Strategic Change in Social Media Posting

For as long as I have been on social media, especially Facebook but also Instagram, I have posted an insane number of images. Snapshots really. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Millions of people do the very same thing. In fact, over 1.8 billion images are posted online every day! Staggering, isn’t it?

I do feel that a few more images I have posted recently have upped my game a bit. As a developing photographer, I am putting in real effort to improve. Yet there are other times I simply post another photo. Just another photo. Nothing really awful…just uninspired…or just redundant.

I suppose I thought that posting frequently was important to social media “success” (whatever that means). The “algorithm” says you will get more engagement (aka likes) due to more followers, which more frequent posting is supposed to encourage.

This isn’t working me. In fact, it’s been going nowhere. What’s more, after participating in a live forum on YouTube (“Advancing Your Photography”), it hit me that too many of my images are essentially ones I’ve taken before.

Repetition as a form of practice is quite okay. Practice makes perfect is a legit saying. But my recent epiphany is that there is a difference between practicing and the recital (to put it in music school terminology). Using social media to post endless examples of practice shots is a shotgun approach when precision shooting would be more effective.

Quantity is vastly less effective than quality.

With all those nearly 2 billion images uploaded every day, my meager addition to the digital soup is simply diluted in the mix. It’s time for a shift in strategy.

So my new approach is less is more: I will select and post a single photo of the week. It requires that I chose the best image I shot during the week. I also think posting on the same day of the week is important. It is a deadline. And it will set expectations for those few followers I actually have to look for my photo of the week.

This shift means I will probably lose followers on Instagram. That’s of little consequence to me. Instagram is increasingly a popularity club anyway, where silly photos and videos garner far more attention than photographs that took real effort and skill. 

I think Fridays will be my days to post. It will require a new way of evaluating the photos I take throughout the week. Which one is the best? 

Self evaluation as a photographer is a critical skill.

So it's the photo of the week from now on for social media images. It may not change how many "likes" I get, but my goals have changed anyway.

Memories And Mortality: What Does Legacy Really Mean?

It’s a curious thing to walk into an antique store and see an old family portrait for sale. I wonder what resale value those pictures have. Naturally, there’s the history of photography to be considered. Yet these portraits would have really only mattered to those connected to the subject in some way–a family member typically. 

The photo featured above (which I scanned from the negative) is meaningful to me because that is my grandmother, Jean Martin (later Rink). She died in December 2013 at the age of 107! This photo was taken clearly when she was in her prime. If my information is accurate, the photo was taken by my grandfather (her husband), Ralph Martin.

Personally, I like the photo beyond its family connection. As an environmental portrait, it has a compelling composition and her pose connotes confidence. Her rolled up sleeves likewise tell a story that she worked hard. I love the photo for its own sake, but naturally I frame it within the memories I had of her from when she was alive. Her legacy remains in me and in my family.

Now this is another photo I scanned, but I have no idea who these children were. My mother could not identify them. They were with our family photos, but whatever was known about them appears to be lost. 

Now this portrait is another from my mother’s side. I forget his name. My mother will no doubt remind me. But unless I take up an active interest in ancestry, it is a good bet that in a generation whatever was known about him will be forgotten. This is just how it is: memories we pass down via stories and photos are difficult to preserve and perpetuate. Young people seldom have a deep interest in the past, even about their own heritage. 

It’s important to say that is not an indictment. When I was young, I was equally uninterested. As I journey through my 50s, the idea of legacy and reflecting on the path I have taken frequently comes to mind. I hit me that since we do not have children, there is little chance of a legacy for me. Whatever I do in life, it is a virtual certainty no one will make mention of it in 50 or 100 years. 

Does a lack of a legacy make our lives meaningless?

The notion of a legacy that is decoupled from leaving behind “stuff” for the next generation (i.e. a willed estate etc.) is itself a recent innovation. The history of the word “legacy” originated in the common practice of passing down property to one’s children. Today, we tend to think of legacy as an enduring memory for one’s accomplishments. It is arguably why as a culture we are obsessed with celebrities, because widely popular people have a better chance of being remembered well past their lifetimes.

Many have written about this redefined concept of personal legacy. Just a quick search took to to a site with tips on how to leave a legacy. Of course, there have always been a handful of individuals who made the history books. Typically, we think of powerful people that changed the course of history. Yet the vast supermajority of people throughout time have passed into obscurity. What does that really mean?

As a Christian, I believe God knows every single person that ever lived. Moreover, the Bible posits eternity in the presence of Christ and those who, by faith, are in covenant with God. A biblical theology ultimately makes Christ the true legacy for humanity. I take great comfort to know God remembers me—and that beyond this life I have a great hope in Jesus.

 I really will never know if any memory of me will survive for long. Beyond my immediate family and closest friends, it is unlikely something I said or did will linger. My photography and other life activities will almost certainly not be remembered—in fact, our streaming culture barely stops to take notice now. We all keep scrolling. 

I will not be remembered 

No one will publish a book in 100 years showcasing my photos or writings. In fact, as I get older my “fame” is already fading (LOL). Does that really matter? Not at all. Legacy as an enduring memory should not my motivation for doing photography or anything else. But perhaps in the relationships and in the cumulative impact of my influence someone’s life might be enhanced. Maybe someone close to me will go on to greater things because of a tiny impact I might have had on them. I will never know.  I’m okay with that.

Leisurely Photography

A working photographer I am not. This refers to my previous blog post about photography as a hobby versus a business. A working photographer’s life is, frankly, brutal. It requires dogged determination, obsession, singular focus, and enormous sacrifice–and it is likely to cost more than it rewards (in a financial sense). Honestly, I have realized more and more that my skillset and personality do not lend to being a full-time working photographer. 

Yet I do not see myself as a leisurely photographer, either. To be at leisure to my thinking means aimlessness. Laziness. Stagnant. 

I like to think I am on a journey as a photographer. Destination: well, that’s the rub. If my goal is not to become a full-time working photographer, what is it? I do not have a clear answer to that question. A few things come to mind, but I think it will take more writing and journaling to hone my thinking. The interesting thing is that just taking photos will not get me answers. I have been recently reminded that paper and ink journaling is a photographer’s friend. Photographer, author, and educator Marc Silber of Advancing Your Photography has been interviewing a number of working photographers. This idea of journaling as an integral component of a developing photographer has struck a chord. My only fear: my handwriting is atrocious LOL.

Be that as it may, it might be time to start journaling. Not just blogging, but to take a notebook with me in the field. Question: what do I write down? It should not be about camera settings or technical stuff. I think I need to explore the vocabulary of emotion. What does a scene I just captured evoke in me? What emotional impact might the viewer of my photograph experience? 

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