Likes, shares, retweets, followers—it’s kind of an endless litany online. These days, it seems like getting a lot of likes, shares and followers is the goal for absolutely everything. Certainly, for many photographers, the goal is to get as many likes and followers as possible.
It makes sense in certain respects, but not others. I have to ask the question, if you aren’t sharing and getting likes, of if you’re not getting all that many likes, are you still considered a photographer? It’s kind of like that whole rhetorical question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Well, in the case of the tree, you could argue that no, no sound was produced. Only vibrations, because sound isn’t produced until those vibrations strike an eardrum.
This is not the case with the photographer. A photographer who never shares his or her work is no more or no less of a photographer than one who is Instagram famous.
And that is because, at its heart, photography isn’t about sharing—or it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be about getting as many likes, follows, and shares as possible. If that is all that photography is about, then we might as well go ahead and dumb it down to the lowest common denominator and start creating those images that will get the most likes. Honestly, if garnering likes is your goal, cute cat pictures are probably your best bet, at least among the top ten most shared things—and forget about the art side of the equation.
Photography isn’t about likes and shares, but what is it about? Really, the answer is very simple: Photography is about the love of photography.
Today, we can look at the work of people like Vivian Maier. Here was a woman who never once shared her own photographs. Social media didn’t even exist in her day, and she never went out of her way to publicize her images in any shape or form that anyone has thus far discovered. The only reason her photographs are known is because the trove was found after her death.
And what a trove it is! She stands as testament to the idea that photography should be for the love of photography above all other things—and forget the idea of sharing. She never did, and if her body of work screams one thing, it is that not sharing didn’t make her any less of a photographer than any of the rest of history’s greatest.
So to my mind, that’s the ideal we should all strive for. Create because we love to create, and because creating excites us, gets us out into the world, seeing it, experiencing it, and documenting what we’re seeing and experiencing.
And then, at the end of the day, if you do want to share your photographs? Well, there is nothing wrong with that. After all, those of us who make a business of photography do have to get our names out there somehow.
But the point is this: Create because you love to, not because it will get you likes. Sharing is secondary. Do it if you want to or if you need to, but put your passion for photography first.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.