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.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.31.56 AM

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

October 7th, 2014

Founders of Everyday Feeds Launch @EverydayEverywhere, “Family of Man for the Modern Age”

everydayTwo years after photographer Peter DiCampo and writer Austin Merrill launched Everyday Africa to share images that defy stereotypes about the continent, the popular Instagram feed has spawned multiple imitations, including Everyday Asia, Everyday Middle East, Everyday Iran, Everyday Sri Lanka, and Everyday USA. Now photographers behind 11 of the feeds have launched @EverydayEverywhere
and have invited photographers around the world to contribute by posting images to Instagram with the hashtag #everydayeverywhere.

The central feed will share a common mission: To disseminate images that promote greater understanding of the world. “We hope that when you put this body of work together, it’s a ‘Family of Man’ in the modern age,” DiCampo says, referring to the ambitious 1955 exhibition which featured 273 photographers, “celebrating commonalities, and fighting stereotypes in each region.”

He adds that the loose roster of photographers contributing the feeds are not a photo agency or a collective. “We’re happy this has become a promotional device for [photographers] but we don’t want them participating because of that. We want them to be excited about the project.”

DiCampo says that one or two images a day will be posted to @everydayeverywhere. Guest curators, working on the feed for two weeks at a time, will select the images that appear on @everydayeverywhere. For now, current contributors to Everyday feeds will serve as curators, but the contributors plan to invite an international group of curators to participate. DiCampo explains, “We want a variety of people: photo editors, artists, scholars, thinkers, musicians.”  Since the launch of Everyday Everywhere, Grant Slater and Austin Merrill have been the first and second guest curators, selecting images that had been posted on Everyday Eastern Europe, Everyday Bangladesh, Everyday Black America, Everyday Iran and Everyday NBNJ, which shows images from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Contributors to Everyday decided to create a centralized Everyday feed during three days of meetings at the Open Society Foundations in New York City. The meetings, held during the Photoville photo festival, where an exhibition of work from 11 feeds was hosted by Instagram, gathered more than 30 contributors from around the world, says DiCampo. Though many had previously shared advice and ideas via Skype or email, few of the contributors had met in person.

“We’ve been talking for a long time about how to organize all this, how to encourage the Everyday concept to continue spreading while at the same time having some central structure,” DiCampo says in the press release the group issued on September 30.

To support the expansion of the Everyday project, the contributors who met in New York City also formed committees to address concerns common to all the feeds. “There’s now an events committee, an educational committee, a technical committee to help,” says DiCampo, who along with Merrill has used Everyday Africa imagery to conduct a visual literacy class in the Bronx where students can contribute to Everyday Bronx. He adds that a book of images posted to Everyday Africa is also in the works.

Related Article
Picture Story: Everyday Africa on Instagram

February 28th, 2014

Facebook’s Teru Kuwayama on How To Use Social Media for Documentary Storytelling

Long before he went to work for Facebook as the social media giant’s liaison to the photo community, photographer Teru Kuwuyama saw social media as a tool for photographers “to eliminate the gatekeepers and the editors, and to be our own operators,” he told a standing-room-only crowd at the Aperture Gallery in New York on Tuesday.  Old media models formed in “an analogue era” no longer exist, but he said many photographers who have been “adaptable” to social platforms are using them to reach and engage audiences.

Kuwayama spoke along with Lev Manovich of the Software Studies Initiative at “Documentary, Expanded: Interventions in Social Media,” a panel moderated by photographer Susan Meiselas, executive director and board member of the Magnum Foundation, which organized the talk as part of its Photography, Expanded program. Photography, Expanded held its first conference, in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project, in April 2013, Meiselas said, to encourage photographers to expand their storytelling beyond the still image at a time when “we all felt the ground shifting beneath our feet” due to a shortage of assignments and production budgets from traditional media. Kuwayama shared work by photographers who are using Instagram to connect with audiences — though not, in most cases, to make money with their images.

He began by showing his own social-media-based project, Basetrack. After having worked in Afghanistan as an embedded photojournalist, Kuwayama won a James S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford, where he came up with a plan to gather a small group of embedded photographers who would post images and information about a Marine battalion in Afghanistan for their families back home. Launched in 2010, Basetrack was “basically a tricked out blog,” he said, with a map and a countdown clock to the end of the Marines’ deployment, but equally important was the Basetrack Facebook page, which “became a rallying point for the community.” Basetrack was never intended to reach more than about 1,000 viewers. “Who cares about this 20-year-old Marine who was 8 when this war started? It was clear it was his mom, his sister,” Kuwayama explained.
(more…)

October 25th, 2013

PPE 2013: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media

The theme of Thursday’s PhotoPlus Expo panel “Practicing Safe Social Media” seemed to be that social media is a necessary evil in today’s photography industry so photographers need to be smart about how they use it. The ASMP-sponsored panel had a variety of speakers who each brought a unique viewpoint to the discussion. Covering the legal ramifications was attorney Ross Buntrock; giving the media’s perspective was AOL/Huffington Post Photography Director Anna Dickson; representing the photo industry was photographer Richard Kelly; EyeEm CEO Florian Meissner provided a social-media company’s viewpoint.

