Why Reducing Your Social Media Use Can Help Make You a Better Photographer

Why Reducing Your Social Media Use Can Help Make You a Better Photographer

Photographers today are the first generation of image makers who are entering an industry completely dominated by social media. Over the course of the last decade, social media has utterly surpassed virtually all other forms of marketing and has quickly become a dominating factor in lives of a huge part of the population, especially photographers. Social media use, however, suffers from some pretty severe implications that can have a limiting factor on the quality of work a photographer creates.

Social Media Never Stops Demanding Your Attention

Posting photos to social media doesn't take much time, and responding to messages from potential clients or fans also don't take much time (for most of us). What does take tremendous time? Scrolling through an endless feed of content day in and day out. I get it, to effectively use social media you need to interact, but lets be honest: how much of your social media time is spent actively engaging in relevant posts to grow brand recognition? Rather, how much time is wasted sauntering through shots of food, vacations, memes, babies, Instagram models, cats, and the rest of the distracting noise that buzzes through your feed each day?

Social media has become such a dominating force in our psyche that we consider it near ubiquitous. Its cost, however, is tremendous. According to Social Media Today, the average user invests just shy of two hours using social media per day. Realistically, how many photographers are really representative of an "average" user if we are being honest? In the simplest sense, you are wasting a lot of time browsing around social media — time that could be spent optimizing your craft or investing in your health.

Social Media Drains Optimism

Whether it be the constant frustration of forever shouting into a void that most social media users experience as they desperately try to grow their meager following, the endless negative whine of social justice trying to ignite enrage culture, or the constant reminder that there is always someone out there who is better than you, social media has a tremendous dampening effect on our mood. Even research studies such as this one by the University of Pittsburgh have found strong correlation between increased rates of depression and heavy social media use. As much as the stereotype of the starving and miserable artist seems to show up in society, photographers often need to maintain a high level of confidence and optimism in order to share work with subjects and clients in a positive way.

Social Media Offers the Wrong Type of Critique

Useful critique is usually a combination of experience and motivation. A critique from someone motivated to help you with the experience to offer sound advice can be transformative for a photographer. Alternatively, critique from a keyboard warrior with no experience and foul motivation can be one of the most destructive forces a photographer can encounter. Social media is a vessel that allows these vile creatures access to photographers looking to build better portfolios.

Scott Kelby once discussed the power of unsolicited critique that featured an example of a photographer who's positivity was robbed by someone who critiqued her fantastic work in a harsh way. This is an experience far too many photographers can relate to. If online dating sites paired couples as efficiently as social media pairs artists to trolls, everyone in the world would be using online dating.

Conclusion

Social media, like anything else, is most functional when used in moderation. I'd never be so foolish as to suggest that you completely cut yourself off from social media. Rather, I would strongly caution against using it so heavily that it becomes a barbarically dominating force within your life. Take a step back and analyze the return on investment social media is adding to your life and career so that you can focus only on the aspects which are providing a worthwhile ROI while phasing out the aspects that have become more of an anchor than a stepping stone.

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14 Comments

Mike Kelley's picture

All of the above. It also looks bad when you're standing around on a shoot with your head buried in your phone.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Yup! Far too many photographers have started prioritizing BTS over the actual shoot itself at this point as well.

Craig Tedeton's picture

I used to spend so much time posting across platforms. Now I use services like IFTTT (ifttt.com) to sync posts across as many platforms as possible. Naturally there are ones that forbid that level of api access, such as Instgram, so I still must manually update there.

It has ALL gotten out of control and self-defeating. Now the rate of decline in overall quality of work has probably surpassed the rate of increase in frequency. Can't really see some end to this cultural shift, but sure wish I could.

Talk about timing...this article sums up exactly how I currently feel about instagram (and other forms of social media). Awesome article "take a step back and analyze the return on investment social media is adding to your life and career..." Thank you!

Dallas Dahms's picture

SocMed is the scourge of humanity. I wish it would die.

Colin Johnson's picture

Which is why I quit Facebook three years ago. I tried going back recently, but couldn't. It is a pointless waste of time IMHO...

Dallas Dahms's picture

Unfortunately I have to be on there because of my digital business, but recently I removed all my photos (and they make that VERY difficult to do by insisting you remove them one at a time), personal info and changed the name of my personal account. I despise Facebook and everything they have done to the web since they first emerged.

One day in the not too distant future, I hope, people will begin to turn the tide back towards regular online platforms that actually create their own content.

Social Media.... where time goes to die.
Great article Ryan.

Kirk Darling's picture

Great article.

Anonymous's picture

Well said~

David Justice's picture

With everything, it's good and bad. But to just ignore Instagram would be bad business. If I'm on someone else's time getting paid for my time? You bet your ass I won't be on my phone. If I'm doing a personal project, editorial submission, or TFP and the setup or location is awesome? I'm going to have some more fun with it.

Like everything in life, it depends on your situation. I personally love Instagram stories. Especially when people are doing BTS for their shoots, it's a great look into the creation of a photo that doesn't always get seen. Hell, Mike Kelley, who commented on here has had some great stories of him shooting architecture that I really enjoyed.

Matthew Odom's picture

I have slowed way down on my social media presence (especially FB). I do try to do BTS because so many people find it helpful! The trick is to wait until a shoot is over and then do a bts. I've seen photogs BTS during the middle of a shoot with the client...that's a little out of line.

Arun Hegden's picture

Incredible article, for a trial i uninstalled whatsapp and instagram for 2 weeks and i started receiving more calls than ever. I found more time for myself; at least 2 hours a day.
Eventually i had to install them back as to keep in touch/ use to receive enquires from clients.
So this social media break helps in a way. :)

Professor Une's picture

So true. These days, everyone is a photographer with mobile phones. What people miss is the effort taken by those lugging 'real' cameras around and actually taking time to compose and wait for the right moment.