Quantity vs. Quality in the Digital Age

Ansel Adams once remarked that “twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”. As magnificent as his work was, I suspect that he would have been an unlikely candidate to become an ‘Instagram influencer’.

This member-only article has been prepared for you by Howard Grill, one of FRAMES regular contributors.

There seems to be an unwritten rule in social media that in order to garner an audience one needs to post frequently and on a regular schedule, continuing to ‘feed the beast’. Even somewhat ‘restrictive’ feeds, such as the FRAMES Facebook Group which only allows for the posting of one image a day, still ultimately allows 365 images a year per photographer. Of course nobody forces anyone to post on a daily basis, but, again, there seems to be that unwritten rule that to have people follow your work you need to post quite frequently.

It may be heresy to say, but, in this day and age, Ansel might well have faded into obscurity with only 12 posts a year. On the other hand, perhaps he would have changed his philosophy. There just seem to be different rules in the digital age, as compared to the analogue era.

I often wonder what’s happening (and why) with fine art photography as it relates to social media. I don’t have the answers, but I do have some thoughts revolving around the posting of work and the amount of time that we spend looking at photographs.

© João Cabral

Let’s first talk about our ‘consumption’ of photographs on-line. It’s important to recognize that there are massive numbers of photos posted every day. For example, there are 95 million images posted daily on Instagram. If you think that’s quite a number, well, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. Facebook has 350 million new image posts each and every day. Now, obviously these are not all fine art images. The majority may be Uncle Bill and Aunt Sue posting photos of their grandchildren. But even if only 5% of these images are meant to be considered as fine art – well, you can do the math – that’s still well over 22 MILLION fine art images posted every single day. Even if we viewed only 0.01% of those, that would still be 2200 photographs to look at.

Is it any wonder that most people (myself included) tend to rapidly scroll through Instagram and Facebook images, spending mere seconds on the vast majority of them? Why do I/we do that? Why don’t we take more time to concentrate on and enjoy the beauty of some of these photographs instead of rushing to see more? Is there an internal drive to try to see everything, even though that clearly is an impossibility?

Commenting is another aspect of social media that I don’t believe has lived up to its potential. It’s well known that the more you like and comment on other people’s images the more likely it is for you to get followers. And we all want more followers, right? Of course we do… we are on social media! But, most often, the comments leave something to be desired.

Finally, there is the perverse and pervasive idea that to develop a following you need to keep posting more and more content, independent of whether it’s your best work.

© Mengliu Di

What are the reasons for all this? Is it all human nature, or are the social media companies using human psychology to keep viewers engaged for longer periods of time in order to feed them more and more ads? Are we following our own innate behavior or is social media directing and teaching us how it wants us to act?

I need to say that I certainly don’t want to appear as ‘holier than thou’, because I am as guilty as the next person of doing all these things. The way in which we interact with social media may simply be human nature, but I suspect that if photographers were redesigning social media today we might well design it a bit differently than it currently stands.

Here are three things that I would consider changing:

  1. Encourage people to post only their best work. Perhaps that could be ‘forced’ by having marked limitations on the number of images that could be added to one’s feed. Even an image a week is still 52 posts a year. Of course, the problem of policing this could become an issue. However, I have no doubt that software could easily be developed that would allow photographers to post only a specific number of times a month. 
  2. Design software to ensure that comments were of a certain length or contained a certain type of content (i.e. there could be both open free style comments as well as a form that asks what you think about a photo and why, what draws you to the image etc.) so that pleasant (but ultimately unhelpful) comments like ‘great capture’, ‘beautiful’, and ‘nice’ (or even worse, just a smiley) are no longer standard fare.
  3. My third change refers to viewers, as opposed to platforms. Perhaps we should attempt to relearn digital viewing habits so that we spend more time with images that intrigue us. Minor White is quoted as having said that “if you haven’t looked at a photograph for thirty minutes you haven’t really seen it”. Perhaps we don’t need that long, but there is probably a useful compromise between thirty minutes and the rapid scrolling through images that I (and I suspect many others) am currently doing.

What are your thoughts? Is the ‘cat out of the bag’ already, or can there be any redesign of social media? Is it likely that we can retrain ourselves in how we interact with fine art on social media? Do you agree with my three suggestions, and what others might you offer if you were designing a social media platform for fine art photographers today?

