Guide to Growing a Large Online Audience for Photographers
In this article, learn about how you can grow an online following that will enable you to profile your work, make important new contacts, and eventually monetize your photography.
Through growing my online following I have successfully monetized a career in travel photography, visiting amazing destinations like Quebec, Canada.
First, you need to decide on the best way to share your work. Is it a blog, a social media platform, or a combination of the two? Which social media platforms lend themselves best to photography? How many should you have? There are slight nuances between all social media platforms but the core ways to share remain the same.
Choosing your platform
The best advice for choosing your platform is to follow your heart. You should put your time and effort into the things that you enjoy. A great rule of thumb is to use a platform that you love, religiously, and then supplement it with one or two others. The best way to figure out what you love is to try everything, and I mean really try it. Give different platforms a few weeks each as you learn how to share content, how to engage with the community there, and how to navigate the different features. Look at how much momentum you can pick up in that time, how many users you connect with, and the sort of feedback you are receiving on your photography.
Some great platforms for you to try are Facebook pages, Instagram, Steller, Trover, Google+, Flickr, 500px, Tumblr, Pinterest, Ello and of course, your own blog. Each social media platform is different with its own benefits and limitations. Make some effort to learn about each as you try them and remember that social media is social! If you’re not sure of something, just ask someone that you follow.
The platform that I love the most is Instagram because it lends itself well to the simple compositions I favor, plus users love uncomplicated images and subject matter such as these baby turtles in Bundaberg Australia.
Each platform is a little different, as are the ways of sharing your photographs, but despite subtle differences the core of sharing remains the same. Share your best work, network within the platform to get that work seen, and engage with the people who are engaging with you.
What is your best work? From any shoot or session that you do, whether it is landscape, portraiture, a family shoot, wedding, macro, food photography, etc., choose a handful of favorites and feed them out slowly, as opposed to all at the same time. Build a story into your posts and talk about the work. You might wish to share your camera settings, a gaff you made during the shoot, some information about the subject matter, or maybe even ask for feedback or advice. Again this comes down to online sharing being social. Put yourself out there and you will be amazed at what can happen.
I must have taken 500 photographs of the icebergs in Jökursárlón but I only shared a coupe online, and I made sure they were perfect for my audience, uncluttered with my trademark simple composition.
Networking can be as easy as discovering photographers that you admire and commenting on their work, or using hashtag searches to find inspiration or even liking streams of images that you’re into. When another user receives a notification that you’ve engaged with their work they’re likely to come and check out yours. If they don’t, find others who will. Sharing your work online to grow an audience requires time and persistence as well as a genuine love and passion for what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to use the platforms that you enjoy.
Another reason why I enjoy Instagram is because it is so populated. I can find any type of image, any destination, and many people with similar interests by sharing there. Reindeer fan anyone?
Engaging can be done in several different ways but one of the most important ways is to thank people that have commented on your work or reply to questions as they’re asked. You don’t need to dedicate your life to it, but you will find that a little effort will enable you to snare new followers and build new connections.
Over time, you may notice that you receive more likes and comments on a certain type of image. For example, if your macro photography is getting double the likes of your portrait photography then your followers are telling you what they really love. You can choose to give them more of what they love, or continue to diversify. In my experience the biggest social media accounts often have quite consistent subject matters. You will start to get people following you just for your macro photography, and perhaps you’ll notice a dip in engagement when you post anything else. It’s up to you how to manage this, but the best advice is to always stay true to your passions.
Although I am well known for travel photography and landscapes I also love portraiture, and despite the lower engagement I continue to post the work that resonates with me.
It’s a funny thing networking on social media; so many people do it badly. If you want to do well with people online then simply remember to be a person! You are not a faceless photographer pumping out uploads; you are a person with feelings, opinions, humor and personality, so you should let that shine through. Whatever platform you are using, you should have a profile photo that looks like you and a bio with a little information about yourself. Each time you upload a photograph you should write an engaging caption, and when people talk to you, talk back as you would in real life. You may be astonished at how many amazing people there are using social media, and they are all at your fingertips.
A strong profile shot of you looking like yourself, doing something you love, in a scenic but uncluttered background, will help people engage with you.
Over time you may realize that brands you admire use the same platform you do, and you should treat them the same way you would treat others. Engage with the brand and offer real feedback on what they’re doing in that space. Share your personality and you may find them discovering you back. The same goes with potential clients if you are trying to break into a certain photography industry. Just be yourself, share great work, network, engage, and persist.
If you ever get to the stage where you have a large online following on any platform, then the time may be right to monetize. There are various ways of doing so. This can be really dependent on the type of photographer you are, and the kind of work you are doing. You may be a wedding photographer you has stylists offering you money to promote them on your channels. You might love travel photography (like me) and find a way to promote destinations to your online followers. Maybe you’re into lifestyle photography and brands pay you to include their product in shots in exchange for a fee. With an audience you will find that the photography industry will open up to you as more and more businesses are hiring based on both photography style and online reach.
It’s not a complicated image, perhaps any decent photographer could have taken it, but combine this image with a 400,000 strong audience and I get a foot in the door thanks to my online reach. (Follow Lauren on Instagram here)
If not the above, then having an online following will expose you daily to an audience that may one day need a photographer. Online sharing gives you a chance to be seen by everyone from businesses, to journalists, to tourism boards, and of course potential clients and friends. By finding the platform that you love and sharing great work; by putting your best foot forward and networking and by keeping an eye out for opportunity, you can definitely go places no matter the level of your photography.
We all start somewhere. Online sharing has enabled me to take my photography to places I never would have believed possible and having an audience makes me proud and accountable for every image I share.
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