Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's the value of an unshared photo?

 What's the value of an unshared photo?

Are you a photographer?
Do you take photos?
Do you share your photos?
Do you email them to friends?
Do you post them on facebook?
Do you post them on flickr/instagram/blogs/forums?
Are you a citizen reporter, and do you send your images to CNN or the Weather Channel?

Many people do share their images, and post them online at places like Facebook or Flickr, or Instagram.  Those are the places I regularly share images.

Do you only share small versions of your images?
Do you hold back the best images for yourself and don't share them publicly?

I used to share small versions, and only shared those photos that were everything but what I considered super special, or my best images.

Before I go on let me address the opposite of the problem I'm getting at.  Some people post all their images, every day they post photos.  And everyday they post too many photos.  They either don't know what the good ones are, or they think they're all great and want to share them with everyone.  Unless you're some amazing photographer, the chances are that you are not making amazing images every day.  If you're posting dozens of images from the same day of the same thing, you're doing it wrong.  As a photographer you need to curate your own work.  You need to find the best, new, unique images you've made, and share them, slowly, giving each image a chance to stand on its own.

I learned from flickr early on (2006) that posting multiple images at a time will distract from the group of images, and at best 1 image will get viewed and get feedback and appreciation.  Posting multiple images can be useful when you're not sure what a good image is, or what images others might like and respond to.  But once I got an idea of what works, sharing a single image at a time worked best.

In time I learned that I should not hold back some images, and these days I will eventually share just about any image, but I will delay the posting.  Delaying posting in general is another subject, which I will say is useful in that you can explore a subject/approach/technique/style and work on it for days without sharing an image and then when you've advanced you can share images that are much better than what you initially started capturing.

So what's the value of an unshared image?

What I'm getting at with this is the mindset of people that think:
  • People are going to steal my images
  • My images are special
  • My images will be worth less if I can't control them
  • I just take photos for myself, no one else needs to see them.
  • I don't care what other people think of my images
Or maybe people have a negative view and think:
  • My images aren't that good
  • People won't like my images
  • People will be mean and nasty and tell me how my images suck

Above are reasons I've thought of for not sharing images, reasons I've thought myself and that have made me wonder about sharing images publicly.

In recent years I've not shared a lot, and posted very infrequently.  I guess I got burned out on the social aspects of photography.  And I got burned out on the competitive nature of photography.  While some people might appreciate my/your images, there is a group of people that are only interested in getting their own images, copying my/your images, and wanting to know how you got what you got!

So what good is a photograph if no one gets to see it?  What good is the work if it is locked away, a secret to be kept?

I would argue that the unshared photograph isn't worth that much, but there's also the experience of going out and taking the image that is of value.  That's what kept me going when I was put off from sharing.  I did it for myself, not motivated by likes/favs/etc.  But it had a bitter taste to it, like I was upset with the world for trying to make photography in to something besides what I wanted it to be and what I appreciated.

But sharing images has many positive aspects.  When I joined flickr in 2005 I knew next to nothing about photography, or animals, or the area I lived in (MD/VA/DE),  Sharing photos changed that, and I met people, got better at photography, and learned a lot.

So - are you making images and hiding them away, keeping them just for yourself because of some of the reasons I listed above?  Do you want to get better at photography, discover new places, new people, new ?  Then you should overcome that resistance, make a profile on flickr or instagram, and start sharing images.  If you're new to it, that's where you have to start.  I've removed many of my earliest posts from flickr, but there are some up there still that kind of suck.

Here are a few images I shared when I first started:


2nd BWI Trip 8

Turtle at Rivermeadow

Here are a few images I made in the last few years:


Happy Birthday America

Am I Blending?

Proud Parents

Luke in B&W

As I'm sure you can tell, my images went from awful to pretty good.  It took a decade of shooting, learning, buying new gear, and finding what I liked shoot and what others like to see.  I still shoot what I like, I haven't just started shooting what other people like - but the aspect to consider is that feedback on your images, the ones you like, from others will make you a better photographer.  And if you don't share your images you will most likely not get much better.  Or if you do get better it will be very slow and then for what?

If no one else sees your images, it's like that saying "if a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?"

Make images.  Share images.  Make more images.  Sharing your images won't make them worth less, it will make you a better photographer.


Original content posted at / Jon