What’s a plate got to do with photography, you might ask. In the context of this app, it’s an amusing name for a photo album where you can upload photos of a similar nature or genre. It’s been around for over five years now. Plates tries to fill the void of popular apps like Instagram that turn its back on photographers who supported it for many years. It’s a simple concept: a collaborative space for like-minded photographers. Unlike Instagram, it doesn’t make you become obsessed with likes and follows.
Instagram has become a shadow of the popular photo-sharing app it used to be. Meta and Instagram understandably felt threatened by video-sharing apps like Tiktok exploding in popularity. But instead of sticking by its millions of core users that enjoyed sharing, viewing, and discussing photography on Instagram, they decided to drop them like hotcakes. I’ve personally not enjoyed Instagram as much since the introduction of reels.
In 2021, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, tweeted about the app’s new video-centric direction. We can’t say we didn’t see this coming, but photographers who supported the app for years were furious. Photography apps like the iOS-only Glass and Vero Social began attracting more subscribers. Flickr also probably saw a surge in activity after this. And while it doesn’t offer many features at the moment, Plates has potential. As it currently stands, it’s a simple app for photo sharing, collaboration, and a distraction-free browsing experience.
The Big Picture
I suppose, as the quality of the photographers using the app increases, photo viewing in Plates will become more exciting. For now, it’s a decent, free alternative to ad-riddled Instagram, the controversial Vero Social, the Apple-centric Glass, and the ever-popular Flickr. But for an app that’s been around for more than a handful of years, it doesn’t seem to have gained much traction among photographers. I’d never heard of it before. Browsing photography forums, I didn’t see any information about it. I also couldn’t find much history about it online to see how it has evolved over the years. Still, it didn’t have me craving to get likes, as is often the case on Instagram. I’m not checking it often to see if there’s been any interaction from other users. And it’s refreshing to not have adverts and reels popping up as I scroll through photographs.
For aiming to make a change in this ad-filled photograph app world, for not buckling in and adding video options, and for creating a clutter-free viewing experience, I’m giving Plates three out of five starts.
- Browsing experience is currently ad-free.
- No stories, reels, or videos to distract from browsing photographs
- No apparent algorithm that studies your browsing history and “recommends” photos
- Easy to subscribe to a plate you want to follow.
- Landscape viewing mode is available in the app for plates
- Hashtag features have been added recently
- You can invite others to curate your plates
- It’s possible to invite fellow Plates users to contribute to your plates
- Privacy settings for plates (public, private, protected) can be changed at any time.
- Search tab shows trending hashtags and trending plates
- You can change the cover photo of your plates
- Reminded me too much of Flickr’s initial days in terms of the quality of the photos currently on the app
- Home feed has no sort or filter options. It’s a chronological feed populated with Plates based on your selected photography interests.
- Feels too much like a nostalgic alternative instead of a groundbreaking photo-sharing app.
- If I click on a photo inside a Plate, I cannot swipe left, right, or up to see the following image. I have to go back to the plate and scroll.
- Landscape viewing more not available for the home screen
- When in landscape mode, clicking on a photo when inside a plate briefly shows the entire photo, then zooms in 100%. Not the most user-friendly viewing experience
- Others can view what plates you’re subscribed to and contributing to. No option to currently hide this.
Let’s go over the main features of this app!
What Is A Plate?
From my experience using the app, a plate is nothing more than a photo album with various privacy, administration, and collaboration options. I’m still curious about why it’s called Plate, but that’s a question for another day.
When you head to the profile tab on the app (we tested the Android version of Plates), you can see an option to create a new plate. Clicking on this allows you to select a cover photo and add a name and description.
Here’s where you’ll find your personalized, chronologically ordered feed. It’s entirely based on the photography genres you select when launching the app for the first time. You can change these preferences later on under the Settings options. There aren’t currently any options to change this based on personal preferences. Images seen here are also from photographers you aren’t following and plates you aren’t subscribed to. While it’s more optimized for portrait orientation photos, I wish you could also scroll in it in landscape mode. Or there could be an option to filter photographs based on orientation. Clicking on a picture opens up the likes and comments details, with an option to subscribe to the plate it’s from. If you’d rather continue scrolling without seeing more details, there’s an option to double-click to like the photo.
I didn’t yet find a plate where I could request to contribute, but it’s nice to know this is a feature the app promotes. This helps build a community of photographers that are passionate about a common photo genre. In some ways, it sort of feels like Flickr’s groups concept.
You’ll need to go into the Search tab for this (which also allows you to search for people and plates). When you click on this tab, it shows you the currently trending hashtags and the number of photos uploaded to Plates with this hashtag added to them.
Type in a keyword to see how many photos come up under its hashtag, as well as other hashtags that have this keyword in it.
You can’t double-click on a photo to like it when you’re in the search results. A word of caution for the search tab – there doesn’t seem to be a way to clear your search queries. Don’t show this tab to a friend if it’s filled with NSFW queries.
Keeping It Different
Somewhat similar to what the Vero Social app has, is the privacy feature of each plate in Plates. Choose who can view the images in your plates based on these settings.
A Quick Chat With The Founder Of Plates
When Sarthak Mishra reached out to us to review Plates, I asked him if he’d answer a few questions about the app and his ideas for it. I was curious to know what led to the app’s creation. He graciously agreed and told us a bit about how it differs from other photography apps. My questions about the app’s privacy and security features remain unanswered.
The Phoblographer: What inspired you to create Plates? Do you remember when you decided to go ahead and make this app?
Sarthak Mishra: I used to look at the photos posted on Instagram, and while they looked nice and beautiful, they simply felt like a piece of content someone posted, did not provide much context, and felt incomplete. The way people share photos or videos today is mostly random. We wanted to provide them with tools that allowed them to share stories online that said something, tools that allowed them to create stories by stitching pieces of content that were connected. That’s when we thought that we had to create a platform that allowed for that. And that’s how Plates was born.
The Phoblographer: what sets Plates apart from other existing photo-sharing apps? What’s one key feature that makes it stand out?
Sarthak Mishra: Plates and Instagram are fundamentally different in the way storytelling and subscriptions work. Instagram’s core is photos or videos shared by a single person. Whereas Plates’ core is a continuous story told by one or several people sharing the same interest or experience. On Instagram, you follow a person and see their content one at a time. It does not provide much context or flow. There is no place for much collaboration either. Plates was designed differently from the very beginning giving you the tools to control your feed by subscribing to specific stories.
As creators, this also allows us to nicely organize our content; as a photographer or a content creator, you could create multiple plates on different themes under one account and publish content without worrying about spamming your subscriber’s feeds. You could even add other people as co-curators to your plates to co-create. Think photo walks, trips, etc
The Phoblographer: What’s the roadmap for the next five years for Plates?
Sarthak Mishra: Our vision is to empower people with the tools to create complete and meaningful stories online. Have a platform that has content at its core and is free from ads or malicious algorithms. We believe with tools such as that for curating content or collaborating with other creators, we will be able to build such a space.
Who Should Download Plates?
If you’re overwhelmed with adverts and reel videos on Instagram and want a clutter-free, distraction-free experience with photo sharing, give Plates a try. You don’t necessarily need to follow photographers to view photos. Just select your preferred genres and maybe subscribe to a few plates. But the community factor of Plates is probably best when you collaborate by contributing to other photographers’ plates. There’s no hidden algorithm that dictates how you view others’ photos or how yours show up in their feeds.
There’s potential, but this will depend on how many active users the app attracts. The app is currently available on iOS and Android.
The lead image for this article was provided by the founder of Plates, Sarthak Mishra. All other photos were screenshots taken by me.