The Pressures of Social Media on Photographers

The Pressures of Social Media on Photographers

For years, photographers old and new would enjoy sharing their favorite work across social media sites such as Instagram. Sharing your images was fun and would create conversation, engagement, and perhaps sales. Nowadays, the situation has changed.

I, like many others, have enjoyed sharing my photography on social media. Instagram has usually been my go-to, and for a long time, engagement was great. I would receive many new followers, comments, and likes. The feeling was amazing, as I felt my name was getting out there and I was receiving lots of inquiries and photography jobs. As time has gone by and the algorithms have changed, my engagement has dropped massively, the jobs from social media have declined and I was left wondering: what's the point?

Instead of worthwhile comments providing me with valuable critique of my images and inquiries, now, I receive comments such as "cool tones bro" or countless comments from bots saying "DM me to be featured on such and such." The number of accounts my images reach has fallen drastically, direct messages are now mostly spam, and the likes are almost nonexistent. These issues are not just experienced by myself, but many others that I talk to.

Nicole at LCVS Liverpool

Platforms such as Instagram have changed so much that their preference is now for products such as Reels where scantily clad women try to attract you to their Onlyfans or useless financial advice from non experts about how you can make a million dollars in a year by investing $1 a month!

Social media has become so dangerous that it could destroy your self-esteem. For the vast majority of photographers out there trying to make a name for themselves using social media, the chances of being discovered are highly unlikely, even if your work is original and amazing. You can post the most amazing photo and perhaps only receive 20 likes, and this can leave you feeling invalidated, questioning your own ability, or worrying about where your next photography work is going to come from. 

Some photographers rely so much on social media engagement to find work. They want to run workshops and sell presets for Lightroom, prints, and other products. If the algorithm no longer supports them, they can lose so much in the long run and will have to find other ways to market themselves and diversify their options.

There is the option to promote your images, but is this really worthwhile now? Unless you can afford a large budget, for most, I would say this is best avoided. 

Wedding in Wales

Did you become a photographer just to become famous? I don't think so. You became a photographer because you enjoy art, you enjoy being out in nature or working with different people, trying to create something beautiful. What you create is for you and your clients, and anything else is on top is a bonus.

For those looking for more photography work via it, it might be time to look at additional ways of marketing yourself outside of social media, and I wish everyone the very best of luck, as it's tough out there.

Greg Sheard's picture

Greg Sheard is a Scottish based photographer, focusing on wildlife, landscape and portrait work. Greg's mission in life is too help those who suffer with mental health issues and be a voice for the millions of people around the world who need that care, attention and awareness.

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I did notice this trend too. iG is much different from what it used to be 5 or 6 years ago, and posting photographs has become completely useless if your goal is to reach a new audience and become known.
I still post twice a week though, mainly because my end goal has changed: instead of trying to reach a new audience, I post photos to keep my agency and my clients up to date on what I am working on.

I absolutely agree with you. I probably should post more often just to keep the people who do value my work in the loop but the enjoyment of social media has certainly wained

Why would anyone open an account or post on social media sites like Instagram? They have such a corrosive effect on society. Why support them?

Spend a few bucks on a website, and use that as a platform to launch your business. Inexpensive templates for photographers and videographers are commonplace, and you won't have to contend with rude, degrading comments.

Websites are all well and good, but your visibility can be minimal unless you have great SEO. People need to find you first, and social media was a great way to gain that visibility fast, however not anymore.

Up until 2018, the SEO on my personal website which I started in 1999, was well over 100,000 visits per month. Then Google changed their algorithms, and I didn't stay up to date on my SEO and visitation dropped 75%. It has never recovered. I'm retired and have been told to get a web programmer who understands the new SEO requirements and can help me out. My web site is for fun with reasonable images. I only use an ISP to host my site, but I provide all the content. They did tell me that they have a lot of customers with the same problem. It used to be fun. For me, Bing is much better but not as many people use Bing.

It is very tough to keep up to date with algorithms etc, you certainly need to find the right people or companies to help out, which could be expensive

For an individual, without an advertising budget, SEO is impossible today. You could spend endless hours trying to figure it out and still fail. Google is an advetising medium, accessible only to professionals with inside knowledge.

I totally agree with you. I think I got on-board post the best ages of Instagram.
I still see people grow. They do great job. I am a landscape photographer and I have a feeling that a standard of what needs to be produced has been set. If you don't produce these amazing ultra digitalized pics you won't be looked at and also if you don't publish pics from the most amazing places in the world it gets really difficult.
One thing no said here too, is that the numbers of photographers all styles considered has been increasing exponentially over the past years. So you're one among many on any platforms.

Was really excited about your article, unfortunately it falls short of substance. Would have been cool to add value here with maybe a few ways to market yourself and so on.

Thank you for the feedback Remi, you are indeed one of many on platforms such as Instagram and it takes a massive effort and luck now to grow exponentially.

I'm sorry the article fell short in terms of offering alternative ways to market yourself, that was something meant for a follow up piece so watch this space.

The problem comes down to an already saturated market of photographers/videographers with AI now competing in the non-personal space. So good luck there.

If your job is not specific events or people focussed, you should have an exit strategy in place because it's only going to get worse. Lots of success still to be had if you're not a weirdo around people and you make the effort at an analog level but get ready for a race to the bottom as everyone shifts their focus to this space.

