Ansel Adams once said that, "You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved." Photography is a visual medium that permeates our culture, and especially the digital space. While words may be the backbone of the internet, images are what give it pizzazz and intrigue. As much as 93 percent of engaging posts on sites like Facebook have pictures attached. Thanks in part to engaged and talented photographers, the web is a beautiful place to explore.
Making one's mark online as a photographer takes a lot more than photographic genius, it also requires a keen social presence and the ability to connect with varied audiences. These visual superstars must master the art of social followings, providing valuable insights about the industry in addition to sharing their inspiring photos. These are the photographers that continuously transform and shape the industry, carving out future trends and alerting the masses to new technologies and techniques.
In an effort to understand what's next for social photography, WiFi SD card and cloud service company Eyefi recently asked me to identify today's most impactful online photography experts. After extensive research and a weighted average formula I have developed using data from Little Bird, Google, Twtrland, Klout, and other sources, the following 30 photographers have the most social engagement on the web.
To assist the millions of professional and amateur photographers looking to improve their craft and their social followings, I asked these experts about the social trends and online photography tips. Below are some of the most significant insights from the top 30 experts.
Lesson #1: Storytelling Is the Key to Viral Images
Photographer and lighting expert David Hobby emphasizes the storytelling attributes of photos first and foremost. "Lighting and exposure and composition and focus are all cool. But they are just components of a language. What matters far more is what you are trying to say." While tricks of the trade are important to enhance images, photos without a sense of story can never be tweaked to invoke emotion. Emotion, of course, is one of the primary attributes that makes any image go viral. For photographers to take over the social space, Hobby says they should "Concentrate first on what you want your photos to say -- or better yet, to accomplish -- because that is by far more important than craft."
Award-winning commercial photographer Chase Jarvis whole-heartedly agrees. "Photography has always been a social craft -- a way of telling stories, cultivating emotion, awareness and connection. Now more than ever before we don't require permission to socialize the results of that craft -- our work -- at scale." What is required is a firm commitment to a vision, and the ability to execute via a visual medium. This is literally the secret sauce for being a socially powerful photographer.
Lesson #2: Share Photos Fast and Furiously
Photographers on the social scene often do themselves a disservice by sharing photos eons after they were captured. Landscape and wildlife photographer Richard Bernabe insists that the more current an image is, the easier audiences can identify with the person behind the lens. "Get content to your fans and followers as quickly as possible," he states. "The ultimate goal would be to share the images and experiences real-time." With WiFi technologies like Eyefi SD cards that automatically send photos to the cloud, this kind of in-the-moment content share is getting easier and easier, making fans feel as though they are actually shadowing favorite photographers as they travel the world.
Number one on the list, Jeremy Cowart shares this sentiment. "Just like everyone else, I now shoot and share as soon as I can. Before social media, we photographed our lives to remember. Now we photograph our lives to remember and share." Cowart has even founded his own social photography community called OKDOTHIS. The app aims to provide daily inspiration to photographers by way of themes, encouraging same-day photo shares to keep the community engaged.
Lesson #3: Mastery Is Essential
The dawn of social has spurred a massive flux of amateur photographers to the web, and many of them have never mastered their art. More poignantly, a lot of photographers from every skill level try and shoot every conceivable type of shot, without ever becoming an expert. Portrait photographer Jake Olson gives this advice: "Shoot the same things until you get good at it and then move on. I see most photographers all over the board. Master one thing before you move on to another."
Lesson #4: Go Big, Go Mobile
Like just about every other digital landscape, photography is bursting on the mobile scene. If you're after maximum social exposure, sites like Instagram are crucial to be on. Popular photographer Thomas Hawk said it best: "Mobile is probably the hottest thing in social right now. The tools to edit your photos on a mobile device like Snapseed and VSCO have dramatically improved what you can do with a photo on a phone. This is where the largest audience is today."
Lesson #5: Extend Your Creative Juices into the Social-Sphere
Photographers are by their very nature creative beings. Those that get as imaginative with their social networks as they do their photos have the most potential for impact. Adventure sports photographer Jimmy Chin puts it this way: "I think creativity needs to extend beyond the lens. Finding creative ways to showcase your work and get it seen is important as a photographer. This is where social media has really come into play. There are Instagram stars that certainly weren't professional photographers before they amassed a following. You don't have to be a professional photographer to have a lot of people see your work."