Two years ago today I wrote one of my favorite blog posts in the history of Don’t Blink. I explained how social media really turned upside down the photographer profession. The men and women behind the lens who actually spend years of training perfecting their skill started to see their work devalued, stolen, and depersonalized thanks to services out there called Facebook and Instagram (to just name a couple).
A big part of what made my post 730 days ago so memorable was that I drew from the experiences of a former colleague of mine. Todd Goodrich, the superb photographer at the University of Montana, was candid with me about his initial hesitations regarding the social media boom. It took him a little longer than overnight to come to terms that a lot of his work would be demanded of him practically on the spot just so clueless people with no appreciation for good photography could “like” his images on an iPhone screen.
At the time I talked to Todd two years ago I understood his point of view. I also had an amazing sense of appreciation for how collaborative he was with me and, even though it was tough for him to initially do, had fully accepted and thrived in the new age of photography.
Two years before our talk in 2013 I didn’t completely understand good photography. Of course I knew the difference between a grainy phone image and one of Todd’s high res masterpieces but I didn’t see the distinction as clearly between an amateur with a really nice camera and a professional who had worked behind a lens for years. Seeing more photos, building relationships with photographers, and just maturing in general made me truly able to respect Todd for the incredible talent he possesses.
Now here in the present, my admiration for photographers has heightened even more. As social media continues to dominate society, everyday users are becoming more and more savvy. Our society consumes content at an alarming rate each and every day. With more “stuff” thrown at them now than ever before, people know very well the difference between quality and amateur hour.
You see, two years ago I don’t think the majority of social media users completely understood the difference between professional and non-professional work. Because we wanted to give our audience the best experience possible even if they didn’t know it, I tried to include as much of Todd’s photography as I could. However, that ignorance simply doesn’t exist as much anymore. With social media still growing every single day and the competition absolutely fierce between rival colleges/businesses/etc., good photography is as crucial to a social media program as good creativity and good graphics. Whereas in the past some might have thought someone with a phone in their hand could substitute for a photographer, the average social media user is now starting to reject that display of amateurism. Users notice a difference when they visit the social media page of Brand A and see vibrant, colorful, detailed photos and then visit Brand B and see regular, dulled images.
When students and other people who are looking to break into social media ask me for tips, I always tell them to become good friends with the photographer. They are such an important part of a social media program’s success and it pays to be on great terms with him or her. Some photographers, like Todd, get it. Others might not fully understand the importance of their work being utilized for social media. It is crucial to let your photographer know how much you value them and then show them how their work is received on your social media outlets.
Of course most of us social media professionals won’t have the luxury of securing our institution’s photographer at every event we cover. While a fair amount of events overlap that are covered by both social media personnel and the photographer, you will also have many others that don’t. My general rule is to use images from the photographer whenever they are available but to take the most quality and clear images you can when he/she is not.
Two years later, I still love my photographers! Without them, the social media channels that I have presided over wouldn’t look very good. For all those working in social media, make sure to show your appreciation. Don’t Blink.