Original article written for Shape/Shift Report - Issue 10 - On Photography, Social Media and the Future
“Everyone is a photographer now.” I hear that quite a bit when people find out that it’s what I do for a living. It’s normally said in a sarcastic tone, but I don’t look at that statement as a bad thing. Just the opposite, I think it’s great. Great for photography, great for people who enjoy viewing images and great for brands interested in telling their stories through new points of view. To understand how I came to this point of view, let’s take a quick trip through my journey.
February of 2011, I downloaded a fun new application called Instagram. I started throwing a few filters on images and following new people all around the world. I was heckled by peers asking “What filter are you going to put on that one Pete?” Four years and 175,000 followers later those same photographers are asking me for shoutouts and advice to grow their own following.
I found myself using Instagram to sharpen, curate and find my voice as a photographer. As a fine art photographer I found myself selling to new markets around the world. As a commercial photographer I found myself being contacted directly by art buyers and creative directors who now follow me on Instagram. As a community builder I found myself as the figurehead for InstaMeets globally (a way Instagrammers meet IRL). All of this because Instagram created a platform where virtual people felt like they had a personal connection to the artist behind the image. It has become less about the image and more about the people who create them.
That personal connection is what makes Instagram different from Flickr, Google, 500px or even Twitter. You get to know someone through the images they share and you understand how they view the world. So while it may feel that “everyone is a photographer” it’s because everyone has a story to tell.
Instagram’s very simple platform is giving brands the unique ability to create an intimate relationship with their customer base. It has become a talent farm to find innovative content creators who have the ability to give brands exposure and usable assets. This community has been given the exciting task of writing this new playbook.
My history as an early user of Instagram and as a commercial photographer initiated a new kind of relationship with brands. Last year I was hired by a large automobile company to shoot their international print campaign as well as promote them on Instagram. Respecting the Instagram community, I curated this activation giving users a behind the scenes look at a photographer’s creative process. The traditional agency activation would have simply reused assets from the shoot.
InstaMeets are also a way for brands to activate their customer base in an organic and personal way. I have organized and hosted InstaMeets for companies like TOMS, Leica, Microsoft and Twitter/Niche. Instagram recently wrote an article about the TOMS InstaMeet and pointed to it as a successful way for brands and their customers to connect. http://blog.business.instagram.com/post/113985837276/finding-a-place-for-brands-in-the-instameet
Social Media is changing photography for the better. Over the past 4 years I’ve watched everyone become a photographer because of Instagram…but they have also become an art director, copyrighter, stylist, creative director, publicist and talent.