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March 17th, 2016

Why Instagram Is Changing (Spoiler Alert: Money)

Photographers have reacted harshly to Instagram’s decision to uproot chronological posting in favor of an algorithmically sorted feed.

We don’t yet know how Instagram will look and feel in this new algorithmic era, but it’s pretty clear why Instagram is making the switch. It’s much less about giving you content you want to see (the stated reason) and much more about making Instagram the social network equivalent of a toll keeper. In short, it’s about money.

Take Facebook (please). The mammoth social network used to treat all content equally, serving up posts on a chronological basis without discrimination. If you followed an individual, media outlet or brand and they posted an update, it would populate into your feed, sorted by the time it was published.

Today, Facebook timelines are heavily managedeven manipulated–by the company. By deciding who sees what, when, Facebook can essentially hold status updates hostage, demanding ransom in the form of “boosting” a post for a fee or paying to take an ad. Brands and media outlets (not to mention non-profits) have seen their content hidden from followers, prompting them to either pay up or face declining visibility.

Given its ownership, we should expect Instagram to do the same. If you rely on Instagram to reach followers, especially for commercial purposes, you may need to add a line item to your marketing budget for Instagram advertising.

Of course, social media outlets aren’t obligated to serve as free mouth pieces for commercial enterprises or popular individuals. They need to make money just like the rest of us and while Instagram’s decision, like Facebook’s before it, reeks of a bait-and-switch, that’s life in the social networking age. (Although if you want a more pessimistic, downright worrying view of online manipulation, do read this.) Plus, there’s always Twitter. For now.

So what’s a photographer to do? Eric Kim suggests a return to blogging:

Eventually nobody will use Instagram (another social media app will come around. Or perhaps all Instagram users will flee to Snapchat). But once Snapchat becomes more like Facebook, people will flee to some other new service that doesn’t exist yet.

The only way to have any lasting impact as a photographer is the old school method: make prints, share them with friends, and print your own books (zines, print on demand books, or self publish yourself).

Take a hybrid approach: love both atoms and bytes. Don’t make it all one or another; shoot both film and digital, write emails and hand written letters, walk and drive your car, send your friends text messages but also meet them “in real life”…

The last point I want to make is the most interactive and flexible way to do “social media” is own your own blog….

I’m so grateful that I’ve had this blog for the last few years; it has helped open up so many possibilities, given me a voice, given me control over my content, and has given me a livelihood. I used to be suckered into thinking that Facebook was the future; now I realize it is just another social media app (just how MySpace was). I regret spending so much time on social media in general; I wish I spent more time blogging.

A world with more blogging? Yes please.

 

March 2nd, 2016

AppAction Promises to Boost Your Instagram Followers – No Ifs, Ands or Bots

Growing followers on Instagram can be something of a dark art. Photographers in our PhotoPlus Expo panel on the subject, for instance, were more apt to talk about authenticity and earnestness than about the ideal number of hashtags (it’s three) and optimal posting times.

Still, a new service from a former Facebook and Instagram employees dubbed AppAction promises to grow Instagram followers through a fairly straightforward approach: by driving eyeballs from Facebook and Twitter.

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Here’s how it works: you sign up to AppAction via Instagram and link both your Twitter and Facebook account to the service. Then, when you post an image to Instagram, it will automatically be shared to those other platforms. The catch is that the image appearing in Facebook and Twitter also contains a customized “deep link” that, when clicked, drives users back to the original Instagram post. In this way, anyone following you on those other social platforms is exposed to your Instagram work. And, unlike Instagram sharing to Twitter, AppAction shares a full image, not just a link–the better to drive engagement.

Using this method, AppAction claims to have increased Instagram follower counts by 20 percent for its beta testers over a two month period–users that included huge brands like ESPN.

You’re not locked into auto-posting. You can configure AppAction to only cross post an Instagram image on Facebook and Twitter once it hits a certain number of likes. The app also slaps its own hashtag on everything you post with no (readily apparent) way to disable that.

Because it’s creating customized links, AppAction is able to provide a set of basic Instagram analytics to you on a daily basis via email or via a dashboard, including audience engagement (likes and comments), referrers, and more.

It has several pricing plans, depending on the volume of clicks and shares you generate. A free plan provides up to 1,000 post clicks and 100 shares per month.

Read More:

How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?

