Did Social Media Kill Photography ?
Updated: May 4, 2020
Well, this promises to be a controversial topic, and the irony is not lost on me that I'm sharing a topic about social media on social media !
Love to or hate it social media is here to stay, but is it a good or bad thing ? Lets take a look on the pro's and cons of the platform that can make or break you.
Well, lets be honest, never has it been so easy to get your work seen by so many people, you can put a single picture up and within the hour it has been shared all round the world and seen by millions of people.
Hallelujah I hear you cry ! Thats exactly what you want right ?
You can connect with your target audience, you can reach out to people who didn't even know they wanted to see your pictures, you can get the attention of the editor of a magazine without trying the old faithful ringing every five minutes ploy that is sure to get you banned from all future publications.
This is a dream right ? Its great, we all need to get on it right away !
People can "like" your work and give you the pat on the back you have been seeking to validate your hard earned image.
They can even share it to their fellow followers who are potentially clients for you ! This just gets even better !
You can find new places to shoot with a simple search, you can see what others have done and do the same.
You can even have your own shop on there and sell prints without having to invest a penny, its money for old rope I tell you !
Now you don't even have to learn the hard way, you can just go and find a quick fix tutorial and be a pro in minutes ! You can Google anything you can think up and there will be a video of it somewhere.
Camera craft is no longer needed because you can find out the latest processing mastery to mean your dull flat sky is now a masterpiece dripping with colour and wonderful drama.
Social media and the word con ? Surely not ! It's all great isn't it ?
Well, this is where I take a dim view of social media and how it can harm you and your work and your future in photography.
So what negative sides can we see from social media ? Well, quite a lot as it happens.
The whole "like" culture is a sham, people seem to hold it on a pedestal and validate their work according to how many likes or followers they get, Now I'm sure there is some truth in it but the reality is people will buy followers, buy likes and do just about every trick in the book to appear more credible. Don't believe me ? No problem but it's true and happening much more than you think.
The need to chase likes in my humble opinion has killed off the desire to go and shoot simply because you love it, because you want to be in the great outdoors, because you enjoy the light and the countryside and everything that goes with it.
It has created competition (which can be good) but caused resentment between people who are competing with each other just to get work out there, thus the quality of the work falls dramatically because it's so important to be posting every day with fresh material to be credible.
It has been a breeding ground for heavily over processed pictures because the general public are so in awe of the fantastic colours you have managed to "capture".
The sad fact is people will push poor images to the limit just to get them out, a photographer will see through these in a second and doubt the integrity and indeed the ability of the photographer who has taken them.
The general public who aren't photographers are easily fooled, a photographer however, knows better.
But it doesn't matter though because the general public are "liking" your work and heaping praise on you so your happy ?
This is where the biggest stumbling block comes into play, you start to believe your own hype, you're a camera god and you can do no wrong, your images are the very essence of perfection ! You decide at this point you are going to give tutorials, but wait.....Do you actually know enough to teach people real photography ? Most don't, it might seem a very scathing statement but in reality there are far to many people passing themselves off as experts down to their social media hype rather than their ability.
Anyone can push a saturation slider right up, and anyone can add or buy a multitude of friends to validate them.
Putting your images out there for the world to see also allows other photographers to see too which in turn breeds a copycat situation where if your original in your images, it won't be for long as the shot will be copied. I freely admit to having done this when I started because I wasn't being creative, and at the time I saw nothing wrong with it, now however it drives me crazy when I put an original composition up and the very next day I see it copied by a few people thus creating a domino effect, so now I try not to look at others work so it can't happen.
The same can be said when you are shooting alongside another photographer and its been a fairly uneventful evening and your shots go in the bin as it wasn't very exciting, only for you too see one of the other photographers who was next to you put up a glorious sunset full of vibrant bright colours that didn't even happen, just because they are desperate to get yet another "credible" picture out on their social media accounts. This in my book is the worst, it's a downright lie, painting in colours on photoshop that weren't there makes a mockery of the term photographer, and people who do this are simply digital artists. Once again joe public might be fooled, but a photographer isn't.