Howard Grill
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Comments (44):

  1. Alan Collopy

    October 25, 2020 at 21:39

    Hi Howard, a great and thought provoking article. The large sea of images contained within social media is mind boggling. I don’t post many photos at all personally, but I do scan through selected groups on Facebook only. I typically stop and appreciate images that are of interest to me, or in fields of my genre (sports, portraits, children’s and family photography). Others are merely scanned by. I appreciate quality images, quality content and folks that are deeply involved with our passion of photography. Posting images without any content about the image, with only camera settings, etc. is useless. I want to see the photographer description of an image, his feelings while and why he/she took the image. The Frames group and membership is a great start towards filtering all the content on social media. We need more of this. Thank you for the article, and I enjoy your work. Alan.

    Reply
  2. Howard Grill

    October 25, 2020 at 22:36

    Thanks so much Alan, I truly appreciate that!

    Your comment also makes me recognize what I can do better. When I post an image to, say, the Frames FB group I usually just write a few words about what the subject is. Your comment makes me realize that I should probably add just a bit more….something about what attracted me or induced me to make the photo, and I think I will pay a bit more attention to that in the future. Nice to think that this members area and the articles can be a ‘two way street’!

    Glad you enjoyed the article.

    Reply
    • Alan Collopy

      October 26, 2020 at 10:34

      Thank you Howard. Enjoy your day!
      Alan

      Reply
  3. Nigel Walker

    October 26, 2020 at 11:41

    Everyone is a photographer these days with the excellent quality now available on mobile phone cameras. However it still takes a lot of work and imagination to get it right. With digital of course you can take hundreds of images in a day if you want and I guess Adams would be using digital if he was a young man now – which makes the twelve a year possibly ripe for review 🙂 I agree that people are not sufficiently discerning before posting and for many they have no clue about how a great photograph is made. The personal taste bit is also difficult. I often see pictures with huge numbers of likes on social media, including competition winners, and don’t feel moved by them at all, either emotionally or technically. So everything is personal and now we have the opportunity to put stuff out there quickly and see what reaction we get. I’m as guilty as everyone else. Do I want to slow down? Possibly I have and certainly fewer pictures are posted by me now than were a while ago. But I also enjoy the interaction with others so it’s a difficult one for me. If a site said one a week I’d stick with that although I often post outliers to see what happens to them some some better ones might get away. Thought provoking article. Thanks. And no, I don’t have any answers 🙂

    Reply
    • Howard Grill

      October 26, 2020 at 16:43

      Thanks Nigel. I suspect Adams would be a digital shooter because everything I’ve read seems to say he was quite innovative and experimental with what he did.

      Everyone is a photographer now, like you say. The amount of photos is overwhelming and I think that has also devalued good photos (take microstock for example). But even though there are so many more photos being taken I suspect that, at least as a percentage, there aren’t that many more really good photos being taken.

      Media sites evolve and I guess that in the beginning nobody really could tell what Facebook, for example, would grow into. I suspect it had a lot more potential to become more than it has overall.

      Well, I guess the only ones that can improve the social sites are the users!

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

      Reply
  4. Brian Rope

    October 26, 2020 at 12:50

    Interesting thoughts Howard. I’ve no real answers just a few random observations. I doubt that anyone has sufficient time to comment or even look at everything. I certainly don’t. If we made more time For that we’d have less time to take/process/create our own imagery and I don’t have a desire to stop. Just Liking an image certainly doesn’t make much of a contribution beyond possibly making its author feel good. Positive discussion is much better. My biggest hate is people who respond to your image with their “better” one of the “same” subject – can’t they just appreciate your work? As for Followers, yes they are nice to have but when we follow them in return that’s even more images drawn to our attention that we can’t cope with! Lately I’ve hooked up with a lot of other photographers through Twitter and that’s got me more people reading my blog https://brianropephotography.wordpress.com/ – which makes me feel that writing posts for it is a worthwhile use of my time. Enough randomness. Thanks for your piece.

    Reply
  5. Howard Grill

    October 26, 2020 at 16:50

    Thanks Brian. You being up a good point. We only have a limited amount of time to do our own work and the more time we spent on social media the less time we have to do it. It can really be a trap. I know I sometimes fall into it. In the last few years there have been some interesting articles by well known photographers as to why they were leaving social media. My goal is to use my time there wisely.

