In the crowded and often distracting world of social media, finding your place and your people can seem daunting. The truth is, there are supportive, creative communities all around you — showing up every day to lift each other up, shout each other out and help one another get ahead.
For photographers, finding a passionate community on social media can lead to new connections, job opportunities and that creative spark you might be looking for.
We hosted our first-ever Twitter Space all about this topic and we’re thrilled that over 250 of you tuned in!
Listen to the recorded conversation below (it’s only available for a few more weeks!) and read on for a few inspiring takeaways from our co-hosts and guests, including photographers and creatives like Polly Irungu, Brayden Williams, Brent Lewis, Erika Rand and Aundre Larrow.
If you couldn’t tune in live, the recording is here for y’all! https://t.co/pev7VKVfoo
— PhotoShelter (@photoshelter) May 18, 2022
Where can I find my own photo community on social media? How do I start?
Going from one chapter in life to the next can bring on many different emotions. Feeling lost is common. This feeling can often be the catalyst for searching for a dedicated, like-minded community.
For Polly Irungu, founder of Black Women Photographers, moving across the country and starting school in a new state left her feeling depressed and unsure of the journey ahead.
After picking up a camera and sharing some of her photos online, she began finding solace in social media as a way to connect with others.
“In Oregon, I just felt like I was in a whole other country and I really felt I was away from anything that I culturally wanted to be connected to. Who would be hiring photographers in Oregon? Who would be hiring Black photographers, Black women photographers in Oregon? I was trying to find a community of people who look like me, of people to turn to, to ask questions to… so I turned to social media and really just wanted to put my work out there, but also to find that community because I knew it existed somewhere – just not where I was currently placed.” – Polly Irungu
After learning about the power of social media, creating various Twitter Lists and tweeting out her work time and time again, Polly began finding and building a community of like-minded creatives. Fast forward to the present day and Black Women Photographers is now a global database of hundreds of photographers, with over 48,000 followers on Instagram and more than 20,000 followers on Twitter.
Polly breaks down five of her top tips for finding your own photo community in this partnership with B&H.
Twitter vs. Instagram. Which is best for community building?
Believe it or not, it was the general consensus from our guest speakers that Twitter has become the go-to place for finding and building your own photography community. With last year’s admission from Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri that Instagram is no longer a photo sharing app (the focus is on “Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging” now), it’s no wonder why photographers have been flocking to Twitter to share their work and meet other photographers.
For Brayden Williams (known as Brayden Creations on social media), Twitter Threads have been the catalyst for high engagement and community building. The ability to reply, tag along and share your work alongside others is something Instagram is certainly missing.
Photographers, show me your Most Recent Photos!! ??
— Brayden Creations (@BraydenCreation) May 22, 2022
Retweeting is a major reason these photo challenge threads gain traction and reach the masses, too.
“I took an online communities class and they were talking about how being as broad and as simple with your words as possible can go a long way. Then you can gain people from other cultures, other religions, other groups in general where they don’t speak the same language as you – so when it translates, it translates better so they can understand it. And I really took that and I tried to create such a simple, easy to read format where I’m saying, ‘Share your work and I’ll retweet it.” – Brayden Williams
Content is catapulted into a web of different networks via Twitter likes and retweets, making it easier to reach communities and build both professional and personal relationships.
When community leads to opportunity
Remember the recent ad campaign highlighting celebrities who have tweeted their dreams into existence? It’s not every day you can manifest your career goals and aspirations just by tweeting, but it might be more common than you think!
One major topic of discussion during our Twitter Space was the benefit of using social media to network and find photo assignments and job opportunities. Instagram profiles are often used as a second portfolio, or the preferred place to garner interest so that potential clients or employers visit your website and contact you for work.
We were lucky enough to have New York Times photo editor and co-founder of Diversify Photo, Brent Lewis, join us to share some thoughts.
“I love social media… I have to take my hat off to the people who were doing my job as photo editors before social media existed because it’s opened my eyes to so many photographers I wouldn’t have seen before. And some photographers I’ve picked up from sharing an amazing photo, or if I was following a hashtag, following an event, or a Moment… I’m seeing links and people aren’t having to send me emails. The way the system is set up right now, to email a photo editor is tough.” – Brent Lewis
Polly’s work with Black Women Photographers is full of excellent examples where community support and connecting on social media has led to handshakes and paid opportunities, too.
How it started vs. How it’s going ? pic.twitter.com/DkMajSi5Sp
— Polly Irungu (@pollyirungu) July 7, 2021
So don’t be shy. Reply to that tweet. Apply to that program. Send that DM! You never know what might happen next.
How does social media affect your mental health?
It’s evident that social media can bring new people and new opportunities into your life, but we cannot overstate just how important it is to disconnect sometimes.
As social media managers, creatives or photographers, keeping up with trends and posting frequently can be a lot to manage. The expectations we place on ourselves can be draining. The daily news cycle is often triggering these days.
But staying creative and keeping up with your community doesn’t mean you have to be on social media 24/7. Taking some time to recharge, meet people in person and pursue other passions is so important. Your mental health matters.
“Spoiler alert: these apps will still be there. Twitter is not going anywhere, Instagram is not going anywhere. Whatever app is your favorite, it is not going anywhere. You can log off, you can delete the app, you can do whatever you need to do to create that separation and to understand what your boundaries are… You can still care offline, y’all.” – Polly Irungu
About the Author
Jeremy Berkowitz is a creative media producer, photographer, social media brand manager, and multimedia journalist. He’s also the Social Media & Content Marketing Specialist at PhotoShelter. To learn more about Jeremy and see his work, check out his website and Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.