Building an online business is hard work. Creating your product brand, finding your customers, and engaging an audience is now a tragically difficult system to manage. It can be done, however.
When I began doing photography professionally, I used something called deviantArt. It was an all art platform where amateurs and pros alike posted their most recent masterpieces and gained comments, favs, daily deviations, and sales. Literature was a difficult area for the site since they didn’t have a print or sales option, but all visual arts had a market directly built in to the site. The whole online community would know some of the prominent users since they were emensely popular and were great role models. You may have seen some of their work at Green Earth and out and about because the “right people” found their work in that site.
For a while, photography was my life. I cared about properly using photoshop to edit my images, taking pictures that were meaningful and also learning all of the techniques I could to be successful.
I went to Ryerson for a little while for Film Studies before being accepted to their photography program. Although I wanted it for 3 years, I actually turned it down once I got it, especially since I had already decided to transfer to Uwaterloo. I really believed I would keep going with Fine Arts after my transfer, but I found it draining and the only thing that really gave me something back was my psych 101 class. I gave up doing photography because I hated the pretentious pseudo-smart know-it-all beurocrats in the fine arts community. I even stopped using any of my old deviantart accounts because I hated that atmosphere so much. I didn’t know why it took so long to see the ugly nature that drove that online community. I guess when I was still aspiring to be a part of it, I thought the critiques were legitimate until I saw how ugly they really were. It was weird being able to go over past comments and experiences and see something 100% differently than I had experienced it in the past.
I still remember when Instagram came out. One of my deviantart friends told me about it, I added them and began playing around with it. I remember being angry that I had no control over contrast options, but liked the quick application of filters. They were really harsh, if I had edited the photos in photoshop they would have still had the vintage feel without being eye burning in colour hues. It felt great to be rebellious against the art community snobbery so I embraced it, then got bored.
Over the last two years I began to slowly ease back in to doing photography with my dSLR again. They were primarily just for myself and my family, but this past summer I tried relaunching my former photography business again. All of the tips out there feel foreign to me- posting your page in groups to advertise, rely on word of mouth from friends and clients to bring in business, and that pretty much everyone out there with a camera thinks they’re a photographer. It’s just weird and different, having your work viewed as an app or filter on instagram. I’ve seen plenty of posts requesting work contain things like “can someone do that rustic vintage style like Instagram?”…or “can you make me look like an instamodel?” (these were in a mom group, btw).
Honestly…no as a professional I won’t simply mimic an app, go browse the photos I do have posted and if my style aligns with the look you want, then contact me.
I don’t believe Instagram or any photo manipulating feature on social media cheapens photography as a business, but it definitely changes the expectations that customers come to professionals with. Interest in one style becomes fleeting and changing, especially with too many options out there and being unable to actually make a decision.
I stopped using deviantart for good, it will never be what it was 11 years ago when I was 15 and loved it. I rarely use Instagram, either…but I still take plenty of photos.