Instagram has become one of the most powerful tools for today’s photographer. The platform empowers photographers across the world to have their work viewed thousands, if not millions, of times over. The community behind the social network cannot be underestimated either, openly sharing a wealth of knowledge and inspiring their like-minded peers to take their passion to the next level.
Personally, exposure to the abundant amount of imagery on the platform inspired—and continues to inspire—my imagination to go in pursuit of never-ending creativity when conceptualizing for my own shoots. However—as much as we may prefer to remain ignorant—the platform isn’t all sunsets and rainbows for photographers.
While Instagram seems to have fuelled people’s passion for photography with every second person you meet on the streets of Braam and places alike uttering the words “I’m a photographer”. Too often we find ourselves chasing likes, rather than being inspired through the art of photography itself.
It’s a fundamental aspect of human nature to revel in others’ appreciation of photographers and their work. The little hit of dopamine straight into your bloodstream when a red heart appears on the screen is highly addictive. So much so that I—and, I bet, many of my peers—pursue it in the absence of a genuine love for the field.
We begin to pursue a digital metric, one seemingly always out of reach. After receiving our first 100 likes on a post, we’re chasing 200. After attracting 5,000 followers, we move the goal line to 10,000 followers. We pursue short term hits of success at the expense of long term fulfilment. It’s like constantly chasing yourself up a mountain, and never quite stopping to appreciate the view up there. There’s also the wealth of photographs that inspire some, but have the opposite effect for many others.
Yet this approach is obviously a self-defeating one. My advice? Don’t let the fear paralyze you. Be bold. Be courageous with your photography. It’s one thing to value digital metrics of success, but it’s something else to achieve them artificially.
How many has-been reality stars or Instagram famous models have you seen claim impossibly high follower numbers? Those with highly suspect low levels of actual engagement on their posts. There’s no sense of community with their followers (thank the heavens for Instagram killing off fake followers). Just an artificially inflated follower count so they can sell influencer reach onto gullible brands who don’t or choose not to know any better – the disrespect.
And then there’s the fake accounts which drop completely out of context gibberish comments on your photos. I’m all for hashtags. They’re a fantastic way to have your photos seen and (hopefully) shared by larger content hubs on Instagram. But unfortunately, these ghost accounts prey on certain tags, unceremoniously splurging out offers of “want more followers? Check my page!” – TF?
Finally, there’s the accounts which steal others’ photos without attribution or consent. The worst thing is, because there’s no attribution or link, it’s impossible for photographers to track when the theft (and it is theft) actually occurs. It could have happened to me every day this week and I would have no way of knowing.
While we can’t directly control the fundamental nature of social media and Instagram, we can actively choose to minimize its negative influence on us. To not let it define the worth of photographers and spectators alike, to leverage its power as we continue sharing our passions with the world.
A number of the big photography hubs now charge a fee to have your work featured on their account because the exposure is considered so valuable – exposure don’t pay the bills though.
In a quest to finding communities that that truly value their work and dodging internet trolls in the process, photographers are exploring/creating alternative platforms to publish their work. There’s an app for anything and everything these days, but nothing truly comes without a little gripe. I’ve put together a short list of photography publishing apps and sites for you to check out below:
Fujifeed is an independent online magazine that started on Instagram in January 2016 and grew up to be one of the largest community of Fujifilm photographers in the world.
Widely known for its spectacular editing specs, VSCO also has an integrated photo sharing platform that allows you to publish your images and discover the work of other photographers.
Dayflash is said to be the ultimate IG alternative with an emphasis on an immersive, full-screen experience.
Not only are you able to share your images, create a gallery of work and network with likeminded people, Vero Social enables you to share your favourite music, links, places and thoughts.
SmugMug features a community of photographers by photographers. A premium service said to be one of the best places to show off your work, and maybe even earn some cash while you’re at it.
EyeEm is a great way to find alternative avenues of creation. Think of it as an app dedicated to the same mantra as your explore page.
Steller Stories is an entire app dedicated to stories. The clean and modern layout with a super simple design is perfect for creating your own mini magazine – if you’re into that sort of thing.