I’ve done it. I’ve taken the perfect photo. The Mona Lisa of photos. This will be the crowning achievement of my photography career. All I need to do now is get it out into the world. I need to give my vision to the people. The beauty that my artistic talent has divinely crafted will open the eyes of everyone to love, peace and harmony.
I’ve just uploaded it to social media. 1 like, 2 likes, 3 likes…So it begins, the start of my fame. 10 likes, 20 likes, 30 likes…In my mind I can see it spreading across the internet. 50 likes…Millions of people around the world staring breathless in amazement at their screens, faces lit by the enchanting glow of my creation. The comments people are leaving are all positive! They love it! 100 likes…I can almost hear the phone ringing now. Magazine editors scrambling to be the first to print my work in their publication. More comments appear! Emoji’s of affection, amazement and pure disbelief. 200 likes…World renowned galleries desperately free up wall space to cater for the droves of visitors that will come to see this glorious image. 300 likes…Almost there, I can feel it! 301 likes…Wait a minute that doesn’t seem right. 301 likes…No! I was so close! Come on! Just a few more! 302 likes…
Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is what is happening everyday across social media to photography enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals. It starts off the same. Viewing the LCD screen preview, instant gratification that you’ve captured that special once in a lifetime moment. You get it home, upload it to the computer. There it is! On the bigger screen! Slightly more blurred than you thought because you forgot to zoom in on the display screen and check the sharpness, but that’s OK it’s still good, it’s still good! You can sharpen it in Photoshop anyway! And get rid of that rubbish in the foreground with the clone stamp. That area’s a bit dark, I’ll just give that a dodge. Throw in some saturation. Crop out that telephone pole. Might as well clone out that tourist taking a similar photo of the same scene, theirs won’t look as good as mine! Not after I add a bunch of contrast to those clouds! There! Perfect! I’ll just run a script that another photographer created to make it look like their style and we’re done! Time to let the world see this perfect image.
This is where it gets silly. The photo is uploaded to the internet. Flickr, Tumblr, 500px, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. You add a title, hashtags, caption, location. Make it ultra searchable. Add it to groups, albums, boards, galleries. Flood the market with it. Show as many people as you can, all your friends, followers, contacts, screaming adoring fans! The photo is there! Hanging on hundreds of walls in virtual galleries all around the world! People are looking at it, loving it, showing their friends, crying over its beauty. Then the praises start being yelled out “great shot”, “love it!”, “amazeballs!” and “nice one, check out my work too!”. You’re a star. A world renowned photographer. Everyone loves your work. Just look! Hundreds of comments and likes. All of them positive. No criticism. Just pats on the back.
What’s the point? Is it even worth it? We measure our success by the amount of positive feedback we receive in relation to our reach. Is the lack of engagement from a follower base an indication of a photos possibly inadequate marketing potential? It is so easy to get caught up in the projected success of others on social media accounts. We buy into the lifestyle we are sold by popular personalities that show us nothing but beautiful destinations, beautiful food, beautiful people and rich, lavish lives. If only we could share photos like that on social media we could be living those lives, right? The answer is, no! Not at all! All you see is what they know you want to see. You don’t see the hard work that goes into building a successful business and brand because deep down you just want to escape in their world. You start to mimic the small part of their world which is social media. Then you project on your social media the best parts of your life and omit the boring bits because that’s what successful people do.
As a recovering Photo Sharing Junkie I know first hand that this is where a fictional social media life creates a negative affect on your mind. You start to crave a sweet hit of likes and positive feedback. But it’s never enough, it never lives up to your expectations of how your art is going to be received. So you keep trying to work the system. Your photos start to look like the ones that have been shared frequently. You start to only go to the places that are popular right now. You start to think which crop would look best on Instagram rather than what would look good printed and hanging on your wall. It is easy to get caught up in social media when it comes to sharing photos because at first there are no negative affects. No one is going to tell you your photo isn’t all that good. Even if they did you wouldn’t believe them.
The only thing I can recommend as someone that walks a fine line now between getting the most exposure from my social media and not getting caught up in the flow of trends and positive engagement is this; If you find yourself thinking of how an image will be received on Instagram or Facebook while you are shooting, switch off for a while. Don’t post anything for a week or more. Keep taking photos and challenging yourself, but do it your way. Your life is more than how others perceive it on the internet. Becoming a Photo Sharing Junkie is easy, but it is just as easy to quit.