The pressures of Social Media for photographers
The pressures of social media for photographers.
I love social media, it allows me to keep in touch with friends I don’t live close to now. Watching their families grow and the achievements and goals they stroke off their life list. For me it’s also to keep in touch with like-minded people who are into photography. Let’s talk a little more about that photography part.
In the beginning, social media was great to add the odd photo of my life, keep in touch with friends and family. But with time people I have no clue who they are started asking me to be their friend. At first, I was very reserved and said no if they were not directly in my social circles. But over time FB started showing the association of these people to friends you currently have. I figured if it’s photography I enjoy then the more I look at it the merrier, right?
This was around the time I decided to start teaching photography so it gave me the push every day to get out there and shoot so I had fresh content to post. As a photographer that spent the majority of his life in the province he lived in made me be artistic and creative. It opened that creative mind that artists get when they have all the motivation to get out and shoot.
Over time I’m on the road posting photos from Europe and the states as I love to travel. But I soon realize Canada is a beautiful country and I want to shoot more here. And so, I do, travelling from coast to coast collecting images for my new business venture. I enjoyed this immensely as I’m always posting fresh content that’s relevant and relatable images to what’s happening across Canada today.
But what happens to the people back home who see these images? Most non photographers comment and say how beautiful the locations are that I visit. And to me that’s exactly “my point” I’m trying to get across to people. I try to capture every moment in Canada to the best of my ability to share to my readers like they were right there with me.
Let’s look at the flip side to this. To a photographer this may make them jealous. And I’m not just talking about my images, I’m talking about everybody’s images you may see every day on Facebook, Instagram or whatever social media platform you favour. Let’s throw this in a context that may be relatable to both you and me. You gain photographer friends on FB or Instagram and they may be retired or wealthy. They travel all the time and post the most perfect pictures of locations you could only dream of visiting. Or they are constantly out shooting all the time and giving you the best shots to see. This puts up a big wall that might make you separate them from you as a photographer.
Let’s recap a bit of that last paragraph. So, we have to suck it up, some people have worked hard to have all the fancy gear, money to travel or a reason to shoot while traveling. First off for the viewer we compare our work to their work and we may get ourselves in a funk. Let’s face it the world of social media is flooded with top shelf images that are publication quality. Some people could post images of this caliber every day and not once in their life be a published artist. Some may not care because photography is nothing more than just a hobby. Most of all, the beautiful picture of today will be forgotten tomorrow. As somebody out there with a camera will be sure to capture the next amazing shot.
But many people who do view these images start to take it to heart. They feel their images may be subpar to the social world they have created. Or that they just can’t achieve those images on their own because they don’t know how to do it or where to go. Or compare their gear to somebody walking around with 50K plus in gear. But what you don’t know is some of these people may put themselves in so much debt just to get to a location to get these images. Does debt equal happiness? In the interim I can see it would, until reality sets in and you are stuck paying off a credit card for one week of happiness.
Let’s look at the other side of the picture now that you may not think about. These people who post exceptional images that you may have big eyes for, but haltered in your heart for their ability may have a different side of the story. Some people in the social media world are referred to as mentors or influencers. These are people that others look up too, it could be because you think they are exceptional artist. They could offer help in the field you are trying to work in to reach a common goal. These people are not always in 100% mental health and I’m going to tell you why.
In the world of photography when you are an influencer or mentor to others you need to provide exceptional images. Or people start to judge you and say “why is this person in their position?” Any little flaw in their image and people will pick it apart, secretly like a psycho in their little pixel peeping lab. Judgement behind closed doors is something that may not be a thing of the past as now people may outright talk about you on social media. You need to have thick skin in this business or people can eat you up really fast. Because nobody likes to see you doing better then them in a competitive world. So, this in turn puts pressures on this mentor or influencer to need to provide. Not only for possible contractual obligations to a sponsor but to their own viewers.
How many times have you gone out shooting and not brought home the perfect shot. In my mind, I would like to say I never have, to keep me aspiring to always find better. But reality is this can happen quite often. The variables of so many one in a million shots are exactly as said one in a million. Weather, the killer to so many situations. Light could be bad for a wildlife photographer, or raining or snowing too hard. Some photographers embrace it and push their gear to the max in those situations to get those shots in a natural element. Wildlife, its wild and so unpredictable. You can’t say ummm excuse me Mr. bear can you lift your head and a little to the left so I can get some catch light? I’m sick of seeing the top of your head! Or, Mr. Humpback can you do a breach for me now please? I can say I have been in pods of humpbacks over a 100 thick and some days they just don’t feel like jumping. If the water is to calm I find the activity can be minimal. If you go out on a day with waves they use them to help lunge out of the deep waters. But hey have you ever gone out and photographed in 1-2 meter swells? Not fun at all. Or how about travelling 2-3 connecting flights to get so far north to see the northern lights and the cloud cover all week is thick and the one day the sky is clear there are no lights that night? Some photographers can shrug this off and come back and try it again. Others may be disappointed as the cost to do this trip put them in the hole for nothing to show for it. Or to the influencer who promised to provide not only exceptional images to a sponsor but to their viewers. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on them! I have run countless weeks of workshops in the Yukon in Northern Canada. This location is so full of wildlife it’s not funny, each ecosystem has another species to present to clients. Some weeks you are lucky to see a raven in the parking lot at Tim Hortons. Other weeks you can’t drive more than 50km without having an intimate encounter with some wildlife species that almost poses for you. It’s like they almost look at you with those eyes that say, “am I doing this right, let me know?” Or some people come up and can see a few little shows of northern lights. The following week its massive storms from sunset to sunrise and I’m standing there thinking “really, can you give me at least one night off here I’m exhausted!” There is no science to it all, call it luck, putting in your time, right place right time, horseshoe up you’re a** or just the way the ball rolls.
We as photographers tend to put too much pressure on ourselves. We need to sit back and realize the less pressure we put on ourselves the better our success tends to happen. Not only that but you have a clear mind to be more creative in the field.
So, once you are over the whole I need the perfect shot to post every day scenario. Let’s sit down and try to figure out what type of approach works best for posting on social media. Every day it seems what method worked a week ago is not working today. The platforms constantly change, how to post, how may hashtags to use, what groups are hot, why are there only 15 people in my news feed and who are these people? Why did I spend money on a sponsored post and now Facebook thinks I have 500 dollars a week to spend on adds? Social media is an ever-changing world that you need to keep on top of as a poster. And it can really get the best of you some days if things are not working out as you planned.
Social media influencers are saying that 80% of most appealing content will be video based by 2019. For images, they feel a story of emotion will capture the moment of somebody scrolling through their news feed. Rather then a short description or settings for your image. Images are very one to two dimensional, it only allows somebody to see a single moment of time. Therefore you need set the story and tell the viewers in emotion to allow the image more dimension.
The number one thing to remember is always be yourself! Just relax and enjoy your craft. Use social media to connect with like-minded people who struggle like “WE ALL DO”. When you see somebody’s post that’s an exceptional photo but you may not like them, give them a like and a comment as they deserve it! As they should do the same to you and that’s how the community of photographers should work in reality. Ask people for help or questions about their image or your image, if its personal then private message them instead. If people can’t take the time out of their day to help you at some point then I suggest you click on that unfriend button. Then start looking for more positive people to be a influencer or mentor in your social world.
Happy shooting my friends!