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This Photo App Wants to Beat Instagram by Ditching the Awful Algorithm

Viewbug hopes to dethrone other photo apps and become a destination for daily photo contests—and 4 million users are on board.
What Is Viewbug, the App That Wants to Be TikTok for Photography?
Composite by VICE Staff

Instagram started off as a photography app—well, if you can consider 2012’s Valencia-filtered photos of lattes “photography”—but, over the last decade, it’s morphed into something else indeed. These days, open the app, and you’ll mostly encounter hyper-posed selfies, birthday messages to people you don’t know, and, of course, algorithm-optimized ads for sunglasses and direct-to-consumer personal care products. Is it about photography at all anymore? Besides a few pros using it as an online portfolio, no, not really. 


Now, a new app called Viewbug wants to go back to the start, to quote ol’ British sad bois Coldplay. Think the high-quality, analog-film-like filters of VSCO with the daily competition of Wordle and the community engagement of TikTok. In fact, Viewbug wants to be “the TikTok of photography.”

You may have already heard of Viewbug, since the app currently has nearly 4 million users on board. But if you’re like “what bug?,” here’s a basic explainer: The app’s two San Diego-based co-founders created Viewbug as a means of rebooting the photography-focused side of social media—like, actual photography, not just thirst traps and vacation photos from Italy. In order to accomplish that, on top of some fancy filters, the app offers photo contests, photo challenges, portfolio websites, photography logos and photography classes. So if you’re looking to grow a legit following that’s interested in your artistic prowess rather than just your Insta-clout, Viewbug is here for it. 

More on those photo contests: They’re a huge component of the app, and best of all, they can be rewarding in tangible ways; some recent prizes have included cameras, drones, tripods, and even celebrity shout-outs (that you don’t have to buy for yourself on Cameo). You can also vote on the work of other users, and current contests include “Light in Nature,” “Ultimate Abstraction,” and “Creative Compositions.”

Viewbug contests and screenshots

Screenshots from the app, by the author

Viewbug is also launching an integrated NFT platform to help photographers create, collect, and sell NFTs through the app, so if you take a really fuego photo of, IDK, your crystal butt plug glimmering in the beautiful morning light, you’ll be able to mint it into an NFT and sell it to the waiting masses. 

At this point, we’re nostalgic for the old days of photo-sharing, when you’d haul a Polaroid camera to the party or, to take it a step further, took photos for the love of creating beautiful imagery instead of in hopes of making your co-workers jealous that you were drinking White Claw at the beach. For the true photogs that remain, Viewbug has a je ne sais quoi that brings that feeling back—at least, for nearly 4 million users and counting. Also, it would be cool to get a free drone. 

Still curious? Peruse the gallery of recent shots from pro members, or head to Viewbug’s website to learn more before you smash that download button in the app store. 

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