I recently caught up with co-owner and marketing mastermind behind Boston co-retail space For Now, Kaity Cimo. She runs the space with friend and business partner Katharine ReQua. They opened a year ago and have played home to over 80 brands in that time.
Social Media For Photographers: How To Grow Your Audience Online
Social media is one of the quickest and most effective ways of building your brand and we’ve put together a guide on how photographers can use social media to gain exposure and clients.
In this guide we’re going to cover:
- Why social media is so effective
- Which photography social media platforms you should focus on
- Some great social media tools you can use
- How to take photos for social media
- Examples of photographers who are killing it on social media
Let’s dive in!
Why social media is so effective
It’s 2019 and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that’s not on at least one social media platform. When you consider that Twitter has 330 million users, Instagram has over 1 billion, and Facebook has a mammoth 2.4 billion, it becomes pretty obvious that any business worth its salt should be using at least one platform for its marketing efforts.
We’ll explore the best platforms later, but for now, let’s dive deeper into why photography and social media work so well together.
People can actually see your content
When you first start posting your photos online, it’s easy to fall into the trap of building a stunning and robust portfolio on your website.
You can spend hours making it look perfect only to check the analytics and see that you received three views, and all of them were from your family.
The issue is that people don’t tend to search for the website or portfolio of a photographer they’ve never heard of.
However, they do often find new photographers on social media and posting your content in relevant groups and using hashtags helps people discover your content.
You can connect with other photographers
Pretty much every social media platform is designed with communities in mind. That’s why it’s called ‘social’ media, right?
This means that as you use social media to increase exposure for your photography business, you can also start connecting with other photographers. Not only can these relationships help grow your audience faster, but they can also provide support when it comes to the ups and downs of running a business.
Sharing is caring
The easiest way for people to discover your content is to have other people share it.
While your photos might not be going viral straight away, the inherent sharing capabilities of social media platforms means that your content can be spread further beyond your initial reach (and much further than solely relying on your website).
This broadens the scope of your audience and helps your photography business to grow.
It can take time
It’s easy to become disheartened when you first start posting on social media due to the time it takes to start seeing results.
If you’re after an express train to stardom then you’re in the wrong place – building an audience is a labor of love.
Like all good things, your social media presence takes time to grow and having a bit of patience will do wonders for your sanity.
Brace yourself for negativity
For every ten amazing people you’ll find on social media, you’re bound to find an awful one.
Trolls, attention-seekers, and jealous people are eventually going to find you, and when they do, you’d better be ready to deal with the negativity.
This can take a serious toll on your mental health and self-esteem if you aren’t careful and it’s better to prepare for it now.
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Which social media platforms are best for photographers?
There’s a wide range of social media platforms and one of the biggest mistakes you can make it trying to conquer them all. Spread yourself too thin and you’ll never get traction with any of them.
A far more effective strategy is to focus on one or two platforms and put all your energy into those.
So, which social networks are best for photographers?
This one goes without saying. Instagram is far and away the most popular place for photographers to post their content. More importantly, it’s also where people go to see photographers’ content.
On the plus side, there’s a huge user base for you to tap into and the hashtagging feature enables people to easily find your photos even if they haven’t heard of you.
There are also a few downsides: a lot of people post fairly lackluster content on Instagram and that means your work can potentially be lost in the noise.
Also, Instagram is lacking when it comes to driving people to an external site. The only way you can do this is by sticking a link in your bio and that can make it harder to direct people to your portfolio or store.
With that being said, you absolutely should be on Instagram. When it comes to social media for photographers, it’s a no-brainer.
Twitter is a great way to let people know what you’re thinking about and share other text-based content with ease.
While it doesn’t boast as many users as Instagram or Facebook, it’s very community driven and can be really helpful if you connect with the right people and leverage popular hashtags.
From a photographer’s point of view, the problem with Twitter is that it isn’t very visual. Photographic content doesn’t really stand and so it isn’t the best place to share your work.
Twitter is perfect if you want people to connect with the person behind the camera, but If you want to show off your photos there are better places
When people think of social media, they generally think of Facebook. And with good reason: it’s by far the most popular social media platform and offers the most potential for building your audience.
There’s something for everyone on Facebook: you can create a page for your fans to visit, create albums of your photos, post in groups for feedback, and link out to your store or portfolio.
The biggest downside to Facebook is that the algorithms are making it increasingly difficult to grow your presence without paid ads, especially if you’re just starting out.
If you’re willing to put in the work (and maybe a bit of money) then Facebook has a lot of business-friendly features that can help your brand.
Often underrated when it comes to social media for photographers, Pinterest shouldn’t be ignored.
While it’s user base doesn’t come close to the other platforms we’ve mentioned, it’s worth noting that Pinterest lovers are primarily interested in visual content, including photography. That means you already have a captive audience.
The trouble with Pinterest is that it isn’t explicitly designed for showing off your own content. Instead, you’ll see the best results by posting your photos to popular boards that others have created.
It can be a little tricky to grow your audience with Pinterest, but it’s also one of the easiest to execute – if you can build pinning into your editing and publishing process it can definitely generate results with minimal effort.