    Signed up for your blog 😊

    Reply
  6. JiÀhn Charlotte

    October 26, 2020 at 22:01

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I’m not a professional photographer and I’m in no way a great photographer. I am on a learning journey, like many others, and share images as a way of sharing that journey with those who are interested to share it with me.

    I don’t have a large following on SM, in fact I deleted my original FB photography pg that had over 5,000 organic followers – so numbers mean very little to me. A large number of likes on an image does not equate to that image being of high quality. SM often proves very ordinary images can attract high numbers of ‘likes’ where truly brilliant images can be lucky to receive a small hand-full of likes. Likes – Numbers mean nothing. This is why I try to comment on every photo I hit the like button on even if it is something simple like ‘great capture’ or ‘beautiful’ and I will continue to do this. It’s easy to just hit a like button as you are scrolling through a pool of images and for me this is very superficial engagement. I believe if you genuinely like something it is worth a few seconds of your time to let that person know in the comments, even if it is only one, two or three words.

    SM is the ideal platform to share whatever you like and build a presence that goes beyond ‘just’ your best images, but allows the viewer to connect with the personality behind the work, SM allows your personality to shine through giving a personable quality to your work. Sometimes sharing those images that just have ‘something’, an element that is worth sharing with your audience, is just as valuable as sharing your most perfect work. SM isn’t a gallery, unless of course it is representing a gallery or magazine, and it shouldn’t be confused with one. Keep your heavily curated and perfect images for your exhibitions and publications. Use SM to post your mistakes, post your achievements, post your flawed attempts at learning something new. Allow your audience to see the person behind the images and connect with your audience. Allow your audience to see that you too are human, you too are learning and not everything you do is perfection.

    Just my thoughts.

    Reply
    • Howard Grill

      October 27, 2020 at 14:52

      Thanks so much for your comment JiAhn! You make some good points about how to best use social media, which I think, despite the fact that it has been around for many years, is hopefully still evolving, as is our ability to best utilize it. And I think that may be why there are a number of courses for small business owners, artists etc on how to use and interact with SM.

      The idea that SM could or should be different than a curated website is an interesting one and an approach that I think many successful users of SM undertake. For example, I think that really successful utilizers of SM (and by successful I mean in attracting people to want to see or find out more about their work) use it to post ‘behind the scenes’ type material or associate their image post with a good deal of information about the how and why of the image. And like wise about letting your personality come through, though this wouldn’t necessarily relate to any one image but grows with the posting of many and certainly helps build a following.

      And your comment about posting to learn is also well taken, though similar to texting, where the recipient doesn’t see the facial expression or body language, I think there needs to be a clear associated explanation. For example, if you are posting something where you are sharing an element within an image or think its a mistake and want to know if others agree then I think that needs to be spelled out in the post – I’m just clarifying, as I suspect that you would agree with that.

      As I mentioned in response to Alan, I have opinions (hopefully well thought out ones)and not answers and would love for these articles to be a source of lively discussion that becomes a two way street. I truly appreciate your thoughts!

      Reply
      • JiÀhn Charlotte

        October 29, 2020 at 21:46

        Thank you for your considered reply Howard.

        I do think, for artists, SM provides a valuable opportunity to reach and connect with your audience in a way publications and exhibitions cannot, which is why I feel the two need to be separated and have a different focus.

        Our audiences are made up of a broad scope of individuals, not just other photographers. Allowing your audience to see who ‘you’ are as a fellow human goes a long way to bringing a personable quality to yourself as an artist as well as your ‘best work’ when you share it.

        Your SM profile doesn’t need to be so prescribed or full of technical information or explanations, people know the difference when you post your ‘gallery worthy’ work. To include snapshots (and I use this word intentionally) of something that grabbed your attention through the day and a few words about it, a selfie exploring somewhere new or attending an event of interest or just taking time to enjoy life, yes BTS images and a few words about the shoot or comical moments etc, images that may have an element you like about them but weren’t good enough to make the cut in an exhibition/publication/website etc, credit another artists work to post about something you are passionate about that has nothing to do with photography – all these things are just examples of what you can share on your SM that assists you to build rapport with your audience and share who you are as an individual. Then there are a number of ways you can post to create an interactive experience on your SM profile. I guess my point being, don’t make it all about perfection – humanise your SM profiles.

