One of the things that drew me to a career as a professional photographer was the mindfulness that I found in photography, particularly through landscape photography. I found that when I was in a remote location, seemingly alone in the natural realm watching its routine of changeable weather, tides and seasonal landscapes, I felt like I knew my place in the universe.
Photographing the landscape was actually my route to becoming aware of the 'now'. The fact that I came away with photographs to remember that moment was a positive outcome that enabled me to share my experience, but the lasting impression the landscape had on my inner peace was extraordinary and long lasting. I was very fortunate that my landscape photography was enjoyed by others too, and so I was gradually able to turn this passion of photography into my career.
Without any doubt, one of the ways I was able to make money from photography was through social media. Whether it was advertising my wedding photography services through Facebook, building awareness of my work commercially through Twitter or seeking to build a community of followers through Instagram - I was able to grow my business fairly quickly.
However, anyone who seeks to build a photography business will know that the joy and peace gained through photography can be stifled through the attempt to do what you think is important for your business, ie; grow your social media following - to the extent where it can have a negative effect on your inner peace - the very thing that drew you into photography in the first place!
I came to this place a couple of years ago - I had built a reasonably good following on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook over the years of being a professional photographer but I began to feel the negative effects of 'serving' the platforms, and I began to question just how important they were to my business. So, I deleted all my accounts. I didn't just delete the apps, but the accounts themselves, and chose to try and run my business solely through my website.
Anyone who has done this will be able to understand the mixture of freedom and uncertainty this moment provides - I felt totally free inside and was able to start thinking creatively about my photography in a way I hadn't for years. Ideas began to flow again and I was able to enjoy photography for the mindful experience I had previously discovered. I was in a fortunate position that my photography business had grown enough at that stage to not need to rely on social media anymore, and so there were no negative effects on commercial bookings as they nearly always came through referrals to my website from other clients.
Over the following year I operated without any social media and enjoyed the time and space in my brain that it gave me - and it was during that time I gave a lot of thought about the potential positives of the various platforms and whether there was a place for me in them.
These were my conclusions; I had no need of Facebook anymore as I no longer advertised my wedding photography - a few years ago I chose to shoot just a few weddings per year which come through referrals. My main income was coming through commercial and landscape photography, and so I decided to make the other two platforms work for me - and not me for them. This was my lightbulb moment! Up till then my understanding of social media was that I needed to play the game as it's set out by the platforms and put hours into building a loyal community, hoping it would lead to people discovering my services. This can work but I wonder if the time and emotion it takes actually justify the outcome from a business point of view.
I decided to use Instagram and Twitter as a means of communication and contact to other businesses - not worrying about the followers, likes and comments, but rather the connections with the companies I was seeking to build relationship with. This felt like a strategic use of social media that didn't need me to be at the mercy of the algorithm and devote hours of my time to keeping it satisfied.
I wrote a list of the companies I wanted to work with and used the platforms to share my images with them, and I've found it to be a very successful form of relationship building to grow my business. I then emailed my existing clients and let them know of my new social media accounts and invited them to follow me to keep up with my photography work. This helped to enhance my relationship with them and keeps my photography in their gaze on a regular basis.
I now find my relationship to Instagram and Twitter is a positive one as I feel in control and don't even care about follower numbers. It's a case of quality and not quantity. It's my way of staying in contact with clients and potential clients. I'm not building a 'so called' community of random followers who I hope will magically one day give me some business.
If you're struggling to work out how to use social media effectively and finding it's messing with your head - I can recommend spending some time away from the platforms to work out how to approach it in a healthy and effective way. Hope this is useful.