I never understood social media’s impact until everything started revolving around it. From online advertising to society taking a whole different face, being on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest etc., continues to impact our lives immensely. Although not commonly discussed, social media has also hit photography hard, both positively and negatively.
Let’s look at the cycle of photography. We notice that it wasn’t until social media became a booming trend that phone companies started paying more attention to their cameras. Since demand dictates production cycles, I believe that the need for higher quality images implanted a need for better phone cameras, yet this is just one of the ways social media has changed photography.
Better phone cameras now give everyone the chance to practice photography at different levels. If I take a trip around town, I am sure I will not miss seeing at least a handful of people taking a selfie. This means I do not have to call a professional photographer to capture my memories since I can comfortably do so through my phone and post the image online.
Better camera phones and the ability to share moments online have also allowed us not to miss any exciting, memorable events, just because no one remembered to hire a photographer for that trip or get a good camera. It now costs nothing to get clear images and share them with friends and family.
I thought photographers would be extinct by now, thanks to social media, but I was quite far from being right. Instead of losing their clientele, social media gives them a fantastic platform to share their passion. With billions of people on social media platforms, a photographer who harnesses the advantage of such a space can reach over 300% more people than they used to before the age of technology.
Also, stakes are now higher for anyone wishing to brand themselves professionally. With everyone having access to a quality camera and learning how to use it accurately, professionals aim to be the best at their game. If you want to stand out, you need a unique skill that people will worship online for some time. This has made photography more expressive than ever before. It is no longer just about the image, but now also about the feeling that it brings.
Although galleries are not as popular as they used to be, they are unique events where the best is on show. Rare is expensive, meaning unique photography is now costing more than it would have years ago. This means better appreciation for a unique eye.
Aside from entertainment, photography in the digital era is also being used to help solve crimes and testify for or against individuals who are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. We would not have started many movements if it was not for someone who quickly pulled out their phone and took a picture or a video as proof, then made it go viral. Families and long-lost friends are also being found.
Sadly, even if I praise the impact of social media on photography, I still have to mention a few of its disadvantages. With everyone posting most of their memorable moments online, it is hard to keep up with billions of images every year. This causes a significant dilution effect of many photos and even memories. People are also competing to see who is doing better than the other, making us miss the most critical parts of an event just because we are too busy taking images to post online.
Privacy is another aspect that photography in the digital era is negatively impacting. Images are being taken without people’s consent. With everyone posting their business online, it’s easy to track one person down or steal their identity.
There was always a unique aspect of images captured during historical moments since photography was almost a one-man job. Although the job is now distributed across both the pros and novices, I still find it fascinating that social media has played a significant role in pushing for quality instead of quantity. Yes, there may be many images online. Still, people are starting to appreciate the uniqueness of an outstanding work of art.