Is Social Media Ruining Photography?

Is Social Media Ruining Photography?

A lot can be said for the power of social media. In fact, many of today’s most successful photographers owe a lot to the beasts that we lovingly refer to as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But are these platforms that we all invest so much of our time into the final nails in the coffin of a professional photograph industry that was built less on savvy social media skill and the latest filter packs and more on actual relationships, constancy, and hard work?

October is an exciting month. Photo Plus Expo 2018 is October 25-27,and for the first time, I’ll be flying across the country to take it all in. In fact, I’ll be a part of a keynote debate that’s been given the catchy title: “Social Media is Ruining Photography”. Maybe I’ll see you there. The debate will consist of two teams, one arguing the pros of social media for photography, and the other arguing the cons. I’ll be sitting on the cons side of the debate with Founder and CEO of Visura.co, Adriana Teresa Letorney, while Allen Murabayashi and Rhynna Santos will be arguing the pros.

It’s not that I’m completely against social media. I respect each of the current platforms for what they are, but over the last several years, I’ve taken a drastic step back in terms of my engagement on social media. For years, I had spent an untold number of hours on the various platforms marketing my latest work and trying to drum up new business from the tiny town in Arizona where I reside. It wasn’t until I considered the value of my time and the lack of return on that investment that I decided to focus more on relationships I had already established and less on ones that only existed online (after all, the key to a prosperous business is prosperous business relationships). This proved to pay off, and word of mouth combined with a growing portfolio have proved to generate more actual business for me. While I still manage inquiries that I receive on Facebook and Instagram, I’d estimate that only 20 percent of those inquiries lead to a paying job. On the other hand, nearly 100 percent of the inquires made through my website, emails, phone calls, or in person lead to booking a job.

Ask yourself a few questions. How much time do you spend on social media? Is it hours per week? Hours per day? One study suggests the average American spends roughly two hours per day across the various platforms. Taking into consideration the value of your time and the average hourly income in the US of just over 24 bucks, we’re talking about an investment of over $330.00 USD per week or $1320.00 USD per month made by the average user. It’s easy to assume that a professional trying to market their services may invest even more time.

All of this doesn’t mean I stepped away from social media completely. I still babysit two Instagram accounts and three Facebook accounts. That’s like having five children to look after for some people. How do I manage them all? Honestly, I don’t. I’m terrible at it, but that’s the world we live in currently. One where trends are driven through social media at no cost to the consumer and having a presence online is almost mandatory.

What does this all of mean for the professional photographer? When it comes to photographers’ use of social media, do you feel there are more pros or cons? Give me some fuel for this relevant debate by sharing your thoughts in the comments below. 

Lead Image by Lisa Fotios from Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

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37 Comments

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

It’s ruining the people, not photography.

marcus joyce's picture

Yeah photography as a subject isn't being brought into disrepute.

But it's making people, not lazy, but boring and lacking inspiration or true creativity.

Yet that's an unfair comment to those that strive on the platform. They make 100 times more content than I. A jealous remark by any standard.

I think it's better said like this. If your first 10,000 film photos are rubbish, then the first 30,000 with digital cameras are going to be rubbish. And 90,000 on a mobile.

Don't get me wrong some people have an eye for composition, colour and light. Some just point and click with expensive gear. Some just are like those with massive following or celebrity status or just a very broad interest topic for most people.

Rifki Syahputra's picture

society is ruining itself..
kinda..

Michael Jin's picture

No. It's not "ruining" photography. This would imply that it is something in the process of happening. The correct form of the word to use in this instance would be the past tense: "ruined".

Meaningless semantics here. I think everyone understands the point of the article and it's title.

Jeff Walsh's picture

No. Maybe it ruined photography...for you...but photography isn't something that can be ruined. Millions of people draw emotions from pictures everyday. So, no, and I'm sorry photography is ruined for you because you don't like social media's imapct on the world.

Michael Jin's picture

I'm not even sure how to respond to the other than to say that i think you need to get your snarky-not-so-serious-comment radar adjusted... Clearly it's currently tuned to be a bit too sensitive. LOL

Jeff Walsh's picture

yeah because your comment is just dripping with sarcasm and over done in lightheartedness. Try again, and once more, sorry social media ruined photography for you, because clearly based on your response, it has.

