Social Media & Photography: Observations Part 1 – Introduction

Photograph ©Anna Shelton

Writing about social media is a dicey proposition.  Its been hyped as the next business gold rush which inevitably attracts the gurus, experts, charlatans, get rich quick dudes and unemployed bloggers.  But once you weed all of them out, you’ll find some incredibly intelligent people discussing social media and executing strategies for the largest brands in the world.

Social media has different meanings for different people.  It’s broad, complex and not always easily definable.  It’s a mix of publishing, marketing, networking, sharing, chatting, amongst many other things.

In doing this series, I by no means make any assumption that anything I write will be applicable to everyone or that the way I approach social media is the one way anyone should.  I might not know what I’m talking about. Hell, in ten years, all of us could look like fools for spending so much time on Facebook and Twitter.  Carry your ‘expert’ title with caution.

I can only write about my social media experiences and observations.  If people can gain something from that, great. But this series shouldn’t be viewed as any sort of guide.  I’ll leave that to the PhotoShelter guys.

In this series I’ll cover my observations & experiences with Blogging, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook and Video.  Since my involvement with social media has primarily been through photography, that’s the angle I’ll focus on.  I’ll try to touch on my perspective both as a photographer and blogger/editor/publisher.  The catch of course is that photography is a diverse field and my perspective is that of fine art, documentary, and editorial. So it would be foolish for me to try to comment on social media for wedding or commercial photographers, or the variety of other types out there.  It’d also be foolish for me to assume my approach would work for established photographers, galleries or magazines. I’ve never worked in the industry. My perspective is that of the observant, passionate amateur.

However, I do earn my living as a social media strategist, and because of that I keep close tabs on the industry, and read plenty blog posts each day, which perhaps gives me some insight that might be useful.

Serendipitous Beginning

Flickr tells me I’ve been a member since February 2005.  It was that month that I joined in order to share my party ‘snaps’ with my friends.  It was the easiest solution I found and had been receiving buzz as the photo sharing place to be.  At the time it didn’t occur to me to network or look at other people’s photographs. It was upload, get a link, send an email to my friends.

It was only after I started to become more interested in photography that I began to dig into Flickr.  And when I did, I eventually found the street photography group, HCSP.  Through the group I met photographers Hin Chua, Ben Roberts, Raoul Gatepin, Michael Simon and James Wendell, all of who were moderators of the group.  They provided lots of great information about the genre, and more importantly about photography in general.  The group from the beginning was about much more than gear and how to’s.  They discussed books, and linked to interesting articles and essays, and generally provided a forum for people to discuss the work and learn.

Because of my involvement with that group I was able to meet several other photographers from around the world who, like me, were trying to learn more about photography.  So for me, right from the beginning, social media was very much about sharing, learning and community.  Flickr is maligned by photographers for a variety of reasons, some of them justified, some of the them misguided.  In the next post, I’ll talk about Flickr; the good, the bad, and the misunderstood.