Editor's note: Thank you again, Fook, for distilling the big, complicated thing into simple terms.
Update: several missing links in the original article have been filled.
The realisation that I'm not as bad a photographer as I thought I was gave me a huge boost of confidence. And now I'm doing everything I can to improve my photography.
Since first publishing The Sony A7ii taught me to respect the Fujifilm X100s here at ohm, I decided that I should find a reliable way to get my photos online for both critique and support. The usual avenues: Facebook, Flickr, 500px, and of course, hashtag-happy Instagram, were the top on my radar. Below is my crude analysis of each.
First up, Facebook. Many aspiring photographers start here, due in large part to the fact that they are already on it. (Honestly, who doesn’t use Facebook nowadays right?) Users can easily show their pictures to their friends and families, as well as to genre, product, hobby specific groups. Private photographic groups set up by other Facebook users exist in order to give support, to obtain information on products, to reference different photographic styles, to offer criticism, and even to sell gear.
For example, I am a part of several photographic groups on Facebook, including Photography World and Australian Photography. Facebook now even handles pretty high-resolution photos. Good critique can be obtained from these sort of posts due to Facebook’s ‘bump to the top’ updating system, which keeps highly commented threads current. These critiques, however, tend to be very simple, lacking feedback on how or where to improve technique. Often, they are positive “high-fives-all-round” reinforcement hop-ons.
In order not to overwhelm, Facebook also tends to limit the amount of things that get posted to people's walls. This means that if you don’t post pictures at the right time, nobody will notice what you post. Additionally, if people stop looking at your profile, Facebook stops feeding them updates. As a result, your photos can slip notice. Because of that stuff, I've stopped using Facebook as my primary photography sharing tool.
Next up, professional photo sharing sites.
Two of the most prominent are the hugely popular 500px and Flickr. But why isn’t this noob interested in using either one? Here’s why. Simply put, 500px and Flickr are a chore to use. If I were to post something on Flickr or 500px, I would also have to share that picture to Facebook in order for my friends and family to view it. Sure, that 500px or Flickr photo may be higher resolution than its Facebook analogue, but still, it is a hassle. Additionally, the majority of people viewing that photograph are enthusiasts, and a much smaller pool. The corollary is that the amount of feedback is super limited.
Flickr, in my opinion, has sort of devolved into a high-res Facebook, but without the convenience. Showing family and friends private photos is next to impossible. Sure I use Flickr to check out the rendering of lenses and how they perform with cameras, but there is no real moderation since most exif data is removed, allowing users to post pictures in several groups (eg. Sony group, Nikon group, canon group, Pentax group. What on earth is the point of doing this?). 500px on the other hand, seems to be a popularity contest, with people liking each other's pictures and getting return likes for the pictures they post. While I may be oversimplifying, both models are problematic and neither one is my first choice.
(At this juncture, I would like to note that I am not interested in Tumblr at all since it feels like a bunch of old content being shared over and over again in a never ending circle.)
Lastly, we have Instagram. Considered by man enthusiastic photographers a mediocre venue to publish, Instagram is littered with selfies, foot pics, food, clouds, etc.- and all of that filtered, smoothed, and hashtagged to death. Still, I managed to find a beam of light: Usability. Sharing photos on Instagram is easy. Photos I share there beam to my Facebook with a press of a button, ensuring I get the reach I desire. I can also easily link photos to other websites, as well as alert people about new blog posts. And, since nearly everyone that has a smartphone has an Instagram account, it is easy for people to find my account and photos. Even if they don’t, linking to Facebook is painless, making it easy for my friends and I to share photos.
Interestingly, Instagram’s low resolution photos also do their work to protect the photographer. They’re not detailed enough to be worth stealing and calling your own. So, I can avoid the watermark. Considering recent scandals on Facebook, upping low-resolution photos seems the best way to go forward.
As to Instagram’s riot of mediocre photographs, it’s nothing to worry over. I think of myself as a casual photographer. I mean, I process my photos in Lightroom, and forgo the insta-filter look. I even shoot RAW+jpeg in order to get the best out of my A7ii’s focus peaking system when shooting manual lenses. But I'm in it for the fun, not the business.
Then there is Instagram's square crop: it is pretty unique. It helps me to really focus in on a subject, almost like a vignette. Sometimes it isn’t quite so helpful, but in general, it seems to work for me.
For critique, I will continue posting in Facebook groups, or even just hound my photographer friends. I’m new to this. And honestly, hashtagging is icky, but I know that one day I’ll be hashtagging with the rest of them. (Apparently you can put hashtags later on.)
And who knows, I may eventually change my opinion on Instragram, Facebook, and the rest. For now, I am just sniffing out a new medium. And Instagram is my current choice.
Check me out. I'm @centrix898. And, if you like this article, why not follow me?
If you’re wondering why my profile is so sparse, here’s your answer: only recently have I started to invest time in Instagram. Until this May, I uploaded only sporadically. You can be sure that now I’m going to throw in my chips.