Social media and the craft of photography
Do you feel overcome by technology? It has a place in everybody’s life but for some it can overtake their day to day life. The new phone that we ‘need’ doesn’t do very much more than the phone we already have. Similarly the new digital camera. We are at saturation. So it is with images of everything which are everywhere. The internet has created ‘experts’ on nearly everything with the danger that information being absorbed is not as it seems or what it should be. “Fake news’. The ability to discern becomes all important.
For photographers the rise of social media has mainly been a frustrating phenomenon. Many ‘likes’ on your Facebook or instagram page do not usually translate into any increase in paying business. Further, we can spend valuable time; a commodity of which there is no more once it is gone, on trying to improve our social media profiles when we should be spending this time actually shooting and improving our own websites.
Using today’s social media presents the possibility of having lots of people looking at you but for no special reason as mostly they are not magazine editors, advertising creatives or publishers who still want to meet their chosen photographers face to face in real time. Your own well managed website is your invitation for them to get in touch, so best to put your non shooting time there.
In all types of social media we are continually hearing about the ‘influencer’class. It is a symptom of the pervasiveness of the internet that an influencer can exist, rather than an acknowledged expert who we know is correctly qualified in their field therefore able to hold a valid opinion and give valuable advice. The influencer’s advice may or may not be valuable or useful and at worst may be damaging. Caveat emptor – buyer beware. This is where social media can actually be monetized. You too can become an influencer – simply build up a substantial following and suddenly you’re interesting to the manufacturers of whatever your preferred gear is. Backpack, power supplies, lenses, lens filters, tripods, remote shutters, your camera, even your designer clothing. If John Smith used it to get that great shot then I want one too! Wow John – you’re an influencer. For the photographer who values the ‘craft’ of photography, becoming one of these incredible influencers is not that useful, mainly because it sucks up time which cannot be repurposed to the real work. And did any of those thousands of followers actually buy anything because John has it? Probably not, but John has spent 1 or 2 hours most days maintaining his social media rankings.
You’re probably thinking – social media, ho hum. But wait a moment; it can be useful in a most useful way – maintaining a community. Our colleagues whom we know and interact with regularly, we will be in touch with them face to face, by phone or email – simple. But what about those we don’t know personally and will probably never know in this way, suddenly through the magic of social media Bill Brown from Toronto makes contact with suggestions to solve a lens problem John's been tweeting about. Now that’s cool and valuable.
The final word – what do I do? Well my interests are photography’s technical side so I love trying new gear, vintage and modern. When I started needing photography there was only film, then digital arrived and we were early adopters of the new technology such as it was - remember the Kodak DC50 Zoom? Now I am back with film, 35mm and 120 medium format. You can’t beat the subtle nuances of black and white. Of course, for commercial work we are all modern digital, but for my own personal work I choose film every time. Social media - I'm afraid I've abdicated! If you need, or want to contact me you can easily do so via this website, by cellphone or you could write a letter - you know, the one you put a stamp on. P.O. Box 37152, Parnell, Auckland 1052 NZ.