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Social Media for Photographers


As of April 2020, there are 3.8 billion people across the globe using some form of Social Media. Though this is only around 49% of the total world population, it’s still a heck of a lot of people! This makes it both extremely easy and extremely hard to get your photos in front of the right people. In this post, we will look at social media for photographers – specifically what success on social media looks like for a photographer.

social media icons on a smartphone in a man's hand

The Birth of Social Media

the logo of sixdegress, the first social media platform
The logo for SixDegrees.

The birth of Social Media can be traced back to 1997. A site called SixDegrees enabled users to create a profile and “friend” each other. Since then, social media platforms have come and gone but the concept has rooted itself into our daily lives.

With the outbreak of Coronavirus and the social isolation that came with it, social media has become not just a status symbol but almost a necessity. We have been forced to look toward the digital world – not just to stay in touch with our loved ones, but also to do business and survive in this unfamiliar reality.

Social Media For Photographers

Like many other art forms, photography has benefited hugely from the Internet and the conception of social media. It has never been easier to get your photos seen by hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people. Simply by pressing a few keys on your computer keyboard, or tapping the screen on your smartphone, you can send your images into the digital world to be seen by the masses.

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, and many more. Photographers are spoiled for choices as to where to post their images.

With so many people out there glued to their smartphones, eagerly awaiting the next 5 seconds of inspiration or satisfaction, this is so easy?! All you have to do is create a profile, set it up to look professional, post your images and voila – you will have a tribe of millions who will sit, drooling into their screens with an unquenchable hunger for your photos.

That would be ideal wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the reality is very different……..

The Most Popular Kid In School

There was just something about them……….you know who I’m talking about. They walked around the yard with a dazzling air of confidence. Everything they did was looked upon and admired as being the “coolest thing ever.” Other kids would mass around them like herring to follow in the wake of their wave of popularity. You either wanted to be around them, or be them. The most popular kid in school.

Is this not what social media has us all scrambling to do? Are we not all trying to become the most popular kid in school?

Do We Live For The Likes?

social media for photographers - a pile of thumbs up icons from Facebook
We want the likes to keep piling up!

The moment we click Post or Share, we await with bated breath for the Likes, Comments, or smiley Emojis to come flooding back at us. And when they don’t, we then question ourselves and wonder why. We try harder and push ourselves further beyond our values and who we truly are. All simply to figure out that “formula” that will get us more and more followers and an endless flood of Likes. Just enough to fill our empty self-worth to overflow so that we can matter to people we do not even know!

It seems that we have gone way beyond simply connecting with each other and moved more into a competitive and self-gratification-driven fight to the last Retweet.

I know that I have certainly felt defeated by this – have you? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like you are the person at the social media party who is standing in the corner, screaming at the top of your voice but no one can hear you? Do you ever feel like you will never have social media success? Do you feel like giving up because you will never find enough people to engage with you and your images to the point where you can actually earn a living from this?

What if I told you that it’s not about having 1 million followers…………………and it never has been?

Your Tribe

Have you heard of 1000 True Fans? Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, wrote this article in 2008.

In this article Kevin explores the idea that you do not need millions of followers to make a living from your photography, or music, or whatever it might be. All you need is 1000 true fans. A thousand people who follow your every move, love what you do and will buy everything you put a price on.

A quote from the article:

“A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These die-hard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free YouTube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.”

Kevin Kelly

Size Doesn’t Matter

I believe the concept Kevin came up with is still relevant today. Perhaps even more so than in 2008 when he wrote it. You simply do not need to build a social media tribe of millions to have success. You can make a decent living from your photography with around 1000 true fans. This one realization can take a lot of stress and pressure off you.

Think about this for a moment. Let’s look at Paul Nicklen, an amazing National Geographic photographer whom I follow on Instagram. Paul currently has 6.5 million followers on Instagram. Do you think that every single one of those 6.4 million people have made a purchase from Paul? Of course not?! Most of them probably don’t even like or comment on his images!

The reality is that we simply don’t need that kind of popularity to succeed on social media. All you need is a small tribe who really appreciate and interact with you regularly.

Social Media Success

So what is success on social media for photographers? Can we say that Paul Nicklen is successful on Instagram because he has 6.4 million followers? Well, of course we can; if that is how we view success. The truth is that Paul is successful for so many other reasons, including all of the environmental protection work he does; as well as the non-profit society SeaLegacy of which he is a co-founder.

Above all it comes down to perspective. How you view success depends entirely on your perspective and your idea of what success truly is. If you believe that success comes from the Likes and Shares you get from people on your social platforms – most of which you will never know in your lifetime – then that is what success will look like for you.

Perspective matters…

We can’t all of us be social media influencers. If we were, then the very term “influencer” would lose all meaning and relevance. We can however build that small tribe of loyal followers who will appreciate us for all that we do. As a result, we can make a very real and satisfying living from this if we choose to.

Choose your social media platform and then focus on providing value. Focus on being who you are and showing that through your photographs. Through being genuine and valuable to others, you will attract those that you need in order to make your life and your business successful.

Remember………………it’s not about having 1 million followers and it never has been.


  1. Social Media statistics in opening paragraph. 2020, April 17. Global social media research summary 2020 blog post. Retrieved from
  2. SixDegrees. 2018, April 27. The History of Social Media [Infographic] retrieved from
  3. 1000 True Fans. 2008, March 4. Article by Kevin Kelly retrieved from

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