Social Media

Social Media is increasingly being used by photographers to help promote their photography. On this page I will look at how you can begin to harness its power.

What is social media?
Why use social media?
Which social media should you use?
Social media etiquette
Sharing your photographs online
Online profiles
Maximising online time
Common mistakes

What is social media?

Social Media is defined by Rosh Sillers as the ability to comment to the content creator and share it. It is by definition then a 2-way conversation. Social media for photographers is a landscape dominiated at the moment by websites such as Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and LinkedIn.

This space is a new and constantly developing one and so I asked Rosh Sillers and Christian Payne, who have worked extensively with Social Media as photographers themselves, to give input into this section.  Dominique le Roux has given very valuable contributions on the use of Social media, particularly in and African context.

In the context of the solar system analogy where your website is the sun, your blog is your personality nearest to the sun, your content-sharing platforms like Flickr are the inner planets then social media are your outer planets where you share that information on a daily basis.

Figure 1: Rosh Sillars describes the analogy of a solar system that he uses to explain online marketing

Why use social media?

Social media is really an extension of our existing network of relationships. For photographers, getting work has always related to who you know. Social media allows you to take who you know to a new level. You can now connect and develop relationships with people all around the world, including people who may want to commission you or buy your work, but whom you may never have met.

Through social media you are able to tell the world who you are and what you do. You can get more of your work seen and known.

You also get to do research and find out what your clients needs really are. With advertising the conversation is 1-way so you are often guessing about what people need. When you use social media well, you begin to understand what your clients really need. Time spent listening is an important part of using social media effectinvely.

Understanding and being able to use social media well also becomes another skill that you can offer clients. If you are able to amplify a project by using social media, and can present that to the client, it increases the range of services you can offer.

Another strong motivation to use social media is to improve the SEO of your website or blog by sharing with people and having them link back to your work.

As a Majority World photographer using social media you have access to exactly the same tools that the big advertisers of the world do. And these social media tools are completely free. This offers you an amazing opportunity.

Figure 2: Interviews with Rosh Sillars, Dominique le Roux and Christian Payne on why a photographer should consider using social media as a part of their marketing

Which social media should you use?

There are many social media platforms available on the internet and time is always going to be limited. Although it is worth keeping up to date with new developments in social media, you want to put most of your time and effort into the platforms that most other people are using. This will change over time, but currently for photographers those are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr as well as YouTube for those doing video.

Figure 3: Christian Payne uses numerous social media all linked to his home page


Facebook is often where people start due to its huge membership, although it is more of a platform for family and friends than for business. However, family and friends can be good for referring you to others who may become clients. You may decide to have a fan page on Facebook for your photography business. Rosh Sillers uses Facebook as a place to get work for portrait and corporate photography. He finds that if he places photographs that he has taken of people tagged with names on Facebook, that they are then shared and people start to ask 'Who took the photo?' which then leads people back to him for other potential work.


Twitter is big in the USA and although it has not got the same following in the Majority World, it is one to consider.  The short messages (tweets) that are sent match well with the SMS (texting) culture in places like Africa. For some photographers, Twitter becomes the backbone of their social networking. Through Twitter a strong network can be built with people around the world, as well as with local photographers who can assist one another more. You can also see what people are saying at any given time on a subject that is relevant to you and join in. Keep an eye on what people are saying about your region of the world and engage in those conversations where you are already a local expert. 


LinkedIn is a business-based social media platform. Its value includes being able to find people by company, name or industry and then see who you know in common who might give you a reference.

To get more infomation on how to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a photographer, the PhotoShelter document Social Media for Photographers can be ordered by email free of charge.

Flickr and YouTube

Flickr and Youtube are channels for sharing your work.  On Flickr you can build community by commenting on other people's work and promoting them. YouTube videos can be very versitile, they could be presentations, portfolios or how-to's, as well as examples of your own footage.

Read more about using Flickr as a picture sales tool

There are many other social media platforms - you can link your online and offline presence using location-based social media such as Gowalla, link audio clips to your images using AudioBoo and you can engage in question and answers through various platforms. The list goes on and on and will continue to grow. 

Figure 4: Interviews with Dominique le Roux, Christian Payne and Rosh Sillars on which social media to use

Social media etiquette

There are some unwritten rules of social media that you need to follow to maximise your time spent there. I will devide them into 2 sections.

