The Pros and Cons of Social Media
Social media is here to stay, but is it genuinely useful for the digital photographer?
Social sharing sites are an irremovable aspect of 21st Century life, and for photographers they offer a platform for displaying our work more easily and with far more reach than at any other time in the history of the medium. Facebook has over a billion users, while more than 300 million people upload their photographs to Instagram every year, so the potential for becoming a household name in photography is now truly within anyone’s grasp. That being said, there are several negative aspects of the photography community’s online behaviour that we need to be aware of if we are to create the impact we all hope for, gain the valuable feedback we crave and allow the images we take the attention they deserve. Worldwide audiences can be both a blessing and a curse, so here are some key things to consider to help you make the most of online galleries and photo-sharing options.
Observing what is ‘trending’ on a platform like Instagram or what has scored a high Pulse on 500px is very beneficial as a means of researching what genres and styles are popular in the world right now. Identifying what communities and picture editors find attractive may help you adjust your own approach to align with the contemporary wants and needs of publishers and the public.
A useful feature of some sites is that the image technical data is available, letting you see what settings yielded each effect. Often users will provide a description of their workflow, allowing you to replicate this.
One of the best aspects of sites such as Flickr and 500px is the sense of community. As time passes you’ll build relationships with other users, the more experienced of which will frequently offer constructive critiques of your work. This is a great way of gaining truthful and valuable opinions of how you are progressing as a photographer, free of the suspicion that your family and friends are being overly positive to avoid hurting your feelings.
There are plenty of inspirational photographers on Instagram and Flickr, so beginners in any genre have a wealth of quality images to aspire to. Finding a style you want to replicate is a perfect way to fuel your photographic education.
As online communities grow it can become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. With this fact comes a shift in users’ behaviour and it’s possible to see interaction through liking and commenting becoming more strategic than social. Comments like “Incredible!”, “Stunning” and “Best photo I’ve ever seen!!!!” may seem like good indicators of your work quality, but are far from useful for your progress. It’s more likely these users are hunting for mutual ‘likes’, so be aware of this.
We’re all guilty of becoming disheartened when our post on social media fails to perform. Your photo may have garnered only three likes, but you may simply have posted at the wrong time. Unfortunately it can needlessly kill your motivation.
Social media is only as useful as your audience and the people you follow. Social sites can be constructive for comparing your work to that of others for reference – just remember to take comments with a pinch of salt!