Now I'm not a hypocrite, I use social media extensively, because I have too. Just like everyone else I need to have a voice amongst the millions of other photographers out there. I need to get my work seen, just like you and I want to be successful at it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.
I'm very aware of the pitfalls of it and I try and limit my use of it to just posting a quick image that I feel is worthy, and of course these blogs which are probably only read by a handful of people.
As an experiment I took myself off social media for several months, and I have to say I enjoyed my photography more than ever. I was no longer involved in silly arguments, I didn't have to see sub par work passed off as masterpieces, I didn't have to see an image I put up copied by people the very next day, to say it was fantastic was an understatement, I did however miss what people were having for dinner !
So I kept it going, I left the photography groups I was a part of and I kept myself to myself on got on with what I enjoyed most, taking pictures for myself.
I was no longer influenced by others work, I choose my locations and ideas based on nothing more than personal experience and a desire to visit them. I felt during this time my photography improved a great deal, and my personal enjoyment of it all went through the roof.
I highly recommend a period of rest from it all to replenish the soul and become fresh.
Now don't get me wrong, There are some simply amazing pros out there who use social media and do it very very well, they take advantage of the medium and use it on their terms, they don't feel any need to compete because frankly their images are top notch and deserve the acclaim they get.
The best photographers I know are usually the quietest on social media, they know their craft, learned long before social media came along, they made mistakes and learned from them. They didn't seek the quick fixes of post processing videos, they learned through understanding the camera and the light, post processing is just a smallest part of their arsenal, good camera skills and understanding make up 90% of the shot.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is don't rely on social media and don't let it give you distorted illusions of your own ability. If I were to get a hundred comments on pictures from joe public, although very flattering it doesn't compare to when someone who's work I respect, makes a comment because they know. They know what you went through to get that image, they understood how it was a dam hard shot to get, they understand the conditions and the problems it presented you, and they are giving you a nod too say "nice work chap, you did good" and that to me will be always worth so much more because you should never stop being hard on yourself if you want to improve, and if a decent photographer tells you it's a good shot, then you know it is.
I have a friend who is by far the most talented photographer I have ever met and he is brutally hard on my images, every time I send one that I think is top notch he will pull it apart and point out everything that is wrong with it. You know what though ? He's absolutely right, and he's doing me the biggest favour ever because it forces me to do better, to not make the same mistakes as before.
As painful as it is too be trashed by someone who's work you respect it's a necessary evil, everyone needs a friend who will tell it to them like it is, Social media will never do that for you, quite the opposite.
So back to the main tittle question, Did social media kill photography ? Well, it's a yes and no debate really.
It has certainly gained a never before seen popularity as people are switched on to the idea by seeing great pictures on social media, so from that point of view it really has helped give it a huge boost.
It has helped business flourish and develop and has given people a platform to be recognised and showcase their talent, so it must be regarded as a success and a much needed part of the process (pun intended).
Has it made a mockery of good photography ? Yes, I believe it has, just about everyone who buys a camera seems to put up a website almost right away and proclaim themselves as "Inspirational" or "finest" etc without actually really knowing what they are doing. The illusion given to them by the hype of social media will be their own undoing.
Social media might not have killed the pastime of photography, it has certainly enhanced it, but I do believe it has started to kill the ART of photography and the skill set required to do it well.
We seem to be a generation of "instant" people who want everything right away and will take the quickest and easiest path to get there, cutting any corners possible. That really has hurt the art in my humble opinion.
Now I have presented some very harsh views on here and I want to make one thing very clear, I don't consider myself to be an expert, a pro or even that good at photography, its just something that I very much enjoy and have a real passion for and I like to be able to share that with others, i'm very fortunate that people buy my work and enjoy it. So what gives me the right to say such things ? The freedom of speech on Social Media (oh the irony) and just wishing to see people progress and get the most out of their photography and improve.
There are some real talented people out there who are making names for themselves with very good quality pictures and original ideas, sadly for every one of those there are thousands who are putting up poor over processed images that don't resemble anything of the original scene that they took it at.
For that I will never forgive social media.
I would really like to hear your views on this so please leave a comment in the box below.
As always, Happy shooting.
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