Focusing on the Your Shot Community in 2019

Rain and Shine – A determined photographer shows in the rain or the blazing sun or both (in a rain shower). This is former White House photographer Lawrence Jackson in my one image published by National Geographic.

The Internet offers photographers many options, perhaps too many options, to share their works. With so many choices, I participate in the networks I focus on networks that deliver value, whether from a marketing or a creative development perspective. I find myself posting more frequently in National Geographic’s Your Shot Community, and plan to continue there through 2019.

A photographer community like 500px, YouPic, Flickr and Photofie, Your Shot offers some unique value. Because Your Shot is curated by four National Geographic editors, there’s a stronger focus on editorial storytelling in the community.

Editors literally scan every photograph posted on the network each day and favorite the ones they like.
Favorited photos are entered into a larger pool where a second editor reviews and chooses the Daily Dozen. Community members then vote on the daily dozen, and the winner is published as National Geographic’s Photo of the Day.

Submissions may also become officially published by National Geographic as part of a Your Shot Assignment selection or in the Photos of the Week community roundup. Assignments are contests where the community shares its best photo around a topic, including current assignments for the topics “Opposites” and “Birds.” The featured image for this story is my one published National Geographic image, the result of a Photos of the Week designation.

Why Storytelling Matters

Shot at the CEB Tower on Behalf of Government CIO

In Your Shot, photographers are asked to tell the photo’s story over 500 characters, even if it’s why you took the shot. THis requirement forces me to move beyond technical photography and move into the actual storytelling. The ability to tell a story through an image remains one of the most powerful tools available to us.

Your Shot editors and community members encourage good storytelling through comments and feedback. When an editor really likes a photo, they leave a note providing feedback on what works with the photo. This feedback technique is also used by the sites more prolific members, providing invaluable commentary to help a photographer understand what made that photograph stand out.

National Geographic’s Kristen McNicholas offers insights on my DC landscape.

I personally have found the storytelling element on Your Shot to be a worthwhile challenge (You can find my profile here). It’s made me think about why I am taking shots, and what I am trying to communicate.

The editorial focus prevents the site from suffering from over-photoshopped clickbait prevalent on other sites. It’s easy to lose a sense of purpose when you are immersed in a consumer network like Instagram where an HDR-esque or over contrived selfie pic gets you more miles than a strong street photo. Further, a 500px dominated by great photographers producing incredible landscapes or high gloss touched up model pics can also provide its own misdirection.

These days many popular photos on these networks make me ask, “What’s the story here?” Sadly, I cannot answer with any kind of certainty.

Consider the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Perhaps the art of storytelling is becoming a lost art in these overcrowded photo communities. We forget that an image can say something and become something more than a vehicle for likes.

My Other Networks

DC Traffic Won’t Even Stop for Her – A photo that seemed to perform well on every network.

I do continue to maintain an active presence on both 500px and Instagram. I also post regularly on my Facebook photography page and add a photo of the week to my Flickr profile. Here is why I use each of these networks:

500px

While National Geographic offers a storytelling element, 500px rewards photographers for popularity and in vogue photos. While the network skews to overproduced imagery, poorly composed photos rarely perform well here. There are subcommunities based on photography styles, from street and travel to the most popular landscapes and portraits. I post almost every day here, and every week take my most popular photo and mail it out to my subscription list. Also, 500px offers an easy licensing mechanism for Getty Images, much easier than the licensing giant’s own platform.

Instagram

Most of my Instagram page following is comprised of DC contacts, as well as friends, family, and photographers. Instagram serves as a marketing vehicle for DC photography clients, and a way to share works with contacts. I also use Instagram Stories for in the moment stuff, similar to the way I used Twitter when I was on that network. I find the general level of what works on Instagram to be more pop-oriented and less technically savvy than Your Shot or 500px.

Facebook Photography Page

Similar to Instagram, my Facebook photography page serves as a means to market to DC photography clients and update friends and family members about my latest works. With more than 1000 followers, the photo page allows me to use my personal profile on a much more selective and personal basis. I also market my photo workshops on Facebook.

Flickr

How far Flickr has fallen. I have significantly reduced my presence on Flickr, ever since the SmugMug acquisition. While some good photographers still remain on the network, it’s lost a lot of fizzle¬†after Yahoo!’s misguided management. More than anything, I find that brands and nonprofits use Flickr to scrape royalty-free images for their stories, some with attribution, many without. So now I only post my photo of the week image and political protest photos there, all of which I am OK with getting downloaded and used elsewhere.

Which photo networks are you using?