One of the challenges for photographers who post online is learning to cultivate what we decide to post. When I was just getting started as a headshot photographer, I only had an occasional client, and the fact that I created a headshot at all was a huge accomplishment. Because of this, I would immediately post images from the session on my Instagram feed and website. As my clientele grew and I developed my own style, however, I realized that I needed to be much more selective in deciding why and when I post an image.
Part of the Growth Process
Growing as a photographer and artist is something I have purposely decided to do in a very public way, whether on my Instagram page, YouTube channel, or when posting photos and articles on Fstoppers. One of the core reasons for this is obviously to grow my business and brand as a photographer, but I also feel that posting, especially on Instagram, has spurred my growth and improved my skills faster than if I were working in a void. Besides this, I like having a visual record of my progress in thumbnail form on Instagram, because theoretically, the work should improve over time. I spoke about this in one of my early Fstoppers articles, which can be found here and still believe posting our work is best practice — to a point.
If you are just getting started in your photography journey and want to build your brand or online following, post away. Each photo or video can serve as a beta test for future posts, and even if you post something that is not well received, it’s not the end of the world and can be an excellent part of the learning process. On my YouTube channel, which is still fairly new, some videos resonate and some do not. When a video flops, it’s no fun for me, but if it helps me to improve the content, subject matter, and presentation, it’s still a win in the long run.
Cultivating Your Artistry and Brand
Growing our brands is a lot like growing up. As children, we say whatever comes to our minds, we act silly regardless of the situation we are in, and we have very little perception of how the world sees us. But, as we mature, we begin to become much more selective about how we present ourselves to the world, and the same should be true for our social media presence as photographers.
While scrolling through Instagram, sometimes a headshot will pop up that causes me to pause, and not for the right reasons. Whether it’s bad lighting, a poor expression, a contorted angle, or the like, I stop to gawk like someone slowing down on the parkway to see an accident (I’m sure people have done the same to some of my photos too). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scoffing at the photographer or person in the image, but often, I am surprised when said photo is taken by a photographer I know and whose work I admire. Instead, I ask myself why they would post such a photo when they have much better work to showcase? And the only answer I can find is that they basically post an image from every single session they have, without giving thought to whether the photo is helping or hurting their brand.
I think this is crazy, as well as unnecessary. And I think we are all guilty of doing this to some degree or another. In fact, as I write this article, I am scrolling through my own Instagram and remembering that I need to take my own advice and be more selective in cultivating my page, so to address this topic, keep in mind that I realize how many fingers are pointing back at me (more on that later).
Many of my photography friends and mentors have said, “show the work you want to be paid for,” and I think this is solid advice for all of us as we build our businesses and cultivate our social pages, especially if we are a few years into our journey as image-makers. If we are growing, our style is certainly changing, and our work hopefully gets better with time. If your work isn’t improving, that’s a topic for another day, but putting that aside, we must carefully present our body of images and videos whether it’s on our own website or any of the various social media platforms we use each day.
Time To Reflect
Some of my favorite Instagram pages are populated by a single theme, whether it’s headshots, portraits, landscapes, or street photography. The photographer’s body of work is obvious from the moment I visit their profile, and it immediately tells me what they do. As we reflect on our own work and our personal brands, now is a good time to scrutinize what and how we are presenting our images and videos online. We should also consider that consistency does not necessarily mean you must only post in a single genre. More importantly, we should strive to post content that is consistently good and forego the desire to post just about everything or everyone who passes in front of our lens.
I work with many clients who never make it to my Instagram page or website for a variety of reasons, and often, they are perfectly fine photographs. But, if they don’t reflect the direction I am going in with my business and artistic vision, they only serve to muddy the waters for potential clients and companies who want to work with me in the future.
As we reflect on these things, I don’t think that there is a one size fits all answer, either. For some of us, having a dedicated page that exclusively shows headshots, for instance, may be the best move. For others, the solution can be different, and having a variety of genres on one page might work well, but the theme for all of us who have been photographers for a while should be posting quality over quantity, and posting with intent.
As I mentioned, in some ways, I think that my Instagram page has become a bit of a hodgepodge since I began my YouTube channel. This is due in part to the fact that I now post lots of content geared towards photographers as well as clients, and the feed is peppered with sample images from gear I review to my own face in reels as I promote reels and attempt to keep my Instagram page relevant. Whether this is wise or not is something I'm currently thinking about, but so far my business and network continues to grow, and I take care to only post content that I consider high quality. If I do make a change, it will most likely be in the form of an Instagram dedicated to my YouTube pursuits.
To sum this all up, my advice to you is to take a good long look at your website and socials using a critical eye. Are you creating a consistent, quality brand that's easy for others to see, or do you post everything without a second thought? If you run a photography business and you are not carefully managing your online brand, now is the time to cultivate your website and social media presence.