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June 27, 2012

Online photo sharing: inspiring or killing photography?

Photo sharing apps, blogs, social networks — regardless of the digital medium, we’re seeing a huge trend toward innovations that allow us to digitally share images, a movement that forward-thinking artists (and wannabe artists) are noticing. Not only are these artists uploading and sharing their images via various online and mobile networks, but they’re also looking to other people’s art as a source of inspiration.

The Internet has influenced countless of industries, making some more open source, blurring the lines of copyright, or creating confusion about who the “professionals” really are. The field of photography has been affected in each of these ways.

Tiffany ad via (originally spotted via Pinterest)

Previously, we wrote about the potential for mobile technology to make us all pro photographers:

“Increasingly picture editors are asking: ‘Why should we pay a pro-photographer pro-rates when we can use a passer-by’s camera-phone photo for next to nothing’? What’s more, this idea that everyone is a photographer has offended many pro-photographers, but this is a dissatisfaction that places the profession of photography ahead of the medium of photography.”

Yes, there are pro photographers who are frustrated at the evolution of mobile phones with high quality digital cameras, and with the increasing affordability of professional-grade digital SLR cameras, but the movement has plenty of plus sides — even for the pros.

Five years ago, the lines had already begun to blur between professionals, semi pros and hobbyists, and the art of photography became less intimidating and less exclusive, as “camera phones” became mainstream. But mobile phone photographers didn’t yet have a platform where they could instantly upload those images to photo sharing communities with millions of users.

Today, however, there is a broad range of photo sharing innovations, from Facebook and Tumblr to Pinterest, that have made it more rewarding to share photos. As a result, more people have taken a greater interest in creative photo techniques.

Tumblr’s impact on photography
Tumblr is a user-friendly blogging platform that allows people to easily upload images and videos, but unlike photo sharing platforms based almost solely around images, Tumblr also allows its users to not only showcase images, but also write about them. This opens the door for interpretation, critique and discussion in the community.

A neat feature about platforms like Tumblr is that they facilitate a conglomeration of images that might not otherwise come together. The images are hand-picked and “curated” by users who pull together different images from the web (or from their own cameras), and can be sorted into various themes — or simply left as a random collection of images.

In terms of how Tumblr and photo sharing sites like it impact photography, they give photographers a great amount of exposure to an endless variety of images. While this can make it seem as though it’s difficult to come up with a unique idea, they can also function as a source of inspiration where photographers can discover different options and ideas on techniques they’d like to test or expand on.

Pinterest for Professional Photographers
TheModernTog wrote a piece on Pinterest for photographers and suggested using Pinterest pins and boards as a source of inspiration for clients. Her suggestions included creating boards with themes like wedding dresses, reception decorations, wedding details, and venues. The Modern Tog also suggests Pinterest can help pros get more exposure.

“While this may be more valuable for people who work internationally or sell something on their website, it can still benefit local businesses as well because your clients will be pinning stuff that their friends will see. It’s much like Facebook in that way.”

studiotrainer's Pinterest board

Another great example is studiotrainer’s Pinterest board called Posing for Professional Photographers, which can offer inspiration to would-be photo subjects as well as photographers.

Now that we’ve kicked off with examples of photo sharing innovations that can benefit the pros, we’ll explore how these online communities and apps are inspiring the desire in millions more people to go out and try to create art through photographs.

Pinterest user FarbSpiel created a board called Best of Pinterest Photographers, which allows photographres (pro or not) to pin what they deem their best images onto the board. The board has 2,557 pins pinned to it, and 4,009 followers. Farbspiel has also compiled an extensive list of the photographers featured on the board, so artists has a greater chance of having their work discovered.

Image via BFH Studios (a member of Farbspiel's list)
What are your thoughts on the countless opportunities to distribute photos online? Does it raise concerns over copyright, or do you find it inspirational?

photo sharing
professional photography