On Social Media and Street Photography

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Dubai, 2013

At the moment of writing this, I have over 30,000+ Facebook fans, 13,000+ Twitter followers, 20,000+ Google+ followers, and 12,000+ YouTube subscribers.

People have called me a bit of a “social media phenomenon” at times – and commend me for being so good at “marketing myself.”

I am certainly not the social media guru but I have learned a few things through social media through the years (especially when it comes to photography).

I wanted to write an article on some guidelines I suggest street photographers (and all photographers alike) when using social media:

1. Build connections, slowly


Dubai, 2013

Social media is like a big party where everyone is invited. If you have ever been to a big party, how would you feel if a random stranger came up to you and started pitching you his/her infomercial on how his/her product can help you lose 100 pounds in just a week? Or if people started handing you flyers in a party? Or if someone interrupted your conversation to tell them that their idea was much better?

Nobody likes spammers. Nobody likes telemarketers, e-mail spammers, and especially social media spammers.

We like to think about social media as being something more personal and intimate. This is not always the case.

One thing I have seen some photographers do is copy & paste a message like: “Hey guys, check out my new street photography site!!!!” and post it to 100 Flickr/Facebook groups.

The best way to build a following when it comes to social media is by building connections slowly– like you would do with “real” friends.

Would you consider someone a friend if you just knew them for 10 minutes? No– real friendships take at least a few months to a few years (or even a few decades) to truly mature.

What I recommend if you like certain photographers follow them and perhaps send them an email that you enjoy their work (and why you like their work). Provide them in-depth and detailed feedback about their work (at least 4 sentences). If the person appreciates your gesture- they might reciprocate. And over time- you will get to better know their personality, their photos, and more. Who knows- maybe one day you can actually meet in real life and shoot together.

Real friendships take a long time to mature– and so do “real followings” when it comes to social media.

2. Less is more


Dubai, 2013

The problem with social media is that there is too much noise out there. It is like the saying with satellite television: “There are thousands of channels but still nothing to watch.”

There is a temptation when we are on Instagram to upload every minute of every small detail of our days. But do people really care that you are having a latte at Starbucks, or that your dog looks cute, or that you have bought a new pair of shoes?

I would say inject more “signal” in your social media streams. That means– tweet/facebook/blog about matters which are really important and meaningful.

Share articles which you think are well-written, researched, and helpful. Share photos which you have let marinate for at least 6 months to a year (and you think are really good). Share photos of your friends and people you know which you think are great. Don’t share mediocrity- and simply share for the sake of it.

I forget who said it– but some people write (to simply write) and others write because they actually have something to say. Be the latter.

3. Promote others, not yourself


Dubai, 2013

Going back to the analogy of social media being a party– nobody likes the guy at the party who brags about himself all day long (him graduating Harvard, buying a new BMW, earning over 100k a year, etc). People are turned off by braggers and people who are entirely self-promotional.

I would recommend spend the majority of your time/efforts promoting the work of others– than yourself.

I would say that the growth of my blog has mostly to do with the fact that I promoted other street photographers (not myself). The interviews I do with other photographers and collaborations I have done has brought more to my blog than simply my own thoughts and work.

Also when you promote the work (and thoughts) of others– they feel stronger gratitude to you and are genuinely grateful. Everyone likes the guy who helps his/her friends– be that person.

4. Use social media as a bridge to real-life communication


Dubai, 2013

I think at the end of the day, nothing beats face-to-face interpersonal communication. You can’t convey facial expressions, hand gestures, and subtleties of intonation of voice in a 140-character tweet.

I have actually found social media of best use when I have used it to meet people in real life. I have organized meet-ups, shooting sessions, and dinners together through Facebook and Twitter– and have also met some interesting people as well via email and direct-messages on Twitter.

Consider social media as a bridge to the real world– not as an end in itself.

5. Disconnect


Dubai, 2013

The last thing I will mention about social media is the importance of disconnecting.

Funny enough, I have made my name through social media and have a lot to thank through it. However, social media is extremely addictive (possibly worse than heroin).

I used to be a social media addict, checking my email at least 100 times a day, inhaling my food while checking my Twitter and Instagram feeds, constantly reloading to see what new comments I got on YouTube, and ingesting a constant Facebook stream (while clumsily trying to write blog posts).

The big change for me was when I started to travel. My smartphone doesn’t work overseas, so I have a limited connection to Wifi.

At first, it gave me anxiety to be disconnected from social media. I felt like I was “missing out.” However I soon realized that the world went on just find without me constantly checking into social media– and I felt much more at peace. I ate my food (slowly) without checking my Instagram and enjoyed the taste of my food. I had meaningful conversations with friends without having the “phantom vibration” of my phone in my pocket (and without the urge to text message in the middle of a conversation). I became less anxious about email, and actually focused on shooting in the streets when out in public.

