Photographers And The Web

When pictures went digital it meant that images were information that could be treated as malleable things that could be edited like a text document. Along with custom processing programs with their attendant benefits came the ability to send and share images via the web, which for some meant that events and family pics could be easily shared and for others created a whole new approach to marketing their work. At first there was lots of excitement over being able to share via a personal/professional web page, something we have and will continue to cover with our monthly Web Profiles feature, ably written by contributor Joe Farace.

© 2010, Grace Schaub, All Rights Reserved

But with so-called social-networking sites the potential for making an even greater impact on the web has grown to enormous proportions, with photographers engaging in everything from “tweeting” to creating and monitoring Facebook accounts. That and more count on a fairly constant workload to just keep up with the torrent of images and information that keep servers humming worldwide. Gone are the days of putting an ad in the Yellow Pages and waiting for the phone to ring. Today, photographers are reaching out like never before and spending a part of each day tending to the feeding of their Internet sites.

We have been reporting on this through our Business Trends column by Maria Piscopo, and now will begin to explore this further, as evidenced by Steve Bedell’s article in this issue, where he shares his strategies and use of Facebook to make his business grow. In addition, any web-based photographer is now expected to maintain a blog, allow instant access to their stock work, and, when the moment presents itself, to post news and videos to an ever-growing number of sites that seem to have an insatiable appetite for everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.

While I can certainly see the benefit of all this for some, it strikes me that this is fast becoming like shoveling coal into a furnace where the demand for steam just keeps growing. There is only so much time in the day for us all, and sometimes you have to step back and get your priorities straight and question who or what, at the end of the day, benefits from all this effort. There is only so much content an individual can provide before it becomes a sort of self-parody, a running in place just to keep up with the often self-imposed demand.

As those who create for a living know, from writers to photographers to fine artists, just creating something is usually not enough—you have to figure out a way to get that creation in front of folks other than family and friends in order to pay at least part of the rent with your creativity. In cold marketing terms that means figuring out “distribution.” But being both creator and distributor is no easy task, and eventually one has to balance, and sometimes even choose between, one and the other. So, the web offers photographers today the temptation to think that they can do both with equal aplomb, when by their very nature they are contradictory. That’s the challenge the web presents, and working through that dichotomy is often as important as the opportunities it may afford.