Business Tech

Recently, clothing giant Nordstrom handpicked 12 popular shooters to showcase the upcoming fall line of accessories. The photographers were selected not for their portfolios, but instead for their rather large Instagram followings. Titled as "social influencers" by Nordstrom, the group of bloggers, marketers and editors certainly were capable of turning out eye-catching imagery but, uniquely for a commercial campaign, not a single one of them was an actual professional photographer. The group was given total creative freedom and a dedicated web portal showcasing the "Instalog" photography of goods, which then were shared with multiple audiences through other outlets like the Instagrammers’ own accounts.

Myth: There’s Only One Business Plan For Success

Many imaging experts might bemoan this as another case study in the demise of photography as a way to make a reliable living, but instead what they should be looking at are the myriad opportunities that have arisen from an industry experiencing growing pains. Social media is largely responsible for an age of constant distraction and intense competition, but that’s because these sites offer simple (and free) ways to keep audiences updated on your work while teasing new work or ongoing projects, as well as providing a venue for gaining new fans. The importance of engaging with social media is more than just the notion of selling celebrity, however.

Clients are now looking for talent on both the local and the national levels. Properly tagging your work and yourself as a representative of a locale or a specific area can bring in not only nearby clients, but also worldwide business from companies or editors looking to work in an area without having to incur the costs of shipping in a photographer and crew. Social media makes it simple for search engine optimization queries to find you. Not only are these websites trusted implicitly by search engines like Google, but they also help you to build trusted web traffic and links between social media and your own website so it will show up in searches far more often and with a better search ranking that can be based both on your physical location and the type of work you do.

Thanks to social media, there has also been a correlative paradigm shift in the way in which we do business, as well. These services have given photographers and filmmakers total creative control, and with that comes a lot of the tasks and responsibilities that were once afforded to publishers and editors. Historically, income was generated from front-end sales through publication and editorial bookings while secondhand profits were then culled through prints or stock and publication sales. Now social media is a direct way to unlock print sales with your audience while also drumming up further sales and commissions from editors and clients seeing the new work. While you’ll definitely have to put in the work to engage your audience and to track sales, analytics and promotions, social media is even better than traditional publication because there are also secondhand benefits that come from having a built-in audience, like crowdsourcing of funds for new projects where fans can provide assistance, location scouting and even help with travel accommodations.

Terms of use are obviously a concern, especially as it should be readily apparent that these services are relying on the content of their own users to survive. As media professionals, be aware of the variety of ways in which each site elects to use that content and act accordingly by ensuring that watermarks, metadata and copyright information make you easy to find and difficult to steal from. This also includes properly annotating the same imagery in other venues like your own website so people can easily find you through search terms if a particular image has struck them. Learning website analytics will give you direct numbers for deciding which sites are bringing in the most traffic and, hopefully, the most profit. While it’s unfortunate for professional photographers that our bread-and-butter sources of income have largely been undercut by social media and smartphones, the truth of the matter is that we have access to the same tools and services, and many are profiting from them. As imaging professionals, this simply means that we have to be better at the game than everyone else.

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