Using This Instagram App? Delete It

How Photographers With Huge Followings Grew Their Social Networks

This Is the Most Liked Photo on Instagram

The Colors Prized By Instagram’s Top Photographers

November 24th, 2015

How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?

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Three.

That, according to social media analytics firm Locowise, is the optimum number of hashtags an Instagram post should have to earn the most engagement.

Locowise derived that figure by examining over 1,500 active Instagram accounts that posted 135,000+ posts in the 3-month period and had 300+ million followers combined. Of those, nearly 14 percent of all posts had no hashtags, while those with three had the highest level of engagement. However, those with no hashtags had just a slightly lower engagement rate than those with three.

Indeed, Locowise finds engagement rates decline as you tack on additional hashtags above three.

On Twitter, the firm found that tweets with no hashtags outperformed those with hashtags. This despite the fact that we have Twitter to thank for hash-tagging in the first place.

The moral of the story? A hashtag or three will help you attract eyeballs on Instagram, but not Twitter.

Read More:

Using This Instagram App? Delete It

How Photographers With Huge Followings Grew Their Social Networks

This Is the Most Liked Photo on Instagram

November 16th, 2015

New Services Helps You Automate Photo Posting on Social Media

screenshotOne of the key challenges in growing a social media presence is keeping various social media outlets fed with content. A variety of services, like Buffer and HootSuite, are available to automate Facebook and Twitter posts, but a new service dubbed PhotoBuffer promises to tackle a variety of photo-friendly social sites.

With PhotoBuffer, you can upload a single image and automatically schedule a posting to Facebook (profile and pages); Twitter, 500px, Flickr and Tumblr (no Instagram yet).

The service is broken out into tiers. A free tier allows you to queue up to 10 posts to PhotoBuffer with a file limit of 10MB per image. Facebook posting isn’t available in the free tier and a PhotoBuffer message will be attached to images you share.

To remove the branding and expand your buffer to 20 images at 15MB in size, you’ll have to pay about $5/month (pricing is listed in Euros at the moment). A $10/month tier provides Facebook support, up to 30 photos in your queue and a 20MB file size limit. Step up to $20/month and your buffer grows to 50 photos with a 35MB file size limit and the ability to add your own custom text on the bottom of each share. Finally, a $40/month tier allows for an unlimited photo queue, 50MB file size limit and customized messages with each share.

There’s no contact info to speak of on the PhotoBuffer site and no terms of service yet, though when we reached out through an online chat on the service, we were told one is coming soon and will be geared around a simple theme: “the photos are yours and we will use them only to post them on your photo account.”

Given the recent contretemps with InstaAgent, photographers may want to wait a bit until PhotoBuffer has its legal ducks in a row. Still, it sounds interesting.

Via: Hacker News

Read More:

Using This Instagram App? Delete It

How Photographers With Huge Followings Grew Their Social Networks

This Is the Most Liked Photo on Instagram

October 28th, 2015

Keeping Your Photo Business Profitable During the Holidays

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Sponsored by Zenfolio

The holidays can be a stressful time when you may find yourself spending more money than you’re making. But if you’re a photographer, fear not! You can turn the holidays into a very profitable season. The experts at Zenfolio provide five easy ways to market your photography business during the holidays, because let’s face it: what says “personal” more than giving a photo gift to loved ones?

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Here, Zenfolio provides five ways to advertise your site (and how to host a sale) during the busiest shopping season of the year:

  1. Offer Coupons and Gift Certificates

Everyone loves a good deal. Offer clients a coupon during the holiday season for an incentive to buy. Zenfolio offers three types of coupons: amount-based, percentage-based and base cost. Amount-based coupons subtract the discount amount from the order total, percentage coupons subtract discounts as a percentage of order total (sales tax excluded) and, lastly, base-cost coupons allow customers to order products at their base cost, bypassing any markup you may have added. You also have the option with Zenfolio to create a huge batch of coupons all at once.

Gift certificates are foolproof: they allow the gift recipient to pick exactly what they want for the holidays. Zenfolio offers gift certificates that act as a credit where the photographer creates the code to share with clients, and can be a form of payment during checkout to make the process simpler.

  1. Banner Advertisement

What’s better than advertising your sale front and center on your homepage? Zenfolio allows users to display banners in several different ways: photo, video, slideshow or a horizontal photo strip. It’s easy to display a sale you’re having, and you can even link it directly to the products offered for sale.