Now when I am back home, I try to limit my time on social media less than thirty minutes a day. It has given me more time to breathe, focus on writing articles (like this one), while spending more quality time with friends and family that are meaningful to me.



Dubai, 2013

Social media is a great tool– but like every piece of technology, it has its hidden addictions and negative effects.

I therefore propose the idea of using “mindful social media.” Using it less is more. Don’t check Instagram while eating. Limit the number of photos you upload to the web. Don’t check your Twitter when going to the restroom. Don’t text message when you are having dinner with friends or your significant other. Spend more time face-to-face with people, rather than just poking each other on Facebook.

When you are on your deathbed, will you regret not having more followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook? Or will you have regretted not spending more meaningful time with those close around you, focusing your efforts on creating beautiful images, and being present?

How do you use social media when it comes to your photography? What are the benefits and disadvantages you notice? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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  • Trinitrotoluene

    I don’t use social media for my photography. My web presence is limited to my web site. I see social media as a ‘mutual back-scratching club’

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      That is definitely one of the downsides of social media

      • Jan Mulders

        So? The best way to get something done is via friends and relations. It doesn’t really matter of it’s getting a favor done, finding a new job or promoting your photography.

        The recomendation function on linkedin is the ultimate mutual back scratch. Yet, recruiters look at them as people tend to recomend people they hold in “high” regard.

  • Snappy Picasso

    “Promote others, not yourself”

    LOL! All you do is promote your workshops. The only reason you right “10 reasons to whatever or whatever” is to boost SEO and get affiliate links into Amazon.

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      You are write

      • Peter

        Lol I see what you did here Eric.

    • EmbraceTheBLUR

      Nobody ask you to join his workshops, lets get rid of all these hate!

      • OGR

        Telling the truth is hate? Yeah, no one asked him to join Eric’s workshops but any common man with common sense understands why Eric runs this blog.
        His comment should not be taken lightly because Eric’s knowledge of photography has been questioned many a time in this blog.
        In his last post about depth, he wrote rubbish about a William Klein photograph basing on a dark copy which he found, without even bothering to verify how the original looked.
        Eric Kim misguides people.

        • EmbraceTheBLUR

          Come on, if you don’t like the person then why you replying to this post ? Im not a fan of Eric too but let the guy run his blog/business and lets just go on with our business too ok.

          • Ilkka

            If somebody makes public statements that are wrong, I think it is the responsibility of the public who know better to make the correction, so that both the original author hopefully learns and more importantly, the general public is not misled. It is a sad side effect of the unedited internet that untruths become truths when they are repeated and quoted in websites. But that does not make it right. Letting somebody talk bull uncontrolled is like not bothering when a fellow human is raped, just a less serious version of it. Come on, if you don’t like her, let her get raped.

    • nik nitro

      It is an important comment and should stay up here so more people explore their inner feelings of envy/jealousy if such arise. And then dig deeper and realize that it will not make them progress unless they get rid of that ego.

      The statement is of course incorrect as I’ve learned about many amazing individuals here who may have stayed in the shadow for me. Eric is like a dj of street photography, he finds rare jams for others who don’t have all the time to devote to the subject.

  • http://www.500px.com/Lexpaul Lex Arias


    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Thanks for the love Lex!

  • Marcos Correa

    You got it right !!!Tks

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Cheers Marcos :)

  • Brian Sokolowski

    Nice Eric. Keep at it man.

  • Skijør

    Great article Eric. I’m a social media addict but I do spend a lot of time promoting others.

  • Samik ‘Jonak’ Ghosh

    Excellent to the point blog here! Will help me a lot.

  • http://www.citysnaps.net/ Citysnaps

    Several weeks ago I wrote about the TV reality show aspect that “street photography” has developed through social media. There is an other side. Here’s a link: http://www.citysnaps.net/blog/2013/10/15/streetphotography/

  • nik nitro

    I wonder if people who doubt the sincerity of this blog display the same attitude say towards accountants. I mean we know that their job is not so fun and the only reason they do it is because it makes living. But does that mean we can’t use their service?

    Eric made a courageous move of self-sustaining through the field of non-commercial photography which takes guts and yes blogging is an inexcludable part to keep it afloat. But does that mean he is not applying effort and energy and his heart to provide meaning and knowledge through it or his workshops?

    He may be wrong or right in his articles according to someone but he is exploring the topic regardless and contributing to the collective. So if you are already here and reading this don’t go about how it’s only written for traffic and the likes. Instead create your own meaning. Cheers all.