Buntrock and moderator Peter Krogh broke down the terms of service agreements for four popular social-media sites, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, and the news was pretty bleak. All four TOS agreements are essentially broad licenses that allow the companies to provide the images and data from their sites to third parties. This doesn’t mean that they own the copyright to any work you post on their networks. The panelists illustrated that point by briefly discussing the case of Daniel Morel, the photojournalist who successfully sued AFP, the Washington Post and Getty for using images from the Haiti earthquake that he posted on Twitter without his permission. However, it does mean that these platforms can let advertisers use your image in sponsored posts without your permission and without compensation. (Buntrock noted that adding a copyright symbol to your image before posting it to these social networks doesn’t impact the TOS at all.)

It would be easy to just say, “Forget, I’m not going to use social media.” Except Dickson made an interesting point that the reason she’s on Instagram is because that is where everyone else is—both photographers and photo editors like herself. Whereas five years ago she would’ve followed photographers on Flickr, now it’s Instagram. She also said the “look” of Instagram photos is popular now, so many websites, including AOL/Huffington Post, use the site to find images for articles and slide shows.

So herein lies the rub: You want your work to be followed and found by potential clients, but you don’t want to give it away for free. Meissner’s company, EyeEm, is trying to eradicate this issue by providing the same social features as Instagram but including a notification system that alerts photographers when a third party wants to use their image, and offers compensation for that use. Other sites and services were mentioned as also having some sort of permission or compensation model, including Stipple, Scoopshot, SmugMug and PhotoShelter.

However, until one of these sites has the same massive user base as Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, they don’t solve the immediate problem of how to get exposure while also protecting your work on social media. Kelly’s strategy for dealing with this issue is simple: Know what your message is on social media before you start posting on these sites. For example, he uses his accounts to keep followers up to date on what he’s working on, advocacy issues for photographers and his teaching gigs. That’s it. He doesn’t use the tools to post new work or market himself. And Dickson, to a certain extent, supported Kelly’s idea by noting that she loves it when photographers post behind-the-scenes images so she can see what they are up to as well as get a peek at their personality.

At its core, this is what social media was originally intended for—sharing who you are and what you are up to. Though you can use these tools to market your work, it would be wise to think of how you can do that without actually posting the finished image since it can easily spread around the Web without your attribution and without you ever seeing a penny of compensation.

Related Articles
In TwitPic Copyright Claim, Daniel Morel Seeks $13.2 Million from AFP, Getty

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

July 2nd, 2012

Your Cellphone Is Not Your Friend, and Other Security Tips For Conflict Zones

The surveillance of journalists covering Syria has heightened concern about the risks journalists face in relying on mobile communications and cellphones. In February, journalists Remi Ochlick and Marie Colvin were killed when shells struck the press center that they and other journalists were using to transmit their stories; the Syrian army may have used satellite signals from the center to target it.

More recently the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that  Syrian security agents in October arrested a British journalist, seizing his laptop, cellphone, camera and video he had shot while interviewing anti-government Syrian activists; several of these dissidents have been arrested, one has fled the country and another has disappeared.

In the wake of these incidents, as well as attacks on journalists and their sources elsewhere, several journalism organizations have been hammering on the need for journalists to take precautions when using cellphones and laptops in certain areas, to protect the contact information they store electronically, and to make sure their communications are secure.

Several guides to protecting and encrypting your data are available online for free:

– The 2012 edition of CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide from CPJ has added chapters on how to protect your communications from surveillance and secure your data. You can download the guide here.

SaferMobile.org, a non-profit helping journalists, has a new Mobile Security Survival Guide. It covers topics such as how to disable the GPS in your phone, set up secure communications and protect sensitive information. It also has links to best practices for using satellite phones.

– The web site Media Helping Media recently posted “Tips for Staying Safe on Mobile,” which includes information on staying anonymous while using social media, uploading photos and stories safely, and browsing the internet securely.

– If you want a condensed summary of these and other security tips,  Lauren Wolfe, a former editor at CPJ and director of Women Under Siege, Tweeted tips from two seminars on journalism security held on World Press Freedom Day. You can find a Storify of the information she gleaned here.

Here are a few precautions suggested in all these guides:
-Take the battery out of your phone (don’t simply turn it off) to make sure it’s not transmitting its location to the cellphone network. (Don’t take an iPhone to meet sources who may be targeted.)

-If you connect to social media or other major web sites from the field, install HTTPS Everywhere browser extension, which makes your web browsing more secure. Make sure your smartphone supports sites with the https:// prefix.

-Download contacts, captions and story notes to a secure computer when possible, then wipe your phone, including the log of calls and SMS messages.

-Text messaging is one of the least secure ways to communication. Encryption software is available to encode your messages. But note: CPJ’s Security Guide and other resources point out that using encryption may call attention to your communications.

Paranoid? Sure. But it’s not only your own safety you have to be concerned about.

Related articles
Were Journalists in Homs Targeted for Bombing?

Survival Training for Conflict Zones