Don't Be An Annoying, Whiny Photographer On Social Media

Don't Be An Annoying, Whiny Photographer On Social Media

It's time to mention the huge elephant in the room, and shed some light on some catastrophic social media blunders made by photographers everyday on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. Time to decide to either take the high road of professionalism and maturity or drown in the sea of misguided, no name whiners who act like children. At least my children have an excuse.

Right, ok, so you've seen the posts. You've seen the tweets. The endless stream of mostly self-righteous declarations of perceived injustices, incendiary criticisms and inexcusable transgressions. Because, by golly, someone needs to call out these idiots, you are thinking, and it may as well be you. Right? 

Allow me to use this article to do my own share of calling out, in hopes that I can perhaps dissuade you to post such things. 

UPDATE: After all the feedback I received about this article, I have written a follow up: Be a Purposeful, Confident Photographer on Social Media.

Woe Is Me

Also known as "My business sucks and I am mad about it" posts.

Ok so, right off the bat, who cares? You do, of course. Your friends might, your mom likely does. If your kids depend on your business to eat, I would wager they care. But your potential clients on social media care? Nope. Telling them your business is in a current downturn is basically saying "Don't hire me." No one hires an alleged professional service provider out of pity. In fact, they may assume you're in that hole because of your own doing. Or maybe you're just no good at what you do. And remember, when you are self employed, business goes up and down, plain and simple. Keep that to yourself.

Dump and Run

"Follow me!", "Like my Page!", "Vote for my photo!" etc.

If you're trying to, you know, gain clients via social media, you may want to make a small effort to try to tell them why they should bother with you. When you "dump and run" a link to your Page, Profile, etc. on social media networks with not so much as a "Hello" involved in it, you are sending only one clear message: You just want to increase your count of mostly vapid followers. What sort of incentive are you giving potential clients to contact you when you do this? None. You just want empty Likes and Followers so you can be pleased with yourself for a few minutes.

What does one real client do that ten thousand random social media fans don't? Hire you.

Calling Out

"Let me tell you what so-and-so did, and why they are sooooo wrong!" posts and tweets.

Bad news: No one cares. That is, no one who is likely going to hire you cares. In my experience, most photographers who are "calling out" other photographers are doing so in lieu of taking real action against often very serious allegations.

Someone stealing your photos? Call your lawyer. Contact the offending party directly. Send nasty letters. Tackle your problem head on, and work to solve it (You know, the way you did before Facebook? Yeah, that.) Same goes for clients who haven't paid you timely, or at all. Take real action and get a lawyer involved, don't try to call them out in some passive-aggressive manner to other potential clients on your social media venues. Because, come on, would you hire someone who you just saw bitching about a previous client? 

Or hey, some obviously amateur photographer is doing well in their business, and getting hired regularly, and this makes you mad because you are convinced you're better than they are? That's not your concern. Go back to paying attention to your business, and get your head out of junior high.

Heard about a photographer who lies to clients, or associates, or models, or is just a fraud, plain and simple? Guess what, that's hearsay, not evidence. If you don't have evidence, shut up. If you do have evidence, as I said before, contact the authorities. Don't wanna put the time and effort into actually doing that? Then you don't care as much as you think you do, so shut up. Potential clients don't want to think that the photography industry is wrought with liars and thieves.

Had a previous client lie to you? Another photographer steal your gear? Physically threaten you? Assault you? Call the freaking police. Contact the local newspapers and TV stations. Personally call or text your closest associates and friends and tell them exactly what happened. Make a huge deal about it, and work to get this obviously dangerous person off the streets as soon as you can to protect yourself, your business, and your loved ones. Not willing to do that? Then it either didn't actually happen or you don't care that much about it. Real problems require real action, not snarky social media posts. All you accomplish when you post about it is scaring the shit out of your potential clients. (Please note, if something serious enough to call the police is happening, take action and take it now. Find support in your community and industry, but don't just call out someone on social media and then walk away.)

On a less severe note: Someone posted a painfully awful image in a photographer group, and it's so bad you can't tell if you're mortally embarrassed for them or just mad at the world that the image exists? Who cares. And? You're making fun of this person because...? Way to waste that energy on making fun of an obviously beginning photographer instead of working on your business, or maybe even your own images. When you see this stuff, shut up about it, and be happy you hold yourself to a higher standard.

Not one client in the history of humankind has ever hired someone based on how well they make fun of other people in their industry.

Gear Grandstanding

"FedEx just dropped it off. It's glorious! I can't wait to try it out!" type of posts. 

