June 18th, 2006. Nothing particular about that date for most, but for me it marked a love affair with photography that only seems to increase year on year.
You see this was the day that I first engaged the shutter (fully automatic mode of course) on my brand new Canon 350D (complete with the 18-55 kit lens). It was also the day that I uploaded this image, and my very first, to a photography sharing website called Flickr.
At the time Flickr was undoubtedly the heavyweight king in the world of online photography sharing websites. Launched in 2004 and purchased by Yahoo a year later, Flickr was my photography home for a number of years. I used to spend a lot of time on there, not only uploading and curating my own photo albums, but also viewing other images, getting far too involved in chasing Flickr Explore, being quite active in the various forums and even organising a number of Flickr Meet-ups. Today I mostly post a few images per month and really only so that I can then easily embed them into an online Photography Forum that I regularly frequent.
In 2011 it reached its peak in terms of photo uploads per day with around 2 million uploaded over each 24 hour cycle. I currently have almost 3000 photos hosted on its servers, albeit with 90% of them uploaded between 2006 and 2012. I think there is close to 7billion photos stored on there at present (although exact figures are rather difficult to come by)
Over the past few years Flickr has had a number of problems and only just yesterday I read that Yahoo may be looking to sell it to the highest bidder in the coming months. Who knows what the future holds for Flickr but it doesn't sound great.
The world of online photography sharing has changed considerably, especially with the huge uptake in Social Media. Facebook, and Facebook pages, are of course one major factor in the downfall of the Flickr Kingdom.
I first joined Facebook back in 2008, but left again a few years later, becoming rather bored with the endless stream of nonsense me and my online friends were publishing. I rejoined again a few years later, but mainly so I could have a Facebook Page for my photography. Facebook remains painful and over the past few months in particular I've been reducing the amount of time I spend on my personal page.
Over the years Facebook has changed a number of things, mostly in regards to their algorithms which decide how many people get to see your posts. From a business perspective, sharing information via social media, be that your images or services, is potentially a great way to increase your following. Now a follower isn't anywhere near as valuable as a paying customer and I think most would agree that 'great picture' 'awesome dude' 'love your work' doesn't really pay the bills. Oh and if you have a lot of followers then you can forget about using your phone after each post you make to social media. Most recently Facebook changed how your page's newsfeed was displayed. When logged into my Facebook page I had liked a number of other Photographers pages. This allowed me easy access to view their latest updates every few days. Today that mode has changed and it took quite a long time for me to work out how to get to those pages again. Frustrating. They have also made it quite difficult to interact one a one-2-one level with your followers. I guess that may be another paid for feature they are looking for you to buy.
And what of Instagram, the new(ish) kid on the block. Well for me this remains one of my favourite ways to consume images. I've been very careful as to those I follow on this platform. This has taken a bit of trial and error along with some recent culling, but now I have almost instant access to some beautiful images. Some wonderful stories. Inspiring people. Instagram has quickly become my favourite stream for images.
But of course even Instagram isn't safe from the changes, especially since it was purchased in 2012 by Facebook. Most recently changes to your timeline view meaning that, just like my Facebook feed, Instagram will decide itself which posts I should see and which will be hidden. Not cool at all. Of course what Facebook wants is for you to pay for views. I don't think so.
Every time there is a change, there is a public outcry. As if Facebook or Instagram owes us something? Last time I checked it was a free service and they can (and most likely will) do what they want.
Finally 500px, the so called premium site for photo sharing and one which until recently offered up to 70% royalties when selling your image through their site. Well even these guys aren't exempt from change with now only the 70% offered to those who agree to sell their images exclusively through their site. Again much uproar.
So what's my point in all of this? Well I guess it's just a warning, to myself more than anything. To remember that while sharing online may seem like a great idea we have to take the rough with the smooth. Platforms will change and some, in the case of Flickr, may even one day go away. If you are uploading your images to Flickr and not keeping a local copy, what happens to those images? Are you relying on likes, shares and comments to grow your business? Again be careful. Things will most likely change, making it much more difficult to reach target audiences (without paying first).
I think the main place where you have complete control over your images is on the hosting platform you use for your website. The downside to that of course is having new images which appear on your own personal site appear in people's social streams. Some would argue that SEO is the way but I personally think even that is secondary to the power of social media these days.
From a personal perspective, while I will continue to use the likes of Facebook and Instagram, I won't get myself too worried about the number of likes, reshares or similar that come with them. If it gets harder to get your message out on these platforms, then so be it. Photography for me personally isn't a popularity game. It's something I care deeply about and will continue to try and make images which strike a chord with myself (and hopefully others) with or without social media and online photography websites. Life is too short to do anything but.
Right, enough rambling for one post. Time to go make some images.