If you’re still stuck on choosing where to focus your energy, our advice is to browse what other brands are doing in your space and use that as a basis for your strategy.
Social media tools for photographers
Managing and growing your social media presence can be really time-consuming and is often a full-time job.
Luckily, there are a number of tools you can use to speed things up and even automate a lot of the manual work.
Tools for scheduling posts
The most time-efficient way of posting consistently on social media is by scheduling your posts in advance (check out our guide on batching to improve productivity).
The idea is that you can create a posting timetable and then add content to it. The tool will then post your content to your social media accounts at a certain time and include the pre-defined hashtags, captions, etc.
This means you can schedule all of your content ahead of time and sit back as it’s posted automatically!
If you’re focusing exclusively on Instagram, there are also dedicated tools for that. Later bills itself as the #1 marketing tool for Instagram and offers a range of extras to help take your account to the next level.
Tools for editing images
As a photographer, you’ve probably already got a few favorite editing tools to make your photos pop.
If not, the obvious frontrunner is Adobe’s Creative Cloud package, or more specifically their Lightroom and Photoshop offerings. These have all the features you need and are used by professional photographers around the world. There’s also a mobile version of Lightroom for editing on the go.
If you’re looking for something mobile-oriented, there are plenty of apps out there that offer basic photo editing.
Tools for building your audience
Building an audience on social media isn’t easy, and there isn’t a magic tool you can use to become an overnight sensation. There are, however, a number of tools that can at least make it a little easier for you.
Hashtags are a great way of helping people to find your content, but deciding which ones to use can be a real stab in the dark. That’s where hashtagsforlikes.co comes in. It’s a site that shows you the trending hashtags so you know which ones to add to your photos on Instagram.
FocalMark is a similar tool, except that it uses algorithms to generate the most effective hashtags for your content.
Another part of growing your audience is making sure you interact with them. Tools like AgoraPulse enable you to monitor your social media engagement. You can reply to messages and comments on your content across different social media platforms from within one app.
How to take the perfect social media photo
Of course, all of those tools we’ve covered are useless if you aren’t taking high-quality photos to begin with.
We get it: You’re the photographer, we’re the social media experts. Who are we to tell you how to take photos?
The thing is, there’s a difference between a great photo, and a great social media photo.
Here are some tips…
Find (and stick with) your style
If you look at the Instagram feeds of the most successful photographers, you’ll instantly notice that they each have their own distinctive style and aesthetic.
Maybe you shoot exclusively in black and white, maybe you’re all about over-saturation. Perhaps you focus on gritty urban nightlife, or maybe you prefer photos of skylines.
No matter what your preferences are, you should find a style that you like, and then keep it consistent.
It’s always better to be an expert at one thing than mediocre at many – keeping your style consistent will not only make your profile look more professional, it will attract the right type of audience.
Don’t be too serious
Photography is a serious business, but that doesn’t mean you have to be uptight about it. It’s perfectly normal to view your work as art, but be aware that if you come off a little too pretentious you risk alienating your audience.
Instead, be willing to laugh a little and have some fun. No, you don’t have to post funny pictures or tell jokes in the captions, but try and interact with any comments with humility and appreciation.
Take it further and open up to your audience. Maybe share some photos where things didn’t go to plan. Or maybe try linking a photo you’ve taken to some sort of meme or current event.
Be careful not to force it, though. Just be natural.
Put in the time to make your photos stand out
Recent estimates have suggested almost 100 million photos or videos are posted to Instagram each day. That’s a lot of content and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
Very, very few photographers are able to take a photo and post it online immediately. If you’re trying to stand out and be true to your style, make sure to take the time to edit and perfect your photos – it will pay off in the long run and is a good habit to get into.
Photographers who are killing it on Instagram
For one final burst of inspiration before you delve into the world of social media, here are some photographers who are rocking it on Instagram.
Chris is a travel photographer with 3.4 million followers. His photos feature breathtaking landscapes that make you want to drop everything and travel the world.
While the landscapes are beautiful, the key aspect of his photos is that they keep it simple. Most people are looking at these photos on a relatively small smartphone screen. Small, complex details would be lost.
He also makes sure to post regularly, generally adding 1 or 2 photos each day.
You’ve probably seen Murad’s photos before without even realizing it. He started the “Follow Me To” project where he took photos of his girlfriend leading him around the world.
By focusing on a simple and specific visual or his girlfriend walking just ahead of him, he was able to turn travel photography into something novel and unique.
Since the project first garnered him international acclaim, he’s worked with the likes of Macy’s and Samsung.
Katrin’s feed is full of strange, almost hypnotic photography. Her often abstract, surreal work sets her apart on Instagram, which is generally full of bright, colorful images.
She maintains this aesthetic throughout her feed, in both the photos she posts and her minimal bio. Everything is crafted to create her persona – one of mystery and intrigue.
She’s proof that as long as you stick with it, even the weirdest of styles can develop a large audience.
Is social media for you?
Ultimately, social media has given photographers like you an incredible opportunity.
It’s easier than ever to put your work out there, build a fanbase, and promote your photography business.
If you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll find that social media can help with everything from brand recognition to booking clients and is one of the cheaper marketing channels out there.
Now get out your camera and start shooting!
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