Do you remember Ello?
In the fall of 2014 headlines praised it as “the Facebook Killer”, apparently it was created as an ad-free alternative to existing social networks. Well guess what, it hasn’t died… their founders never intended it to be a Facebook killer.
It was always about artists, and it’s now better than ever.
It’s 2018 and people are realizing how Facebook and Instagram are turning us into dopamine loops addicts. Don’t hide, I know you’re checking your phone when you wake up and seek those extra followers, that virtual recognition.
Like any social platform owned by a big corporation it’s driven by money and revenue, this is why you said goodbye to a chronological feed and saw recommended posts appear in your feed (from people you don’t follow).
Oh did I mentioned the sponsored posts?
Or the sheer amount of ads for bras?
Update after update, Instagram is turning into a marketing monster. And you’re all accepting it because of that sweet sweet exposure. It was once free of advertising and brands, do you remember that?
As a photographer you can’t “grow” on Instagram if you don’t post what the mass enjoy. Yes it makes photographers literally copy each other styles because only some type of images can get big engagement.
Think of all those « outdoor slash explorer » taking pictures of cabins in the forest, hanging feet off a cliff and interiors of a van decorated with string lights. They’re diluting their own work and style by focusing on what will grow their account instead of focusing on developing themselves artistically.
The grid above is the work of 8 different photographers ranging from 50k to 750k followers. Can you tell which photographer is which?
“All my work up to November of 2016 had been social media jobs, like promo posts, ads on my Instagram. Then out of nowhere, I get this huge job that had nothing to do with Instagram and I was valued off my work, versus my number [of followers]. And I was like holy crap, it really put into perspective how small of a bubble Instagram actually is.” — Andrew Kearns (490k followers)
The paradox is that Instagram better reward photographers who focus on one subject or style, which is quite bad for those who are trying to find their own “voice” in photography or those who want to just expriment.
No, it’s not because you take pictures of pretty girls in front of neon lights with a 85mm prime lens at F1.4 that you are a portrait photographer.
There’s a great article on the subject over on Field mag titled “how social media perpetuates cliché photography”, I encourage you to read it.
“Success on Instagram comes down to one thing: impressing your audience. But if you are looking for a sense of satisfaction and joy in photography, it seems more and more photographers are finding it all comes into focus when they close the app.” — Josh S. Rose
Things will get worse. If you want to know how Instagram will evolve in the future all you have to do is to look at… Facebook.
This year Facebook will likely split the news feed. Non-promoted posts from Facebook pages will be placed in a secondary feed (source).
Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has revealed plans to change up your news feed once again. In a renewed effort to help people stay connected, Facebook will be further limiting the number of posts people will see from brands, businesses, and media on their feed. That means your photography page, or your online magazine page will reach less people.
They say that “Facebook is about bringing people closer together and enabling meaningful social interactions”
Just a quick reminder that Facebook is creating shadow profiles, filled a patent to discover that two people know each other by analyzing the dust your phone camera and some other really crazy ideas on how to basically spy on it’s user base to make them view more ads.
You will also probably see ads inside of your list of Instagram messages just like on Facebook messenger. (And games? Why not?)
Can we also talk a little bit about Facebook and Instagram interface lately?
And none of those user interface updates can be turned off. You have a business profile on Instagram? You NEED to have a “featured stories” and “email” banner that take up screen space and hide one row of your posts.
Oh and this…
How soon before business profiles start to rank higher than personal profiles in the feed algorithm by default?
I predict that brands will be able to pay to promote certain hashtags and you’ll see posts from those hashtags in your feed. Boom, instant user generated content pushed to your target audience.
But there’s also something that’s bothering me with Instagram, it’s the instant and fast paced sharing, the focus on single pictures. The lack of narrative, the focus on form and not on the meaning.
People just double-tap scroll hundred times per day. They don’t even read captions anymore nor take the time to write replies.
Why is narrative such a difficult concept for young photographers to master? Because it is a concept that they are unaware of. It is something that they take for granted and do not question, something that visual digital sharing platforms do not encourage. — Grant Scott
Documentary photographers and photo-journalists can of course share their work on Instagram but they will be mostly ignored by most users. There’s of course exceptions to the rule, but Instagram is tailored for sharing very often on specific themes in order to generate engagement.
Instagram is still great for many things, like discovering new photographers or connecting with people in the real life. But the simple, chronological photo-sharing service is long gone.
So I searched for an alternative.
In the past I explored 500px, Flickr, Tumblr, EyeEm, Unsplash and Behance. They all have good sides but none of them could fulfil my need for a simple social network where I can share my photography.
“Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.”
“We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate.” —Part of the Ello manifesto
500px is a money making machine and reward certain types of photography. (It’s also full of bots). Flickr was great, but it’s now a dinosaur. Tumblr is owned by Verizon and crippled with bots and porn. EyeEm is great as a platform to sell your images. Unsplash has a tremendous visibility but your work is then available for free even for commercial use. Behance is great to showcase projects, but not really made for sharing single images.
But for my personal work and daily visual journal I’m switching over to Ello. No, I won’t delete my Instagram account (hell, you can’t even do that) but I will stop posting on it. Yes, today I say goodbye to 16.7k followers.
Here’s why I chose Ello:
It’s made for true unfiltered creativity
It rewards artists with exposure, but also with money ($71’000 paid to artists in 2017)
You can filter notifications (it’s 2018)
You can flag users and content
You can’t squat a username or impersonate others
There’s no influencers, just artists
No stupid algorithm based feed
The feed is chronological (like it should be)
No “recommended” posts injected in your feed
No ads, no sponsored posts, no business profiles
You can post text, videos, links and combine them
Want to publish a whole interview? Why not
You can tell an entire story in one post
You can upload images of any ratio
Warning: things get slightly NSFW and glittery below
You can even post nudity (and filter it or not)
Ello is LGBTQ friendly
It doesn’t censor users (as long as they follow the community guidelines)
There’s a repost button, and it gives proper credit to the artist + auto link to the original (like Tumblr, but better)
It’s optional, you can turn it off (prevent other from reposting your work)
If you’re good, you can get featured for a few months (and get a cool badge)
It’s a great place to share real photography
There’s Weekly giveaways (Ello buy the art from the artist, then give it back to the community)
There’s real curation by real humans
The whole text of a post is indexed by Ello search, not just the hashtags (no need to put 30 hashtags per post)
It’s made by two cool designers
They have great principles
The user interface is awesome
There’s no bots
Virtually no spam (just bread)
You can sell your work on it easily
It’s not owned by Facebook
Product usage data is anonymized
In addition to allowing members to opt-out of anonymized data collection, Ello respects Do Not Track (DNT) browser settings
Pictures aren’t super small
And they’re not compressed to shit
You can use it and post from your desktop browser
Their mobile apps are great
Their goal as a business is to bring values to creatives, not treat them as ad-viewers
Simply said: they put money into creators pocket while having a sustainable business model as a social network (and they have great ideas for that)
They do printed publications (4 of them in 2017 which published 210 artists)
That includes this book “Make good”
And this magazine “Not for print”
Last but not least, there’s some cool shit on Ello that you won’t find anywhere else.
[This article isn’t endorsed nor sponsored by Ello/Bergerfohr]
About the Author
Samuel Zeller is a freelance photographer based in Switzerland, an ambassador for Fujifilm and the editor of Fujifeed magazine. You can contact him here and follow his recent work on his website and Ello. This article was also published here and shared with permission.