What to say

Social media by definition is a 2-way conversation.  Make sure you keep it that way and do not use it for just putting out information about yourself. It is recommended that for every 1 piece of information you post about yourself you should have created 9 posts that help others, network others and promote others. Write posts with interesting information, answer peoples questions where you can, promote someone else's site or work, connect other people together who might be able to benefit one another. Then after that you might put in something timeous that directs people to your work. The emphasis in social media is developing relationships. You need to demonstrate honesty, integrity and helpfulness as people want to work with likable people who they have something in common with.

How to say it

Social media has brought a less formal way of communicating into business relationships. Really this is the same level of formality that you would use if you were meeting a client face-to-face. Everything that you say online can be traced, is there to stay and is available to the whole world so consider carefully how you speak. Do not use short form language that you might use when chatting to a friend. Be very careful to of what you post in a personal capacity too. Potential clients will be put off hiring you if they find evidence of inappropriate behaviour when looking through your profile.


Figure 5:Interviews with Rosh Sillars and Dominique le Roux on social media etiquette

Sharing your photographs online

For photographers who have been in the industry for a while, the concept of letting go of photographs and allowing them to be shared freely across the internet can be rather terrifying. How do you protect yourself against people 'stealing' your images? People who are experienced in social media see things very differently. For them, having people freely sharing their images is exactly what they want.  Out of this comes many benefits:

  • people get to see their images
  • people get to know their name
  • people start to link back to their blog or website which improves their SEO

    If a company does use an image for commercial purposes online then it is an opportunity to bill them for doing that.  How would you know that they had used it? Tineye helps you to find where your image appears on the net.  It is not 100% watertight, but it does a good job.  You can install it in Firefox and click on one of your images online and see where else it appears.

Figure 6: helps you find where your images appear online

The other thing to do is to make sure that your images have metadata in them including your name and web address. So in this era of digital photo sharing there is more to be gained than lost in sharing your images.

Figure 7:Comments from Christian Payne and Dominique le Roux on sharing content online

Online profiles

On each social media platform you get to create some kind of profile about yourself. Fill each one in fully. Put in a picture of yourself, fill in the location and whatever else is asked for. Make sure you always have your current contact details in all of them. Have a quality portfolio of images. It is not necessary to put every image on, just your very best. Have a short, strong biography filled in.

Although you may not have the capacity to update all of your social media every day, make sure that from time to time you go through them all and update them and post something. Rather do a few of them well than trying to maintain 10 different social media when you only visit an internet cafe once a week.

Maximising online time

In some parts of the Majority World access to internet is limited and expensive. If this is your situation you need to plan very carefully so as to maximise the time you do have.

  • write your posts offline and upload them when you are online
  • use a mobile device if you have the option and consider using texting where you can
  • Twitter is a good option as it is text based so there is less upload time
  • using postorous may help as you can upload posts via email to numerous social media


Try and co-ordinate your effort so on one occassion you might upload a group of images to Flickr on the next occassion write a blog post about it, and then the next time share you blog post on a social media platform.

Internet cafe

Figure 8: Using an internet cafe to maximise marketing through social media

For those who have a permanent connection to the internet, time is still going to be limited and too much time could be spent on social media. To help you to maximise your time use filters - eg Tweetdeck.  Set up Google alerts to tell you when particular topics have come up in a discussion.

Read more about Google Alerts, Twitter Search and other free information gathering tools

If you have a second screen you could do like Christian Payne and have your social media on that screen while you work on the main screen.


Figure 9:Interviews with Rosh Sillars, Dominique le Roux and Christian Payne on maximising online time

Common mistakes

Social media is relatively new and we are all learning and sometimes making mistakes. These are some to avoid:

Not being open enough

Social media is about sharing yourself and your work. You must be approachable. If you hold onto your images tightly you will gain less of the benefit from social media. If you want to maximise social media you have to jump in boots and all.

Talking about yourself too much

Remember the etiquette of social media and listen more than you talk. Do not start a conversation with a sales approach.

Spending too much time networking with other photographers

There is value in establishing relationships with other photographers, including those in your locality so that  you can refer each other and help each other out, but the focus of your time needs to be towards people in your target market.

Inviting everyone you know to join you in all your networks

This can become irritating to a potential client. Social media is about personal interactions so do not just send invitations to everyone in your address book from every network platform that you belong to.

Linking to anyone and everyone

Build your network with significant connections, do not just fill it up. Do some research on each person before you invite them in. Take a look at their profile. You do not have to say 'yes' to everyone who asks to link to you on LinkedIn for example. Build wisely.

Figure 10:Interviews with Christian Payne, Dominique le Roux and Rosh Sillars on common mistakes photographers make when using social media