Social Media for Photographers
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, SnapChat, TikTok, 500pixels, Flickr… so many choices, so little time. Where should you post your photos? Do you need to be on all of those websites? Which ones will help you find new customers? How often do you need to post? What days and what times are the best times? How are you going to find an extra eight hours a week to get all of this done? It’s not as tough as you think, but you may want to pour yourself a stiff one before we start.
Please understand that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to marketing, and hopefully you are working to set yourself and your photography apart. I am going to give you an overview and some information to help you decide where to invest your time and efforts, but it wouldn’t be right for me to tell you exactly how YOU, personally, should run your social media, since I don’t know the intimate details of your business.
With over 1.6 billion monthly users, Facebook is the king of them all. So at a minimum, you need to be on Facebook if you want to be found. For portrait, wedding, and model photographers, Facebook is outstanding in helping you build brand awareness. It allows you to post photos and videos as well as communicate directly with your customers and potential customers. In other words, if you’re not on Facebook, you don’t exist to your customers. Even if they find you elsewhere, they will want to look you up on Facebook, because it provides more opportunities for them to investigate you and your work. Facebook has become the primary communication tool for many people and businesses.
Facebook gives you several ways to make connections and meet new people and advertise your services. It allows you to have a personal page, a business page, and gives you the ability to start and participate in specialized groups, like my I Shoot People Photographers Group. Facebook also allows you to use paid advertising, if your budget permits. That’s not something I would recommend that you do right away, and I will discuss why in a later video.
You should also be aware that the largest growth sector for Facebook in recent years has been with adults over the age of 25, not teenagers. In other words, the people with money are on Facebook.
Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform that is designed to be used as a mobile app. You can view it on a computer but you can only upload photos from your phone unless you use one of the automation tools that I’ll get to later. Instagram is VERY popular among the 18 – 29 year old age bracket, which makes it a great marketing platform for high school senior portrait photographers, wedding photographers, and shooters who work with models. While the platform does allow for text along with your posts, it is a primarily visual platform. The expectation is that your photos and videos will speak for themselves. Instagram supports videos up to 60 seconds in length and you do have the option to purchase paid advertising on the site. You can also cross-post to Facebook and tumbler directly from the Instagram app. Instagram has also recently launched Instagram Stories, which allow you to share a thread of photos and videos that will appear at the top of your followers’ feeds, which, in this day of competing for screen time, is a very valuable place to be. Warning: don’t make the mistake of creating stories just to be at the top of the page. If there is no value in your stories, people will quickly learn to ignore all of your posts. Instagram stories disappear 24 hours after you post them. A cool little feature that comes with Instagram stories is that you are able to see the username of every person that views your story. This has great potential for follow-up and, of course, if you are in the habit of social stalking people, remember that they will know when you have checked out their story.
At 140 characters per post, Twitter is fast-paced and concise and can be an easy way to connect with your followers, but it is not the most effective platform for finding new customers. Originally designed to be a text only platform, Twitter does support photo posts and short videos up to – you guessed it – 140 seconds long. Twitter’s strength lies in its ability to distribute news quickly. More so than Facebook users, Twitter users tend to follow companies and brands and will use the platform to communicate directly with them. Twitter users tend to check their feed more than any other social media platform and, like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter does allow paid advertising.
Pinterest is a content sharing website that allows you to share or post photos and videos to Pin Boards. Pinterest likes to describe itself as a “catalog of ideas” that inspires people to go out and do. It is essentially a form of visual bookmarking. The Pinterest user base is more than 80% female. Wedding photographers, if you are not on Pinterest and using it actively, you are missing out. As social media and the Internet grow up, brides-to-be are using Pinterest to shop for and plan out every detail of their wedding, including their photographer. Pinterest is also heavily used by people looking for interesting ideas for family portraits and baby photos. It also serves as a great way to share and discuss potential ideas with models as you plan a shoot.
LinkedIn is different from the other social media platforms because it is designed for businesses and professionals to communicate. LinkedIn is definitely not a place to post your photos and brag about how great your work is. This is a platform that you use to make connections, specifically in the business world. For those of you who offer headshot services to business professionals or who are looking to connect with marketing contacts at larger companies, LinkedIn is a valuable resource.