I like gear as much as the next photo-nerd, don't get me wrong, but please stop telling your would-be clients about your latest purchases. First off, 98% of your potential clients don't know the difference between a 200 2.0 and a 18-55 3.5-5.6, so it means exactly zero to them (I can see their tight-lipped, phoned-in smiles and raised eyebrows as they read your gushing post). Your photographer friends may care, so just send them a text about it and nerd out with them for an hour like you know you want to (I know I do).

But your potential clients on social media? Spare them. They don't care, seriously. Can you picture this: "Oh, honey, look, she bought that new 400 DO IS II with the newly developed gapless dual-layered diffractive optical elements, that's perfect for our son's baseball action photos we wanted. And with the DO, she won't get as tired doing cuz of all the weight savings that DO offers her, so we will have better quality images!"

Yeah, uh, no. Anyway, stop geeking out about your gear to potential clients.

Holier Than Thou

"I know better than you.", "I've accomplished more than you.", "You obviously don't know what you are doing, and I obviously do, so allow me to tell you in a dick-ish way." etc.

So, you're pretty good at what you do nowadays (what with all that practice and studying you've done for years) and by golly it's time to let your underlings know what's what and, frankly, it won't be polite or reasonable. But really, it's for their own good. Hell, you're doing them a service, if you're honest, by doling out such brusque, witty nuggets of brilliance unto the peasants of your industry. They should be grateful.

Only, they're not. They don't care. Why should they?

They don't care because real leaders of industry motivate, challenge and support their fellow photographers by being a bastion of inspiration, charisma and respect. Not by crudely reminding the social media masses of their successes and triumphs via arrogant posts about how they know better than anyone else. Or, worse yet, attempting to insult others' perhaps lesser triumphs in a pretentious and idiotic way, just to prove that they are better than an amateur. Or something.

You've been published in umpteen magazines around the world? Good on you. Another photographer is having a proud moment in the sun because of their very first published image on a some brand new webzine? So, it's time to make fun of them? Really?

If I thought like that, then I would laugh at my 9 year old for feeling accomplished now that he understands his latest math homework assignment dealing with fractions. I mean, come on kid, fractions? Yeah, that's cute. But seriously, I've been calculating fractions since the Reagan administration. 

Basically, stop finding pathetically shallow excuses to try to show off your accomplishments or knowledge. And if you still think that's your birthright to do so, show me all the arrogant, insulting posts about amateur photographers made by Erik Almas, Sue Bryce, or Webb Bland. Oh wait, there aren't any by them. Because they are real artists, consummate professionals, and properly motivational leaders in our industry who don't think the world revolves around them.

Politics and Religion

Avoid. At all costs.

Unless you hinge your entire marketing approach specifically about a certain political leaning or religious ideology, avoid. Of course, that's also the fastest way to cut your potential client count in half even before you get your first gig. And if that doesn't bother you, remember that you sound wholly annoying to, oh, pretty much everyone when you bemoan the other party or belief system in the middle of your portrait session specials posts.

And let's face it, almost no one has particularly open-minded political or religious opinions, and you're going to get into an argument on your post, right there on your business Page / Profile. In doing that, you're going to distract potential clients from why they may be reading your posts to begin with. Have all the personal and political convictions you want, but keep them to yourself. 

Serial Poster

Photo. Link. Funny cat meme. Another link. Photo. Link. Link. Funnier cat meme. Snarky video about "shit people say to photographers". Some political rant. Play-by-play of the latest sporting event happening on TV.

Short and simple: Don't post 50 times a day. Apart from it hurting your social media relevance, it also annoys people. Your potential clients, and even your industry associates, won't be impressed. Social media is a balance, and definitely "less is more" for the most part.

Fishing For Compliments

"I suck!", "Man, I wish I was a better photographer.", "My gear is crap so I can't get any better." posts.

Look, we all want, and need, reassurance at times. So we reach out to our family, our friends, our associates, and ask for critique, or advice, or just have a quick phone call or coffee and talk photography. We're human, we're artists, and many of us are business owners. Lots of ways to fall into self doubt and difficult times when you're all of that.

But on your business Page or Twitter is not where you reach out for reassurance. It simply makes you look desperate. And seen out of context (like most of your clients likely will), you will come across as flat out fishing for compliments. Would you hire a lawyer whose Facebook page had posts like "I just can't win any of these cases. I am no good at this. I wonder if I should just quit or something..." posts? Of course you wouldn't, because that's crazy. You may be an artist, and not a lawyer, but your would-be clients would prefer to think you are reasonably confident in what you're doing.

It's Worse Than You Think

Why? Because, if I'm honest, you shouldn't do the above actions anywhere on social media, in my opinion. Not in a group, not on your personal profile, and not on any comments section of anyone else's post. First off, I say this because I have done it several times in the past. And it never, ever, not once, ever make anything better for me. Even if no potential clients ever see you post this crap, what's the point? Do you want your industry peers to assume you're just spiraling out of control? Or what you're just a jerk? Heck, maybe you are a jerk, in which case you're basically a lost cause, but you may find you can garner that much more peer respect and adoration by, you know, not being a jerk. 

