The other day, as I checked my social media as I regularly do, I saw several new Twitter followers, which I am forever grateful to get since I rarely use Twitter or engage on it (I know I should, but that’s a post for another day). I saw a new Twitter follower sent me a direct message that made me slow down a bit……take a second look…….and then stop completely.
You may be thinking that’s some good Twitter engagement to make me stop what I’m doing completely and take notice. And maybe it was, if their point was to insult their reader. Their message read:
“Need your help to upload some of your photos at xxxxxxx.com/post. Please also like the Facebook page at fb.com/xxxxxxxxx.”
Hmmm, an automatic message and an audacious one at that. Need your help to upload some of your photos?? Such a casual request between new ‘friends’ / complete strangers. Oh hey, by the way, when you get a sec, upload your photography for free for my benefit! The more I thought about it, my initial annoyance turned to surprise at the audacity of some people out there who think photography is simple to produce, and free.
“What’s the big deal?” you might ask? Social media is for sharing, right, hence the name?
I get that. In fact, as a photographer, Instagram is a favorite form of social media, and I share photographs that support the stories I tell on my travel blog. But on this particular day on Twitter, the Twitter request just assumed that I might love to upload my photos to their site, for free, and for their benefit. As if it were a perfectly normal request of someone like myself whose social media profiles all clearly state I'm a photographer.
Now there may be some people out there who are very willing to do this. But for anyone who has made an investment in their photography - whether through time, learning, or paying for education and equipment - it probably is a big deal. These days it's nice to see more and more brands, tourism agencies, and other companies requesting permission from both hobbyists and photographers alike through the use of formal share apps before using one of their photos. Some are now also compensating content creators with a small fee, or at the very least promoting them with a photo credit, link back, or more extensive mentions and social media exposure.
Like any creative expression, photography is a personal work created by someone who took the time to set it, research it, pay for it, stage it, wait for it, snap it, develop it, and create it. It may look simple to some but consider this analogy to modern art:
What exactly is good photography, anyway? That's an excellent question and one that always stirs debate. Is it art? Since this is my blog, here is my opinion: Good photography enhances a story, not just accompanies it. Many times, it alone can tell the story - sometimes, a picture really IS worth a thousand words! Good photography stirs emotion of one kind or another, is always compelling in some way, enough to make the viewer pause, maybe even move them to take action.
The state of photography changed forever with the dawn of digital cameras and has only continued to grow in popularity with the proliferation of more and varied social media, photo apps, and the meteoric rise of the mobile device. The “art” of photography is so accessible to everyone these days, it’s hard to imagine someone not taking some sort of picture every day on their phone or tablet. Perhaps that's one reason people don't see the value of photography these days.
There's also a strange perception people have that the equipment takes the photo rather than the photographer. You all know what I'm talking about!
"That camera takes really good pictures. What kind do you use?”
I rarely hear this expression used for anything other than photography, which speaks to the point I'm making here. You wouldn't assume your car mechanic's tools are doing your tune-up, your stylist's scissors are cutting your hair, or the pots and knives are the reason for the gourmet dinner!
Someone said to me recently “the day of the ‘professional photographer’ is gone” and after thinking about it, I do agree it’s definitely more challenging to make a living from photography than it used to be. Professional photographers these days must also be adept at social media, marketing, networking, and web design in order to be successful. That’s a lot of talent to pack into one person or even a small team. And when you come down to it, the only thing that truly makes someone a ‘professional photographer’ is a client, right? But gone completely? Mm, I don't think so.
The art form behind photography is obviously still alive and well, whether you’re a snap-happy point-and-shooter or a masterful photographer continually perfecting skill and technique. Both can produce some stunning work:
So why then are we constantly asked to give our work away for free as my new Twitter follower requested, “Need your help to upload some photos”? Or why do some photographers continue to have their work blatantly stolen from the internet as if it’s “no big deal”, “I got it from the internet”?
Why? Because not all photography is created equal. Some is just better than others. And if they could produce it themselves, they would.
Photography is a skill. Whether you developed an ‘eye’ for it at a young age or discovered your talent later on, whether you're self taught as I am or studied your craft in an academic environment, good photography is a skill. It comes from a creative heart (and eye), and is made better by skilled technique whether it’s taken with a cameraphone or a $5,000 camera body. There will always be some photography that’s better than others.
It’s important for aspiring amateur and professional photographers alike to remember that our work has value. If it strikes a chord in someone, people begin to notice it, or yes, ask you to tag them or share your work on their site or account, they see value in the work.
Likewise, if you see a image on the internet you wish to use, share, or keep, remember that it was taken by someone talented enough to grab your attention. Someone worked to create it and the usage rights belong to them.
Find out who that artist is, ask their permission before you borrow or share, and please don’t right-click and save without it. It’s not your work.
Because if you feel it's no big deal, that the good photography you're enjoying is easy to produce, then by all means...feel free to just press the button :-)
Are you a photographer (aspiring, hobbyist, professional, blogger etc? I'd love to hear your thoughts and your experiences :-)
Please share your social media accounts with me here so I can follow you (I promise I'll never ask for your work for free)!