        I also agree that SM is a double edged sword. Being a front line mental health worker I am all too familiar with the dangers and destructive impact SM can have on people‘s health and on their lives. I guess this is also why I believe SM shouldn’t be ‘all about’ perfection, and why it is more important than ever to humanise ourselves in what we ‘project’ out there to the world and upload content that is more ‘realistic‘ to our journey as an artist.

        This has been a most interesting discussion, thank you for bringing it to the attention of this community for contemplation, I’ve appreciated hearing everyone’s thoughts.

        😊

        Reply
        • Howard Grill

          October 29, 2020 at 22:22

          Thanks so much JiHan. You bring up many thoughts worth contemplating. In fact, I suspect that I will try to integrate some of them into my own social media presence. I hope I get the opportunity to hear your thoughts on other articles I’ll be writing!

          Reply
          • JiÀhn Charlotte

            October 30, 2020 at 03:59

            Thank you Howard for opening up these conversations. I look forward to reading more articles 😊

  7. Daniel Bayer

    October 27, 2020 at 05:52

    I have been a professional commercial and fine art photographer for over 30 years. Much of my work is done in a very lucrative but guarded niche: the place I live. I have built a cult following in this area and for that reason, I have never really had to engage in traditional marketing. But in terms of fine art, I have wanted to branch out and go beyond my typical clients of regional art buyers, interior designers and architects. So I am doing that this year albeit very carefully, again to protect the primary client base. So this publication and even the Facebook group caught my eye. I have subscribed for the year to the print version and will give the magazine its due. If it is of end caliber of something like PDN’s annual best or Communication Arts, I will stick with it. But after just three posts, I left the Facebook group. The reason was the “award” given to far too many images by the administrator and the very lopsided “likes”. It just reeked of an amateur photo forum in which it becomes a popularity contest based on mutual circles of praise. I just don’t have time for or see the value in that and it could very well undermine the perception of excellence in photography that seems to otherwise be the prevailing goal of this publication.

    Like I said, I will give the publication a try but the online thing, I think it is headed the wrong direction.

    Reply
  8. Tomasz

    October 27, 2020 at 07:31

    Dear Daniel,

    Thanks so much for your comment and let me address your concerns.

    The only “platforms” that are in our complete control are, needless to say, the magazine itself and the content on the FRAMES Magazine website.

    Facebook Group is… well, a Facebook Group, and as such (today with more than 7K people), is obviously not heading in one particular direction. It is the members of the group who are creating this community.

    Based on the feedback we receive, it is one of the more engaged Facebook photograph groups out there and the level of photographic work being shared is way above the “Facebook average”.

    I am personally the one who is giving away my “Editor’s Applause” distinction and I leave these comments of mine under images I consider visually interesting, thought-provoking and showcasing clear visual proficiency of their authors. Needless to say, these are my subjective and personal opinions.

    FRAMES Magazine is the core of what we are trying to create and establish and I feel confident you will like what will soon land in your hands.

    Warmest greetings,
    Tomasz
    Editor, FRAMES Magazine

    Reply
    • Bayer Daniel

      October 28, 2020 at 02:51

      Thanks Tomasz, I appreciate your reply and while I do agree with a lot of the applause, I would have liked to have seen a tighter application of this recognition. I do not say this with even a scant of “Sour Grapes” as you had given my three posts this distinction.

      In the end, while I had more to share, I did also see how like in this article it can be a bit of a game of circles of mutual praise that I see on platforms with far lower quality of work. And that is a compliment to the the fabric of work shown, it is pretty high and I think the place might become renown for that. I just don’t do well in those types of places is all, it requires more time than I want to currently give in order to be prominent.

      I stand by my support of what you are doing and with my subscription though and look forward to the first issue and the ones to follow. I would also be inclined to present a way for you to see some of the stronger bodies of work I am working on in due time.

      I might sign back up, see how things are going and take a different approach on it but as it stands right now, reading the magazine will more than suffice.

      Thanks again,

      Daniel Bayer

      Reply
  9. PAUL SOKAL

    October 28, 2020 at 21:27

    Well I think Howard’s article brings up the bigger issue of what to do about how social media is destroying society. It will be interesting to hear the results of today’s Congressional hearings with the CEO’s of FB, T, and Google. Personally, while I have accounts on FB and T to protect my name, I don’t look at them, post on them or accept friend requests, with rare exception, related to a single education forum that I pay to be a member of.

