Photography in General

5 Cons of Social Photography-Sharing Networks

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Time for bed

Time for bed by A Marques

We all know that sharing our work with others and getting feedback is an excellent way not only to promote our brand (name) but also to improve our own technique and learn more and more about photography.

Yesterday I discussed the 5 Pros of Social Photography-Sharing Networks like flickr or photobucket. The good exposure, feedback, how good they are to increase the number of visitors to your own gallery, the easiness of the whole process and the fun that can be derived from them are the biggest advantages of such sites. But not everything is good in them for a photographer. Today I want to present my point-of-view on the bad sides of using social photography-sharing networks.

5 Cons of Social Photography-Sharing Networks

  1. Bad Feedback – How useful is a comment on one of your photos like “Great shot” or “I don’t like it”? Sadly, not at all. Ok, a bunch of 3 word comments just praising your work can boost your ego, but what does that bring you? Not much. More in depth feedback from people who know what they are talking about is not so easy to come by. You can get it though, but either you develop contacts or it will be by sheer luck. Getting 100+ comments on one of your photos is only good if you can take something out of them.
  2. Anonymous exposure – We have seen before that you can get enormous exposure from social photography-sharing networks. But how good is this exposure? There are a few success stories like Rebekka’s or Heather’s but this is definitely the exception. Your work is seen and commented, but if you are doing it with some commercial objective in mind you’ll have a long way to go.
  3. 1 Page visitors – You can get a regular stream of visitors to your website gallery from flickr and alike, but how good are they as visitors? Usually they tend to fall into what I like to call the “1 page visitors”: they follow your link, reach the landing page, and unless you have something extremely attractive, they go away (maybe is just a problem of my gallery). Does the number of return visitors (the ones that really count for any website) match the increase in traffic coming from social photography sharing networks? Probably not. But hey, it’s still good to see some people coming to look at your work.
  4. No control on layout – It’s really very easy to assemble your gallery on flickr or photobucket but any control you may wish on the general layout is gone. You can’t decide how the surroundings of your works are going to look and some photos only come up to their true potential as art with a suitable surrounding (why do you think galleries have specialized people to do this for them?).
  5. Copyright issues – On flickr, you can choose a creative commons license with which to release your work. Some users allow sharing with attribution, allow editing, etc., but there are also users whose work is released with all rights reserved. In this case, you can only use the photos with authorization from the author. Problem is, not many people care about it and photos are being “stolen” all the time. You might not want your best shots to show up on some sleazy website without attribution (or with attribution, for all that matters). You can read more about flickr and the law here.

Now that both sides of the story have been exposed, I think we can conclude that the decision to use social photography-sharing networks depends on what your objectives are. It has pros and cons and it’s up to each individual to address the if and the how to use them in order to get the most success for your work and improvements to yourself as a photographer.

Are your ideas similar to mine? Share with us your thoughts on how you see the use of social photography-sharing networks.

EDIT (2007.05.14): Concerning the 5th topic I mentioned, Copyright issues, there was a story coming up today about a photographer being ripped of her work without compensation. Read it here.

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13 Comments

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  6. Chantal S.

    June 8, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I completely agree with you on all 5 points. I’ve maintained my photoblog for about a year now, and recently began using Flickr as well.

    As far as your point #1 about comments….I recently disabled comments from my photoblog, for various reasons, but mostly because, as you point out, I wasn’t getting anything from the 2 and 3 word comments. The daily ego-stroke is not why I post my pictures and my hope is that if anyone has anything meaningful to add or ask they would just email me.

    About Flickr (and similar photo-sharing sites)…I’m feeling somewhat ambivalent. As I said I only started regularly posting to Flickr recently, and I’m still not 100% sold. I don’t worry about layout because I have my photoblog for that, but I do worry about copyright issues and the recent events surrounding them. I waiver back and forth on whether or not to simply delete my Flickr account. The exposure is always nice, but I don’t think I’ll be offered an exhibit at the MoMA anytime soon because of it.

  7. A Marques

    June 8, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Oh, and if you actually get offered an exhibit at the MoMA because of Flickr, please tell me so I’ll start using my Flickr account much much more.

    Thanks for your comment.

  8. Donncha O Caoimh

    June 22, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    I’ve had good and bad experiences with Flickr. One the one hand, one of my photos became an email attachment sent around to thousands of people: http://inphotos.org/the-most-sent-around-duck-photo/
    But it also meant that that image was used in a UK tabloid and after I contacted them they agreed to pay me.

    I also sold an image for several hundred US Dollars, and it was found via Flickr.

    Flickr is also handy for me because it saves on hosting costs by hosting all my images there! :)

  9. A Marques

    June 24, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Hello Donncha,

    It seems that you have here a success story coming out of Flickr. Maybe I should use it more often…

    But that is indeed an impressive photo.
    And if you are curious to know, I too had seen it before as an email attachment. Just for your mapping story, it arrived here in Germany from an email from Portugal from an email from France.

    Keep creating great work…

    Regards.

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