Letters to the Editor is a recurring series where Chris answers specific emails/letters that could benefit more than one photographer, interesting questions or questions that come in often. Have a question? Send it to chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com with subject: Letter to the Editor: (Your name here).
Hey everyone, Letters to the Editor is back! My apologies for the delay; I was busy with media press trips, catching up on work, etc. But enough about me. Just remember that when you send questions, please send it with the Letters to the Editor subject line so that I know that I have your permission to share it in one of these posts.
Today’s question comes from Michael, who is asking about the best social media platform for a growing photographer. It’s a question that you all ask very often.
I’m sure you get this question all of the time and the subject may be a bit of a dead horse, but in your opinion what is the best social media platform for a growing photographer to post their work to these days? Personally I’d like to find a place where I can post my work and then improve it by having feedback from the community as well as being able to look at other peoples’ work for inspiration.
In my opinion Instagram has become this place that is built on posting “engaging” content…if is good it attracts a lot of attention and if it doesn’t attract that attention you’re left wondering what it is about that photo the viewers don’t like. That can be quite confusing for a photographer working on their craft. For me, Instagram also breeds this mentality of pandering to the crowd and creating photos for the audience and not for yourself.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and keep up the great work on the site!
Thanks for your question.
Now before I start, I would be an absolutely horrible business owner if I didn’t tell you that I’m teaching you quite a bit about this subject in April. It’s a three day online workshop of one hour each night. You’ll get:
- Daily email lessons
- Access to a private Facebook group where you can connect with other photographers.
- If you can’t make it to the live showings, all of the sessions are recorded and you get lifetime access to the course content.
It’s only $97 (less than a Canon 50mm f1.8 lens), but when you use the code “thephoblographer” you’ll get $30 off. I genuinely encourage you to do yourself a favor become the photographer that stops asking these questions and instead become the photographer thinks smarter. And you’ll learn this from a guy who genuinely started from nothing in this industry.
Now: to your question, which I will explain but in fair depth but will be much more in depth in the workshop.
Instagram has been evolving for a while. Sure, it’s about photography, but the biggest accounts are cute things, hot chicks, hot chicks doing yoga, food, models, etc. For many genuine photographers, it can be uber tough to compete. Some make it, some don’t. But they all actually network with the gatekeepers and the larger accounts. More on that in a bit.
So how do you hack your way to the top?
- Studying the accounts that aggregate and share work of other photographers; then find a way to leech off of their following
- Collaborate with brands
- Being much more curatorial about the content that you post
Instagram, like much of the art world, is about who you know more than what you know. So you’ll need to network with those people who are the gatekeepers to getting you more of a following–and that applies to more than just Instagram. A number of publications do it like FStoppers, Feature Shoot, and Resource Magazine. In general, I’ll recommend sticking to Feature Shoot and Resource Magazine; the work they feature is far less empty hype-based fodder and much more deep, thought provoking and inspiring content.
But there are also a load of other sites and accounts that do this. I even thought about doing it for the Phoblographer.
The biggest problem with Instagram is that, well, too many people are on it. And the people there obviously value photography; but they don’t necessarily value it as an art form. They value it to satisfy their own needs and wants. As much as Instagram tries to market itself as an artistic medium, a simple browse through of many of the accounts will show you that it’s really not a platform whose users value art necessarily. Much of it is for promotional uses.
My personal recommendation for genuine photography? EyeEm.
EyeEm doesn’t even really have businesses with accounts; it’s more about the individual user who creates compelling work. Their system finds good work, promotes it, rewards it, and their staff finds those photographers, features them on their blog, etc. I’ve been working closely with them for a while and they don’t pay me sponsorship dollars to say this. I genuinely believe in their product; and this entire year we’re teaming up to do what they call missions: which are community based contests where you can score prizes.
On EyeEm, hashtagging is still important, but it works in a different way. When you search for a hashtag, it will bring up images and albums with said hashtag. The way your personal feed works is different from Instagram and the Discover feed helps you to find new and amazing work. It’s both mobile and desktop based, but they started as a mobile app.
500px is also pretty good; but I haven’t used it in a while. By that I mean years because I didn’t like the community back then despite my having an image that made Editor’s Choice. But it works for some people, and the Editor in Chief of their blog, DL Cade, has a passion for finding and promoting smart, authentic work.
Where 500px excels though is getting feedback. Folks will genuinely do it. But in all honesty, you’re best off getting a portfolio critique from an actual photo editor or a photographer that’s made it. I do it often for many of the photographers I interview. A bunch have sent me 60 something photos that I’ve had to narrow down to 15 or so.
Now here’s the more advanced tactic that I’ll touch on just a bit and talk about much more in-depth in the workshop. Social media is important; but everyone has a peak at one point or another. It works to a certain point, but what works better is building your own actual community. Jason Lanier is a genius at this. He uses YouTube, his blog, Instagram, has his own Facebook group where the people who went to his workshops share seriously great photography, and he has actual interactions with his followers.
When you gather a flock, the shepherd needs to tend to it. But every member needs it own individual tending to. Take it from a guy who built a large, independent photography blog.
One more thing: don’t underestimate the power of having coffee with one of the gatekeepers to those accounts.