    Netflix has a documentary called The Social Dilemma. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Ignore the silly dramatization sprinkled in it and focus on the interviews of several former C-class executives and company founders from Silicon Valley. It is terrifying but expresses exactly why I have refused to be on social media (although I realize that this post is a form of SM, I’m really talking about the Big Ones and their algorithms).

    I heard a lecture at Foto Fest several years ago on social media and photography. As I recall, the speaker was a former image editor for the NY Times, maybe it was Nat Geo. He pointed out an interesting facet about Damien Hirst’s series of color dot paintings: that on SM there are definite favorites, among essentially a selection of randomly colored dots on a white background. What does that tell us about SM and our ability to appreciate art?

    I much prefer to go to galleries or photographers’ websites to look at images. I find it is a much more contemplative way to see photographs. I’m looking forward to FRAMES magazine and expect that will be a fulfilling way to appreciate images as well.

    Reply
    • Howard Grill

      October 29, 2020 at 00:05

      You bring up a big issue for sure. I have seen The Social Dilemma. I do have to say that, unfortunately, though SM had great promise, the way it has evolved (in my own personal opinion) has done more harm than good. At least in the format of FB and Twitter and their ability to rapidly disseminate misinformation.

      Reply
  10. Nick Hodgson

    October 29, 2020 at 09:50

    A good article and interesting thread. Notwithstanding the fact that many Silicon Valley execs do not allow their children to own a smart phone because of the associated addiction, for what it’s worth I do post on Insta – but only once a week, to ensure that the quality of my work is of a sufficiently high enough standard (obviously that’s a subjective judgement call by me).

    Reply
    • Howard Grill

      October 29, 2020 at 15:41

      Hi Nick. I didn’t know that thing about the Silicon Valley execs. That’s really funny. Do as I say and not as I do 🙂

      I’m on IG as well and post intermittently now. A couple years ago, when I started I tried posting a lot but after a short time it started to feel stressful and that’s not what photography should be!

      Reply
  11. Mike Vincent

    October 29, 2020 at 13:57

    Hello Howard

    Thank you for your insightful observation.
    I struggle at time’s with the BIG why?

    Why am I doing this now after 7 years of passionate study, travel and shooting?

    This question bugs me in the face of my images getting lost in a sea of hash tagged saturation.

    The ego craves attention, it’s in our dna. This get transferred to our images – the likes triggers a chemical reaction which has pushed me to share a lot of crap.

    What is the way forward?
    I honestly don’t know the answer. One thing I am convinced of is the power of our tribe and community.

    To be coached and learn from others whose work I admire is part of why I joined this community.

    I have no idea if anyone cares about my images. The likes are empty and meaningless. What I have noticed is that my written narrative that accompanies my images have generated some interesting conversation.

    So this gives me a clue about my photographic identity.

    Everything you have shared is great, sharing best work will be subjective. Emotional content is the one thing that pulls me in.

    Lots to consider
    Thanks
    Mike

    Reply
  12. Howard Grill

    October 29, 2020 at 15:50

    Hi Mike. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m not sure if the why 🙂 But I do wonder if we are pushed by the tug of war. On one hand it’s much easier these days than 25 years ago to get your work seen. Back then publishing in a magazine or book (or stock photography, but that wasn’t so much about the artist) was really the only way to get mass distribution. Even having a display in a gallery could only attract relatively local people. But of course there weren’t as many people who called themselves ‘fine art photographers’.

    Today it’s just the opposite. Everyone is a photographer, even if just with a phone. And it’s simple to get mass distribution via the internet and SM. But so very easy to get lost among the crowd. In some ways it’s still like the gallery. Even though potentially millions could see the display (if they traveled from afar) only locals typically did. With SM the locals are your followers. It’s not necessarily easy to reach those other millions because there is so much out there to see.

    Not sure if that makes any sense. But despite the downsides we have so much at our disposal. I suspect it’s still the best time in history to be a photographer.

    Reply
    • Bayer Daniel

      October 29, 2020 at 19:59

      “Today it’s just the opposite. Everyone is a photographer, even if just with a phone.”

