Updated: Mar 27, 2021
In our image-driven social media era, many photographers feel uneasy regarding the future of art, while others are motivated by it.
As ever-changing technology continues to shape how we see and share the world, just how much is social media affecting photography?
From copyright issues to the 'like culture', the internet is a big, scary place for photographers to be a part of. Whether it's finding someone else taking credit for your photography because you didn't watermark or sign your photograph or you're receiving negative comments on that post you spent hours working on, the big question demanding to be answered is "is social media killing photography?"
The famous social media site, Instagram, is a very successful platform for showcasing photography, and a lot of photographers these days actually owe a lot of their fame to the photo-based platform.
In order to make the app unlike any other, it's creators decided to focus solely on communication through images, stripping down all it's originally intended features except uploading photos.
The app was named Instagram, referring to the users sending a type of 'instant telegram'.
In a very short time, Instagram became the largest-growing social media platform with over a million users just two months after it was launched in October 2010 and eventually being bought by Facebook.
The platform quickly went from a small photo-sharing app to a tremendous influence on both social media and the world of photography. However, this wasn't necessarily good news for everyone as the popular platform seemed to begin choking photography.
One avid Instagram user and photography educator, Hazel Simcox, believes her biggest challenge as a photographer is avoiding being compromised by the use of social media sites such as Instagram. “My biggest challenge is finding an audience for my work without compromising what you’re doing.
“It’s very easy to adapt what you’re doing to suit a client. It’s very difficult to continue doing what you’re doing for yourself and find an audience or a client.
“I guess the biggest challenge is remaining true to yourself because there’s no money in that.”
A lot of photographers these days find it difficult to continue doing what they love simply out of passion when their social media following just doesn't always seem to share that same intense passion for their photography style.
Photographers tend to feel discouraged due to these photo-sharing apps as those not receiving as many likes as others feel as if they're not good enough and changing their style of photography to gain more likes begins to kill creativity and cause photographer’s with amazing potential to lose their passion.
Urbex Photographer, Daniel Howell had a similar opinion: “I will say my biggest challenge has been myself.
“I find sometimes when I've been going through Instagram or just generally looking at other photographers work, I compare mine which initially demotivates me as a lot of the time, I'll think their work is better than mine.”
Whilst Howell accepts that the overpowering power that social media has on photography has been a struggle for him, he also believes that posting his photography online can be viewed as a good thing as he is supported in his community of fellow urbex photographers.
“It's a natural thing for artists and photographers to compare work to others, it's all about how you analyse and compare. I find nowadays when comparing my work, I use that as my push to get better photos and become a better photographer.
“Changing my attitude towards other peoples work allows me to appreciate it a lot more and I will support them. Most of the time, they'll look at my work and sometimes they'll support it too.
“I'd say it is important to continue to help and support other photographers and to not allow negative emotions demotivate your desire to create.”
A lot of photographers can feel unmotivated due to their number of following being lower than they hoped, and the number of likes they get on a post but this all depends on the particular tastes of their audience.
If an account posts a range of different photographs with different photography styles, their likes will vary as some followers may follow for their cute animal pictures while others follow for their portraiture.
It’s a good idea to know what you’re best at or what you’re more passionate about and mainly post those types of photographs if your main aim is to be popular on Instagram.
Another problem photographer’s face is the fact that social media platforms have become a breeding ground for heavily over processed photographs because most audiences are easily captivated by bright, fantastic colours thus are more likely to click the like button.
Nevertheless, these photos are usually impossible to capture images naturally and without the use of an editing app.
Apps like Photoshop and Lightroom help artists turn their photographs into beautiful pieces of art with intense, vibrant colour that truly stands out on your phone screen.
It also creates a high, impossible to achieve standard to photographers who believe in capturing the perfect shot first time around. But, will it get enough likes?
The whole 'like' (and 'follow') culture is a pretence that seems to validate people and put the highest liked photo on a pedestal.
In reality, a lot of people these days actually buy their likes and follows, tricking others into thinking the account is popular and provides promising content. It begins to become impossible to tell which accounts are credible.
The need to get more likes than the next person has killed off the desire to photograph purely out of fun. The captivating world of photography has become a competition and the photographers have become blinded by their crippling desire to be 'Instagram-famous'.
This can also mean that the quality of images may have fallen due to the increasing pressure to post content daily.
Nevertheless, great talent is being discovered more easily and that is thanks to social media. Social media platforms also allow communities to come together and discuss their work, from encouraging and applauding work, to giving helpful criticisms on how to improve.
However, it isn't always helpful but sometimes nasty, hurtful comments.
With social media choking photography, it is becoming more and more difficult for new photographers to showcase their hard work without fear of criticism, comparisons, and not feeling good enough.
If you think being a Millennial in the age of social media is difficult, try being a creative.