In this solo show Bart shares his experiences re-thinking his engagement with other photographs online. It’s not about numbers anymore, but about meaningful engagement, and its as much about exploring the work of others than presenting your own work.
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Historically my main way of sharing my work was on Flickr. Flickr views, comments, and favs were what mattered to me.
My workflow was to use my big pro apps to edit raw images from my DSLR, export them to a smaller size, watermark them, then post them to Flickr. Because I was obsessed with only uploading low res and with water making my sharing was all from my desktop. There was also always a long lag between shooting and posting.
I was also naive enough to chase stats — to judge my work by how many people viewed or starred it on Flickr as if that meant anything! To drive up those numbers I was silly enough to play the game of contributing to groups where you have to ‘post 1 comment x’ and you have to comment with a special group comment code that invariably looked like garbage. The end result was pointless numbers from a flood of meaningless engagement and a bunch of ugly spam-like comments cluttering my stream.
I don’t think my heart was in it as I Flickr-faded, but when Aperture went away it just stopped. My desktop workflow was bust, and Flickr was at the end of it!
Meanwhile I started to shoot more and more on my phone, edit immediately, and share on Twitter as soon as I was done. Without really making a conscious choice, Twitter without any kind of watermarking or transactional posting became the only way I shared.
That actually worked out well for a while. There were no stats to distract me, and what ever engagement I got was real. I got more meaningful Twitter replies than I did thoughtful Flickr comments. (A star is a star is a star, so no change there, I just stopped caring about the number!)
By accident I’d landed in an OK place in terms of getting meaningful engagement with my work, but I was engaging meaningfully with too little work from others, and Twitter never gave me that.
Then Elon …
So, I’ve taken the opportunity to re-think, and I’ve decided to move my focus from Twitter to Mastodon in terms of standard social media, and that’s going well — I get more engagement from fewer followers there, and it sucks so much less! I am also engaging with some photographers there, but not many and not often, just like on Twitter.
When updating my share-sheet preferences on my phone to add Mastodon and move it ahead of Twitter on the list I saw the very neglected Flickr icon … and I added it back to the list, ahead of Twitter.
Now, my images go to Mastodon, get copied and pasted to Twitter, and get posted to Flickr with well completed metadata.
I’ve completely re-thought my engagement. I’m not posting to any groups anymore. no more transactional posts! I’m also cleaning up my contact list and removing people I only follow because they followed me.
I’m now using my home feed and the explore feed on the iPad to actively explore other photographers work again, and I’m loving it!
As I find things in my home feed from groups with content I don’t care about I leave them, and when I see images from photographers doing work that doesn’t speak to me, I unfollow them. The result is screens of glorious photos to explore on my iPad.
In terms of engaging I’m doing nothing transactional. If I have nothing more meaningful to say than ‘nice’ or similar I just star the shot — that’s what that button is for!
When I comment, I say something meaningful. I might only write one or two a day, but they’re on photos that really speak to me. The point of commenting is to help me take the time to really appreciate and analyse the photos that catch my eye, the fact that I’m getting a lot of thoughtful comments in return is just a pure bonus.
I’m certainly finding myself getting much more out of sharing my work again than I have been in years. Everyone is different, and you should all do what works for you, but for what it’s worth, here’s my advice:
- Ignore all metrics
- Avoid transactional engagement (beyond basic courtesy!)
- Pay it forward — if someone takes the time to engage constructively with you, take the time to check out their work, and if it speaks to you, engage with it
- Avoid meaningless comments so you have the time to post fewer more meaningful ones
- I find it much easier to truly enjoy photos on my iPad than my computer — the sit-back full-screen experience really works for me.