      I have always found this to be a really peculiar thing. In no other hobby, craft, sport, etc have I ever heard a person refer to them selves to the label that is often associated with those who participate in said endeavor as a job or career. And yet, in photography, somehow anyone with a camera has now been upgraded from photo enthusiast to photographer, lol!

      If the day ever comes that I no longer earn a living as a photographer, I just would not feel right referring to my self as one. I suppose I would say I like photography as a hobby or that I am doing photography but it would feel self indulgent to call my self one outright.

      Strange times we are in…

      Reply
      • Howard Grill

        October 29, 2020 at 21:25

        I’d split the difference with you. I do think it’s reasonable to call yourself a photographer if you have a passion for it and really ‘submerge’ yourself in it with a constant desire to learn and improve. I don’t earn my living as a photographer (though I have made many sales) but I feel comfortable calling myself a photographer. If I did weddings tomorrow not sure that would make me more of a photographer. I don’t know. And if you stopped tomorrow I’m not sure that would make you amateur. Amateur does mean doing it for the love of it. Lol maybe we are splitting hairs. I think we can both agree that snapshooters shooting selfies at scenic overlooks who aren’t learning more aren’t photographers in the full sense of the word.

        Reply
        • Bayer Daniel

          October 29, 2020 at 21:35

          I’ll go with that, especially considering that in this day and age many are trying to find deeper meaning and purpose in life and would do well to have their lives and not just careers define them.

          For example, after 33+ years in doing this photo thing, I am looking to be more than just a photographer and have my work be the sole impact. So I am really taking on social and environmental issues either with photography or outside of it completely. I could call my self an environmentalist in which by my other accord I could question, well am I the environment or am I just in it? My answer for the good of bringing new perspective to how we view our world….yes, I am also the environment.

          Reply
          • Howard Grill

            October 29, 2020 at 21:41

            Yes I do think we are all looking for deeper meaning in one way or another. Sounds like you are doing some really good work, both for yourself and for the world as a whole!

      • PAUL SOKAL

        October 30, 2020 at 16:57

        So is Vivian Maier not a photographer? Particularly in the arts, I think it is hard to define a practitioner by a paycheck or some certification. I think there is a difference between snapping pics and being a photographer that is based on the intent of the photograph. If it’s to memorialize the silly hats your friends are wearing as they get sh*tfaced at your birthday party, you’re an historian, not a photographer. If it’s to record human behavior and it’s impact on society, you’re a photographer.

        Reply
        • Howard Grill

          October 30, 2020 at 18:15

          I think that is pretty much the conclusion we came to above after a bit of discussion.

          Reply
  13. Mike Vincent

    October 29, 2020 at 16:01

    Thank you Howard.

    You made me aware of how brilliant SM is.

    For one thing only; we can create our very own tribe / community.

    I believe this because I cannot tell you how many emails I get from companies wanting to help me grow my Instagram Account. Why would they approach me in the first place if they did not feel my content had visual merit or my narrative has no appeal.

    This is the telling point: I refuse to do business like this. The people who follow my feed do so because they appreciate my words and images. This has integrity not buying followers.

    Instagram is a digital version of the Galleries paid for in the past to showcase our work. The difference is, before, artist HAD to show their best efforts and HOPE.

    Now, SM is an open platform for EVERYTHING.

    This is where the integrity of our community and tribe can keep us all in check and provide creative feedback, honest evaluation for onward improvement.

    Count me in👍🏽

    Reply
  14. Howard Grill

    October 29, 2020 at 16:08

    Yes at least the tribe that we build has a high (hopefully very high) % of people that have an interest in our work or what we have to say. Diluting that with bought followers or followers garnered from some scheme is fraught with disaster. What is your IG link?

    Reply
    • Mike Vincent

      October 29, 2020 at 16:59

      Awesome Howard. So thrilled you will visit my feed; @fujiwarrior
      Cheers
      Mike

      Reply
  15. Ray Harris

    October 30, 2020 at 03:28

    A few thoughts.

    This problem is not unique to photography. The new digital reality impacts creatives in most genres. A writer can self-publish a novel on Kindle. A musician or video maker, even someone with an opinion, can publish on Youtube. This has vastly increased the quantity of material, but not necessarily the quality.

