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This article is about how I think you can use social media network sites for your best benefit. I am suggesting there is one single thing which you should concentrate on that you can get there with just five steps.
As I have already suggested, I do recommend photography-centric social media networking sites. The one I have used most is Flickr, but I am not endorsing that particular site. Search “social media networks photography” (or similar), and almost any of the sites found will do the job, in largely similar ways. Play around, you might find one which better suits your style, your way of thinking.
This photograph has over 14,000 views and has been added as a favorite 600 times. It is my most viewed and most faved photograph on Flickr. How can that be? Really? What are its merits which cause it to be so lauded?
The truth is that its photographic merits are VERY limited. I could give you an explanation of why this image has been such a success, but that is not important. What matters is that it helps make the point that “views” and “faves” and even casual comments such as “Great capture, cool shot” mostly mean very little whatsoever.
That is an extreme way of putting it but I’ll stick with it and avoid drawing it out and giving a long justification. However, I think those numbers below mean very little. Though it might have some interest, it is not what you would call a good photograph.
I have never properly thanked the person concerned, maybe the mention in this article will make up for that.
I shared this photograph. The comment I received was:
“Another very “Richard Messenger”ish shot. Do all your subjects coincidentally make the same expression, or do you somehow force it out of them? Haha. His somewhat-there-but-still-flat-sort-of-smile looks very familiar to previous portraits you’ve taken.”
I think I knew the truth pretty much straight away, but it took a little while longer to fully accept it. At some point I linked the comment with Rick Sammon’s adage that “The camera points both ways” and realized why too many of my subjects did, indeed, have that same expression. They were simply reflecting my expression.
It is very difficult to make that sort of realization on your own. People pay thousands of dollars to gain such insights. I had received the comment, and great insight, from an honest person, with clearly good intentions, who expressed themselves kindly AND who happened to be right. What more can you ask? Good comments are priceless.
What I want, and what I think will move your photography forward too, is comments. Receiving AND making comments has certainly helped me. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you can simply post your photographs, however stunning they may be, and expect people to start commenting. You will need to do a little work.
The Golden Rule is among the values espoused by most religions and philosophies. Of the various versions, this seemed a good, simple way of expressing how to approach making comments.
“Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.”
Or, on a perfect day, we could turn to Lou Reed.
“You’re going to reap just what you sow.”
However, you want to put it, in terms of religion, philosophy, or pop culture, it is a good principle to hold in mind when you are making comments.
You might want to start on the nursery slopes for the first day or two, week or two even. There is a lot to be learned by looking at photographs and keeping the following in mind.
Here’s the thing. I am not going to burden you with long paragraphs of explanation, give real world examples, or quote academic research. I am just going to tell you that the person making a comment often learns more than the one receiving the comment.
When you are ready to abandon all buoyancy aids, this is where you jump into the swimming pool. You now begin to sow, so try to treat others as you would want them to treat you. Keeping in mind Kipling’s six mates, you now start to comment.
Just taking the example of Flickr, there are a massive number of groups, with all sorts of specialized interests. You will probably find it productive to browse around, join them, and start making comments within the different rules of each group. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
My personal rule is that I do not hang around. If a thought does not start to form very quickly in respect of a photograph, I move on. It is, of course, totally up to you, but I suggest that you do not spend too much time scratching your head.
As many a politician would testify, “no comment” is better than a rubbish comment.
Then, as a guideline, you might follow a Rule of Threes. Start off by simply trying to say three things (even just two) which you like about the photograph. Three positive comments stating what you think of the scene, how it makes you feel, what you think the story might be, and what compositional aspects you like. You may find it best to stick to only positive comments for a week or two. It is possible that you will start to get reciprocal responses, but you cannot guarantee it.
(To avoid all sorts of complications, but not without some mild embarrassment, I am commenting on my own photographs).
Then the next step is to start making a comment or two on technical aspects that you think are good, and which you think contribute to the photograph.
Finally, you might tentatively start to suggest things that you might change, or which you think might be helpful. Remember – do unto others!
You can always hint, or just ask directly, “Can you please comment on my photos?”. However, my experience is that once you have commented on their photographs, people tend to feel inclined to comment back. Again, this is my personal rule, but I would strongly argue that it is a good one. I try to always respond, or at least acknowledge any comment.
Admittedly, I have not always taken criticism well, but I think I’ve learned to give it more credence, to encourage it. One example of this is if the person commenting suggests something that I can change … a crop, a processing adjustment, changing to black and white … whatever, just do it and post the result. If there is a way of tagging the person, that is likely to help sustain the conversation.
Without being religious or philosophical, can I just give the same advice again, in a different, rather parental way, PLAY NICELY! and remember to say Please and Thank You.
There are a quite a lot of places which are specifically aimed at giving a critique of photographs. As you might have spotted, these include the Digital Photography School Facebook group.
The single thing you should concentrate on is making and receiving comments. Getting worthwhile comments is your aim. Take some gentle steps, apply The Golden Rule, and you might just develop a good community. You really can benefit hugely from making and receiving worthwhile comments when it comes to social media networks.