Online presence has become a must in the age of millennials. The distance between the real world and the virtual one is covered with one tap. What started as a medium of connecting people has transformed into a major source of revenue generation for many businesses, artists, sponsors, and so on. Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook are among the most widely reached platforms. Artists generally use these platforms to showcase their work in front of a larger audience. When it comes to street photography, social media is always a matter of conflict. On one side, social media is believed to be a staircase to fame. Rest prefer the offline world in receiving concrete offers. So, we are here to explore the role of social media in the field of street photography.
What Is This Fuss All About?
A large percentage of businesses are either online or they wish to take their business online someday very soon. Becoming insta-famous is one sort of achievement. It looks like a shortcut to fame and money. Undoubtedly, likes, views, and shares matter in today's world but how much is the question.
How Does It Work?
Instagram and Facebook were originally an advertising-free application with a chronological feed of posts. This meant you get to see every post from the accounts you follow. However, the picture is entirely changed now. Instagram and Facebook both arrange these feeds based on algorithms for content that you may like. In simple words, you don’t have complete control over what you see. Youtube again shows the videos based on what you recently watched, while Twitter still goes with chronological feeds. Even though this intervention of the advertising industry is restricting us to some extent, it has opened doors of profit to every photographer.
Photography Before vs Now
There was a time when the set rules of photography were strictly followed, the knowledge of this art was delivered by professional photographers to their assistants firsthand. When photographers aimed either on submissions or on getting more projects, now half of the world considers photography as one of their many hobbies.
The first greatest change in the history of photography was when black and white was slowly replaced by colored photos.
Second, when the limited number of photos based on the reel was replaced with digital trends. Unlike when the shutter was pressed after a lot of thought, photography reached on a point where storage is not an issue anymore.
The third wave of change began with social media. Before social media took over, photographers mainly got their best shots selected for books, magazines, art galleries, exhibitions, submissions. Apart from talent, direct contacts used to matter the most. The virtual world has set new rules for artists. Soon, the best place to be noticed was Instagram and the best way to educate was by blogs and vlogs. But how true is this newfound world?
Difference Between Photographers And Social Influencers
While both are connected by the use of a camera, photographers and influencers are not even closely related in terms of ideology and mindset. A Photographer looks for the accurate style to press the shutter, while an influencer looks for what is or has the potential of becoming a trend on Instagram and Youtube.
Photographers follow the concept of originality while influencers go for popularity. Yes, even a photographer can wish to be popular but not for anything copied. Photographers’ philosophy is very different based on their respect for photography. They know the set rules and techniques, yet do not hesitate in trying something new. In short, photographers click for the sake of art not with the thought of likes on social media. It is mainly about the difference in ideology and philosophy.
Point to be noted, the above mentioned can’t be the case with everyone. A photographer can be a social influencer or vice-versa.
With more than 2 billion members, Facebook is the toughest competitor of Google in the marketing industry. According to Forbes, more than 500 million users stay active on Instagram. Although it consists of all sorts of images and videos, it remains the greatest means of increasing followers for photographers. That’s because out of the random pics of food, pets, places, families, friends, and all, the majority is of photographers from every genre who put up their best works on Instagram. We can say that photography and social media go hand in hand. Becoming a part of social media is not enough but using it for one’s profit is a big deal. The sole motive of this process is to get noticed, to be liked, and to increase the following. Who likes to fill their hard drives and never share their work?
The Best Time To Learn
The great thing about social media is that it gives every member equal opportunity to learn. Established photographers share their techniques, details about equipment, and nearly everything you need to strengthen your base of photography and to know more about the various styles. All these social mediums can prove to be more helpful for getting connected with those who inspire you, instead of blindly being grateful for all the likes.
An Easy Way Out
Social networks look like an easy way out. To set up an account, to get a high number of followers, and reach a level where you can become an influencer and earn profit by representing clients to your followers. When scrolling through profiles of vloggers or insta influencers, you find millions of followers, thousands of likes on every photo, and video. The idea of one of your photographs going viral or being shortlisted by another page with large followers gives hope.
Social Media Is Complex For Artists
A food blogger, a fitness influencer, a travel Instagrammer, anyone posting videos of his/her pets, or someone taking business online uses photos, videos, and words as a medium to convey their message or to become popular. Now, these 3 ways: photographs, videos, and words are more than just a medium for some. In simplest words, it is not necessary for a blogger to be a professional writer, a travel influencer to be a professional photographer and the same goes for cinematographers.
For example, everyone else sharing their shots online is a way to get more views and to be liked but for photographers, the purpose of posting their shots can be to get likes but these photographs are more than just shots; it is art.
Let’s keep all the great deals that social media can offer aside. The truth can’t be denied about the similar photos we come across every day. As soon as a particular photo goes viral, the style becomes ordinary instead of becoming great. The thin line between getting inspiration from one’s work and copying is usually neglected on these social networks. Exact same photos start to pop up by those who just find it to be a great way to get thumbs up. Let’s say the drone footage of the same place from the same angel, just on a different day. Social media is behind these copycat shots. It has adverse effects on the perception of the photographers and the real talent goes unnoticed. These viral photographs become a classic example that’s copied over and over.
If it wasn’t for social networks, how many people would view your photographs? Is it really important for a piece of art to be appreciated for it to be great? Let’s not be unaware of the next part of the process, first, people see, second they comment. Both positive and negative are sure to come from it. Not letting the negatives stop or demotivate you is the key.
One thing fewer people understand is that to make a stable career in any field it is important to improve over time. To have an in-depth perspective, one must have honest feedback from those who are more experienced in this field more. Having contacts with a bunch of photographers from the same field in actual life can be much more beneficial than having thousands of followers on Instagram who can't help you in improving.
Archit, the founder of Street Photography India answers some of the common questions about photography and social media.
1. How much is social media important for you as a street photographer?
Social media is something that I think is important for any artist, including a photographer, to reach out to the people interested in that genre. For me, as a photographer, social media plays an important role in representing my art to many similar genre individuals, share my ideas with them, and learn from theirs. Also, it has become something kind of inspiration when I look out to a photographer's work and get inspired to move ahead in this journey.
2. To what extend social media helps in establishing a career in photography?
Nowadays it helps a lot, when you are looking out for sponsorship, brand collaborations, the number of your reach matters a lot. People are doing good business through social media platforms and I think it has more future opportunities lying out for newer ideas.
3. Is it necessary for a street photographer to be active on social media to be acknowledged? Why? It depends completely on the artist whether he/she wants to be active on social media. The online media has not completely vanished the traditional way to represent your work, so there are many individuals who don't prefer/want to adopt the social media platforms, but I think if you use these platforms, in a positive way it helps a lot to reach out many people & for a bunch of new ideas.
A Balance Is Necessary
Change is inevitable and to accept it is a fine way to move ahead. Yes, social media might have shaken the roots of photography and established different standards. The fact can’t be denied it is a source of inspiration for millions. Photographers love to share their work online but they don’t solely rely on this virtual world. After going through profiles of many street photographers with a huge number of followers, one thing is for sure, they all maintain their unique vision and constantly pursue it.
How To Maintain This Balance?
There are a lot of magazines out there that consider every work seriously. Although the quality standards are quite high, it allows photographers to get their works critiqued by professionals. Cooph, Inspired Eye, The Phoblographer, and Photography Group are some of the many names. Meanwhile, no one is stopping you from getting your works posted on popular pages to be liked by strangers in a millisecond. Agree that social media is important but to what extent, is a question you need to answer separately.
Become a part of our communities and stay updated with our new posts:
Comment below to share your views on the role of social media in street photography.