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Make Your Own Luck: Using Social Media to Embrace Photography

June 13, 2012 - 2 Comments

By Russ Morris, Guest Columnist

In the past 8 years I’ve been lucky enough to have my work exposed to a greater audience by being socially active on the internet.

But, was it just luck?

I started photo-blogging early 2004 after noticing that a few really good photographers were posting their work in an interesting way, demonstrating both technical and creative growth by sharing daily glimpses of the things they were seeing and photographing.

Then came my first foray into Social Media, by way of Flickr.

I joined Flickr in August of 2004 and initially didn’t spend a lot of time there. I’d seen plenty of inspiring photographs and was adding faves like crazy, but wasn’t posting a lot of my own work. I’d been using a great aftermarket selective focus lens called the Lensbaby and through their website, joined the Lensbaby Forum. The work I was doing created some exposure on the Lensbaby website, in a book and in print collateral for their products. It also allowed me to get in on Lensbaby product testing.

My connections through my day-job, my passion for taking pictures, and my natural curiosity led to a 2 minute spot on San Francisco Bay Area Public Television about Through the Viewfinder (TtV) photography, a method I’d learned about on Flickr through my contacts.

In the early days of my TtV journey, a lot of questions came my way through my Flickr account so I put together a Web-based tutorial to explain the ins and outs of getting started – it became the de facto source for learning about TtV and was featured on Dooce, Kottke, and other high profile blogs.

My involvement in the Flickr TtV group has helped shape me as a photographer and introduced me to a lot of really great, really talented people. One of those folks, Kevin Meredith, asked me to re-purpose an article I’d written for JPG Magazine about Through the Viewfinder for a photo project book he was putting together titled Photo Op. The words were accompanied by a number of my TtV photos.

Then came the iPhone. My first was the 3GS. I was drawn to shots taken using its camera and an app called Shake It Photo. It turns iPhone photos into square, Polaroid-like images with subtle color effects. And of course, being mobile makes it super easy to upload to Flickr on-the-spot. My early work with iPhoneography and participation in Flickr groups resulted in one of my ‘Shake-its’ being hung in the inaugural Pixels at an Exhibition show in 2010.

According to Cisco’s VNI Service Adoption Forecast (VNI-SA) research, globally, mobile Internet consumer devices and connections will grow from 5.6 billion in 2011 to 8.4 billion by 2016. With such a high growth in internet devices, I can only imagine how many more photo related apps will be available as well as photographers who will begin going mobile with their activities.

Looking back, I’m positive it’s my interaction with other photography enthusiasts on Flickr and my willingness to share what I’ve learned that’s netted all of the attention my work has gotten. The lucky part is meeting so many great people, both virtually and in person, along the way.

Russ Morris is an artist, designer, and photographer living, working, and playing in Silicon Valley.

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  1. This was a great read! Social media seems to have been a tremendous influence on trends in photography--for amateurs and professionals alike. Not only has it provided more outlets and more platforms for sharing photos and community building, in doing so it has democratized an activity that was generally perceived as exclusive to those able to afford expensive equipment. Social media has also certainly had an impact on the discourse amongst photographers, particularly in spurring debate about "mobile" photography's place in the arts and what consitutes a "good" or thoughtful photo.

  2. I think social media has indirectly encouraged a lot of amateur photographers. People who normally would have been hesitant to spend money on a digital camera, or afraid of fussing with apertures and depth of field are now having a blast with apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic on their mobile devices. It's hard to take a "bad" photograph with them- almost everything looks good with an artsy filter or effect applied. So there is less pressure to get the perfect shot, and folks are simply having fun taking photos with their phones and sharing them via social media. A lot of younger people who would not have otherwise been interested in photography seem to be embracing it this way.