16 Ways To Play With Instagram

We all love Instagram. I mean, what’s better than taking a photo of your father when he’s sleeping on the couch, just looking nice and relaxed, then stylizing that photo so it looks like it comes from the 1970s, and then, with a click of a button, sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and with your Instagram followers?

I’ll tell you what’s better. The fact that Instagram publishes a public API. Because while doing all the usual stuff with Instagram is fun, finding out what talented developers can do with all your photos is even more fun. As the folks at Instagram say, “Our goal is to make it easier for developers to create interesting and innovative ways to browse the ever-growing volume of photos posted to Instagram every second.”

Let’s take a look at 16 of those ways.

Instagram Browsers

The following websites give you various ways to browse photos from Instagram. Hence, “Instagram Browsers.”



Cartagram lets you browse Instagram photos on a funkily laid-out map. Instead of seeing normal coastlines or political boundaries, you see photos taken in various spots. You can zoom in or out on the map, search for photos taken in a specific location (ex: “Brooklyn, NY”), or allow Cartagram to show you photos taken near your current location.

There are some bugs for the site to work out (which they seem to know about), but there are worse ways to spend a few minutes of your day than dragging your mouse around a photo-mosaic map.

Developer: Bloom



Extragram is a fast and smooth-looking app for browsing your own photos, the photos of the people you follow, as well as the most popular photos currently wowing everybody’s eyeballs.

It gives you a few different viewing modes to choose from. The first is Grid mode, which lays the photos into a grid as wide as your browser (there’s a neat hover effect too, that pops up each photo’s caption when you hover your mouse over it). The second is Filmstrip mode, which puts one photo (with all its comments and links to the people who liked it) above a scrollable strip of all the other photos (see the screenshot to your left). The third is Map mode, which combines Google maps with the photos in Instagram, allowing you to find users and photos in a certain location (unlike Cartagram, Extragram’s Map mode is stable enough to be useful).

There’s also a neat “Discover” mode, which shows you a moving ticker of “Hot Tags,” a grid of “Hot Profiles,” and “Photos Near You,” a tag-cloud of “Recent Tags,” and a “Featured Profile.”

I like Extragram a lot. It’s well designed, speedy, and the Film Strip mode is a great way to explore someone’s photos.

And yes, that is Snoop Dog in the screenshot.

Developer: Extragram



Inkstagram is similar to Extragram (or vice-versa; who knows what order these things were developed in?). It gives you a browser-friendly way to browse through photos, leave comments, and find more people to follow.

Unlike Extragram, there’s only one main viewing mode (Grid-like), though you can adjust the size of the photos to Small, Medium, or Large. When you click on any image in the grid, you’re brought to a photo-specific page, where you can find more information about that particular photo, see who likes it, read and leave comments, etc.

Inkstagram moves a bit faster than Extragram. It loads photos faster, scrolls faster, and changes mode faster. There’s something to be said for that.

Developer: Joshua Inkenbrandt



Insta-great! is a super-fast Instagram browser. Unlike the sites above, Insta-great! uses a side-scrolling row to display the photos (“left” and “right” are mapped to “up” and “down” on my mouse’s scrollwheel; a nice touch).

But what’s really cool is that when you click on a photo, Insta-great! takes you into a row of just that user’s photos, and above the row, there’s a link to go back to wherever you just were, plus all the photos that were in that row. It’s kind of difficult to explain, but really cool for a browsing interface.

As for features, I couldn’t find a way to leave or read comments on the photos, but you can like each one by clicking on the heart icon. You can also click on the date or location of each photo to browse a row of related photos.

Developers: Elliott Kember & Hector Simpson



I’ll give you two guesses as to what Instagrid does. Ready? Go.

Nope, you’re wrong. It doesn’t instantly cut your grilled-cheese sandwiches using a sharp, gridded-knife. It arranges your Instagram photos into a grid, silly!

