I've decided to tackle social media in my monthly blog post. Social media came to the forefront because a friend of mine, Alex Boone, who is also a photographer, was struggling with what he called "social media noise". Social media saturation, in other words, was affecting him and his work, but truthfully, it affects a lot of creative people. When is it too much? Are we using the platforms effectively? If we are using it for professional reasons, are we doing it correctly? Most importantly, in terms of what you use as an artist, are we using them intelligently?
There are so many social media platforms on the Internet today, that in some cases, it feels overwhelming. We have the option of using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, 500px, VSCO, Pinterest, etc. Where does it end? In the age of digital photography, where everyone is a photographer (to a degree!), do we need social media to set ourselves apart from everyone else? Can we rise above the ... noise?
In light of this topic, coming to the forefront, I've made a few changes. I've deleted my Twitter and photography Facebook Page. Did I do this because I had too many platforms to consider when posting a photo? Are they necessary? I chose comfort level. I've chosen, arguably, the platforms that cater to photographers, for my own work. I believe Instagram, VSCO, and Tumblr have some of the very best photography communities on the Internet today. But then again, instead of relying on my word, I've decided to interview three photographers about their philosophy behind social media, and the reason behind their usage of certain platforms. Let's have a look at what they have to say.
Let's start with my best friend, and the person who made me think about my own personal social media struggles, Alex Boone.
He's a 27 year old photographer from Ottawa, Canada. He started with photography by trying it out during high school, and uses the medium to express himself, and to help show people what he sees through the lens.
Marc: Do you use social media for your photography? If yes, what do you use, and how often are you using it? If no, why not? Do you think it can help your photography?
Alex: I use social media for photography, it's a great platform for getting your work out into the world without opening up an international gallery, and dumping thousands and thousands of dollars into one. I use, at the moment, two platforms: Facebook and Instagram. These two platforms allow me to show my work to two audiences that I care about, for Facebook, it's for my family and friends. Instagram allows me to share with friends that I have met through Instagram itself and other photographers I've met through 'Instameets!'. Instagram, with the use of 'hashtags', allows you to share to a much wider audience who look at images that use those hashtags.
I've recently started a social media diet. I found myself over stimulated with such amazing and awe-inspiring images that in some ways was making me a little depressed or uninspired with my own work. I deleted my Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. I also purged whom I follow on Instagram, limiting what I see. With Instagram, I'm now only following my friends. My friends who have either commented, liked, or promoted my feed to their friends.
Marc: Would you agree that social media can saturate your work? Are we relying on it too much? Could photographers succeed in today's world with only one social media platform?
Alex: Social media has definitely become saturated, super saturated. I'm not sure if we rely on social media for photography but more people have become attached to it for its instant gratification of 'likes' or 'comments' on their work. Don't get me wrong, there's something nice about having your work 'liked'. The sad part, is that's all people care about. 'Likes' and promotion are at the forefront. They don't 'like' back or they follow people, and then unfollow to try and gain followers. The follower number on Instagram gives you some sort of private club member status.
I think that with today's social media, like Instagram, success is measured in followers and not by whom you work with, but in the same breathe with a large follower count, people want to work with you, like brands and companies, because they want to tap into your "fan base". They want your audience which will in turn have them like their brand, and it creates this weird follow-for-follow. Some photographers only work with certain "brands" because of the fan-base and exploit their own fans to gain followers from that 'brand'.
Marc: What do you think about a website? If you have one, does it improve your business? Could you make it work without a website?
Alex: Websites work in a couple ways, if you're good with analytics and have cash, you can concentrate your traffic to your site. The other is if you have been in the business for several years and already have a large clientele list I think you need social media today, more than ever to drive traffic to you. Website, could work, if you have tons of business cards and shoot 24/7 amazing content!
Marc: Finally, if you are using social media, which platform is your favourite? And why is it your favourite? List a couple of positives and negatives about your favourite social media platform.
Alex: I primarily use Instagram, even after my social media purge. It's one of the world's largest photography communities ever, so the fact that you can communicate, or share, with people in Japan and South Africa, and share your passion of photography. No matter what language you speak, a photo translates into all of them.
Instagram Pros: Largest pool of photographers, awesome content, awesome brands that I wouldn't have known existed without Instagram.
Instagram Cons: Fake accounts, follow-unfollowers, spam, and overpowering content.
Now, with the next two photographers, I will reveal some of my favourite things they've had to say in regards to social media.
Let's continue with Maddie Mills, based in St. John's, Newfoundland. She has a "super strong" familial connection to rural Newfoundland, where she enjoys the chance to showcase that love in her work. She's a photographer for two reasons: 1. preserving life and memories, and 2. she's extremely passionate about making people happy.
"I don't necessarily agree with the point that social media can saturate your work, as the beauty of social media is that we have complete control over what we share and how we share it. I do see validity however in the point about relying too heavily on media outlets, its potentially easy to get wrapped up in one aspect of running a business and neglect others. As for the idea of having only one social media platform, I definitely think success is possible with planning and strategy to reach the clients you want!"
"Websites have the potential to be extremely beneficial, especially if they are professional and eye catching. It's a great way to help clients get to know you, and see lots of important information in one place! I do have one, and it has definitely improved my business. As I mentioned, it can be the central hub of your photography which really helps clients get some insight into working together! That being said, websites are another aspect in an ocean of social media possibilities. While I firmly believe it is professional and beneficial to have one, other outlets provide reach as well."
Our next photographer, is Robert Thornhill, based in Carbonear, Newfoundland. He is a father of two and a husband. He always had a love for his film camera when he was a teenager, and once his first child came into the world, he grabbed a DSLR, and with the results, came the obsession. Seven years later, he's a full-time photographer.
Robert has a unique perspective in regards to social media. His first child, Erica, suffered, and later died, after her battle with cancer. He took to social media in relation to a parking dispute he had with the local hospital, here in St. John's. After that came an article on the CBC. You can say that the story went viral, in Newfoundland terms. The majority of people were respectful towards his dispute, but some would try to persuade him about alternative cancer treatments, etc. This changed the way Robert uses social media, for his own photography work.