Would Your Photography Business Survive if Social Media Ceased to Exist?

Would Your Photography Business Survive if Social Media Ceased to Exist?

Over the last few years, something has become quite apparent: photographers are becoming reliant on social media. Some have achieved great success across the various social media platforms, but would they or you make it if social media as we know it suddenly ceased to exist?

Business Has Changed

There was a time not too long ago when business owners relied much more on the value of actual relationships and when hard work, often years of it, determined one’s level of achievement for the most part. Today, that simply isn’t the case. The idea of of shaking hands and putting a pen to paper to seal a deal feels like a thing of the past. Heck, even for myself, someone who is more against social media than for it, the last several years have been full of business deals with clients thousands of miles away with whom I've never had the opportunity to meet in person.

Instant Success

For some, the ultimate goal is to become "Insta-famous." I mean, it worked to elevate names like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, didn’t it? There are photographers who have launched their careers with social media and who have reached a level of success few will ever accomplish with very little effort at all. I can’t exactly hate on their success, but I certainly question its longevity and the impact it will have on society in the future.

Would Your Business Model Collapse if Social Media Vanished?

Let’s just take a moment to imagine that the year is 2025 and laws have been passed strictly dictating how platforms like Facebook and Instagram are used. Social media becomes mainly a political advertising platform and a news media outlet, and people lose interest in using it the way we’re all familiar with today. Images that were once seen by tens of thousands of users are now being filtered out of user’s feeds due to one policy violation or another. Doesn’t sound too far fetched, right?

Something to consider is the possibility of this current state of reliance on social media running its course and fading away. Would that be such a bad thing, or have you built your business on a model that is reliant on social media? Are you developing skills that you will be able to apply if the way we’re currently utilizing social media changes? Share your thoughts about the future of social media and its impact on photography in the comments below.

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26 Comments

Yes, many of us predate "social media"....

Spy Black's picture

I think most photographer's business would flourish if social media didn't exist.

user-187388's picture

I did weddings when there was no social media. I still had plenty of work mainly through recommendations of happy customers. To position yourself as high end, which I didn't, you had to resort to bridal magazine advertising,and trying to win awards to use in your advertising. There was the conundrum of whether you had a studio to impress or worked from home. You could set up a studio at home separate to your living area. Doing location weddings was less likely unless you had a high profile. You had to have impressive actual display albums as well and it was good to have written testimonials. I am not sure where it is all headed with social media and photography but it does mean the market is saturated with competition Bascically without it you would have to adapt. Other disciplines of photography had to also work hard at their advertising and positioning. Before I retired from weddings I had a presence on the internet re weddings but I received most referrals by word of mouth. I had lots of enquiries via the internet but my strike rate was far better through personal referral.

Motti Bembaron's picture

My work is almost all from word of mouth and referrals.

Brian Carpenter's picture

I'm a retoucher, I'd be just fine without it. My business comes 99.99% from returning clients and online advertising, totally unrelated to social media.

Paul Ferradas's picture

I doubt it. Mostly all from word of mouth for me. A little of being at the right place at the right time too. Social media has become way too saturated. You need to do more. Heck, I just ran a few posts for a few hundred bucks on FB and Insta and came away with nothing, Actually, one lead but it turned out to be a scam. It's not easy tossing money like that with no return. I've done it a few times with nothing substantial ever coming out if it.

Bruce Allen's picture

Asking this question is like asking, "how would you get anywhere if we ran out of oil for cars". Social media will always be here for our photography businesses. The only thing that will change is the name of the app we all post our pictures on.

Mick Ryan's picture

I don’t think your comparison makes sense. Social media is definitely not the oil of the photography industry. It didn’t exist so long ago, is pretty much in it’s end of days judging by the state of it and will fade away at some stage.

Bruce Allen's picture

You actually think social media is going to fade away?! WOW.

Steven Magner's picture

It’s astonishing to me the amount of people that see Instagram as a portfolio. I tell friends when they ask me to “review” their accounts “if Instagram shut down tomorrow where would I go to see your work?”

I feel bad when I get a puzzled response.

