If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you may be seeing some friends posting and sharing their photos through a service called Instagram and wondering what exactly it is. And why their photos look so awesome.

Instagram is a free iPhone app that is essentially a social network for photos, allowing you to not only to take photos and share them, but also edit and apply beautiful effects and filters to them that can make even that fuzzy candid of your toddler fishing his boot out of the toilet look pretty darn beautiful.

Instagram is similar to Hipstamatic, only there isn’t that horrible wait time while the settings load, and you can take the photo before you commit to a filtered effect. After you’ve got your pic, it’s easy to configure your settings to share on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, and a few other social networks. Or just upload it to your own Instagram stream.

Like Twitter, you can follow other users (it’s easy to find them through your social network accounts without spamming them thanks to matching email addresses), and like or comment on photos. But if nothing else, you can follow no one, keep your account private, and simply email the grandparents the pretty family portraits you’ve been snapping with your phone. –Jeana

Download the free Instagram app from the iPhones store for iPhone. It should be available soon for Android.

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