How Important Is Social Media to Photographers?

Has your online presence benefited your photography in any way? Or is just a waste of time and effort?

It’s a proven fact that social media can be a good tool for photographers in various ways. For one, social media makes it possible for people from opposite sides of the world to connect instantaneously, and that can do wonders for artists and viewers. Of course, for professional photographers and filmmakers, social media can be one of the most powerful tools if utilized the right way and in accordance with the algorithms that run the platforms. But it can also be a very beneficial avenue for beginners and passionate hobbyists as well. 

Social Media Isn’t Everything 

This is an important fact that has to be pointed out early on. Social media is not everything. For one, there are many industry professionals who do quite well without any social media presence, especially those who established their names and networks of clients way before everything hopped on social media. Sometimes, whether or not they have existing social media accounts, word-of-mouth recommendations aid them greatly, and social media may or may not be indirectly boosting that. 

Social media also isn't a valid measure of talent. If you’re a photographer who uses social media a lot, it is crucial that you know and understand that social media reach or following does not always equate to being a good photographer. Many factors come into play regarding this. Social media runs on various ever-changing algorithms. Most of them require tedious work on maintaining and being consistent with posting and responding to comments. Timing also plays a vital role. That said, many skilled professionals definitely don’t have the time and energy to maintain their social media accounts. 

How long you’ve been on a certain platform can also affect social media success. For example, a lot of people who were first to take Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube seriously can be quite successful in growing their reach simply because they were one of the first accounts to get noticed. Of course, marketing schemes also greatly affect social media reach. Many people, especially influencers on social media, have ginormous followings because of various strategies that they use to entice people to follow them. Many people do giveaway or raffles, while some even pull off scams just to get more clicks. 

Lastly, social media is obviously not exclusive to photographers. In fact, the major platforms that we all use are mostly dominated by celebrities and influencers that don’t necessarily have the skills to create compelling images or footage to post. The important point here is that so many factors come into play with social media that invalidate itself as a good measure of how good a photographer or filmmaker is. That said, it should not be your ultimate parameter as a creative. 

Professionals and Social Media 

The internet is huge. It’s much bigger than just Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or even Tiktok. But these major social media platforms are mainly what weave the internet together in terms of visibility. No matter where on the internet your portfolio or business website is, most of the time, people need to find it through social media. That is, of course, unless you’re doing something massive to get noticed offline (like on television or print) for thousands of people to be searching for you. 

Social media offers various ways for you to find clients and clients to find you. The most formal would possibly be through online classified ads and job searches much like how the traditional newspapers do it.  However, numbers would depend on the location and kind of clients that use this method over other forms. Another very effective platform specifically for finding clients is LinkedIn. Through this platform, many businesses are able to reach out to freelancers that fit their specific parameters. It’s also a more evolved version of the classified ads, as freelancers of a specific type are alerted by the platform if there are posts looking for them in their area. 

Perhaps the most straight-to-the-point way of being found on social media would be when clients directly search for you or stumble upon your posts or accounts and find exactly the kind of artistry that they need, and this usually leads to an easier process. 

Social Media Is Also Useful for Hobbyists

Though marketing might not be entirely essential for hobbyists, many of them benefit from social media as well. For one, social media bridges the gap between amateurs and professionals, allowing for the former to learn easily from the latter. Especially in this day and age, where many professionals engage in content marketing in which they teach in order to reach more people online, photographers of any skill level can benefit from them. 

However, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that being a professional or a hobbyist does not equate to talent either. And whether you are one or the other, good talent deserves to be seen and appreciated by the world. Social media makes that happen. Or at least it should.

Learning is also made easier on social media. They say you can now learn almost anything on the internet. True enough, a lot of the most successful photographers around the world nowadays started learning from some free YouTube video or online course. That in itself speaks of how much a photographer can benefit from social media. Aside from that, there are various ways of learning as well. For one, the mere fact that one is able to find and be inspired by works of total strangers could set a lot of learning and creation into motion. There are also online groups within and around social media that facilitate this kind of learning. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many social media groups emerged with live stream talks and tutorials not just about photography, but art in general. Lastly, despite how negative things can get in social media comment threads, there can be a lot of learning if one is able to filter out the pointless negativity. 

Social Media Is a Tool 

Much like a camera, a lens, or a tripod, what makes it good or bad is how you use it. If you’re a newbie seeking to learn more, social media can help you very well. If you’re a professional who wants to reach more potential clients, being social media savvy can boost your visibility. At the end of the day, you either use the tool or you leave it. Just don't let its bad side kill your passion and enthusiasm for the craft. 

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13 Comments

Gary Pardy's picture

I'm sure the relative importance is different for everyone, but for burgeoning pros without a lot of word-of-mouth clients, your Insta is an important way to communicate your visual style to clients who have nothing else to go on.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

That's true. Before I turned professional, my first ever client found me on instagram and turned out to be a huge and recurring project. They said they were looking for someone to shoot architecture the way I shot skylines.
My instagram is barely developed but there really is value in maintaining it.

Charalampos Kiakotos's picture

Very intrested article. Thanks.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Thank you for reading!

Bob McClenahan's picture

Social media ain't important until it is. I was asked to bid on a job for major company. In their response, they said I wasn't qualified because I didn't have at least 100,000 Instagram followers. They didn't care about the quality of my work or if followers are robots, they only cared about the number.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Wow. What kind of job was this? Were they looking for photographers or endorsers?

Bob McClenahan's picture

They obviously wanted both. Someone who could also help promote their products and get photos of their products.

jim hughes's picture

Good summary of the situation. Correct in pointing out that some photographers seem to have 'reach' because they got started early. However, that's not going to work in the future, because it's all going to pay-to-play.

I've found Facebook to be a waste of (a lot of) effort because organic reach is on its way to zero. I wrote a bog post about this:
https://jimhphoto.com/index.php/2020/07/09/facebook-for-photographers-a-...

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

I totally agree, Jim. I'm one of those who benefited from playing the game on facebook quite early. My instagram on the other hand has been stuck for years. Also because instagram is dominated by half naked people.

Charles Mercier's picture

hmmm, maybe I should get on IG.....

jim hughes's picture

I guess the next question is this: ok, you now pay for reach - can it be worth the money?

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

I see it happening for many businesses around my area but not much for photographers. Though for context, I live in a third world country.

jim hughes's picture

This is a topic I'm really interested in - how could I, a small time "fine art" [cough] photographer, possibly make FB ads pay off? I think the short answer is, there's probably no way. But there might be a long answer which I'm not able to figure out on my own.