Social Photography: Thoughts and 4 Tips

Ride the Sunset!
Taken mid-air last night with an iPhone 4s.

You may not love Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest, but you can’t deny the continuing rise of social photography. Photos dominate social media. Even on Facebook, the king of networks, people spend 17 percent of their time perusing photos according to a recent ComScore/BuddyMedia study.

Facebook time spent seg

Whether they are retail pics “pinned” on Pinterest, food shots discussed on any social site (25 percent of foodie photo creators do so as part of a daily food diary), or a happenstance shared on Instagram or via TwitPic, photos are a universal staple of the online social world. As such, social photography should be a part of your communications strategy.

The results have been fantastic for me. While this blog has a decent following, in the four years I have written here regularly (some of the old 2007-8 posts were imported from my now defunct Now Is Gone blog), my photo blog on Flickr has generated roughly 50% more page views.

I have received many online journal links thanks to my photography, enough to rival my traditional media appearances for social media opinion. Not bad for an amateur who doesn’t use flash.

While I have blogged about the benefits in the past, social photography has definitely strengthened relationships. Are you an amateur like me or would-be photog interested in doing more? Here are four tips:

1) Get an iPhone

Cherry Blossom Goodness
You don’t need a great camera to do this well, but you do need an iPhone. The iPhone has incredible stabilizing software, and with the new 8 pixel camera in the 4S the actual camera has gotten much better. I took the above photo using an iPhone 3G two years ago.

In addition to the camera, of course the iPhone lets you post immediately. So you can play on Instagram, post on Facebook, Twitpic, upload to Flickr and upload to Pinterest using a variety of applications. That’s the best part about taking a fun or relevant photo, sharing it!

2) Practice

The Potomac River in winter.
An iPhone shot I took walking in Old Town, Alexandria

Take a photo everyday. Every single day. It helps your eye adjust to framing, lighting and other critical aspects that contribute to getting a great capture. There are many pro blogs like Scott Bourne’s Photofocus with more tips, but rest assured, let me tell you, practice makes you better. You don’t need to be a pro to be decent.

I recommend sharing photos online (again at least one a day) so you can see which ones your network responds to the most. Instagram is a great network for this. There are many good and bad photos there, so you will feel no shame! Plus becoming a part of a community lets you see others’ work, and learn from them.

3) Use Editing Apps

How Editing Can Make a Better Photo
The iPhone has been a photog favorite for a long time, and now there are many great applications for the phone. The above image on the left was edited with Adobe Express and Camera+, a significant improvement over the raw iPhone shot on the right. SnapSeed is another good editing app that I like. I often edit photos in all three apps.

One word of caution with these applications. Many of them have filters with preprogrammed effects that will tint, center focus, adjust an image in a retro fashion, or another effect. Instagram is popular for this, as is Snapseed and Camera+. Relying on effects can stop you from learning how to master your camera. The filters can be fun, but be careful. Try to get a good capture rather than simply use an effect to cover up a bad image.

4) Take Great Captures with a Better Camera

Soleil on Instagram and D-90
The top image is the unfiltered image of my daughter I took during her birthday with my Nikon D90. Below it is the filtered version I shared on Instagram. While an iPhone can take good photos, a better camera can greatly help your effort.

If your photos are getting the results you need, consider upgrading. You don’t need to get a $1500 DSLR rig to be good. There are many new micro 4/3 cameras — the next generation in digital cameras — that can help you take great pics. These cameras are super small, and very advanced. I took the below photo of Superstition Mountain with my Olympus E-P3, a micro 4/3 camera.

Superstition Mountain

What social photography tips would you add?