If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed I’ve been quite quiet recently. A few months ago, I found myself in some strange pit of desperation, researching and stressing over how I could use social media platforms more efficiently to share and promote my photography. Because in all honestly, engagement levels were at a low. And I thought it was me….my work. Cue the anxiety, doubts, and frustrations.
Then suddenly, the talk of the photography community was exactly what I had been wondering for weeks, even months. Why was social media, specifically Instagram, not working?
Now not working as in the apps themselves aren’t useable, you can log into them and post just fine! When I first began to post to Instagram, there seemed to be a big community of supportive photographers. It was a great place to share your work, gain an audience, get seen and potentially further your career. Instagram wanted high quality images, they wanted you to post and share them and it wanted others to find them. The more content that was posted and seen meant great things for Instagram!
And then Facebook took over. And then apps like Tik Tok became popular. Instagram had to keep up with the changing trends and so they added new elements to their service; stories, reels and IGTV. Suddenly, to ‘beat the algorithm’ you had to KNOW how to use all these different features correctly to get the exposure you desired. It wasn’t about the images anymore…it was about whether you knew how to hashtag correctly or if you were posting enough stories on a weekly basis.
Photographers began to tailor their work to Instagram. I found myself on location, thinking about how Instagram would crop my image as I uploaded it. I needed to make sure my main subject of interest wouldn’t be sacrificed so it could have a place on my feed. You needed to have a running ‘theme’ so followers would be more attracted to your profile. Was this image going to fit my ‘aesthetic?’ Instagram would dramatically reduce the quality of my images and I’d find myself editing a second time in-app. What was the point of editing the first time? It got silly and bit by bit the enthusiasm for Instagram disappeared.
Then people started dropped off the platform completely. Recently, huge amounts of photographers and content creators have been leaving Instagram for other platforms where they are more likely to gain exposure. Unless you want to PAY to promote your work on Instagram, it is not easy to be seen anymore. In fact, it’s a struggle to even get your own, current followers to see a new post let alone attract NEW followers.
Sites like Tik Tok and Youtube use a recommendation system. They recommend videos to you based off what you might like, what they think you might like or what is currently popular. Of course, you can still search for specific key words and use hashtags. But this recommendation system works well. It is easier for creators to be seen and gain exposure across a wide variety of people. Non-photographers may be recommended photographers’ content. Photographers may be recommended other types of content as well as photography content.
Hence why Instagram introduced Reels, which I would say is probably their most popular feature. (Notice most of the popular reels all come from Tik Tok though?!) Of course, there is the search feed on Instagram, but Instagram doesn’t know what to recommend to you. It doesn’t know what you want, only what you tend to search for. And so, you will not come across new and different content unless you physically, manually search for a specific topic you are interested in.
Instagram recently announced the transition to a more video focused app to keep up with the current, video-based content trend. But where does this leave photographers? Specifically, photographers who have zero interest in video. Those who do not wish to create reels and long videos will now struggle even more than before to be seen. The hashtag system alone does not work well enough for photography. Instagram, a photo sharing app, is no longer for photographers.
But then you could argue was it ever for photographers? The base idea was to upload phone snaps of your daily life. The Instagram icon was a polaroid camera, instant photography. I can tell you that my photography is not instant and involves a process from scouting all the way through to post-processing and printing.
Facebook is also not a good platform for photographers, although I do post to mine occasionally. It also favors promoted content. It does not like content from other websites (such as Youtube) to be viewed over its own content. I have noticed a massive engagement difference between videos directly uploaded to Facebook verses a Youtube video shared to Facebook. So again, this leaves the question, where do photographers go?
Photographers have been discussing this a lot recently. You will find a lot of Youtube videos, tweets, and blog posts about this exact topic. I’m grateful for the content creators talking about this openly, as I feel less… crazy. It wasn’t just me who felt as though my Instagram had died.
Our current solution… is Twitter.
It’s been amazing seeing all the photographers jump to Twitter. There are now supportive communities where it is easier to find and start discussions about peoples work and photography in general. I’m personally still getting used to Twitter and don’t upload as often as I wish to as of now, but I can see how it is a better platform for photographers.
Until Instagram catches up to the modern way of content sharing, I can’t say I’ll be using it as seriously as I once did. My Instagram, which was a portfolio of my work, will now become a more personalized, behind the scenes of my photography. (Alongside the odd image of course.) Lucky for me, I also do video. I can create reels and videos that are related to my photography content. Seeing as photography is my main interest, stressing over video content just to gain new followers seems like a lot of extra work. Especially as I already spend enough time editing for Youtube.
However, this is me giving Instagram another chance as a platform, to aid me in sharing my work. Unless their tactics of helping their creators grow changes, I have a feeling even adapting to their new ways will not help my engagement or audience grow. Meaning, it is possible that in the future I follow other accounts and exit Instagram completely.
Many of you reading may not care. It’s just Instagram! It’s just social media! Well, unfortunately these days social media is the way to be seen. Companies, freelancers…. everyone is using it. It’s easy to share and access information. It’s how most people DO access information. Unless you’re a photographer on Instagram mind you!
If you follow my Instagram, you’ll see a lot more personal posts from me from now on as well as short promotional videos from my Youtube channel.
My Facebook will be posted to occasionally. (When I remember it exists.) Both platforms may take a backseat and my efforts placed elsewhere.
If you wish to directly follow me and my photography, you can check back to my website for the latest images. Otherwise, I’ll be over on Twitter and Youtube! See you there!