    • David Rothwell

      I truly respect him not only as a photographer, but as someone who knows how to use the social media to your advantage. It is a very courageous move, not to go with commercial photography and opting for the very fine art of social documentary / street photography.

      Real lives, real people.

  • David Sierra

    this was a good article.

  • Teresa Huguet

    Hi, Eric. I have enjoyed this post a lot. It has been helpful to see that I am not the only one social-media addict, and most of all that I can overcome that with your advice. My problem, have to say, is not so much to try to promote myself (mostly I tweet about other people work either news…) My true problem is that sometimes I feel I can’t get all the wonderful info on the social media about SP and am obsessed that …if my twiter is not “on” the whole time, I could miss important info so as to learn more about SP. Have you ever come with this feeling? If so, how do you cope with that? Thank you! BTW: Can’t wait to start my 1:1 online training with you as mentor. So happy!

  • Teresa Huguet-Termes

    Hi, Eric. I have enjoyed this post a lot. It has been helpful to see
    that I am not the only one social-media addict, and most of all that I
    can overcome that with your advice. My problem, have to say, is not so
    much to try to promote myself (mostly I tweet about other people work
    either news…) My true problem is that sometimes I feel I can’t get all
    the wonderful info on the social media about SP and am obsessed that
    …if my twiter is not “on” the whole time, I could miss important info
    so as to learn more about SP. Have you ever come with this feeling? If
    so, how do you cope with that? Thank you! BTW: Can’t wait to start my
    1:1 online training with you as mentor. So happy!

  • Brian Day

    Good advice, Eric. It’s important to sanity check regularly when it comes to social media and the Internet – from our own participation to the content we consume.

  • Mick Broughton.

    It is a fact that it is not sufficient to simply be a good photographer, the reality is that to succeed you also have be a master at marketing yourself, and today that means social media. If you wish to promote your work Mr Kim’s tips are invaluable.


  • Keithbg

    Good article Eric.

  • Qamuuqin

    Awesome post, thanks Eric.

  • Just A Guy

    well….from what I’ve seen there are social media experts like Eric and Thomas Leuthard and there are really good street photographers. Those usually don’t spend much time online because they simply don’t care…

  • Bob Gigon

    I’m going to have my pennyworths here.. quickly though!

    I have no particular views on Eric Kim – I follow the blog occasionally and find some useful ideas – but I would say this.

    Regardless of what one thinks of Erics analysis of that Klein photograph (& others) there is a
    certain analogy here to teaching as a whole. Elsewhere EK states
    several times that the way to be a good photographer is to stop
    reading/looking at social media, keep looking at books of the ‘greats’
    and get out there and shoot. In my occupation, as a sociology lecturer
    in a college, I produce summaries verbal and written, direct my students
    to ‘text’ books and give them a shorthand version of the subject. I
    also use social media as a way of bridging that gap between the
    classroom and the real world – for I point out that the only way my
    students can ever become sociologists is to a) read ‘real’ sociology by
    researchers and the ‘greats’ and not summaries and b) get out there and
    experience the lives of other people in society by watching, listening
    and observing. My students may disagree with my short-hand summaries (or
    they may not) but it is an essential part of the job to give them a
    framework that some will use to climb onto better things.

    It strikes me that EK is performing a reasonably similar role in this blog and his workshops.
    This is how he makes his living – and I think that he does this
    honestly – and doubtless makes some mistakes – like the rest of us.

    • OGR

      “….and I think that he does this

      honestly – and doubtless makes some mistakes – like the rest of us.”

      The problem is Eric is a self proclaimed expert. You are a lecturer at a college, you have gone through a process. Once you have gone through a process, it is easier to think of your mistakes as genuine mistakes, and not lack of knowledge or a mischievious attempt to misguide people.

      Secondly, i don’t know how much experience you have about the photography world, my experience is, it’s not uncommon to mislead people. Sometimes even by people in respectable position.

  • TheBrownIris

    Sometime back, I stumbled upon the ebook composed by you on ’31 Days to Overcome Your Fear of Shooting Street Photography” and found it useful. It does make me feel a bit more confident about fearlessly framing people. And now this article too is very helpful. Thank you for the tips. Great work. You can view my work here http://thebrowniris.wordpress.com/category/shooting-street/

  • http://www.LeslieDeanBrown.com/ Leslie Dean Brown

    Great article. I agree that social media is addictive. I just try to have a break and use it less and less with time. In future I’m probably going to just get a “dumb phone” and walk around with a decent camera instead of a ‘smart’phone.

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  • ilparm

    Good post, Eric. I know a couple of guys who could benefit from it. :o)

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