Rant Warning: Instagram and Facebook – they’re all evil and stealing my photos!

Intagram Devil

“Everything has to be free, and no you’re not allowed to make money off me in any way whatsoever!” Collectively we have become a whiny, spoiled community of hypocritical leeches expecting other people to do stuff for us, but without offering anything of our own (money or otherwise) in return.

We all knew it was coming, not exactly what, when or how, but that something bad was going to happen to our beloved Instagram once the Internet’s dark lord, Facebook, bought them last Spring. There was an uproar this morning when popular photo-sharing site Instagram announced changes to their terms of service that meant it has the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification.

Being a photographer who works for a camera gear website, my Facebook news feed was flooded with people utterly disgusted with the change and I’d like to address that. As creative professionals, we love to bitch about how people expect us to work for free, but we also don’t hesitate for a second to chastise someone else when they try to make a little money.

Instagram is a free app, so is Facebook. Don’t like how they use your information? Stop using their service. Do you have any idea how many man hours it takes to build and maintain something like that little free app on your phone? How many talented developers (who are also creators, artists of their medium) it took to create that thing that make your life easier, lets you connect with friends and family and helps you generate more business? I can almost guarantee that each of these photographers on my feed have had at least dozens of business leads through social media channels, and that’s money in their pockets. Money they would not have if it weren’t for the hard work of the people at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the hundreds of other marketing tools out there.

So when these companies try to find some way to monetize their product, everyone throws a hissy fit and calls foul. We are a generation of digital entitlement. The generation that pirates music, movies, software and anything else we can get our grubby little hands on. “I should be able to use your thing for free, because it’s not hurting anyone, but the big evil faceless corporations”. We only give a hoot when it’s our work that gets exploited. We do it all the time, “I should be able to use your song on my slideshow without paying a licencing fee, but you’re not allowed to use my photos because they’re mine!” It’s the same complaint every time and I’m sick of it. Not that I agree with the new terms of use policy, I’m just sick of people complaining, without taking action. They go on using the app, but with a chip on the shoulder. They’ll post status updates to the tune of “deleting Instagram,” “killing Instagram,” “goodbye Instagram” But in reality they go right on using the product. Why? Because it’s a useful product. Well then don’t you think the creators should be compensated for making it? It’s been said a gabillion times before, if you didn’t pay for the product, you are the product.

At the end of the day, the new changes won’t affect 99.9 percent of users. Your poorly framed, over-exposed snapshot of your omelet cooking skills won’t be featured in any cooking magazines. But please, please, please if you really think the new changes are unfair, switch services and use any one of these 11 Instagram alternatives, I’m sure the dip in users will prompt Instagram to reconsider and adjust accordingly, but the reality is there will be no noticeable change in usage and we’re all going to have to deal with it. Btw, if anyone is still with me, here’s what the update really means.

Building Your Photography Business With Social Media

Don't overlook social media when building your business

There are some businesses that lend themselves particularly well to promotion via modern social media and photography is one of those businesses. At a minimum you’ll want to create a Facebook group page and link to it from your personal page and your photography web site.

As part of the customer interview process get your customer’s permission to use social media to distribute some of the photos, but respect their wishes if they’d rather not. Online image collections of events are a great way to expose your customers entire social circle to your work. If the customer publishes the photos themselves, you lose that opportunity.

Online marketing pro Eric Hardenbrook explains, “Find out early if customers are comfortable opting in for online photo sharing. If they are send them a Facebook friend request. Post selected shots from a “life event” type shoot (wedding, baby, graduation, prom) to an online gallery and announce the post on your own wall. Their friends and family will rush to see your work and call you for theirs.”

The added service of loading the photos to an online gallery for your customers is another value angle for your business both in terms of service and exposure. The idea is to provide a path from their event photos to your contact information in a manner that respects the privacy of your clients.

Twitter is another convenient mechanism for communicating with customers and announcing the availability of photos or posting a few online with Twitpic. It’s also a convenient mechanism to advertise specials, like special deals on senior or family portraits. Twitter doesn’t tend to be a big money-maker but it is very convenient for communicating event information.

A LinkedIn account is important for anyone trying to build commercial and business contacts. Recruiters and media companies are increasingly using LinkedIn for locating local talent rather than putting out a hog call on the freelance boards or Craigslist. Getting location jobs these days really is a matter of who you know. Working your LinkedIn profile will build your business.

Another online marketing opportunity are microsites, small web sites focused on one particular facet of your business. Instead of just one big site that lists all your services, split off those services to individual sites focused on just one of those services and have it point back to your main site. “Many small companies are ignoring microsite strategies,” explains Eric. “They are inexpensive to build and greatly increase your web site footprint and search engine rating with back-links.”

Put your best foot forward with a great website - photo from Subtlevox Photography website

Blogging is another way to raise your web site profile and promote your individual brand value in the form of your unique selling points. “WordPress is a popular blogging platform that is very photo friendly,” explains Hardenbrook. “Use it as a gateway to your portfolio by posting slide shows of your shoots in different categories on your site. Adding links to your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles gives you a professional image.” Blogging is one of those activities that will get you business.

To get the most mileage from your online marketing efforts you have to make sure all your social media efforts are working together and echo your main selling points. Your social media message should be what sets you apart from others in the field of photography and why specifically customers should hire you. These are not “set and forget” advertising venues, but part of an ongoing relationship that eventually yields business.

“Remember that social media is all about the conversation. You want to be involved and available, allowing people to interact with you on their terms. Know who your clients are and use the media that they use.”