — Notice any compression artifacts?

You can use it and post from your desktop browser

Their mobile apps are great

Ello on the iPhone X (image by Ello)

Their goal as a business is to bring values to creatives, not treat them as ad-viewers

Simply said: they put money into creators pocket while having a sustainable business model as a social network (and they have great ideas for that)

They do printed publications (4 of them in 2017 which published 210 artists)

That includes this book “Make good

And this magazine “Not for print

Last but not least, there’s some cool shit on Ello that you won’t find anywhere else.

Start here

[This article isn’t endorsed nor sponsored by Ello/Bergerfohr]

About the Author

Samuel Zeller is a freelance photographer based in Switzerland, an ambassador for Fujifilm and the editor of Fujifeed magazine. You can contact him here and follow his recent work on his website and Ello. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

[lead image: A modified version of the Ello logo (original one is by Berger & Föhr) on an awesome background by Efe Kurnaz]

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39 responses to “Goodbye Instagram, hello Ello”

  1. Simon Prunty Avatar
    Simon Prunty

    Christophe Gaillard

  2. Dieter Schneider Avatar
    Dieter Schneider

    ….or get over on Steemit and get paid to post.

  3. Tobias Weinhold Avatar
    Tobias Weinhold

    sounds very interesting. thanks for sharing your experiences!

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      You’re welcome! I also wrote a small start up guide for photographers on Ello that explains the basics

  4. Luc Primeau Avatar
    Luc Primeau

    Patty Manning Primeau

  5. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    This is a long article; sorry didn’t follow up with reading. Question in the nutshell: should I move to Ello since I’m so so so sick of every new update on Instagram? Or not just yet?

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      Ello has many benefits compared to Instagram and one of them is that people are more focused and with a longer attention span.

      1. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
        Tj Ó Seamállaigh

        Thanks – I guess I’ll spare some time to check it out on my tab. Thanks again.

  6. Angie Dutton Avatar
    Angie Dutton

    I’m going to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Emilee Marie Baxter Avatar
    Emilee Marie Baxter

    Ello keeps trying to “make it” but Instagram is just so much easier to use.

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      Thanks god that Ello isn’t so easy to use, if not it would be filled with kids! It’s a more laid back social network, people take the time there to post, it’s not a game of getting likes and followers.

      1. David Kilper Avatar
        David Kilper

        At this point I have to ask, how much did Ello pay you to pontificate and evangelize their platform?

        1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
          Samuel Zeller

          Zero dollar, I just love good products. Same for Unsplash, they don’t pay me. Same for Fujifilm (I’m an ambassador but I don’t get money). Shoo shoo troll, go back to your lair :)

  8. Vincent Reyna Avatar
    Vincent Reyna

    *insert mean girls meme* ello just ain’t gonna happen!

  9. TByte Avatar

    Simple question then: How does Ello make money?

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      Complete answer can be found in this interview: (they also make money from artist invites organized in collaboration with magazines and creative brands)

  10. Samir Zarrouk Avatar
    Samir Zarrouk

    Great article thank you. I will give a try.

  11. Mason Echternkamp Avatar
    Mason Echternkamp

    God who cares, Instagram is perfectly fine

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      It’s fine for a lot of things yes, I’m running a 53k followers account on it since about two years and I’ve been on IG since 2014. Some of my friends and influencers have used it since the very beginning. Problem is, it’s evolving and changing into the wrong direction, and yes a lot of people care about that. Specially non-photographers, illustrators for example. Did you know that since january your posts are only shown to to 10% of your audience first to gauge the “interest”, if you don’t answer comments in the first 60min your engagement drop, comments with less than 4 words don’t count as engagement anymore, if you use the same hashtags on multiple posts it also drop your engagement, if you edit your caption in the first 24 hours it also drop. Not to mention the increase of ads and injected posts in your feed. And it will get much more worse this year. You know, a lot of people don’t want to play games they just want to post to their audience. Just check how many people want to get a chronological feed back again.

      1. David Kilper Avatar
        David Kilper

        And here you are basically telling Mason his opinion is wrong. Totally lost respect for you…

        1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
          Samuel Zeller

          Good thing I didn’t lost anything then, I wish you all the best for your projects!

  12. Carlos Gouveia Avatar
    Carlos Gouveia

    Awesome read!

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      Thank you for taking the time to read it :)

  13. Todd Sipes Avatar
    Todd Sipes

    Hahaha this is funnier than saying “hello, Myspace”

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      I’ll screenshot your comment to show it to Instagram influencers in 5 years when their followers will be worth nothing :) The same happened to Tumblr, Pinterest and Flickr, they were like “the place to be”. Oh by the way you missed the last Ello collab with 10k$ in prizes, too bad.

  14. Eric Flavin Avatar
    Eric Flavin

    There really is some seriously amazing and inspiring work on Ello but unfortunately the UX on the app is terrible. Their hearts are in the right place though and it should be supported.

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      UX can be fixed/improved, at first Instagram UX wasn’t stellar either ?

  15. cameradoll Avatar

    I joined Ello way when it first started. I was excited for it, even more so when it became more creative based. It just didn’t pull me in. The connectivity just isn’t there for me.

    1. Samuel Zeller Avatar
      Samuel Zeller

      You’re maybe not connecting with the right people enough, I got followers on Ello that regularly comment on my images and not just “nice picture”. It’s much better interactions that the usual Instagram comment.

  16. Mikey Avatar

    been there since day one. Haven’t used it at all but you have renewed my interest. Following you!

  17. Paul D'Souza (Wingnut) Avatar
    Paul D’Souza (Wingnut)

    Great read…nice point of view and you’re spot on

  18. Samuel Zeller Avatar
    Samuel Zeller

    Thanks, I got people who sometimes help. I also hire copywriters and writers for Fujifeed the online mag I run but unfortunately I can’t hire them for my personal articles, don’t have the money for that now.

  19. Raoul Coscia Avatar
    Raoul Coscia

    Thank you, great article, Samuel Zeller, and a very interesting read. I’m going to check Ello out.
    I’m really sick of FB and I think it’s going to eventually burn itself out. I have simply not warmed up to Instagram. All my images are on my desktop computer and I couldn’t be bothered with shrinking them, Instagramming them and moving them to my phone to upload to IG. There are apps now that can upload to IG directly from your computer but hell, this constant overload…Friends post images on FB. Go to Instagram and there they are again. Ping-pong, bing bong. My head is spinning. And the ads. And the ‘suggested posts’ …. ok enough for now. Ello, ‘ere I come

  20. Uncle Bro Avatar
    Uncle Bro

    Goodbye instagram, hello ello

  21. Abu Nudnik Avatar
    Abu Nudnik


  22. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    just opened an account there…
    uploaded some photos…

  23. Dan Bullman Avatar
    Dan Bullman

    Great article Samuel. I think you rightly point out a lot of the problems with Instagram/Facebook.

    I joined Ello a few years ago but haven’t done much with my account. I might have to kickstart it up again.

    As a photographer, it’s tough to avoid Instagram, even with all its downfalls. It just has a massive user base and most creators are sharing their work there. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with some awesome people through Instagram. But IG has also had a negative impact on the way I shoot photos in some ways (focus more on single images instead of stories, conforming my compositions to the vertical crop, the cycle of chasing likes/features/shoutouts, etc)

    I think we as photographers need to start having a more serious discussion about the best ways to use social media (rather than having social media use us). This is a great step in that direction. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  24. David Avatar

    Interesting site…. Is there an upload plugin from Lightroom?

  25. Zidan - AffiliateGhost Avatar
    Zidan – AffiliateGhost

    we are giving it a try!