The coronavirus is making it incredibly difficult for photographers to make new content while the world is on lockdown. The good news is you already have a treasure trove of untapped potential buried in your homes, garages, and offices, and it's crying out to be posted online.
Many of us have spaces that are crammed full of possessions that haven't seen the light of day in quite some time. The same rules apply to the thousands of images we have squirreled away on hard drives, phones, and old computers. A lot of these items have some sentimental importance to us, but in the never-ending race for the new and shiny, we often neglect our past. One positive of this lockdown is that it has forced us to slow down and look more inwards than we normally would. Not only is this a good thing to help us grow as individuals, but it's also a great opportunity to find some interesting and relevant content for our social media accounts. This isn't about dredging up gratuitous nostalgia just because a popular hashtag tells us to. It's about connecting the dots between the belongings, experiences, and memories we have amassed, and how those things have contributed to shaping us into the photographers we are today. If we can do this and also find some meaningful content to post on Instagram, all the better. I think you'd be surprised to learn how much of the world would love to see some of those stories from your past. Quite often, these additional items do a great job of enhancing the portfolios we have worked so hard to create.
Take Advantage of Your Photo Archive
Even if you haven't been a photographer for long, you probably still have accumulated many thousands of images along the way. Hopefully, they are all backed-up and safely stored somewhere you can easily access them when you need to. This lockdown is a great excuse to look through those images to see what you can find and post online. The passing of time can change how you look at old work, in some instances, a piece of work you may have dismissed as not being good enough can suddenly become your new favorite image. Raiding the archives is not only a great source of content for social media, it's a useful exercise to help remind you of how far you have come as a photographer.
Before and After Comparisons
While you have your archive open why not pull up the original files of some of your most important images for a side by side comparison. Lifting the curtain on your process from time to time can help your followers to appreciate how much work goes into the pictures you make. It can also help you to understand your photographic style as it can shine a light on what elements of a picture you consistently change during the edit. If before and after comparisons are not your thing, then a re-edit of an old image could be another interesting talking point to use online. Maybe your tastes have changed or you just have more skills in the Photoshop department now. I know I sometimes look back at old work and think about how I would edit it differently now. Even a quick conversion from color to black and white can allow you and your audience to see the work with new eyes.
Make Some Lighting Diagrams
All photographers should get into the habit of making lighting diagrams of their photoshoots. Not just to stay organized and well documented, but also because they make interesting social media pieces. I especially like using them on Instagram where I can have a gallery of images and my followers can swipe between the diagrams and the finished photos. Documenting your setups helps to show the world the amount of work that goes into a shoot and should be something that is celebrated. It's also handy to have these sketches online when clients want you to recreate a shoot you have done in the past. We all may think we're capable of remembering how you lit something you shot several years ago, but as time passes, all these shoots can start to blend into each other. If your drawing skills are not up to much there are free apps like Sylights that will draw them for you. Hand-drawn sketches with complimentary stickmen can look just as cool if not better.
Raid Your Book and Movie Collection
Your Instagram account doesn't have to exclusively show just the finished polished photographs you make. I find the social media accounts that only post these kinds of images to be a little sterile and boring. Showing the world what influences you will not only help your audience to relate to you better, but it will also help you to understand what things have shaped you into the photographer you are. Share some of the movies that have left an impression on you recently, or show your followers some of the books you always go to when trying to get inspired. Just be sure to credit those influences so others can find them easily. Another great thing about sharing things like this is that you often get additional suggestions from your audience back in return.
Show off Some of Your Gear
No one likes those posts that gratuitously show off that expensive new camera just for a few extra internet points. I do think there is merit in showing your audience the tools of your trade from time-to-time though. It helps them to understand more about what goes into the work you make. I have a small collection of film cameras that I use and If it's relevant to a post, I will share that with my followers. You just never know what seeds are planted when you post content like this. An example of this was the time I was given a trash bag full of unwanted 120mm and 35mm rolls of film after someone saw a post I made. You just never know what seeds you plant when you share more information with the world.
It quite often takes an army of people to produce the images you make. From the assistants, stylists, printers, and fellow photographers who have helped you along the way. It's good practice to always show these people appreciation and doing that in the form of a shout-out on social media is a great place to do it. Not only is it a good reminder to yourself how so many people have contributed to getting you where you are today, but it's also a good signal to the world that you are the kind of photographer that treats those around them with the respect and recognition they deserve. Don't forget your friends, family, and partners when giving thanks as they play an important part in all that too.
Share a Playlist
It's good to share non-photography related items with your followers and a good playlist or album suggestion can help to paint a broader picture of the type of person you are. When I have posted things like this in the past I have always received lots of suggestions of other musicians I may like to listen to. I know one particular client who books a certain photographer because of the amazing playlists they play during their shoots together. I'm sure their photographic skills play a part in the client's choice, but you never know when something like that could be a deciding factor in a client's decision to hire you.
Documenting Location Scouts
Photographers should be documenting the locations they use just in case they want to revisit them in the future. It's all well and good saying you will remember these places but as time goes by the memory will fade and those details can become a little fuzzy. While many of us can't get outside right now you can still use both physical or digital maps to find interesting spots for the future. I think a picture of a map on your Instagram is not only a nice visual thing to share amongst your other work, but it also helps to support the amount of professionalism you perform when you organize your shoots.
Share Some of the Weird Props You Own
If you're the kind of photographer that uses props in your work then you probably have a house full of interesting objects you could document and share with your followers. Tell them why you chose the props you did along with the meanings or stories behind them. It may just help people to understand and appreciate your work better. I find posting images of props always generates lots of interest and conversation. The great thing about revealing a lesser-known area of your creative process is that you will become "that guy" who has the weird prop collection. This isn't a bad thing at all as you'll find that you will occasionally be offered all kinds of weird and wonderful objects to use as props in future shoots. I think the best thing I got offered because I have a reputation for collecting weird things was a well-used riot police helmet that I still have to this day.
Take a Self-Portrait
I know many of us would rather stay behind the camera, but you really should use the skills you have to take a self-portrait now and again. This lockdown is a great excuse to get creative and show more of yourself to your audience. I've said it many times already, accounts that are lacking much of a personal touch are harder to relate to. Take this opportunity to make the craziest self-portrait you can think of and show the world the person behind the camera. The best part of it all is that as the subject you're photographing is you, they don't cost a dime and anything goes.
So there you have it, ten places to find interesting content for your social media accounts while on lockdown. The circumstances we find ourselves in right now is a great excuse to take some time to evaluate the many facets of our creative lives that we often overlook. The suggestions above will not only keep you stocked up for content for a good while yet, but it will help you to grow and develop as a photographer. Being more conscious of what has shaped you into the person you are can really help to direct your energies in the right places going forward. The plot twist in this article is that your social media accounts should have always been a melting pot of influences, nostalgia, and most importantly, your personality. No one particularly warms towards a sterile and faceless social media account and can you blame them? As living beings we prefer to interact and make connections with real people that we can relate to. It's no coincidence that the more well rounded social media accounts have many more likes, follows, and comments or that these people tend to get hired by clients much more often. Start sharing more than just your well-polished photographs with the world, you may just be surprised by what you find in the process.
What are some not so obvious places to find content for your social media accounts? Ever been given a weird prop to use on a shoot? We'd loved to hear from you in the comments.