Now, before I discuss the rest, let me explain that for the purpose of marketing your photography services, those 5 – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn – are the 5 that you are going to look at to determine what and how much you should be doing. I will talk a moment about how you make that choice, but the remaining platforms on the list are much more specialized and will only be helpful to some people.
tumblr is a microblogging website. What does microblogging mean? It is a post that can contain a photo or video, but usually contains a short story somewhere between the 140 characters of Twitter and usually less than a thousand word essay. Honestly for most photographers, tumblr doesn’t hold a lot of marketing opportunities and I wouldn’t use it in place of a real blog on your website. I plan to further discuss blogging in an upcoming marketing video. If you are a photographer that shoots fine art nudes, though, and has a following of people who appreciate you work, tumblr can be a great way to share your images since they don’t prohibit nudity. tumblr does also have themes which allow you to customize your profile in a way similar to that of WordPress.
And finally, there’s SnapChat
Originally conceived as a class project by three students at Stanford University, Snapchat is an image messaging app that for many younger internet users is the primary messaging and image sharing service. A large part of its attraction is that messages can be set to self-delete after being viewed. Snapchat supports photos and short videos, and like Instagram allows you to share stories. Due to the one-to-one messaging system at the core of Snapchat’s design, it is much more difficult to develop a strong following on this platform. Brands that are heavily committed to social media often use other platforms to direct users to their SnapChat efforts, but it is not a platform that is conducive to helping you find new clients.
So there you have it, the top 8 social media platforms as of the release of this article. I know some of you are thinking that I forgot sites like 500px or flickr or Model Mayhem, but those are very specialized sites that are great for sharing your work and finding like-minded people, but they aren’t going to help you get a lot of new customers. I’ll get to them in a later video.
What sites should you use?
In a perfect world, all of them! But remember that when it comes to business and marketing, ROI – Return on Investment – must be continually evaluated to be sure that the way you spend your time and money is paying off. Otherwise, it’s not business, just foolish fun.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your time doesn’t cost you anything just because you are not actively spending money. Your time is your most valuable resource.
If you are using social media to build a business, you need to be where your customers are. I would recommend the following to start:
Facebook is the must have for all photographers, but wedding photographers will put extra emphasis on Pinterest. Baby and family portrait photographers also need to focus on Pinterest in addition to Facebook and Instagram.
If you are a high school senior portrait photographer, Facebook and Instagram are your primary platforms, but I would encourage you to stay active on twitter, because your high school juniors and seniors will want to share your work with their friends.
Portrait, product, real estate and architectural photographers should also maintain a LinkedIn presence in order to build your corporate and business headshot clientele.
Remember, these are my recommendations to get you started. DO NOT follow them blindly. Use them as a guide, and as your following grows and you build your business it is important to routinely re-evaluate your social media efforts. And remember, this isn’t a one-size fits all scenario. There are no specific must-dos other than to use proper social media etiquette.
I mentioned earlier that there are some automation tools out there that can save you time and help you simplify your social media efforts. Before I give you the list, though, let me explain that the idea with creating content is to use and re-use it wherever and whenever possible. Creating content for ONE social media platform is costly. As an example, when I make a video on YouTube, that video then gets turned into a blog article (not unlike this one!) and several quotes from the video become tweets on twitter. The video is shared on all of my social media platforms and so is the blog article. Some of the articles are then rewritten or combined to become submissions to magazines.
Now, you may not be producing videos and writing articles, but a simple blog post for your website can be shared on all of your social media outlets. From that blog post, you may be able to create several photo posts. Just because you have 10 great shots from a wedding doesn’t mean you need to share them all in the same social media post. Spread it out over multiple posts and in each post, tell a little story about the wedding and your experience with the couple. See if you can get the couple to write you a short testimonial that you can include in one of the posts. Remember, it’s the stuff that goes with your photos that people actually care about. They don’t really care about your photos.