    As for publishing only one’s best work. This contains a paradox. What I consider my best work is not necessarily what others think is my best work. To use the Frames FB site as an example. An image I thought was good and which I have mounted on my wall, got scant attention. Yet my most successful and most popular images were ones I almost didn’t submit.

    It’s a problem that faces all creatives. No one can predict what will cut through. In this sense all creative endeavours contain a risk. But one thing is certain. You will only be noticed by putting your work out there.

    Reply
  16. Howard Grill

    October 30, 2020 at 12:37

    Hi Ray. You got me particularly wondering about the ‘best work’ issue and the fact that what you think is your best work others may not. This has happened to me as well, where something that I think is really good gets little attention and vice versa. So what then does putting ones best work out there really mean if everyone has different opinions? It’s a tough one, but taken to the extreme could lead to ‘bad results’. Should we put everything we make out there because we can’t really tell how good it is and people might like it? Because everyone likes it does that make it good even if we don’t think it is?

    And what does our best work really mean? How many best works can one really have? If you have twelve great shots a year than 11 of them can’t be the best. Becomes a conundrum of sorts.

    Maybe my use of the word ‘best’ is the problem. Maybe I should have said something like ‘the work you post should be the work that you’re proud of’. Or maybe it’s the work that you feel really communicates something you want to say. Or the work that means something to you. It seems more ‘correct’ to put the work out there for those reasons and if others like it great, and if not, well at least you, as the artist, do.

    I remember hearing a talk once where the speaker said something along the lines of great artists make art which is meaningful to them and then put it out into the world because it means something to them and not caring less if others like it. And that there are so many people out there that you can never please them all. By trying to please more of them you end up pleasing yourself less.

    Interesting stuff.

    Reply
    • Ray Harris

      October 30, 2020 at 23:41

      This is the dilemma of high art versus low art, or elitism versus populism. It is also the dilemma of commercial necessity versus artistic purity. In many ways the most successful artist is the one who is lucky to produce art that people want. Was everything that Picasso produced his best work (he was prolific)? The financial aspect is perhaps more critical for writers and film makers. Can you afford to write books that no one buys or make films that no one watches? The answer is not for long. I mention these examples because I have personal experience of both. There is always the temptation to appeal to popularism rather than to the higher ideals of a particular art form.

      In regard to Frames. Tomasz has offered a pathway for recognition – publication in the magazine. All creatives crave recognition and reward for their work: music that makes the charts, art that hangs in galleries, novels that are accepted for publication, films and plays that gain an audience.

      Someone once said (I don’t know who) that only 10% of creative work gains an audience. I suspect it is now actually less than that. It is a crowded market.

      Reply
      • Howard Grill

        October 30, 2020 at 23:57

        Hi Ray. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that most fine art photographers are not necessarily professional in the sense of having to make their entire living from their art (I don’t have any data to actually back that up; it’s just an educated guess). If you don’t need the sales to put food on the table you are more likely to put out the art that pleases you as opposed to what pleases other. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to make sales but it’s even better not to HAVE TO make sales. I can definitely see if you were making your entire livelihood from fine art photography you would need to tailor your output to what people will buy.

        I suspect that most professional fine art photographers actually make most of their living not from art sales, but from workshops and teaching, though there are some well known folks that are able to sell pieces frequently for high prices. Must be nice 🙂

        I suspect you are right about the less than 10%.

        Reply
  17. Shona Paget

    October 30, 2020 at 17:27

    What an interesting article and discussion. I would just like to add my thoughts about comments. I rarely leave more than a short comment, or even just emojis sometimes, because I feel like I don’t have the background to make a comment with more substance, and that I will sound too pretentious. After all, I’m not a professional with 30+ years of experience behind me. In my mind, I will think to myself that perhaps I would have framed the photo differently, or that I particularly like one element, or some such thing, but I rarely actually say anything. I always think people will come back and say, “Well, who are you to make such a comment?” I don’t know if it’s just a lack of confidence or what, but that’s what I feel. I also believe that many people really don’t care what others think, so to go into any detailed opinion seems pointless. Anyway, that’s my take on why some people (like me) might leave such short comments.

    Reply
  18. Howard Grill

    October 30, 2020 at 20:27

    Hi Shona! I think the openness to comments and constructive criticism, like in real life, is very person dependent. Of course it’s also easy on SM, without knowing the person, without vocal intonations, and without body language to get taken the wrong way.

