Why do we want to share our photos online? What platforms are better or worse to use in sharing images? These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering for the past few weeks.
About a month ago a colleague stated that she would be leaving Instagram given the nature of Facebook’s activities and the company’s seeming lack of remorse. Her decision has stuck with me and left me wondering whether I want to follow her lead.
I deleted my Facebook accounts some time ago, and have almost entirely migrated my community away from WhatsApp. But as an amateur photographer I’ve hesitated to leave an app that was, at least initially, designed with photographers in mind. I’ve used the application over the years to develop and improve my photographic abilities and so there’s an element of ‘sunk cost’ that has historically factored into my decision to stay or leave.
But Instagram isn’t really for photographers anymore. The app is increasingly stuffed with either videos or ads, and is meant to create a soft landing point for when/if Facebook truly pivots away from its main Facebook app.1 The company’s pivot makes it a lot easier to justify leaving the application though, at the same time, leaves me wondering what application or platform, if any, I want to move my photos over to.
Over the past week or two I’ve tried Flickr.2 While it’s the OG of photo sharing sites its mobile apps are just broken. I can’t create albums unless I use the web app. The sharing straight from the Apple Photos app is janky. I worry (for no good reason, really) about the cost for the professional version (do I even need that as an amateur?) as well as the annoyance of tagging photos in order to ‘find my tribe.’
It’s also not apparent to me how much community truly exists on Flickr: the whole platform seems a bit like a graveyard with only a small handful of active photographers still inhabiting the space.
I’m also trying Glass at the moment. It’s not perfect: search is non-existent, you can’t share your gallery of photos with non-Glass users at the moment, discovery is a bit rough, there’s no Web version, and it’s currently iPhone only. However, I do like that the app (and its creators) is focused on sharing images and that it has a clear monetization schema in the form of a yearly subscription. The company’s formal roadmap also indicates that some of these rough edges may be filed away in the coming months.
I also like that Glass doesn’t require me to develop a tagging system (that’s all done in the app using presets), let’s me share quickly and easily from the Photos app, looks modern, and has a relatively low yearly subscription cost. And, at least so far, most of the comments are better than on the other platforms, which I think is important to developing my own photography.
Finally, there’s my blog here! And while I like to host photo series here this site isn’t really designed as a photo blog first and foremost. Part of the problem is that WordPress continues to suck for posting media in my experience but, more substantively, this blog hosts a lot more text than images. I don’t foresee changing this focus anytime in the near or even distant future.
The Necessity of Photo Sharing?
It’s an entirely fair question to ask why even bother sharing photos with strangers. Why not just keep my images on my devices and engage in my own self-critique?
I do engage in such critique but I’ve personally learned more from putting my images into the public eye than I would just by keeping them on my own devices.3 Some of that is from comments but, also, it’s been based on what people have ‘liked’ or left emoji comments on. These kinds of signals have helped me better understand what is a better or less good photograph.
However, at this point I don’t think that likes and emojis are the source of my future photography development: I want actual feedback, even if it’s limited to just a sentence or so. I’m hoping that Glass might provide that kind of feedback though I guess only time will tell.
- For a good take on Facebook and why its functionally ‘over’ as a positive brand check out M.G. Siegler’s article, “Facebook is Too Big, Fail.” ↩︎
- This is my second time with Flickr, as I closed a very old account several years ago given that I just wasn’t using it. ↩︎
- If I’m entirely honest, I bet I’ve learned as much or more from reading photography teaching/course books, but that’s a different kind of learning entirely. ↩︎