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  1. Expiring Galleries

A different approach to getting customers to act is to set a deadline on their galleries. This means you can put an expiration date on when their photos will be available for viewing online. This will give them a gentle nudge to buy before their photos disappear. Zenfolio gives the option to set expiration dates on galleries, and after that date it is only seen as private. A notification email is sent to clients to remind them of this date.

  1. Visitor Sign-In

A great way to build clients is to have a visitor sign-in page, so you can market to your visitors later. Think of it as a modern day guest book for your website. With Zenfolio, you can apply a sign-in page to a group or gallery to gather information from those interested in your photography. This will be a helpful list to have on hand when you have sales so you can share the sale details to your entire list.

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  1. Email Campaigns

Once you have that list of followers (even if it’s a small group, at first), Zenfolio allows you to send emails to your entire list, or to a selected tagged group of contacts. You can send out promotional emails for your sale with coupon code information inside, and push it with an expiration date (for example: two-day sale!). If it’s a previous client, it may be wise to direct them to a specific gallery. For example, you can entice them to buy framed prints from an old portrait that they can give to a loved one.

For more detailed information about how to advertise during the holidays, watch this free Zenfolio webinar. Get started on your own website with the two-week free trial today.

October 24th, 2015

PhotoPlus Expo 2015: Photo Book Editors on How to Publish Your Photo Book

There may not be much money in photo book publishing, but is money a photographer’s only reason to publish a book? As Aperture book program publisher Lesley Martin said, “Books have become an integral part of photographic practice.” So for the legions of  photographers driven to publish a photo book despite the costs, a panel of experts gathered at PhotoPlus Expo to explain the how-to. Besides Martin, panelists included Abrams publisher Michael Sand, veteran book editor and agent Robert Morton, and photographer Lauren Henkin. PDN Editor Holly Stuart Hughes moderated the discussion.

The panelists discussed how to conceptualize a book project, how to pitch it to publishers, how to raise funds for publication, and how to market your book once it is published.

As veteran book editor and agent Robert Morton explained, technology has dramatically changed the photo book business. On the one hand, it’s easier than ever for photographers to create a book themselves thanks to online, on-demand publishing. On the other hand, photo books are much harder to sell because independent bookstores have closed by the hundreds, so potential buyers of photo books have no good way to browse. “Amazon doesn’t show you what’s inside the book,” he said.

The editors on the panel strongly advised against publishing albums of personal work. “Your material has to have a subject,” Morton said. “If it’s purely personal work, you’re going to have a hard time coming up with a subject. Fine art books that are purely and simply a photographer’s vision of the world are almost impossible to sell, [and were] even in the days when there were 4,000 bookstores.”

Hughes directed the audience to the Princeton Architectural Press submission guidelines for authors interested in pitching book ideas. Its questionnaire requires authors to figure out who the primary and secondary audiences are for their proposed book, to research comparable titles to the books they are proposing and answer other tough questions. The questionnaire had been recommended by Mary Virginia Swanson, co-author of Publish Your Photography Book. http://mvswanson.com/tag/publish-your-photography-book

“It gets to the heart of [the question]: Why does the world need your book?” Quoting Swanson, Hughes said, “If you can answer the questions, you can [pitch your book project] to any editor.”

Sand ran through his list of “14 thoughts on placing your book with a commercial publisher.” The list underscored the difficulty of getting a commercial trade publisher to publish and market photo book. Some of the items on Sand’s how-to list included:

1. Be famous. (Sand pointed to Drew Barrymore’s books of snapshots titled Find It in Everything)
2. Be famous and dead (e.g., Ansel Adams)
3. Be famous, live a complicated life, and write about it. (e.g., Sally Mann)
5. Get in a helicopter for a fresh perspective (e.g., George Steinmetz)
6. Associate with interesting people (e.g., Todd Selby, creator of The Selby)
9. Animals make good subjects
10. Consider food [cookbooks]

Martin explained that the two critical issues for publishers and self-publishers alike are how to pay for the production, printing, and distribution of a book, and how to find potential buyers in order to sell the book. A non-profit publisher, Aperture has traditionally raised funds through grants and print sales, but has recently worked with photographers by running Kickstarter crowd-funding campaigns —a strategy that not only raises money, but also helps to pre-sell copies of a book. For instance, a Kickstarter campaign for Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers book raised $80,000 in pre-publication book sales. Another Kickstarter campaign for Robin Schwartz’s Amelia & the Animals raised about $30,000.

