I just read an insightful blog post by California photographer Richard Wong, called Why Do You Share Your Photos? It’s a very concise piece, but for how short the article is, Richard asks an enormous question.
People have always shared their photographs, but with the immediacy of digital technology and the life-dominating, all-consuming propagation of social media, the notion of “sharing” has taking on a while new life.
Now we can shoot and share within minutes, or even seconds of taking a photo, and we can even schedule are sharing to optimize the number of views that each image earns. And of course, if we don’t get enough likes, we can always buy more.
But what’s exactly is the point of all this sharing? What are we trying to achieve, and is it working for us? Is it making us better photographers? Is it making us better people? Is it making us more money? Is it enriching the lives of our viewers in some way or helping us communicate a particular message?
Granted, although I just painted the notion of modern sharing in a rather negative light, it’s not that cut and dried. Depending on who you are and where you’re sharing your work, the answer to one or more of those questions might be yes.
As you can read in his post, Richard’s take is that a large percentage of sharing isn’t really about “sharing,” it’s about “marketing. From what he sees, it’s less about personal expression than trying to promote workshops, tours, ebooks, prints, websites, subscriber lists, or simply stoking egos and getting more likes. Who doesn’t want more likes?
As a pro photographer, this made me stop and think, because a significant portion of images I share on forums and social media are indeed used to promote my workshops, ebooks, books and blog posts. The reality is that the more people read my blog, the more likely I am sell more ebooks and get people to sign up for my workshops or my newsletter.
However, I also love to share for the sake of sharing and storytelling. As someone who has always been fond of travel writing and photography, I love crafting narratives to accompany my images and take the reader even deeper into whatever adventure I’ve describing.
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Sometimes I simply like sharing a cool new image that I’m genuinely excited about, for any number of reasons. Since I’m a human man, I occasionally like to show off my skills and stoke my own ego.
It’s often about sharing my views and experiences that surround the truly magnificent subject matter I often find myself in, whether I’m hiking on glaciers, flying over incredible mountain scenery at sunset or pedaling my bike through beautiful lands. Those are the stories that tell the narrative of my life, and it’s fun to share them with the world.
I also genuinely like inspiring other photographers, because I genuinely feel that the more confident we all are with our own creativity, the world will be a better place.
If one of my photos can help inspire someone to be a better, more proficient and confident visual artist, or if it opens their eyes to a new skill or creative approach, then I feel I’m doing my part.
There’s also the aspect of sharing photos of our natural world to promote message of conservation and exploration.
If my work can inspire someone else to travel or awe them into appreciating the beauty of our world a little bit more, it might spark an idea that has the potential to change the world.
As an influential photographer in todays’ world, I feel I have a responsibility on some level to use my images for good, and I take this task very seriously. However, please don’t equate that to mean that I’m one of those “serious” photographers…
As much as social media has become the massive marketing vehicle in today’s world, I still hold strongly onto the “social” aspect of social media. Sharing my work and corresponding with other photographers, fellow Fuji shooters, travelers and cyclists on places like Twitter and Instagram has allowed me to meet and make friends with a number of awesome people around the world.
In fact, a number of very meaningful friendships were initiated on social media before finally meeting in person during some bike trip or during one of my presentations. Even for people who haven’t yet met, I love the interaction I have with some of my regulars friends on these platforms. And I actual prefer to use social media messaging and @’s to keep in communication with my fiends online, since my email inbox is always so damn full.
So yes, I occasional use my photos, as Richard so eloquently stated in his article, to “sell, sell, sell,” but ultimately, that’s not what drives me to post my work online. It’s to share my own personal artistic and creative take on the world. If, in the process, I end up inspiring someone to have more fun with their own creativity, then all the better.