I found my way into photography around a year ago, taking pictures of my local football team and sharing the photographs on Social Media. It was a great feeling getting the direct reactions and compliments from my colleagues. But I knew sports photography wasn’t really my favorite genre and I enjoyed Street Photography way more. Getting feedback on this kind of photos, on the other hand, is very difficult because it is more a niche genre and harder to evaluate. People could easily relate to the football pictures because they were a part of it and were emotionally attached. So social media became the stage for my street photos and at the same time, there was was a huge connection between Social Media and Photography.
Social Media and Photography
I started out on Flickr, uploading my street pictures, to gain some reactions and feedback. At first, I just uploaded anything I liked and my photostream was kind of “messy”. Different aspect ratios, black and white pictures followed by color images and no cohesive style. Since I just started getting into photography this is to be expected, but the most important aspect was that I had fun with it. Honestly, getting reactions and interacting with other photographers was probably what kept me motivated to shoot. Filling my feed with pictures of other photographers I adored was a great inspiration and defined my goals as a beginner in photography.
But shortly after, the honeymoon phase ended and I realized that social media also has a negative impact on the development of a photographer. In the beginning, I only used Flickr. It is a great platform to share your images and easily manageable unlike Facebook or Instagram where you need some followers first until you feel that your pictures actually have some sort of “impact”.
One of the greatest features of Flickr is their Explore, which is a daily frontpage where they display the 500 most interesting pictures uploaded the day before. There are some strict rules on how their algorithm works, for example, you weren’t allowed to post your picture in more than 10 groups if you wanted to get featured. After having followed some photographers, participating in various groups on this platform and getting some feedback, I set my goal to get one picture featured in the explore, because I envisioned how great it must be to get thousands of views, likes, and comments on a picture of mine.
Then the day came and a picture of mine got featured, gathering some ten thousands of views and a couple of hundred likes. Of course, it was great to see that my pictures were actually getting some attention and I would have never imagined achieving this. But once I reached that goal I kind of felt stressed out, because I felt that every picture that follows next has to excel the previous one, getting more views, likes, and comments.
This entitlement in itself was unrealistic because a photographer can only be featured every so often on this platform, leading to even more frustration because my pictures weren’t getting the attention I thought they’d deserve. The next step for me to create pictures that are more engaging was to analyze how the images that rank higher up are composed. What I found out was, that pictures of certain styles i.e. silhouettes, shots through windows or objects are performing very well.
So I started copying and recreating them, to teach myself how to achieve this certain style which seems to be very popular and earns a lot of views and likes. Though I gained a lot of engagements, I realized that I am not really a fan of the current state of Street Photography and that all of the recognition is in vain if I am not 100% convinced of my own work.
All the pictures of silhouettes, puddles or tunnels don’t fulfill me and I don’t think they will even stand the test of time. In ten years those pictures will have no value in showing how the life at this very moment was when the picture was taken. They are artificial images, that indeed have a visual appeal, but aren’t true Street Photography in my opinion.
Likes over Quality on Social Media Platforms
There is a reason why the emphasis on the visual quality of a picture is so popular today. It is quickly comprehensible and in times of millions of uploaded pictures every day, it either has to be love at first sight or the image will be abandoned. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy some of the current state of Street Photography. But with the increasing influence of social media and Photography, we lost the balance between meaningful series with a deep story and fast food snapshots.
In hindsight, it is way more satisfactory for me to gain fewer likes for pictures that I truly stand behind, than trying to create pictures just to please as many viewers as possible. This also means that you shouldn’t follow the hype. Just because a picture has a lot of likes, it isn’t a seal of quality. Don’t let yourself influence too much from the social media universe, trying to get as many likes as possible and leaving the trail you’d like to pursue. In the end, your “like” should matter the most to you and determine if you are content with your pictures or not.