Some say that social media is destroying photography as we know it. You no longer need to be a skilled photographer or even own a proper camera to show your pictures to the world and let people judge your work. But to really understand the concept of social media, and how it affects today’s photography, let’s look at the very beginning.
When photography first came out in the 1830s, it revolutionized the art world. All of a sudden you no longer needed to be a skilled painter to create pictures. Although at that time photography was a slow and expensive process, it allowed for more people to create portraits of their families that could last a lifetime - somewhat of a miracle at the time.
Then, 35mm film was first introduced. Photography itself became small enough to take out and capture pictures on the go. Photojournalism boomed, and photography exploded as a medium. Although still a costly endeavor, now every family could enjoy taking and printing pictures.
Fast forward to 1900, when the first consumer camera was sold, and then to 2000 when digital photography entered the market on a large scale. What it lost in quality it made up in price - instead of paying money for every shot you take, now all you have to do is buy a camera and memory card, and it can be reused time and time again.
In 2011 alone, there were more than 400 billion photographs taken. This number is expected to reach around 1.2 trillion pictures this year. That is approximately 137 million pictures taken every hour.
Now just let that number sink in for a while…
Done? Ok, now let’s get into how this affects the social media (or vice versa).
Social Media is Changing Photography
As you can imagine, the majority of pictures taken today end up on social media - selfies, pet shots, baby shots, food shots… You name it, it's making its way to your Facebook and Instagram feed.
But with such a ginormous number of pictures being taken every day, not all of the photographs are unskilled snaps of Susan’s cat named Mittens. Quite a large number of these photos are professional pieces of art, being shared into the wide space of the digital universe we call the internet.
So yes - I suppose you could say that social media is destroying photography as we knew it twenty years ago, but it is not all bad news for us photographers! After all, while the introduction of 35mm created much controversy at the time it came out, it also granted wider access to photography for the general public. And this helped to create strong markets in photography that nobody could have imagined in the past.
See where I'm going with this?
The industry is definitely changing, but change is only bad for those who don’t adapt to the new ways and get buried together with all the photographic relics.
How to Use Social Media to Your Advantage
All of the best photographers need exposure to become successful. After all, no good comes from having hard drives filled with amazing photography if nobody will ever see it. What you need to do is get your hands on the available resources to get your work out there, into the world. In other words, embrace social media and start finding ways that it can benefit you.
According to Forbes, Instagram has over 500 million active users. That’s an extremely wide potential audience you could be showcasing your work to, don’t you think?
So create yourself an account on Instagram, stick your best shots onto your feed, and start creating a following. Once you reach a big enough audience, you will even have a chance to become an influencer - a great way to make some money on the side.
See, influencers work closely with brands who utilize their audience for marketing. So you would no longer be selling your pictures, but using your pictures to reach an audience that can be converted into money! Not necessarily a conventional way of using photography, but why not give it a try?
Facebook is not only a great way to stay in touch with your family and friends, but also an excellent resource for marketing and advertising a business (photography included). You can create your own business page completely free of charge, and attract an audience that will follow and like your work. You can link from this business page to your online shop of choice, or even create a dedicated Facebook shop, where you can sell your work and services. Pretty nifty, huh? But wait, there’s more.
While through most of the 2000s Google has dominated the online advertising market, now Facebook has become a big rival for it. With over 2 billion users, Facebook has become the biggest platform for advertising to reach your target audience. And with people expressing what they like, where they study or where they live, those adverts can be crafted to suit the niche that you are aiming for.
All in all, if done right, Facebook could potentially be your main source of exposure. It would be silly not to give it a try.
500px is a photography website, where you can create yourself a portfolio and share it with fellow photographers. It is great for being a part of a photography community and receiving feedback from other professionals. Another neat side to 500px is that you can put your pictures on their marketplace and sell them for commercial purpose.
While digital photographs are flooding our lives, this creates a new niche for prints. Hand printed and handcrafted work is now valued with higher importance than it was back in the traditional photography days.
Websites like Etsy allow you to create your own online shop where you can sell your handmade prints. Be creative and unique, and you will find yourself a market there!
There are many more potential ways to harness the power of social media to pull you into the top of the photography industry. But just like anything else, it requires time and hard work to build a following.
However, it doesn't mean that you can't redirect the audience on your Instagram to your Etsy shop, or 500px. Be smart, be creative. Experiment with these new platforms and see where they take you.
Let's Be Grateful for Social Media
So, all in all, it seems that social media can definitely be used to your advantage, but only if you approach it correctly. It isn't harmful or destructive - it’s simply different. Photography has always been at the forefront of innovation and new technologies, and we should be glad that it doesn't have any plans of stopping anytime soon. Afterall, it’s what makes it fun.
So, go online, register on different social media websites, and see how you can use it for your photography. And keep in mind what Joyce Meyer once said - “Don’t be afraid of change because it’s leading you to a new beginning.”
Enjoy a few tips for using Instagram to create better photos in the video above by Mango Street.