Everything listed above is a bad habit on social media, plain and simple. Some are arguably innocuous in certain contexts, but none do anything to help you grow your business, your brand, your industry visibility, and the respect of your associates.

What Else?

What did I miss? Help your fellow photographers by sending me your best practices for social media, particularly what to avoid doing. I'll do a follow up article about this with your input.

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43 Comments

Ramon Acosta's picture

Been guilty of most of them myself, but I will definitely shy away from politics. I really liked the "DO lens" example.

Jon Sharman's picture

Speaking of holier than thou.

Goodness.

Nino Batista's picture

I was waiting for that comment. Whew! At least we got it out of the way. :)

Jon Sharman's picture

Glad it wasn't a surprise.

Nino Batista's picture

Totally wasn't. And that is because it shows how complex a matter this is, or rather, these behaviors are. How can you tell someone "hey don't tell people they're doing something wrong" without contradicting yourself by doing so? Human behaviors, especially on social media, are enormously complicated and varied - and for the most part not about to radically change.

Jon Sharman's picture

To be honest my issue isn't with your points, it's with the use of the phrase "holier than thou" - because you were clearly behaving that way in this article. Which is fine in the context, because you're right about all of it, but surely there's a better way to word that.

Nino Batista's picture

Fair point!

Nino Batista's picture

Also the tone in this article is indicative of my own history of doing such behaviors. A sort of "Doh!" moment wherein I atone for my oops's.

Joshua Boldt's picture

Nino, you or another writer should do a follow-up post on what you should being doing in social media (as opposed to what you shouldn't be doing). You have some examples here, but they could be expanded on. It's not exactly "just do the opposite of this" in some ways. Yes, I know there are already a bunch of social media posts on Fstoppers, but if this article has traction it's good to milk that traction with a follow-up.

Nino Batista's picture

It makes sense to offer possible steps towards positive change of behaviors, you know, for what they are worth. Better than just dwelling on the negative. I mean, I had to get this out, so I did - but I think some practical "Best Practices" would be good to expand on in a future article.

Justin Haugen's picture

I feel like we can apply all of these to the entire population of people on Facebook in general.

David Vaughn's picture

Can I add the "inspirational marketer." Aka, the person who posts a bunch of inspirational stuff formulated for the sole purpose of furthering their social media presence/personality.

I'm lookin' at you Instagram.

If you're going to inspire, inject some humanity into that "Believe you can do anything" post, because otherwise it's just one of those cliched motivational images.

Andy Campos's picture

Well put man

David Justice's picture

I agree with all, but the gear one. I know a lot of photographers follow me on Instagram. If I get a new addition to my kit, I'm going to post it for the photographers, not the clients.

I love looking at photos of gear in use on social media. Look at Mike Wolakalamazooski, he posts pictures of his Phase One constantly. I don't want him to stop, that thing is amazing. Photographers like looking at other photographer's gear.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Agreed.

Nino Batista's picture

That's def one of the arguably acceptable things to so on this list, I know. And in Michaels case I think most of his followers ARE photographers a it is. But when you use social to GET clients, specifically, I firmly believe showing off your gear does jack to get you business.

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

It depends on how you're doing it. It can also show clients or potential clients your production value and how you work.

Jamie McCauley's picture

Nicely said! I agree that many of these are cringeworthy on social media, however I think the rules change slightly when in a community or forum setting. For example, should I feel like a jerk for calling these things "cringeworthy" in a discussion?

james digiorgio's picture

LOL. Funny stuff, man. Most of it right on. Personally, I post plenty of political and religious shit on my PERSONAL page because I'm rather passionate in my opinions on that stuff, as well as the actual activism I've engaged in, off and on, since I was 18. But then, it's my personal page so I don't give a fuck if someone likes what I have to say or not. I'm a big believer in others de-friending me if what I have to say bothers them or offends them or whatever. In fact, I encourage it. Conversely, I do NOT de-friend others because I don't agree with their opinions. Their opinions belong to them and no matter how wrong-headed I might think (or know) they are, they're entitled to their ignorance.

Joshua Boldt's picture

I understand what you are saying, but your clients will check out your personal page too. In my business web design class we studied some statistics and one thing that always stood out to me was that the About page on a website is almost always the most viewed page. They want to know about you and if they search your name and find your personal Facebook page and it is full of weird stuff they either say "I like his work so I'm going to hire him anyway" or "I don't know if I can work with this guy."

