“Welcome to Instagram. It’s a fun and quirky way to share your life through photos.” But what if I don’t want to be quirky? I looked down at my socks: one red and one blue. Yes, I am inadvertently quirky enough.  My initial reaction was to hit the delete button, but my iPhone was new to me then and I couldn’t figure out how. And so this app stuck, and I’m kind of glad it did.

For one, Instagram has changed phone photography forever. There used to be a time when a camera on a phone was a spectacularly novel selling point. Never mind that it had, like, two pixels. People still wanted cameras on their phones even though sending pictures was decidedly not cost efficient and upload took forever. You’d stare at your tiny screen for three days only to see “message send failure” by the fourth. Now, of course, the introduction of better quality devices and this thing called an “app” have grown an entirely new branch on the photography tree, even though I still resent it when people say: “hey, check out my photography”, only to pull up their Instagram profile. “Follow me!”, they might add. No. I will not.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know anything about technology. I’m not even going to say how long it took me to figure out the WordPress layout, and honestly, I still get lost on here. On my iPhone, I have five apps: Instagram, Sudoku, Endomondo (for jogging), Spotify, and Temple Run, which has completely replaced my need for bathroom literature. I’ve been told that this is an embarrassingly little number of apps. I don’t really feel ashamed, but people tell me I should and this causes me to scowl.

Such was my disposition when I cautiously endeavored to understand the app that is Instagram. Here are some things I picked up:

My stupid cat Oliver poses for me sometimes. An iPhone’s camera has a curious focusing feature. It performs relatively well, but I feel silly having to shake the phone to get it to re-focus on the intended focal point. I love that this app allows for some visually intriguing shots, with that bitch lying in the distance of a blurry foreground and all.

If you’re a stylish mofo like me, Instagram filters are great for tiny details and overall color composition. Valencia, Brannan, Walden, Sutro, and Amaro are the most versatile filters, in my opinion. Whoever named these filters, by the way, was smoking something illegal.

I’ve learned to use the black bars judiciously. Most of the time, they are just a waste of goddamn space, and I used Instagram for months before I figured out that I could zoom in or out or rid of the bars entirely. However, sometimes keeping and minimizing  them gives favorable overall balance to a shot.

Any app is a commitment for me given that I am notoriously bad at updating them, hopelessly doomed for update notifications for the rest of my life. You will likely find on my gravestone: “Squeaky Robot: Eternal Update Notification Recipient”. But one day, I decided to take the leap and update Instagram. The process took a painless few minutes, and when I re-opened it, an HDR function was suddenly eyeing me from the bottom left corner. ZOMG! A new feature! I spent the rest of the day oo-ing and ahh-ing at its performance and potential. I use the HDR thingy for dramatic detail-oriented shots like the one above. In general, any sort of architecture with HDR will likely be wonderful. And unless you want to look forty years older, don’t use HDR on people. Just don’t.

Lastly, I find that Instagram makes skies look infinitely more dramatic. Ah! A sunrise in Tobago overlooking an aircraft that looks doomed to crash! With Instagram, even impending death can be quirky.