It can also (and I bet you weren’t expecting this) arrange your photos into a blog-like stream, with the latest photo at the top, the next latest photo below that, and…you guessed it: The next latest photo below that.

There’s no “liking” any of the photos (it’s not called Instalike, is it?) or leaving a comment (Instafeedback? I don’t think so). It doesn’t even give you a way to look at other people’s photos. When it comes to Instagrid, it’s all about you.

What’s good about that? The fact that they give you your own URL (example: instagrid.me/your-name-here), which you can share with anybody you like.

Developer: Social Print Studio


This Flash-based website is basically an Instagram screensaver (you can even download it as a real screensaver for your Mac or PC). Taking up the entirety of your browser window, Instarium creates a kind of aquarium of Instagram photos, except the photos aren’t like fish swimming around; they’re like bubbles rising to the surface.

Instarium can build itself using your feed, your photos, the photos you’ve liked, or all the popular photos on the network. And if you don’t have enough photos to fill your screen, Instarium just duplicates some of them. Clicking on any of the photos in your Instarium takes you the photo’s permanent page on the Instagram site.

I can’t say I’m a fan of it being based in Flash, and the Google ad in the corner is kind of annoying, but I can say that Instarium is a soothing way to let photos wash over you.

Developer: loftimg



This one might be my favorite, if only because of their tagline: “instagram + cats, surely the very nexus of the internet.”

Don’t let the cats fool you (as they so often do!). Instacat is more than just a site for watching photos of cats scroll automatically from the bottom of your browser window to the top. It’s actually a cleverly-hidden app for browsing Instagram by tags. Using the the little form field on the right of the screen, you can populate the app with photos matching any tag you search for (provided they exist, of course).

Like Instarium, clicking on any of the photos takes you to the Instagram page, but unlike Instarium, you can hover over any of the photos to get more information on each one.

But good riddance to the other browsers. This one’s got cats!

Developer: Syd Lawrence & Tom Gibby

Metaphorical Instaviolence

Are you the kind of person who doesn’t want to just browse Instagram photos, but wants instead to pit photos against each other in an all out Instagram battle royale? Well, sicko, here’s a couple apps just for you.



INSTAWAR asks you to vote for one photo over another. You click on the one you like, and bam!…well, “bam” nothing, really. All that happens is you get two new photos to choose from. No blood. No tears. Not even a standing eight-count. Booooring.

What’s not so boring (not entirely, anyway) is that if you get served up a really good pair of photos, ones that you think work great together, you can click the “Make a Pair” button, and INSTAWAR will combine them into one photo and then ask if you want to share the pair on their diptych tumbler blog.

I should also mention that they’re working on leaderboards and stuff. They’re just not there yet.

Developer: Social Print Studio


Pic A Fight!

Pic A Fight! offer the same “FaceMash”-type battle as INSTAWAR, except they actually keep track of the win/loss records for each photo. You can also view the Top Pics to see which photos are more bad-to-the-bone than their competitors.

Additionally, you can click on individual photographers to browse all their photos and get the win/loss record for each one. You can even click the “Battle” button to send any user’s photos into battle with one another.

INSTAWAR may still be working on its features, but if you don’t want to wait, Pic A Fight! is already there.

Did I mention you can “fight” using nothing but your keyboard? Now that’s how you make a champion.

Developers: Chad & Paul

Insta Reality

So you’ve browsed through Instagram in a number of different ways. Bored with that, you went on to turn Instagram into a violent competition where the winners take all. But now what are you going to do? Well, the only thing that’s left to do. Get your Instagram photos off the Internet and into the real world!


Boo Box

As my mother-in-law will tell you, there’s nothing quite so charming as a shadow-box for your photos. With the Boo Box from Hatchcraft, you can set your Instagram photos into a bamboo shadow-box at a price that most people will find affordable.

I haven’t seen these in real life, but from the web site, it looks like a classy way to turn those 1s and 0s into keepsakes the whole family can enjoy. Mothers-in-law especially.

