Photographer, Be A Photographer.
Serious photographers, a reminder to keep your eyes on what is important.
Don’t dissect your photography into stats that would have you care how many likes per image you get, what your engagement rate is or how many followers you’ve gained or lost. You’re a photographer, not a marketing analyst. And if you were an analyst, the end result of your data mining would result in self evident results. Don’t waste your time on data.
Don’t aim for populist approval — imagery that gets the most likes, a feed that attracts the most people. There is no rainbow at the end of that journey. In fact, it guides your images toward a high middle of similar locations and themes. Aim only for the purest expression of your ideas and the next thing you want to learn in photography to get it right.
Don’t have a “posting strategy.” You’re not a brand that needs to prove to some set of marketing professionals that you post at the right time of day for a particular audience. You don’t need to know your audience — they need to want to get to know you. At some point, people will seek you out. Up until that point, all you need to do is focus on getting better at photography, not marketing. I post when I wake up. Eventually, everyone who has cared about what I do has come to expect that from me.
Go buy 10k followers. If only to jump past the useless, soul-crushing process of trying to build an audience by reciprocal liking, shameless plugging, giveaways, collaborations, features, ubiquitous conceptual territories and the like. I’d rather you spend the money today and get back to shooting your own vision tomorrow than to spend one more hour compromising your integrity. In the end, it’s just a number on the top of your feed, nothing more. I know professional photographers, Magnum shooters, NatGeo photogs, all of whom have less followers than a lot of hotshots out there who have never lugged a C-stand. But I also know folks with over 100k followers who are solid shooters, and good people. They don’t spend much time thinking about it. Your follower count either matters to you or it doesn’t, but it has no inherent value. So, why jump through a bunch of hoops for it? Just purchase it, like a good watch that makes you happy when you look at it.
Don’t network. That’s people trying out their brands. I’ve worked around good marketers my whole career, enough to know that artists and photographers shouldn’t try to talk that game. Growth strategy just sounds slimy when it’s a photographer talking. It compromises you as an artist, who should be talking about ideas, themes and techniques. Let people who are good at marketing do marketing for you. If you want to grow through connections, get a rep or a meet with gallery owners. Otherwise, hang out with good friends and those who just love photography and inspire you with great work.
Remember, the world does not need another photographer. There’s already far more photographers than jobs for them to do. What the world does need is good ideas. When you approach Instagram from a marketer’s perspective, it forces you into a crowded space of cool shots of cool locations that thousands of other people are doing just as well. You become the sea of sameness. But the more you concentrate on your own sensibility, your own voice and your own unique take on things — the more you set yourself up to rise above that crowd.
This is a reminder to all photographers, myself included. I’ve bitten down on the shiny lure, too. These beautiful distractions and little highs. All that really matters is your individual voice and your take on the world. Think only about that. Instagram is a flyer, use it as such. The real legacy of you — your work and your voice — happens in the real world. With your camera and your vision.