Michael Jin's picture

No it actually hasn't seeing as the only interaction I have had with social media for the better part of a decade has been seeing reports about it or reading articles about it, but you've certainly ruined the internet in general for me for me. Go do something productive with your time like making out with a Magnum Photography book or something. I can't roll my eyes enough at your sappiness dripping in your response. You sound like a teenage hipster that just bought his first Holga or something.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Ohh, so what you're saying is that you have zero experience with social media but felt comfortable enough with your own made up reasoning to say it ruined photography. I mean, since you're clearly the expert I'll bow to your exceedingly deep and thoughtful input. Please share more of your imaginary experiences on a variety of subjects so that we can all be more enlightened.

Michael Jin's picture

I'm saying that I was making a snarky joke/comment (which last I checked, I have every right to do) and you are taking this crap WAY too seriously. Like I said, please go find something productive to do with your time if you can't handle the reality that not everything that's written on the internet is intended to be taken at face value or provide some meaningful insight into a topic.

Case in point, I'm not ACTUALLY suggesting that you go make out with a Magnum Photography book just in case you misinterpreted that as well... Maybe taking pictures of flowers and cats might be more appropriate for you.

Life must be hard when you think that everything that is said on the internet is a serious thought. This your first time trolling through a comment section on an article or something? I can't tell if you're just slow or you're being deliberately obtuse for the lulz.

Michael Jin's picture

I think it's pretty obvious that "photography isn't something that can be ruined" because to make such a claim would obviously refer to some sort of objective standard by which to judge photography and even if you could come up with such a thing, it would never encompass the whole of people practicing it. Photography can't be ruined any more than painting, writing, or exercising. It's a stupid question deserving of a stupid response.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Oh I see, you realize how stupid your first comment was and now youre back-peddling with the, "I was just kidding, youre too serious...geeze." Gotcha, as I said before, nothing and I mean NOTHING in your first post implied, hinted at, vaguely pointed to any comedy, sarcasm, snark, joke or any other lightheartedness. But keep that back-peddling rolling, you'll get there eventually.

Michael Jin's picture

LOL! I would think that the comment itself "implied, hinted at, vaguely pointed to any comedy", particularly from someone dwelling on a photography website. My apologies for not adding some sort of footnote especially for you. Do yourself a favor. Get out from under whatever bridge you live beneath and go interact with other human beings once in a while. Maybe then you won't need to have things explicitly explained in order for you to be able to follow what's going on.

And judging from how butt hurt you seemed about someone possibly having the gall to suggest that photography was ruined (whatever the hell that's even supposed to mean), I completely stand by my comment that you're taking this way too seriously. Even if photography was somehow "ruined", who cares as long as you continue to enjoy it? Believe me when I say that photography doesn't need a clueless scrub like you to be its white knight.

BTW, just so we avoid any misunderstandings, I'm being completely serious.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Keep it up, your back peddling is almost there. Just a little more and someone might believe it.

Michael Jin's picture

Have a good life, child. 🤣

Geoff Thompson's picture

In the days when I was an active wedding photographer I did very little advertising and yet most of my work came from recommendations and word of mouth.I don't think social media is ruining photography but you are right about how much time people invest in it for what return?

Martin Peterdamm's picture

nope. it is super important to be there and not to get too much influenced by the domination of kitsch.
to be successful in instagram (facebook is not imporant anymore unless you have hughe advertising budgets) you have to show tacky, romantic, kitsch photos. stuff common people find cheesy. this is total fine if you have an b2c business model, shooting weddings or running a normal portrait studio.
for photographers who are more b2c doing unglamourous well paid stuff it is total different world. also really edgy fashion or art has a much harder time to get regonized

16mm Camera's picture

Social media and photography. I think there is a level of confusion in that many “photographers” just want to be “famous” and use photography as their medium. I see so many self titled photographers posing in all their photos so I have to ask myself who is taking all these pictures if you are posing i them?

By famous I mean social famous/influencer status.

John Skinner's picture

I find platforms like Instagram are infact killing images.

When the masses all pile onto a platform such as this and as a collective, agree and support such images, it kills us all. I've had an account on that platform for about two years and have yet to see even one image that would make me look twice at it. It's become an image trash can for people with no ideas, no talent, and just submitting crap.

But all these dolts "like" it --- so this has somehow added a legitimacy to the users....

David Robert's picture

Check out @insta_repeat on IG.