Mick Ryan's picture

Yes. I don't do social media at all. It was far too great a drain on my time with little or not payback. Surviving very well without it.

user-206807's picture

I started to work before than the computer had been invented… so…

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

This is an interesting set of questions and claims about social media use by photographers. I do not use social media (meaning FB, Twitter, Instagram) to market my business, but wouldn't rule it out. It seems to require more time than I'm willing to put in right now and for dubious return. I suppose I may regret not getting more involved...not yet though.

And I wonder about the "Insta Famous" mentioned here...who are they? Does this refer to ones who parlay a large following or subscriber base into advertising income? To me it seems that equipment review videos shouldn't be considered a "photography business", at least not in the old fashioned sense. Please note: I don't object to people making money that way, I just think of them as being in the media business, not photography.

Are there many photographers who get "discovered" through social media, and then gain lucrative photo assignments? I would guess the answer could be yes, I'm just not sure.

I do hope that amassing the most "Likes" isn't the only reward for building a social media presence.

Mark James's picture

Social media like FB has already gone to the dark side. I see little point in them from a business standpoint, and personal standpoint too, if I'm being honest. If you can't get enough work from recommendations and word of mouth then you might want to look at your work or your pricing. I say this as someone who didn't start photography until 10 years ago. All of my work and clients came from recommendations or events I did for free, which paid off bigtime. Yes, I gave the beast money for ads, but it didn't generate any revenue that I can account for.

I have used Flickr for years as the place to post my work. You maintain your rights and it is searchable from anywhere on the Internet. This of course has its advantages and disadvantages, and I have experienced both.

Nobody is going to take the time to post years worth of work on Instagram on the off chance someone might be looking for a photo you shot in 2010. People who search Instagram for images are looking for what's hot now. I use Instagram because I have to, not because I want to. If I had the choice I would not use Instagram at all and people would still be able to find and look at my work online.

olivier borgognon's picture

I have deleted my social media accounts, and was not allowing myself to connect to them since april 1st (no aprils fool joke) and I saw a linear response to an increased response from the clients I wanted to have... Was writing articles on my blog of my website about it, and I guess it worked out.

If we relate to the time people spend on social media, liking, commenting, sharing, answering things which make no sense to be really honest, and they focused instead on their business, skills, and reaching their specific target audience, I am a firm believer that they would be more profitable, and really be happy, optimistic and love their job, as they would work for their dream clients.

Jeff Walsh's picture

skipped article and came straight to the comments...not disappointed

Rifki Syahputra's picture

survival of the fittest
yes, there'll always be survivor

Word of mouth is social media in a different sense. Advertising in the defunct Yellow Page's was another form too, so long answer it probably would however business wouldn't have as much reach that today's social media can have. Gotta go were there people are.

I don't know a single photographer who got work from someone who saw something on their social media page and hired them because of it. I get the value of having a presence, etc., but all the articles about managing your social media presence say we should be spending 20 hours a week on it. I spend 20 hours a week pounding the pavement and have gotten actual clients as a result of it.

Aaron B.'s picture

I think most would. Again, Social Media is no different than an interactive ad space/portfolio for photographers and other creatives. My instagram is just a composite of some of my various works. Without it I would have to create a physical portfolio or an ad in something. All options that still exist today.

Edit: To elaborate a little further. I gain most clients from word of mouth/referrals/networking. The only thing social media does for me is now on the spot I can pull out or show them immediate examples of my works.

Dana Goldstein's picture

I think the people who would be worst hit are the photographers who use workshops as a sizable chunk of their revenue. Those are definitely pitched on social media a lot - workshops, action packs, business guides, etc. It would be hard to get the word out for those on as wide a scale. Most people who have word of mouth in their local communities, or take the time to build relationships in the commercial world, would just continue doing what they did all along.

Patrick Marion's picture

I would only worry about this if I lived in China or North Korea. Won’t happen in the free world, so no point in spending energy on this.

Harlan Bowling's picture

I like whenever people say they've deleted all their social media accounts and yet log into a website and participate in comments and forums and rate photos. Social media is way more than Facebook and Instagram. Anywhere that you go to participate in a community based on similar interests could and should be considered social media, and people are in general way more dependent on it than they'd like to believe.

TLDR: Fstoppers is a social media website...albeit a highly specialized one.