Price: $19 (4″ photo)/$29 (7″ photo)
Developer: Hatchcraft



It’s late on a Tuesday night. You’re sitting on your couch. Your husband or wife is in bed. There’s a cold beer on the table next to you. It’s right about then that you start saying to yourself, “I wish I had a booklet of 1″ stickers of all my Instagram photos.”

On nights like that, thank goodness there’s Instagoodies. For a slightly-higher-than-nominal fee, Instagoodies will print up to 90 of your photos into a booklet of 1″ stickers. Perfect for putting on your three-ring binder during homeroom. Or sticking on the nose of your crush. Or covering the backside of your not-quite-stylish-enough iMac.

Once you give the app permission to access your photos, you can choose exactly which photos you want. If you choose one photo, you’ll get a booklet with 90 stickers of the photo. If you choose five photos, you’ll get 18 stickers of each. You see where this going; it’s called “basic division.” Regardless of how many photos you choose, it’s still the same price.

Instagoodies only offers the stickerbook at the moment, but they’re planning on adding posters, prints, and more in the future, so keep an eye out.

Price: $14/booklet
Developer: Webgraph



If you don’t want to wait for Instagoodies, there’s always Instamaker, which will print your photos on coffee cups, T-shirts and postcards.

Speaking of my mother-in-law, what’s a better birthday present than a T-shirt with her favorite son-in-law’s face plastered all over it? Nothing, I say. Nothing.

Prices:$20/T-shirt, $14/mug, $0.95/postcard
Developer: Zazzle



This is a good one.

Instaprint bills itself as “a location-based photo booth for Instagram,” but what in the world does that mean? It means that Instaprint will rent you its “Instaprint Box” for your party or event, and any Instagram photos that get tagged with the appropriate hashtag will automatically get sent to the Instaprint Box, which will spit out a Polaroid-like version of it.

As they write, “Instaprint uses a new printing technology developed by Zink. Similar to how instant film once worked, the color for the prints comes from the paper itself. No ink necessary.”

I haven’t seen it in action, but it sounds fantastic.

Price: By request
Developer: Breakfast



This app for iOS or Android (works on the Web too) will send prints of your photos to anywhere you want in the world.

The photos are 300 dpi (don’t tell the crappy camera on my iPad 2), and you can add messages just as you would on a postcard. The photos themselves are set into the card with a little perforation, so your friends and family members can just pop the photo right out of the card .

Guess what my mother-in-law is getting tomorrow?

Price: $0.99/card
Developer: Sincerely



With the option of printing 250 stickers or a 20″ x 40″ poster, Prinstagram is another Instagram app from the folks at Social Print Studio.

No bells and whistles here.

Pick your photos. Print ‘em up. Prinstragram.

(No need to send me a check. They can use that tagline for free.)

Price: $25/poster, $10/250 stickers
Developer: Social Print Studio



Stickers? Who needs stickers? This is the 21st century, for darn’s sake! When we want something to stick, we don’t use wussy-glue. We use magnets! Big, bold magnets!

And thanks to StickyGram, you can now turn all of your Instagram photos into magnets. Throw away the magnetic poetry. Toss the kitschy palm tree you got on your cruise. Cover your fridge with your beautiful photos instead.

That’s how we roll in the 21st century.

Then again, magnets don’t taste nearly as good as glue.

Price: $14.99/nine-pack
Developer: StickyGram

Final Thoughts

Instagram’s decision to release an API to the public has been a fantastic boon to developers and inventors around the world. As you can see from some of the developers above, it only takes one or two people to turn that hose of photos into a viable business.

And I didn’t even begin to cover the entire galaxy of Instagram developments. There are apps for turning your Instagram photos into desktop and iOS wallpapers, apps for adding Instagram photos to your tumbler blog, apps for checking your statistics on Instagram, etc.

If you’re a developer, you should try your hand on the API. Take a look through all the apps I covered above, then come up with something better. Share your app (or if you’re not a developer, just your favorite Instagram apps) in the comments below.

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