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Sergey Nivens / Alamy Stock Photo

How social media has changed photography

Is it fair to say that, generally, most photographers (finally) now see the value of social media? I remember, in the not too distant past, that social media was the latest “professional photography killer”. “It’s for kids”, “It’s a waste of time”, “It encourages people to steal photos!” and my all time favourite – “I don’t use Twitter as I’m not a twit” – well, I think we can put those fears to bed now. Remember the days (before social media) when you were warned off putting your images on a website because they would be stolen? Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Flash forward to today, and how many professional photographers now get sales and commissions without having a website? I don’t know the exact figure, but I bet the answer is ‘not many’. And so it will be with a social media presence – as one photographer in the Alamy forum succinctly put it: “You need to be where your market is.”

There is little doubt that after a rocky start with some serious professional photographers, many are now coming round to the benefits of utilising social media to their professional benefit. Of course, there are still critics and it perhaps won’t be for everybody, but few could deny that the impact of social media has changed photography forever. The main argument against social is that it’s diluting the ‘true’ artform of photography. But I take the same viewpoint as Ryan Waneka, the author of this article: the best photography still rises to the top and you can either complain about the changes, or embrace them and be part of it.

POV. Looking down at text written in the sidewalk "Passion Led Us Here"
© Goolia Photography / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

I’ve outlined some key areas where I see how social media has changed photography:

It’s a marketing machine for your photography business

Good use of social media can allow hobbyists and professionals alike to amass huge audiences and everyone wants to know the quickest way how to do that. You can use social to engage and attract brands you want to collaborate with as well as get your images in the timeline’s of your future customers.

It’s democratised photography

Society generally has long been fascinated by images, and with social media platforms like Instagram now with hundreds of millions of users it’s allowed more people than ever before to consume and produce imagery on a huge scale. Within seconds we can tap into imagery being created right now from all over the world on any subject. It’s impact on photojournalism has been well documented and we should embrace the fact that anyone can now get an audience for their work.

Social media logos (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) on a grungy colorful background
© bozac / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Approach and Aesthetics

Aside from the analysis on which Instagram filters generate the most engagement for brands, we could argue that the “real life” trend in stock photography has been driven directly off the back of social media imagery. People are used to consuming images via social so brands want their advertising to mirror this. Also, the approach to shooting has been changing. I’ve talked about us reaching ‘peak technology’ in photography before, and many photographers are now ditching the high end gear for smaller, more compact systems. Even those that don’t will now tailor their shoots to obtain that social aesthetic, with shoots being art directed in a Flickr or Instagram style. If you are of the view that the filtered look has already been and gone, it’s still hard to argue that the immediate and authentic ‘real life’ trend is not what brands are looking for.

New approaches to learning

There are thousands of tutorial videos, shooting guides and various other tips and tricks for photography being shared every single day across social. Not only has this introduced various different photography techniques to a new audience, it means there’s now more opportunity than ever before to educate yourself on a whole range of photographic disciplines and techniques.

Whether you use social media as a marketing tool or a learning platform it’s impossible to ignore it’s significance. In what key ways do you use social? How has it benefited you recently? I’d love to learn more from you – let me know in the comments.

A photographer, digital media degree holder and part of the Alamy Content team for 15 years. James has a strong interest in all things visual and is our Head of Content.