May 23


Why Do You Share Your Photos Online?

By Dan

May 23, 2018

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.

So tell me – Why do you share your photos?

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.

As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.

  • Thanks for the mention, Dan. As someone that works in marketing, I get that many people need to market their work. We are all doing that to some degree when we share the work. My thoughts are about how the message gets delivered. When I see some people’s content on my social feeds it comes across as an obvious advertisement as opposed to “engaging content”. There are marketing channels where I feel are more appropriate for pure selling all the time like email lists, your website, etc… whereas on a channel like Facebook or Instagram I’m not as likely to be in the mood to be sold to all the time. There are already a lot of ads in my stream there. Whereas if a photographer were sharing a real compelling image and I learned something about their personal view on the world in the process then yeah I would absolutely want to learn more about them and their business at some point by looking at the website, etc… But if the Facebook is all about here is my cool photo – you too can shoot this tool on my tour, or create this through my how-to-video I feel like I’m being sold something as opposed to emotionally connecting with the work.

  • Interesting. Thanks for the article, Dan as I always look forward to new blogs from you.
    I primarily shoot sports, hockey to be specific. Years ago I spent a good part of a season taking pictures of a team and posting on Instagram and my website but since I never properly used hastags, none of the players or fans saw them. I was for all intents and purposes, accidentally shooting for myself. I realized that I wanted to share the photos, not for personal gain (although being human, 1 like = 1 bump in ego points!) but I also wanted the players to see images of themselves in a situation that they would never see.

    This last year, I made a more concentrated effort and my images and website were finally viewed in larger numbers by the players, parents, and fans so it gave a sense of purpose. I’d like to think thee was monetary gain but after $4.12 and a free hat, I think the next step is to work on a better business model!!


  • Hi Chad, thanks for the comment. You bring up an important aspect that I didn’t even cover in my post: Showing others what they look like when they’re engaged in sports and other activities.

    I love shooting photos of my friends during our adventures. In fact, one of the most common styles in my photography over the years has been trying to make my friends look like heroes as I capture moments of success, elation, concentration, challenge, exhaustion and fear.

    It’s always very satisfying to see the excitement people get when they view photos of themselves from a vantage point they rarely, if ever get to see. In addition, the advent of social media tagging and sharing has opened up a much bigger pool of friendships and personal relationships with people who I might not have have otherwise met.

    In fact, many of my friendships here in Anchorage were initiated with me shooting bike races for fun and then sharing the photos on Facebook. It’s one more way that photography has enriched my life in ways that I ever would have expected.

    Keep up the good work and take care!

  • You’re welcome, Richard. Thanks for asking the initial question. There is a definite line, isn’t there, but it varies in how transparent it can be. Social media is funny, because if it’s not about selling, so much of the time it’s purely ego driven. i.e., “Look how cool my life is.”

    The reality is that nearly all social media channels are profit driven and thus are increasingly more ad heavy. Although we’re not always in the mood for marketing, we’re being led to expect it more frequently, and of course, that’s what we usually get every time we scroll through our feed.

    This makes it even more satisfying when we do experience honest sharing in the name of photography and storytelling. Sometimes we see beyond the noise and develop meaningful personal relationships on social media, or at least connect with the message that some photographers are genuinely trying to communicate.

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