4 May 2017

Been a While . . .

Submitted by Roger

Been so busy doing photography, I have had almost no time to talk about it.

There is a trap that photographers regularily fall into. We become so caught up in our own work, we lose sight of the world around us, and then we wonder why our creative juices seem to have dried up. As photographers we need outside influence. Without it, we end up doing the same thing again and again until the rut is so deep we have trouble climbing out.

Studying the work of others is a necessity. Everyone is different (now there is a cliche) and has a different perspective on how stories are told. Forcing ourselves to look at the world through the eyes of someone else helps to avoid tunnel vision, and forces us to change the way we prethink and approach our imaging.

One of the best tools I have found is Instagram, the photo sharing app. Although originally designed exclusively for cell phones, it has grown into the real world of creative professionals. It is not just a repository of selfies any more! If you are serious about promoting yourself as a photographer, you will be on IG, and you will have linked your Facebook profile to your Instagram profile.

There are many communities on IG covering any niche market you can think of, and participation is only a 'hashtag' away. However hashtags will not work unless you are actively building your audience. Fortunately, IG gives you the tools to do so. Here are the things to keep in mind.

  • Be prepared to post at least one quality photo per day, and make sure that the caption is interesting. Ideally, reading the caption will involve the viewer in the image and they, in turn, will like and/or comment on it. Remember, IG is a social community.
  • Use descriptive hashtags to improve the exposure of your image to the IG community. Unlike keywords, where searches for multiple keywords will narrow the search, you have to narrow the exposure with hashtags. While 'sunset' and 'water' might work as keywords, on IG #sunset and #water will have so many results your work will get lost. Instead using #sunsetoverwater will improve your chances of being seen. The best way to understand hashtags is to play around on IG and see what everyone else is doing.
  • Browse the feed, and 'like' any photo that catches your fancy, then go into the artist's profile and have a look at the other work they have posted. Leave behind a little love in the form of likes and some comments, then 'follow' them.
  • Following someone is like jumping up and down waving your arms shouting 'Look at me. Look at me." Most of the people you follow will have a look at your work, and if they like what they see, they may follow you back. They may also like and comment on some of your work.
  • After you post an image, check out the popular feed, and find an image with similar subject, approach or intent to the one you have just posted. Check out the profiles of the people who have liked and commented on that image, and send them a little love. They have already shown that they like work similar to yours. Maybe you can get them to follow you, and build your audience. (If the account you are looking at is private, don't bother asking for a follow. Just go on to the next account.)
  • Pay attention to your notifications. If someone leaves a comment on one of your photos, respond with your own comment thanking them. If someone follows you, have a look at their account and, if you wish, follow them back, leaving a little love in the process. Remember, again, that IG is a social community.

Instagram imposes some limits on the number of follows and unfollows you are permitted to do. For an estalished account (active over 3 months) you are not permitted to exceed 60 follows per hour or 1000 follows per day (24 hour period), and you may not exceed 15 unfollows every 15 minutes. If you do try to exceed these limits, you may find your account temporarily deactivated (Insta_Jail). Don't worry if this happens. Just wait a couple of days. then start again and keep better track of your numbers so it does not happen again. (You do not want your account permanently closed.) IG has lower limits for new accounts (somewhere between who knows and we ain't gonna tell you) so be careful with your initial audience building.

Instagram also imposes a hard limit of 7500 on the number of profiles you are allowed to follow. If you are following others willy nilly, you will run into that ceiling and you will be unable to follow anyone else. You will never be following 7501 accounts. Just won't happen! So if you are using follow for follow as a way to build your audience, be aware that at some point you are going to have to start unfollowing so you can follow more.  Invest in an app like 'Followers', which is available for both android and iphone. First, unfollow those who are not following you back, then unfollow those who are not liking and commenting on your work. You are looking for an engaged audience, so you may have to cull a few.

And be sure to go to https://www.instagram.com/rogermonahanphotography and follow me.