Strategic pro-bono is the way to go for newcomers (but again, this will also because more difficult to identify the opportunities that will pan out). Anyhow, that's how I got my foot in the door and I've stayed busy and extremely profitable over the last 10 without an online presence. Social media, in my opinion, is a complete time suck.

Absolutely right, portrait photography, weddings etc will always have a place but products etc is a dying art due to artificial intelligence.

I agree with what you say about how the platforms have changed. But if one is disappointed and disheartened because of those changes, the "fault" here primarily lies with the photographers themselves, and their unrealistic expectations and misplaced objectives.

Using Instagram to get more customers and more money for one's self is rather selfish and asinine. Photographers misused the platform, then they complain when it doesn't work for getting them more money. Sheesh.

The correct way to use social media is to connect with people who are passionate about the same things you are passionate about. To become part of a network of people who share our hobbies and passions. To make friendships and to do research and gain information about the things we love, not to try to sell our stuff or services to strangers.

If one's purposes for using Instagram are pure and right and good and not at all self-serving, then one will not be discouraged with using the platform. But if one is trying to amass a lot of likes and followers and "get their name out there" then they deserve to be disheartened because that is a selfish objective to have.

It's all supposed to be about the things we love and connecting with others to discuss and share those things, not about trying to get more dollars for ourselves, a.k.a. "paid gigs". If you want paid gigs then pay for advertising like the standard business model has been for centuries.

If someone sent you a message on Instagram, wanting to book you for a shoot, would you say no in this case?

Depending on what they want me to shoot, I wouldn't necessarily say "no". But I'm not so sure that I would say "yes" either. But I sure as heck would not spend time on Instagram with the objective of trying to get people to use my work or hire me for shoots.

I spend a lot of time on Instagram, at least 12 hours a week ... but I do it with unselfish objectives and with no intention of trying to get money out of people. I do it out of a pure love for photography and the wild animals that I photograph.

Instagram is a wonderful research tool when one wants to learn more about something, and to connect with others who know about the things we want to know more about. And also to connect with those who know less than us and want to know more, as we can use Instagram to give back and share our knowledge with others.

The algorithm shouldn't matter, because we should look for things with purpose and intention, not just see whatever Instagram defaults our way. I go directly to friend's accounts to see what they've been posting lately, and that is not affected at all by what Instagram does with their algorithms. Are people really so lazy that they just click on the app and then look at whatever Instagram puts in front of their eyeballs? If so, then people need to learn to use the search tool and decide whose posts they are going to view. When you put a lot of time and effort into something, you get a better experience than when you are lazy and just look at what it shows you by default.

I certainly never intended on using social media as a business tool, it just so happens that how I earnt my first ever photography work and many jovs thereafter which have since died down due to lack of reach now.

You are right about the other points such as research, connecting with others and so on which i still love to do.

Social media is toxic, I was sucked into it. Posting trying to "work the algorithm". "use these hashtags" "promote yourself on these pages" "tag this share account".... Xyz.

I gave up, I gave up my YouTube channel, I gave up my Instagram and now I take photographs, for fun and to make a family calendar of 13 shots (12 months and a front cover before anyone questions 13)

No longer do you compete with your peers, you compete for attention against the best of the best. If you don't fit the fad, then tuff luck.

It reminded me why I got into photography, as a young kid, holding my grandads camera. It was meant to be fun, so I've gone back to fun. Not competing with folk that I'd not even fling a fart at in the real world. There are far too many over inflated egotistical megalomaniacs promoting their pathetically shit copy and paste photo of a honeypot location or their shot from a hide. Copy and paste and pretend you are a god.

OK rant over (I even use a fake name on here so I'm not relating to my accounts, really, you think max power is my real name, it's from a Simpson episode)

Social media is beyond toxic. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., should be avoided at all cost. Why support people like Zuckerberg?

Exactly and the old saying is being shown to be true.
"if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product!"

There is so much valuable information to be gleaned form FB and Instagram that can not be found anywhere else. Why would I deprive myself of such productive research tools?

"Beyond toxic"? How? It's not like I am trying to get a lot of likes or followers. And I certainly don't care about the algorithm or whether or not Insta shows my photos to lots of people.

Instagram provides an easy convenient way to connect with and stay in touch with people that I meet when I am out shooting, and a way to research wildlife locations and opportunities. What in the world is toxic about that?

Instagram/Facebook are really poor places for anyone who appreciates photography to be visiting. Any mediocre photo can look good when viewed on a five inch screen. It's obvious they are not a photo centric platform when they forced a square crop on people for years. There's no concensus platform with high engagement for sharing high resolution images that really exists unfortunately. Couple that with the overall change in media from printed to electronic and the ease of do it yourself "creators" and it doesn't bode well for professional photographers.

I post my photos on Instagram with a white square border so they at least retain their correct aspect ratio when viewed on my page in the irritating forced upon square format. Of course people viewing any photographs on Instagram will just get to see very small images anyway. Certainly not ideal but I don’t want to post very high res images just in case someone screen captures them and tries to pass them off as their own.

I use Instagram. I post photographs and use hashtags. What I don’t do is use it to try to get a big following because I know that won’t happen anymore. It’s more of a place to direct people to my portfolio of work. Once I get more into promoting myself and actually in the position to start selling prints, I will reevaluate my online presence and decide then if Instagram is still useful to me.

This sounds very reasonable. Using social media is only a part of the whole process to market yourself. As a photographer, we need to embrace many different avenues which are constantly changing or evolving.