This time last year i had roughly posted 20 pictures on Instagram in 2017 and i had 700 followers. I just recently passed the 4k mark, in the space of 10 months. How did this make me feel? I did not feel the way i thought i would. There was a hollowness there that i did not expect and i pinpointed this hollowness to my recent lack of confidence in my images and overall inspiration which means i have no images coming up that I’m excited to post on instagram. So it got me thinking.
I love photography- or do i? Do i love photography or do i love the buzz of seeing the likes roll in on social media and the shares followed by the features on a couple of hubs throughout Instagram. Another thing, if i go out exploring somewhere to a new location and i miss out on a good photo by either being late or not finding a nice composition etc i get a bit p%#sed off with myself and my evening/day is ruined. Now i’m beginning to see an issue. When your passion for photography is affecting your happiness and causing your day to be ruined, then that’s a problem. But surely you would say “sure there will be plenty of other opportunities down the line?” and yes of course there will be. The sun will always rise and always set again the next day but when you are stuck in this lifestyle of social media and Instagram you feel almost pressure to get a shot because you haven’t posted in over a week and what are your followers going to think? Oh no we can’t lose our followers that is detrimental!
This is the issue and i 100% guilty of this. Putting up a shout-out story every-time you get a feature, i do it all the time but why? Majority of people in the Irish photography scene will have seen the image on the hub or feature page anyway, why be reminded of it when they see my story? So ill ask you reading this, Would you get the same buzz out of photography and taking images if there was no Instagram to show them off? Honestly, i can say i probably wouldn’t, maybe a year ago i did but it wasn’t until i went to Iceland in January 2018 that i got hooked on landscape photography. To a certain degree Instagram is the place where you can show your images to the world and be proud of them, it is an achievement and something that your hard work and effort deserves and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I have made some fantastic friends through Instagram, met some great people and i would not be where i am today without Instagram. Social media can be a fantastic addition and tool to peoples lives, when it is used correctly and in a healthy way. In terms of photography, I want people to see my images. I don’t get up at 3am and drive two hours to get a sunrise for the image to be gathering dust on my hard drive, I want people to see it and appreciate it. The same way an athlete wins a medal for hard work and training, photographers show off their images and receive praise in return, maybe a purchase of a print for someone’s wall etc and this is fine. But the passion for the hobby needs to be there, the gra (irish for love), the appreciation of just being out in the fresh air and outdoors, getting exercise and possibly enjoying the company of someone else regardless of whether you get an image or not. For someone running a business and they are using Instagram as a marketing tool that is somewhat different, I’m speaking here on behalf of the hobbyist and amateur photographers.
For you as a photographer, is getting an image to post on Instagram more important than the hobby itself? Is a day out exploring with your partner or by yourself or family/friends etc a good day if you come back with nice images and a bad day if you don’t or you miss a photo opportunity? I know i’m not alone and many people probably feel similar but they do not realise it because they are stuck in the whirlwind of double tapping and scrolling everyday, stories, comments, Dm’s, living in other peoples worlds, envy, jealousy etc these are all prominent in photography today and life in general and unfortunately i put it down to overuse of social media.
Photography is a fantastic hobby. You get out in the fresh air, you get some exercise, you see some of the most spectacular scenery and sights and witness some stunning sunsets/sunrises which a lot of people may never see. It takes you all over the country and all over the world and it helps your creativity flourish. It can make a big positive change to your life and showing your images and getting positive reinforcement for those images can be a fantastic thing, once a balance is struck between being out enjoying the process and posting on Instagram to get likes, shares and follows with the weighting of that balance being more in the favor of being outdoors and enjoying the photography process itself.
One of Instagram’s founding member’s , Bailey Richardson, recently left the platform, for similar reasons to what i’m eluding to above but i think she really summed it up when she said “I feel like we’re all addicted to a drug that doesn’t get us high anymore”. That personal touch Instagram used to have is gone, now it’s hard to know if your content is really being valued and appreciated or is it just another cog in the machine.
I am not bashing Instagram or social media i am just giving you some food for thought because everyday now you are hearing of young people in particular having mental health issues because of social media and other problems being caused by it, i do not think Instagram and social media deserves such a bad rep because there is a lot of positives to it and the young people that use it have done some marvelous things through social media.
Now before people jump to conclusions, i am not quitting Instagram. I love Instagram, i love showing my images to the world because a lot of hard work and effort goes into them. I am learning from other photographer’s through the platform, i am building positive relationships and friendships and while we all like to think we are different and creative, I do get inspiration from other photographer’s shots. I am so grateful to everyone that takes the time to comment on my posts, send me a DM, shares my shots and even gives the photo a like. Also to those who followed me and continue to do so, thank you. I am continuing to grow and learn as a photographer and i do not know how many followers i will have this time next year or where Instagram will be. What i do know is i will still be capturing images and working to better myself as a photographer. I think i need to go back to day one when i got hooked on landscape photography and that feeling in your gut when you see the image appear through the viewfinder, it is something photographers can relate to but it is special.
Do not gauge your progress as a photographer through the amount of followers you have or the number of features/reposts/shares you get on Insta. Be proud of your images and take constructive criticism when it comes, do not envy others for their success only be willing to learn from them. Focus on your game, enjoy the process of creating an image, it is much more than just simply pressing a shutter button on a camera, it is art. Do not let social media bring negativity into your life or hobby, it is there to be enjoyed and when appropriate used to show off your works of art but do not let that + button at the bottom of your screen become priority. Stay tuned in to what’s important in life and look after yourself.
Anyway, i’m off to shoot sunset, anyone coming?
Sean O’ Riordan