The proliferation of social media networks over the last few years has had a major impact on how we share, experience, and consume photography. Reaching millions of people around the world has never been as easy as it is now, and paired with a stunning photography website, these platforms can give your work the exposure it deserves. But even roses have thorns, and social media comes with a few dangers of its own.
One of the primary risks, and maybe the most serious, is seeing your creativity limited by how you experience social media. Just like sneaker waves, this might catch you off guard unless you are paying attention and drag you down in a much similar manner. How can you avoid this fate? Don’t turn your back to the ocean, and keep an eye on these five major signs social media might be limiting your creativity, as well as the ways to overcome them.
Ignoring certain genres that are not as popular
It’s no secret that some kinds of photos are more social media-friendly than others. For example, sunset photos usually receive much more engagement than portraits. A quick look at the best photography hashtags will prove this much. But out in the real world, no portrait photographer would take portraits off their portfolio because a different genre is more popular. How else would they show off their range of skills to potential clients? On social media, however, this situation tends to pan out quite differently. In an environment where engagement is all that seems to matter, many photographers gravitate towards popular genres in hopes of attracting a wide following base. Once they build a strong community, it’s common that they’ll create a second account to share their less-popular work.
You might think this situation is not that dramatic – after all, these photographers end up with a loyal following base and two accounts that showcase the entirety of their work. But how many photographers actually “make it” on Instagram? For the overwhelming rest, it’s simply not worth it to avoid sharing the core of their artwork in exchange of a few hundred likes on an image that feels foreign. Use social media to showcase your portfolio, rather than seeing it as two different parts of you that hopefully will meet one day.
Recreating compositions from your feed
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it doesn’t do any good to your own work. Social media offers an incredible opportunity to learn and be inspired from photographers all around the globe. However, it’s easy to let yourself feel a bit too inspired – especially when so many of them seem to have a very similar view of certain types of locations and sceneries.
As a photographer your goal should be to capture the world the way you see it, not just how you believe other people want to see it. Even when you visit a place that has been photographed a billion times, you should aim to find your own perspective. Take a walk around, get down on the floor, pay attention to the light, and keep your mind away from the countless pictures you have seen before.
Changing your shooting and editing style constantly
Every now and then, the tide turns and a new editing trend takes over social media. Minimalism, HDR, faded blacks, desaturation… Just like empires, trends rise and fall, and you don’t want to look back at your work and realize you can’t stand the way you shot or edited photos two years ago. As your body of work grows and evolves, it is very much likely that you style will grow and evolve with it. In fact, being able to keep improving every day should be at the top of your priority list.
Maybe your photos have improved so much over time that your old work feels like someone else’s. The key difference is that, in this case, your personal style has evolved alongside your work. By jumping from trend to trend, the aesthetics of your work might change drastically, but you won’t have learned anything in the process. At the end of the day, you should be capable of looking back and recognizing the creative journey you have walked to help keep you moving forward.
Buying presets from all photographers you follow
This sign is somewhat a combination of the previous two, the point where imitation and ever-changing style meet. The majority of popular social media photographers sell Lightroom presets, a tool to transmit their unique style into your work with a single click (and a few dozen dollars). If you follow them, it probably means you admire their work and have probably thought once or twice about mimicking their editing style. Maybe you love a few photographers with very different styles and want to try which one suits your photos best.
You probably have noticed how many of them sell these presets to give instant access to many years of learning. That is the main reason why you should refrain from buying them. These photographers are so great because they dedicated time to learn and develop their own work, and that’s not something you can simply download. Spend your money on post-processing courses instead. Learn how to use the software and experiment with it until you find the style that best fits your work.
Failing to get excited at the prospect of taking photos
Sadly, this is much more common than it should be. Social media makes it very easy for people to compare themselves, their life, and their work with others. There are two possible outcomes to this constant awareness to other photographers’ whereabouts: one, you get inspired to strive to improve your work; two, you compare your work to others so intensely that are unable to enjoy taking photos.
If the latter happens, take some time away from social media in order to reconnect with photography and find your creativity. Go back to your early work and see how far you have come since then. Try to remember when you took your first photo and how you came to love it. Take your camera and walk without a set route, simply enjoying your surroundings and capturing what calls your attention. Once you find yourself again, you can go back to social media and share the results with the world.
Social media is great, but nothing compares to having your own photography website.