Some of you are probably wondering at this point exactly what an automation tool is. A social media automation tool allows you to create posts for multiple social media accounts in advance and schedule a time for them to automatically be posted. In other words, you could spend an hour or two on a Monday and create all of your social media posts for the week, upload them, and then they will automatically post on the days and times that you requested.
The options that I list below all have a free plan that will allow you to connect a few accounts and provide you with all the basic features. Of course, they all have paid options too, which allow you to connect all of your accounts. These paid plans also come with additional features like analytics so that you can track the effectiveness of your posts.
My favorite automation tool is called Hootsuite. Other popular ones are Buffer, Social Oomph and Sprout Social. There are many others, however, you will find that the other options tend to be platform specific. The ones that I have mentioned handle multiple platforms.
Now I know that a lot of you would like me to walk you through these platforms so that you can see how they work. That would make this an insanely long article. But I’ll go into them in my Thursday TogChats, so be sure to check those out!
Okay, now let’s talk about the MEDIA part of Social Media. I promised to give you my formula for preparing images so they look their best on all the different social media websites.
The two most important things to understand about the MEDIA are Image Size and Image Size. In other words, pixel dimensions – height and width and total file size – especially if you are posting to Facebook.
Most of the social media platforms accept files of several megabytes or even larger, however Facebook does have a cap of 100k on the photos that you upload for timeline covers, so it is important to be stingy with your file size– even for your own website. Google wants pages to load very fast, and smaller file sizes help your page speed rankings with Google.
I work primarily in Photoshop, so it’s no surprise that I use it to prep my photos before posting them. Below are the steps that I have used for years to save my photos for web use. I have recently started using a piece of software that automates all of this, so I am going to give you both versions.
- Make sure your images are set to sRGB Color space. All web browsers render images best in a sRGB Color space and the overwhelming majority of monitors and devices that surf the web are set to sRGB. So if you want to be sure you color looks good on as many devices as possible – sRGB it is.
- Resize your images to the appropriate size for the website and type of post you are making. This might take a little extra work but it will make a huge difference in how your images appear. As a photographer you don’t want to give up control and allow a website to manipulate your images any more than necessary, so if you make your images conform to their size guidelines that means they will be doing less to your photos.
- NEVER upload full resolution images. When you resize the images, set your resolution to 72 pixels per inch and use Bicubic Resampling.
- Set the pixel dimensions that you want the file saved at based on the social media website that you intend to post it on.
- After you have resized your images for the web in Photoshop, you may want to add just a little bit of sharpening. For my taste, I will duplicate the finished layer, choose Filter /> sharpen > edge sharpen and then reduce the layer opacity down to 50% before I save. Many people simply use the Unsharp mask at its default settings and that is fine for most images. Others have very detailed formulas that they prefer. I won’t debate the merits of any of them; this step is what I like to call “flavor to taste”. Just don’t over-sharpen your image.
- Use the File > Save for Web feature or, if you are in Photoshop CC, use File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy).
Save the file as a Progressive jpeg with a quality of at least 60. Mine is usually set between 80 and 100.
- Be sure to select Progressive as the jpeg type. This is important because of compression.
First select Export
- Set your Maximum image dimensions based on the social media website that you are posting to.
- Set your resolution to 72
- Set your Image Quality to 75
Now I mentioned a piece of software that I now use to automate the file and save for web process. It is called jpegmini. You can use this as a standalone program on Windows or Mac or you can use it as a plugin directly inside of Photoshop or Lightroom. I use the plugin version in Photoshop.
jpegmini is capable of reducing the file size of your images by up to 80% without compromising image quality. Full disclosure: jpegmini is not sponsoring this video and I did pay for my version of the software. This is a program that I really like and now use it religiously. Here is a link to their website, for those who are curious. They do have a free trial version that will allow you to compress 200 images before purchase.
In addition to doing a great job of compressing images – regardless of whether you use it in Photoshop or Lightroom – it’s pretty much a one click process. It’s fast, easy, and the results are incredible.
Well, that’s it for now. Now do you understand why I suggested the stiff drink?
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman