The Social Photography Debate: Do You Instagram?

As social photography rises, how well do you really know what your clients are looking for?

Since I work in digital marketing – email, social media, blogging – I take special notice of changes in the social media realm. One whirlwind trend I’ve followed for the last few years is social photography. Professional photographers already struggling to market work through print and email are debating whether or not to jump on the social media bandwagon and share photos on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.

Until recently, I felt the main debate over social photography was the possibility of image theft. But there are more sides to this story – from concerns over artistic quality to praise for its convenience.

Not Just For Amateurs

Social photography isn’t just the hobby of your friends and family anymore. In the July issue of Sports Illustrated, contributing photographer Brad Mangin’s iPhone 4 photos shared via Instagram were published in its print and digital edition (in case you missed them, here they are: Baseball in Instagram).

If you are unfamiliar with Brad, he’s been covering major-league spring trainings for 20+ years, jumping from print to digital and, most recently, the iPhone – not some young gun with a camera phone.

The Marketing Lab Social Media Instagram Sports Illustrated Photographer Brad Mangin

Because I shot film years ago, I am a better photographer. I see light better and understand how it affects my pictures. I appreciate what we have now,” he says in “Confessions of a Spring Training Veteran Photographer,” an article Brad wrote on

Instant Visual Stories

The recent tragedy of Hurricane Sandy has also proven that social photography can be an industry game-changer. TIME Magazine recently assigned five photographers – Michael Christopher Brown, Benjamin Lowy, Ed Kashi, Andrew Quilty and Stephen Wilkes – to document Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath via Instagram.

The Marketing Lab Social Media Instagram Time Magazine Photographer Andrew Quilty

The idea was to provide a minute-by-minute visual account of what was taking place up and down the Eastern Seaboard,” says photographer Andrew Quilty via his blog.

In what I think was an intelligent move, Director of Photography Kira Pollack told Forbes that TIME’s decision to use Instagram wasn’t based on the platform’s current trendiness. “We just thought this is going to be the fastest way we can cover this and it’s the most direct route … It was about how quickly can we get pictures to our readers,” says Pollack.

Quickness Over Quality?

The Instagram coverage of Hurricane Sandy raises a deeper concern. Does a camera phone really do justice to cover such a horrific disaster? Are the images even comparable in artistic merit? Photographer Kenneth Jarecke does not think so. “As for you Instagramers, twenty years from now you’ll be sorry … Instead of having a body of work to look back on, you’ll have a sad little collection of noisy digital files,” says Jarecke.

I’m also concerned that magazines are beginning to use low-resolution photographs that are shared via social media, instead of the “old fashioned” or “delayed” upload of high-quality photographs. How will that affect photography businesses? And what about talented photographers who dislike social photography or do not have the time to play around with it? Might they begin to lose a photo editor’s consideration for certain assignments?

Opening A Dialogue

No matter where you stand, social photography is on the rise – and not just for online editions of magazines anymore. Mangin’s photos had a six-page print spread; Lowey’s photo is now on the cover of TIME.

I want to start a conversation amongst you and your fellow photographers – whether you shoot for magazines or not.

Do you feel threatened or excited by this trend? Are you learning to be social with your photography? And what about on the client side – do you really know your clients inside and out? If a magazine has both an online and print edition, does it have separate photo editors for each or does one person handle it all? Have you noticed other industries hopping on the social photography bandwagon and using low-resolution photographs as a means to advertise, cover a story or grow their business?

Let’s get this conversation going. Share this post, comment below. I want to know your thoughts on this – and I bet your fellow photographers do, too.

About Christine

Christine combines her passion for social media and online marketing as Agency Access’ Digital Marketing Associate. When she’s not busy blogging, attending industry events or chatting with creatives, she’s occupying herself in the kitchen to bring in a fresh batch of homemade cookies for the office.Agency Access

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