Social media is NOT your portfolio. Wait, what?
In this video photographer and content creator Peter McKinnon explains why he’s completely changed his mind about what images you should be sharing on social media, and how it relates to your portfolio and overall work.
Peter says that several years ago he used to curate his Instagram feed extremely carefully, only posting his absolute best work, making sure the grid was pretty much perfect, flowing with the seasons of the year. If he didn’t have an outstanding image one week, he just wouldn’t post anything.
I used to be a firm believer that my social media was my portfolio. If you wanted to see what kind of photographer I was, you would go to my Instagram. That is the portfolio. – Peter McKinnon
But by 2021 Peter explains that he has changed his mind and doesn’t believe that this is the case anymore, for a number of reasons.
- Not everybody has social media. Added to that not everyone is on every single platform. There are so many different types these days that it would be impossible to cover every single platform, and you probably wouldn’t want to. Relying on any third party to host your portfolio and being at the whims of their terms and conditions is really not a great place to be. MySpace anybody?
- You want to be able to decide how you want people to perceive your body of work. If they just happen to see a couple of random videos on TikTok they are going to get a widely different impression of your work, than if they see a gallery of your best images, carefully selected and worked on.
- You want to show your versatility. That’s much more difficult to do on social media because invariably people want to see a niche on these platforms. In order to engage followers you need to cater to them, and that probably doesn’t serve you well in showing what you’re capable of doing.
- You need to use words! Yes, you want to be able to communicate not just through images but also through words, and having only a social media feed doesn’t allow you to do this very effectively. Again people might read only a few posts and completely misunderstand what it is you’re doing and what you stand for.
- If you’re a filmmaker then you need a reel. No one has time to go to your YouTube channel and sift through tons of vlogs, reviews and tutorials to find the meat of your work.
- You don’t want to rely on DM’s for communicating
So what’s the solution then? Well to be honest it’s a bit of a no-brainer, it’s ‘get a website!’ Even typing this out feels silly, but you would be amazed at how many photographers we feature on this site, particularly completion winners who only have social media for us to link to. If I’m looking at somebody’s work and want an immediate impression of what they do then I will always go to their website first over their social media feed.
Peter also points out that if you have your own website you have greater control over selling products such as framed prints and tutorials, without having to pay a commission to a third party.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking. It’s all very well for a guy with over 5 million followers who is being paid by a website platform to give this advice, but actually, I think he has some very good points. A friend of mine is a business coach for people working in the creative arts and her top piece of advice is to make sure your website is functioning well in terms of Google searches. You need to be blogging, have keywords in place and be optimising your SEO because that is where her clients are finding the majority of potential buyers and clients. Not through social media.
Yes, you still need social media, but people are placing far too much value on it in terms of what returns it’s bringing. Social media should really be a sort of appetiser which sends people to your website, where they can find out more about you and your work.
Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe