First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley

“Popularity isn’t just something that happens. 
You have to give something in exchange for it, and that’s the dangerous part of the process.”
~ Robert Bringhurst

I know only a few people who are not on social media at all. I don’t know anyone who is a photographer and NOT on, at least, one social media platform. I no longer have an IG account, mainly because of my art nude work and how I feel about the company. Even as I first opened my account, I had concerns. As a whole, I’ve never been sure how I have liked the term “influencer” for social media stars. The connotation sounded almost sinister to me. You might more accurately call them “manipulators”, or “puppeteers”. Regardless, this post should be taken into consideration for people who are creatives, artists, but specifically photographers.

Here are FIVE things to be careful of:

1. Social Media can dictate how you shoot

SM eliminates differentiation by homogenizing all of your work. How is this done? Because now, LIKES and FOLLOWERS become the most important thing to you and your popularity takes precedence over your originality. Instead of trying to come up with an original concept, it’s far to easy to copy the trend. You become beholden to the influencers and the followers who like them in order to get those likes and followers, yourself. In effect, by letting them dictate WHAT you shoot or HOW you edit your work begins to look like someone else’s and when the multitudes do this, your art is homogenized, or assimilated if you like that better.

This might equate to shooting a ton of extreme shallow depths of fields for your portraits because you see that’s what people are clicking the like-button most for. Maybe you start trending your work to B&W, doing more burning wool shots or becoming a documentary-style wedding shooter. All that’s fine if you want to go there, but consider the impetus that puts you on that path. Is it YOUR idea or a social media trend?

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley

There is even a profitable market out there to BUY followers, instead of producing excellent work and earning them. I guess nobody has time for that! Just click on one of the ads that promise to add 1000, 5000, or 10,000 followers! Problems solved, right! And it doesn’t make any difference if these are fake accounts! Maybe I’m just old fashioned. Maybe I’m just ranting again. But, feel free to be honest with yourself. You don’t even have to tell anybody. Ask yourself what is most important to you as an artist and what that translates into. What do likes actually do for you? Does it put your art on a wall? Can you eat “likes”? Can you show the power company your IG profile of 1000 followers instead of catching up on that light bill?

2. Social Media can dictate how you sell

Getting your work out there, sharing your adventures, art, and ideals, are all reasons to market yourself on a social media platform. Traditional or Conventional Marketing concepts get abandoned with newer social media trends. Traditional Marketing is based more on gathering information and using that information to show you where to spend your marketing and advertising dollars to optimize your bottom line. Social Media, however, is consistently about maximizing popularity while “thinking” it might translate into money. That is the illusion. It’s akin to basing your retirement plan on your success at the slot machines.

How you sell should be based on identifying your market, knowing the correct value of your work, knowing your competition and competing effectively, and then devising a strategy that provides a product or service that optimizes your money based on these factors. Social Media is supposed to be only a single part of a good marketing promotional campaign. That is what determines how you sell. So, is it?

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley

3. Social Media can dictate how you feel about your work

Comparisons are the enemy of a whole lot of the psychology of how we feel about ourselves. It’s just an opinion, but I think there is a high percentage of cases of depression and anxiety that would be effectively eliminated if we ceased to compare ourselves with other people and/or stopped giving a damn about what other people think of us. I know I’m guilty of this. I won’t even go in-depth on this, but I will let you answer for yourself. Do you spend any amount of your time looking at other people’s work/likes/followers and then have a negative feeling about your own?

4. Social Media often offers a false sense of achievement

There is not a lot to say about this either. You can ask yourself a similar question. Are you popular on social media and if so, how has it changed your quality of life, relationships, financial freedom, etc. If you are celebrating sitting on 50K FOLLOWERS, but not a damn thing has changed in your life for the better… well, maybe that sense of achievement is misplaced. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but you can evaluate things on your own. How much of your SM life is honestly reflected in your actual life? Are you truly as happy as your profile seems to imply? If you are not, how much effort does it take to keep up the charade and what does it cost you to maintain the lie?

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley

5. Social Media can distract from real goals

And this is the culmination of everything above. If it’s not being used effectively as a part of a valid promotional/marketing strategy, then it is negatively dictating how you shoot, how you sell, how you feel about your work, and can easily give you a false sense of achievement if you are, in fact, popular.

So then what are your real goals? Have you sat down and given this some thought? Have you written down these goals and where are you now on that path towards them? I think, used properly, social media can be an excellent platform to get your work out there, be noticed, make money, and have fun. I think the question becomes “WHO CONTROLS WHO?” So what is the driving force behind your motivations and behaviors on social media? Is it a tool or has it become the master? If you are not on the path to those goals, then regroup and refocus. Plot out that path again. If your current social media methods yield only marginal results, it’s only wise to put those resources of time, energy, and money to better use with other possibilities.

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley