These days it’s not good enough to be an excellent photographer if you want to be known. Today’s top professional photographers spent years perfecting their craft and sharing it online in clever ways. Their ability to use social media and photography to produce human connections is a useful lesson to those associating the word “photography” with “decline.” Eyefi, calling itself a “leader in digital camera connectivity,” put together a list of today’s crème de la crème of socially influential photographers, claiming that today’s top photographers are also often the most socially savvy.
That’s a bit of a bold statement. Social “influence” is first and foremost an online marketing tool. It’s unclear how “influence” translates into commercial photography business. The Web is full of photography self-aggrandizers and it’s a mystery to me how a busy photographer would still have time to be socially active all over the place — it’s about as contradictory as the U.S. president who has many favorite TV shows. How the heck does he have all the time to watch them?!
World’s most acclaimed photographers have no time for the Web, just to mention Salgado, McCurry, Nachtwey — or René Burri for that with whom I’m talking since some time for an interview, but the masters have and see no need to be socially active while the socially most influential photographers keep the gas pedal floored in this industry that continues to be an unpredictable roller coaster.
Here’s the ranking:
Now photography is a vastly changing landscape. The tools in essence remain the same, photography however is intimately linked with the speed of and changes in technology. So… what can we mortals learn from most influential photographers?
Forbes and I have identified a slightly different hierarchy of the socially most influential photographers. Here is what they have to say about photography and social media:
Jeremy Cowart: “I use all of the social networks including my own.”
In terms of social networks, I use all of them… Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc. And yes, I think there has always been a big hole. All the networks I just mentioned encourage lazy couch viewing. None of them make you get off your butt and go chase an idea.
So because of that, we created an app called OKDOTHIS, which is a community that encourages creative growth through specific ideas. It’s an endless pool of ideas that ends creative block. It’s fascinating to watch how one idea can be translated hundreds of different ways.
Thomas Hawk: “The tools are primarily the social networks themselves.”
I find that authenticity and interactivity help a great deal. So many of my online relationships have turned into face to face relationships. The social networks are a springboard to more significant friendships and relationships. Probably the biggest tool that’s missing with most of the networks is the ability to market your work both in terms of print sales and stock photography. Flickr had a pretty poor relationship with Getty Images for a while, that I felt was sort of a rip off for photographers, but nobody else has done much. I think there’s huge potential for one of the major networks to do stock photography right.
David DuChemin: “Social media is nothing more than a new kind of way to do what we’ve always done: make connections with an audience and share our work.”
I’ve always found more success concentrating on personal projects and then leveraging those into sharable work — books, blog posts, social media, etc. It’s taken me years to recognize, but that’s what grows my audience and brings in new work and new opportunities.
Trey Ratcliffe: “I don’t use any tools.”
For Google, I go to Google and make my posts. For Twitter, I go to the Twitter webpage etc. etc. I have slightly different audiences on each platform, so I think it is not good to use one-tool-that-fits-all. It gets impersonal at some point. For example, on Facebook, sometimes I share photos that I don’t share anywhere else.
Also, on Instagram, I tend to focus more on people shots and street photography. Plus, it’s always me that is doing the posting and responding… I don’t pay someone else to pretend to be me. I know some people do that, and I think it is rotten. The bad side is that I don’t get to respond to all the questions, but when you do see a response, then it’s really me.
Richard Bernabe: “I use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and my blog.”
Social media just provides a direct conduit from photographers to their fans and followers. I am constantly traveling and my office is becoming ever more mobile. Think about it: If you would have told me ten years ago that I could share wildlife images from Africa and Alaska or mountain landscapes from Patagonia to tens of thousands of people within hours of their capture, I would have said you’re crazy. This is a great time to be a photographer!
Jake Olson: “Facebook and 500px.”
My most impactful tools are Facebook and 500px. Most of my portrait work comes from Facebook as that’s more of a consumer market while most of my magazine work comes from 500px. 500px is more of a commercial market.
Social media works for me right now and I don’t honestly see any room for improvement. But I do worry about Facebook choking the amount of fans that see my posts in their news feed and how much I now need to pay for more exposure.
Frederick Van: “4K video and photography.”
With 4k photography, it’s stunning what you can pull from still frame video. Shortly, we’ll see 4K wearable devices that will capture photography in brand new ways — but time will tell if these devices are socially accepted. For example, I tried wearing Google Glass, but the problem with Google Glass is that you’re that person wearing Google Glass. It’s just not accepted socially yet.
Sergey Sus: “Drone technology and real estate.”
Drone technology and photography is a growing trend but will be limited by FAA legislation. So far, it appears the technology is taking hold in sports and real estate, but I see many applications in journalism and agriculture.