Martin advised the audience that “the photo book community is a self-organized, highly networked, international community. So be part of it.” For instance, web sites such as Photobookclub.org offer resources and ideas for marketing a photo book–at festivals, book fairs, meet up, and through photo blogs. She also referred the audience to The Photobook Review, a free, twice-a-year publication from Aperture about book publishing. And Martin noted that “one of the myths of self-publishing is that have to do [everything] yourself. You don’t.” She added that the most successful books are the result of a collaborative effort.

And that has been the experience of Henkin, who has self-published several successful fine art books since 2010.

Having studied architecture, Henkin is as much concerned with materiality and scale of the books as she is with the content. Her books, which she has produced in editions of a few hundred,  are collectible as objects, as she discovered when she set about figuring out who might be interested in buying her first book. She found interest among a community of special collections librarians, who led her to private rare book dealers and collectors.

“I banged on a lot of doors to build that audience,” she said.

Her third (and most recent) book, Still Standing, Standing Still, is a sculptural object. It contains just 14 images of a single tree, place in a wooden box. The images are mounted on a stiff backing, and bound so they can be displayed radially on top of the box. Viewers can then walk around and view the images as if they’re walking around the tree Henkin photographed.

Henkin made 300 copies of the book, and priced it at $500. It sold out in a day.

by David Walker

Related:
You’ve Published Your Photo Book. Now How Do You Market It?
How to Pitch Your Photo Book to Publishers
Leveraging an Online Audience to Atrract Book Publishers
Lauren Henkin: How (and Why) to Hand-Make Your Photo Book

October 22nd, 2015

How Photographers With Huge Followings Grew Their Social Networks

Photographers looking to build their social media presence are often focused on the tactical questions of who to follow, how often to post and what networks to exploit. But according to photographers at the PhotoPlus Expo #Trending panel, the route to success in social media doesn’t follow a neat script and has far less to do with a given tactic and far more to do with honesty, positivity and having something of value to share with the world.

The panel, moderated by PDN senior editor Conor Risch, saw photographers Sue Bryce, Vincent Laforet, Jeremy Cowart and Chase Jarvis discuss before a packed house how they grew their substantial social followings–and the challenges that come with feeding a ravenous Internet.

Bryce’s approach to social media follows a basic formula that consists of 40 percent positive opinion, 40 percent knowledge-sharing, 10 percent sell and 10 percent personality–all anchored, she said, by consistency and positive intentions. Having a strictly mercenary view of your social media presence, where all you try to do is sell your followers, is a dead end, Bryce insisted. “You need your followers to be entertained and engaged,” she said.

“You have to think of how you add value,” Jarvis seconded.

For Cowart, engaging on social media begins with humility. “I don’t want to the be the guy speaking down to people on Twitter and Instagram,” he said. His advice: tend to your social presence humbly and feel free to share. “I’ve always debated whether I should share my personal life [online] and I landed on the side of sharing, being honest and real.”

If Cowart is open to sharing his personal details, not every platform earns his personal attention. “Google+ is a useless platform for me,” he said, despite the fact that he has 1.5 million Google+ followers. “I gave up on SnapChat…. I think Periscope has a long future.”

The tactics of growing a social media audience shouldn’t be the first thing photographers worry about when they go online, Jarvis noted. “It’s all about the why. Why are you doing something?” Humans naturally gravitate to a narrative, Jarvis said, so photographers with a story to tell and the patience to tell it over social media will grow their followers organically. In this game, Jarvis said, “the reality is that stamina wins.”

“If you treat [social media] like a marketing exercise, you’ve failed from the get go,” said Laforet. Of all the photographers on the panel, Laforet was the most ambivalent about social media, admitting that acquiring a large following can be a curse as well as a blessing. “The more followers you get, the less honest you can be,” he lamented.

Laforet confessed that he had grown “tired of the ever-expanding black hole” of social media and also the medium’s “lack of intonation” and emotional depth.

Bryce, however, maintained that a positive self image and positive intentions online were the wellspring of social media success. Her approach to any new technology, she said, was simple. “Will it help evolve my career? If it doesn’t, I don’t need it.” But, she warned, failing to adapt and evolve with new technology was a one-way ticket to extinction. One thing we know from nature, Bryce said, “is that if a species doesn’t evolve, it dies.”