Ian Smith's picture

It's Monday morning; I'll give my 2-cents.

Not to be narrow-sighted on the semantics, but can a vehicle/platform for displaying photography really ruin Photography? In a way, I could compare this to attributing the frame around a photograph to ruining the photograph. The frame cannot ruin a good photograph, rather it ruins the way the photograph is being displayed.

On another angle, I understand that people argue that the quality of photography, or people's expectation for quality photography has decreased due to what has become more popular on social media, resulting in "ruining photography". In a way, I could compare this to music production today. Frankly, I believe the majority of music being produced for young audiences today is really, really poor. But, does this "ruin music"?

I suppose what I'm getting at is that good photography (or music in my analogy) is subjective, and cannot be ruined. What I also keep in mind is that our tastes evolve and are driven from where we are individually influenced. It would be fair to say "Common photography is not what was common before", but not "Photography has been ruined by social media".

And here's your change, sir (1-cents worth)...
I agree with you and the others that Photography itself cannot be ruined. It is the possibility of appreciation (of the excellent/fine/creative photograph) by the masses/by the individual, which is negatively impacted by the sheer volume, subject matter, mediocrity, etc., of most all images flooding the social media platforms.
Like the eventual numbing that takes place from tap/tap/tapping on the back of the hand with a finger... annoying for a time, then blocked out completely by the subconscious.

Ian Smith's picture

Desensitization. Understood. : )

.... don't we have this panic about everything when it's relatively new though?
- Internet -> "Human personal interaction is ruined"
- Texting -> "The English language and punctuation are ruined"
- Smartphones -> ...
...come on. What all have we heard?

Pedro Seromenho's picture

At what point was the subject matter discussed?
It was mentioned you'll be somewhere discussing pro and cons and its a big time investment/commitment for businesses.
No real substance or heads up on how is it harming photography.
Sure time is something we all choose how to use best in a variety of ways, demos, online articles..
This article just took my 5 minutes and gave nothing. Great.

Robert Nurse's picture

I don't think social media is ruining photography. The most talented and creative photographers will always steer the art form in the right direction. That's why I also use it for inspiration. I have noticed, though, that photographs from most of the photographers I follow are clearly in one vein: young, scantly clad women. Now, I'm a healthy heterosexual male and the photos don't bother me as much as they make me ask the question: isn't there anything else out there to shoot? Is this subject matter the only thing that gets the creative juices going? Therefore, a certain "formula" seems to be pervasive. That in and of itself is a problem if that's seen as an example of "success" in photography on social media.

"I'll be arguing for the side that says social media is destroying photography" says the photographer with two instagram accounts and three facebook accounts.

Yeah, good luck with that.

It's about technology, the pace of technology and how it is evolving and how we have to change to use it and we are not using it fully or right.
1- Social media is being used in so many ways and it is a tool for businesses to use to reach others at an extremely low cost. But that mean spending time to create content. And that is where one has to consider hiring someone to create and manage that content. Have a platform to generate leads is not good enough. You have to understand the psychology of all this and create your persona to correspond accordingly.
2- Technology and AI will give the general public the ability to create their own media (photos, prints, videos) and do it such that if not perfectly at least they have the experience and gratification of doing it themselves. But they put themselves in a position of not being in the moment, they are then not enjoying their time with others. Ex: Client gets a two week vacation and going on a once in a lifetime trip with family. He wants to document it all with photos and video. If he does it by himself he is overwhelmed by constantly dealing with taking photos/videos and that is not what he wants to be doing. Do you think he would pay for a professional to document all this? I think so. Thus a whole new genera of photography is created and not only for individuals but businesses too. And this is just one example.
3- Yes, time is money. You can create money but you can not create time. Social media can be manageable but one will spend at least 50% of their working time in learning: new technology, changes in platforms, studying social behavior, new tools (cameras, printing, software...). And this is a cost of running a business and has to be charged for. But in doing so should increase productivity by an equal amount that cost stay the same but ones product and service increases in value and need.

If you look at the changes going on and want to stay the same/stand still then you will be passed by others. And there's no rules or defined path to success as the pace and direction of all this is increasing and changing even as I write this. It is a whole new world, consider what has evolved in 10 short years. And I'm a terrible writer/speller yet AI is correcting everything I'm posting here.

This...does not appear to be a response to anything I said.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Simple and easy answer: nope

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