Art Model, Alba

In the world of social media, likes, subscriptions, reels, shorts, and favorites… we sometimes become caught up in things that don’t matter in the real scheme of things. We search for the next trendy topic, subject, or technique and adopt it like everyone else does. In some ways, I have no problem with this. At its core is artistic expression, or at the very least… expression.Yet I do see some irredeemable aspects that harm photography as a whole. I want to become better in my photographic art journey. I aspire to find more fulfilling intrinsic value in the artistic genre I love and I feel it is also important to consider the health and advancement of the BUSINESS and INDUSTRY of photography as a whole.

The barrier to entry into photography has lowered beyond belief. In truth, it always was, or at least has been for the last 50 years. You could get a Kodak Brownie for $1 back in 1900 when it was introduced. Today, that’s equivalent to $35 and it stayed in production for more than 80 years. The Canon AE-1 was quite sophisticated and robustly built when it came out in 1976 and is still a workhorse for many shooting film today. To some degree many were fooled into buying into the complexity of photography. Is it hard? Yes. It’s meant to be hard! But it’s learnable with minimal equipment. The dynamic mix of optical focus, film(sensor) sensitivity, shutter speed, and aperture control, plus how all that manipulates light, are the only real elements that matter. Everything else is garnish.

Art Model, Alba

Talent is talent and won’t be denied, so I welcome it. The challenges should inspire everyone to level-up their photo skills. Technology and marketing has given us cheap entry-level cameras because manufacturers saw that as a new market. It’s why I taught and gave my secrets to photography groups, clubs, and classes. All the while, encouraging those I mentored to be better than me… not like me. 

Optics were cheap but eventually, technology caught up and even cheap glass was good glass! You could get in the game for $400 and get $100 rebates during the holidays or wait until the following year and get last year’s camera used for $200. What really drew fear into would-be photographers, even today, is lighting! Cameras, a few lenses… sure? Lights? No, especially not flash. But so what? You’re at least in the game. What now? Website… Nope. SOCIAL MEDIA!

Art Model, Alba

Social Media has Been Revolutionary

No longer is it the Facebook of old that provided a way for college kids to communicate. It’s not the MySpace that allowed us to express our digital selves and share with the world who we thought we were. It’s become a medium that has flipped the script and now instead of wielding it as a tool, we are being wielded by it. It is STILL a tool, but not one used by us, I’m afraid. It has evolved and changed the perspectives on what we believe is important and valuable to us. Having 100 thousand followers on twitter and getting 10 thousand likes on a photo on IG has far more credence to our sense of worth than say 20 years ago, when we’d base our worth on the true value of an image because it generated actual dollars. How many times has this photo sold and for how much? How many books sold last month?  Social Media has transformed to appeal to our base desires to be wanted, desired, and feel “liked” to a point where we are OVER-SHARING in an attempt to get more likes. It has effectively asked us to give up our own sense of agency and autonomy and what do we get in return? The possibility of likes and followers which are arbitrary concepts that I thought got left behind in high school.

Today, social media is a tool which we THINK we use to share our images, promote our businesses, and connect with other users. While that may be partially true, you need to understand how revenue is generated by the various platforms. We are marketing subjects, data-mined and manipulated to buy products or influenced on how to feel about a topic, person, organization, or event. Whether commercial or political, social media is garnering our attention with one hand and then directing us how to feel about a product, a political position, or a group of people. Start your morning lingering in bed looking at memes, clips, and reels about social injustice and you go to work mad without even understanding why. The more reactions we have on their platforms, the more money they make. Fear and Anger generates the largest volume of reactions which means greater potential revenue for these platforms.

Art Model, Alba

Cell Phones and the Capability to Instantly Deliver Content

Cell phones has permeated our lives in a way that best facilitates our need for social media. If social media is the drug, cell phones are the syringes or the means of which we introduce this product into our minds. Cell phone photography has been a big boon to the business of photography. Because of increased camera quality and convenience, there is no shortage of shared imagery available for us to see. With so many platforms our minds are inundated with an over-abundance of pictures and the fool thing is that many are so damn similar!

Our phones have given us the means to create on the fly and everybody has become content creators. It’s the new form of communication. Kids express themselves via reels, memes, Tik-Tok videos, and Instagram. All of which provide means to edit and create instantly. Data can be uploaded in mere seconds! But inevitably, that comes at a cost. Work becomes commoditized. It’s all the same… a homogenous collection of derivative work and creations. Once one thing proves popular, a deluge of similar content floods the platform. I feel cheated. I feel cheated of creativity and originality when compared in ratio to the amount of artists and participants on each platform. I wish I had the numbers or even a way to calculate this ratio. How much original content per capita on a single platform?

Art Model, Alba


Sure Social Media has its pluses, pros, and benefits. But this is a Pandora’s Box that has gotten away from us and I don’t think there is any way to close it again. I’m not on Instagram since about 2018 when I got kicked off because I realized they were shadow-banning me, that is, several of my posted images didn’t show up on other people’s view of my profile, despite me seeing it on mine. I talked about it on my blog, which I posted on Facebook. Next day… ACCOUNT DELETED! But even when I joined in 2015, I was still concerned about these same things!

“What my hope is, however, is that photographers in general do not become so dependent on social media that they mismanage that trade-off. A couple of things can happen as of a result of this. One is that the art suffers. Less work is done in camera and the art side of photo is traded for Instagram filters. When this happens, less attention is given to craftsmanship. Photogs no longer worry about knowing their equipment or understanding light. Less attention is given to presentation, the print, or the art. In addition, photogs may have a tendency to give away their best work. In their exuberance to post quickly, filters become the new edit, and their best stuff gets published for free. Instead of hanging on a wall, the farthest potential a great shot might achieve is a 72dpi square screen-size image on a profile wall.”

~ Photo Anthems Blog,  Finally Getting Down with Instagram, May 2015 

Social Media is different for me. I do landscapes, portraiture, but also nude art which isn’t deemed by many platforms as “sociable”. So, I’m a different case. If you can find benefit on the platform of your choice and not get lost in it or be negatively influenced, then maybe it’s good for you. I hope you can financial benefit from it. You be the judge on whether or not it’s become a detriment to your life, work, or art. I hope more people can take back the power dynamic of social media and not let it choke the life out of photography. No everyone is not an artist on social media, therefore the vast majority can ignore this post. But for the many who do call themselves, artists, the business of photography is at stake. Make sure your business is solid, but let’s not do so at the expense of the industry. It is the foundation on which your business sits.

Art Model, Alba