    That said, we are talking about art so most everyone’s opinion has validity. Just by the act of being here on FRAMES suggests that you are thoughtful about all this. Plus it’s hard to argue with how an image made YOU feel. I think commenting is also a great way to learn, if the person answers you back. As an aside I doubt there are that many here that are professionals in terms of making there living from photography. And well 30+ years just means your old. But hopefully have some wisdom to impart as well. Plus the comment, if you are really concerned, can be asked as a question…..just wondering why you didn’t….. as opposed to a statement.

    Go ahead and give it a whirl. And if someone is a jerk (what, not here lol!!) and answers rudely just move on to the next and comment on that. You’ll feel comfortable soon enough I would bet.

    Reply
    • Shona Paget

      October 31, 2020 at 16:27

      I will definitely think about it, Howard, thanks for the reply!

      Reply
  19. Ernie Nitka

    October 31, 2020 at 15:07

    Howard I enjoyed your thought provoking article. As an amateur I find the need to ‘feed the beast’ a good thing. I pushes me to get out and capture new images. This is a good thing. Not all of the new images are of high quality but the goal is to make it so. As a side note I try to keep my followers to just those that are really interested in image making. For me the sweet spot is about 100 followers.

    Reply
    • Howard Grill

      October 31, 2020 at 16:51

      Hi Ernie….seems like you have a very well thought out plan and motivation. And not just doing it to amass followers. It’s hard to argue with that.

      Reply
  20. Paul Kear

    November 1, 2020 at 17:39

    A thought provoking article, and one i can relate to. I must say i am not a prolific user of social media. I only use FB, no Instagram or anything else, and this mainly for art galleries, and other personal interest areas. I am only on one photography FB page – Frames. I personally as we are only talking photography, post on the Frames FB about every 3-4 days, not because i want to saturate the world with my images or garner lots of likes, which is lucky as i don’t get loads. As i am fairly new to taking photos (5 years) seriously i’m interested to see what of my personal favourite images get as a response. Not that i particularly care, as i still like them, and enjoyed the process of first finding the image, creating it, then even adapting it at home. It is interesting to see what others think.

    I can’t deny it i do enjoy it when i get likes, but at my age (55) i don’t get swept along that i am a great photographer, far from it, just that my image is liked by a few. I do find it interesting the images that get big likes though, and do learn from these.
    I focus a bit of time each day looking through the eclectic range on the Frames FB page, and try to dwell on them, especially if i like them. I do this to learn, and see techniques i could use. By focusing on one FB page this stops the ‘trying to see everything’ mode. I do learn quite a bit from this technique, equally i do from art galleries, magazines and life.

    To conclude i see the use of the FB page as a learning device rather than a place to garner followers, wouldn’t even know if i had any, i suspect not

    Reply
  21. Howard Grill

    November 2, 2020 at 03:21

    Sounds like a really ‘healthy’ relationship with social media and one that enables you to both share and learn. And as one gets to know the people in a ‘community’ the easier it becomes to share, ask, and learn which is a really nice thing about a community like FRAMES.

    Reply
  22. Tom E.

    November 20, 2020 at 03:13

    Interesting article. I subscribed to Frames today an look forward to getting the print magazine and exploring the articles and photos. I’m not a fan of social media at all. It seems like the intent of the vast majority of SM users is to garner attention to themselves. I belong to a few FB photography groups, but they seem to be mostly filled with either fanboys justifying the gear they purchased or trolls trying to stir up controversy. I have not joined the Frames group, but will certainly check it out. I’m an amateur and am always trying to learn and improve. My preference is to get feedback from my local photography club. I find the best way to get constructive feedback online is to join forums like Nikonians and the Fuji-X Forum (I shoot with Nikon and Fuji). The level of civility and quality of comments on these forums is far above anything I’ve seen on FB. Sorry I don’t have any suggestions on how to improve SM as I think the cat is definitely out of the bag.

    Reply
    • Howard Grill

      November 20, 2020 at 19:27

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Tom. You should definitely gives the Frames FB group a try as the quality of the work posted there is really excellent. It is difficult to find groups that are worth participating in, especially since there is only so much time in a day. I just received my first printed issue and it really is a superb publication!

      I have personally not participated in a photo club, but if you have found one that is not formulaic in what it looks for than you have definitely found a good one worth participating in!

      Reply

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