A while back, we asked a cross section of NANPA members whether Instagram and its social media cousins had changed anything about their nature photograph and, if so, how. Did it change their approach to photography, to sharing images, to marketing their business? Did it change the type of images they created or the way they processed images? We’ll continue posting the answers in a series of blogs over the next few weeks.
The answers ran the gamut, as you might expect from such a diverse group. Some of our nature photography colleagues make Instagram an integral part of their business and workflow. Others don’t use social media very much, if at all. Some have had very negative experiences. Others gain inspiration and ideas. No single approach is the right one for every photographer. Whatever works for you. However, do take a look at what these photographers said. It may reinforce what you’re doing with or make you rethink your approach to Instagram and its ilk.
Gustavo Costa notes that “cell phones have been changing society for years and have had a profound impact on culture and art, as well. Instagram is the clearest example of these changes. What started as a simple application to share photos with your friends became a powerful tool to make your work known to the world, establish business relationships and drive business for photographers. Today, it seems like almost every photographer has an Instagram account.
“Within the Instagram world we can see which trends or styles are more or less popular and which ones generate more ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’ Many Instagram users hunt, almost desperately, for these results since the more popular one is on the app, the greater the chances of attracting sponsors and landing contracts. On the other hand, there is another universe of people who use Instagram just as a means to show their work honestly, without ulterior motives. I count myself within this latter group. Of course, if sponsors arrive they will be welcome, but that is not my main objective.
“Instagram is a huge source of inspiration and something that helps me be more creative and ingenious in my artistic approach to photography, but I think that should not force users to lose their true essence as an artist.
“The main thing for me is to be honest with my work and style, regardless of the trends that dominate Instagram and that is why my photographic work has not changed. I do not use special techniques to grab the attention of Instagrammers. I do not edit thinking about Instagram, except for cropping to the right dimensions. I am convinced that what people are looking for is honest photographic art.”
For Karen Schuenemann, Instagram and social media bring both promise and peril. “About 2 years ago I jumped into Instagram with both feet. I was excited about the ability to see lots of photography without all of the other stuff that appears on Facebook. Last year my Instagram account was hijacked and all of my images taken. It was extremely unsettling. After numerous, repeated appeals to Instagram and, after 8 days of no response, I received the most shocking response of all … they saw no validity in my claim! They could see who hacked my account and could see my images, with my watermark, on his account, but nothing was going to be done. After that response, I emailed the CEO of Instagram with a detailed letter spelling out my concern and frustration. The next day the thief’s account was closed, but I have hesitated to return to Instagram.
“I learned that ALL the images I post need to be sized as small as the sites allow and be watermarked. I am very careful about whom I friend. If they haven’t been on social media very long, show little or no activity, or don’t share any common friends with me, I absolutely do not confirm them as friends.
“Still, I peruse IG regularly, and am inspired by what I see. It is exciting to see great imagery and compositions that inspire me to push through my own creative barriers, to do better, to think outside the box, and to improve my photography.
“The challenge for me is how much time social media takes. It is a necessary form of marketing my business and photography, but I now attempt to limit my time. After all, spending time outside makes me a much happier camper.”
What about you? Has Instagram and its siblings changed the way you approach nature photography? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gustavo Costa is an underwater and wildlife photographer and conservationist based in Campeche, Mexico. https://www.gustavocostaphotography.com
Karen R. Schuenemann is a nature and wildlife photographer exploring the parks and wetlands of Southern California. http://www.wildernessatheart.com/