You sound like you know who you are and where you come from and this is a risk versus reward scenario that you think you can overcome, and that is actually admirable. Just being yourself counts for a lot too.

Dan Ostergren's picture

One thing that really bothers me is photographers giving their opinion on the model in a photo as a "critique". For example, a photographer posts a photo of a model with tan skin for critique, and someone decides that it's appropriate to then inform the photographer of the dangers of tanning. THAT drives me craaaaazy. Well, crazier than I already may be.

Joshua Boldt's picture

yes yes and more yes -- attack me if I put up a @#$* image -- don't attack the model because you are a shallow tool

J D's picture

So much of that locally in my area. I've been called out by other photographers that I have never met, or even heard of before because clients went with me instead of them so I must have done something sneaky behind their backs.

Mark Matthews's picture

BRAVO, Nino..... This is just GENIUS!
Probably the best FStoppers Article EVER!

Andrea Tani's picture

A-fucking MEN

Shane Castle's picture

XKCD has this: http://xkcd.com/386/

Dunno if the following embed will work

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png

Chris Adval's picture

Was this prompted from Jared Polin ranting against another photographer on the grid?

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

Who's Jared Polin? is that the guy from the jewelry store ads "oh, he went to Jared?"

Husain Ujjainwala's picture

Thankfully, never went down that road. But who knows I'm still 21 and might end up doing it too ;)

Joshua Boldt's picture

I hope this goes viral. It basically applies to any business and even just your personal life in general.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Agreed....this is FAR FAR FAR from relevant to just photographers but sage advice all around.

I think it's best practice to keep all your negative opinions off-line period, personal page or not. I'm guilty of not following the rules above in the past and am well aware those actions had no positive impact at all.

It's a shame that folks will judge your business by personal opinions you hold on religion, politics, etc but that's life. Better get used to it.

David Vaughn's picture

I think there should be a line between negativity and critical assessment.

More than once I've encountered someone who tries to have a civil and educated discussion about a pertinent topic, only to be called a hater or bigot.

Jason Ranalli's picture

I agree there should be a line but there isn't why is why I try to stay out of it entirely. Well educated critical assessments routinely can place a person into a category of unfavorable labels by others who can not see the difference.

So again, I try to just stay out of it.

joe Ahole's picture

This post reminds me why i don't visit or even bother reading your posts... Put your man panties on and speak your mind... thats why it is called social media... it's all about who you allow to see the post. because it's my party and I'll bitch and scream if I want to... :P

Nino Batista's picture

Gasp! A commenter troll. Whew! So strange. I'm glad that never happens.

Christopher Eaton's picture

Thanks for the great article... great advice for everyone, not just photographers.

DiAnté Johnson's picture

Interesting point. Especially as it seems that all of what you wrote is generally what happens (the whining, artistry theft, the depression, and/or the over sense of righteousness). This was written very well and it definitely touched me. As one of the 'woe is me', 'dump and run', and 'holier than thou' artists that you mentioned; I can say that you putting it out there may be the kick in the ass that I needed. Thank you.

Anonymous's picture

Nothing about humble-bragging? :)

Valdemar Hemlin's picture

I think a good rule of thumb is to don't do things that others do that annoys you.

Michael Rapp's picture

I always try to behave on social media like my grandma was watching over my shoulder.
Don't always succeed, though.
Guilty on 2 counts, I think.
What's the statute of limitations of being a "donkey(*)" on the www?

(*) replace with synonym

Nino Batista's picture

This article is, as I said in another comment, a cathartic release, an atonement if you will, of my own sins on these matters, and how I hope others can avoid the same path I was on years ago. I was never egregiously rude or gossipy or critical, but I did have my moments. Stupid bad habits.

Michael Kormos's picture

BUT.... isn't that what social media is all about? Just a whole lotta people saying things - 90% of which are best kept to themselves? Isn't it about our social obsession with knowing every little facet of everyone else's life that keeps us reading that utterly pointless newsfeed? If every post is supposed to be professional, informative, and has a goal to achieve (new potential clients, etc.), then why not just send out a newsletter, or issue a press release? Social media is like a blender of every thought, idea, nuisance and rant mixed together. I WANT to read that gibberish, darn it! Because it helps me to better know, and understand, the very people I follow. I WANT to know what new lens that photographers just bought. I don't care if they're showing off. I want to know what food they eat, what annoys them, and what music they listen to.

You're kind of attacking the very nature of social media. If you're annoyed at some of the content the people you follow write, just un-like them :-)

Click. It's that easy.

Nino Batista's picture

Sure, I can do that. And I do. But I'm also not these photographers target market, so I don't matter. When one's social media rants / mind dumps affect your business, then you are making a mistake. Unless your goal is not to be paid for being a photographer.