August 3rd, 2015

W.M. Hunt on Making “Art” and Artists’ Statements

Veteran collector, curator and photography consultant W.M. Hunt has a reputation for his straight-talking career advice. In this exclusive PDN video, he talks about a strategic mistake made by many aspiring fine-art photographers, and how to avoid it. He also demystifies the process of writing a good artist’s statement, and makes a case against spending a lot of time or energy sweating over it.

Related:
PDN Video: W.M. Hunt on How to Build Career Bridges (Not Burn Them)
PDN Video: Mary Virginia Swanson on How to Get the Most Out of a Portfolio Review
13 Tips for Building Your Fine-Art Network (PDN subscribers can log in to
read this article)

Is the Art World Biased Against Commercial Photographers?
Career Advice: Photographer Kitra Cahana on Elevating Your Work
PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

July 29th, 2015

PDN Video: W.M. Hunt on How to Build Career Bridges (Not Burn Them)

Photography careers are built on talent and hard work. But they also depend upon relationships–with mentors, editors, art directors, curators and others who can provide the critical support required for any career to grow and thrive. Veteran collector, curator and photography consultant W.M. Hunt explains in this exclusive PDN video how to build those important relationships, with tips on how to find a mentor, how to make an impression on the people who can help propel your career, and how to get industry professionals to look at your portfolio–including tips on what NOT to do.

Related:
PDN Video: Mary Virginia Swanson on How to Get the Most Out of a Portfolio Review
13 Tips for Building Your Fine-Art Network (PDN subscribers can log in to
read this article)
Is the Art World Biased Against Commercial Photographers?
Career Advice: Photographer Kitra Cahana on Elevating Your Work
PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

June 17th, 2015

A Photo Editor for Medium Makes the Case for Self-Publishing Platforms

Self-publishing opportunities abound, as we report in a feature story that’s now available at PDNonline.com, called “Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?” We interviewed photographers about how they’ve benefitted (or not) from using a variety of platforms, including Exposure.com, Maptia, VSCO Journal, and Medium.

In an effort to promote their work, photographers are filling those sites with what amounts to free content–much of it high-quality content. So the question is, are photographers benefiting from the exposure provided by those platforms, as much as the platform owners are benefitting from the free content they’re vacuuming up?

As the story was going to press, we got a thoughtful response to the question from Keith Axline, the former editor of Wired magazine’s Raw File blog, and now editor of Vantage. An offshoot of Medium, Vantage is new online magazine established to highlight the best photo projects that photographers post on Medium.

Axline’s response came too late to be included in our story. But here’s the question as we posed it, and his response:

PDN: What’s in it for photographers? With a few exceptions, those I’m talking to are reporting that their stories pretty much get buried on these self-publishing platforms, and they don’t really attract clients and assignments. Which suggests they’re of marginal self-promotional value so far. So my question is, how would you try to convince skeptical photographers that these aren’t just more sites vacuuming up free content (photo stories) shot by hungry professionals, for the benefit of the site owners looking to generate ad revenue for themselves?

Keith Axline: It’s a really tough question. Some projects that Vantage profiles, I really love, but they don’t get much traction with readers. It was the same when I was at Raw File at Wired. But others find their audience on Medium when they wouldn’t have found it anywhere else. There’s no one-size-fits-all for every photo project or photographer. Any of these sites, including Medium, is just a tool for photographers and it’s up to them to make the most out of it.

I totally understand the perspective that photo blogs are exploiting photographers by running their stuff without payment. That’s one way to look at it. I see that. Though I disagree with it. At Vantage we only want to make that ask of photographers who are excited to be featured by us and for whom the attention is an asset that outweighs the granted one-time use. It’s not for everyone. Our posts are promotional in nature because we’re excited to talk about photographers’ work. So in that sense whatever the perceived cost of the granted use can be viewed as a marketing expense. We also encourage photographers to contribute to us directly so that there’s no middleman between them and potential fans. They get to see all the traffic to their story, where it came from, and reply directly to comments that readers make.

I also think that it’s not clear to photographers, or most people for that matter, how to turn traffic and viewers into a plus for their business. Hopefully in the future Vantage and Medium can get closer to facilitating that, and I’m happy to have a “best practices” discussion with contributors (I’ve been meaning to even write a few posts about it).

I think anyone who runs a photo publication is passionate about photography to some degree and they’re probably not exactly raking it in from ad revenue. Participating doesn’t make sense for everyone, but there is a large swath of people who would love to be featured. I’ve never heard of anyone regretting being profiled by us, but maybe they’re just being nice.

Related:
Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?