on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Perils of Social Photography

Guy Tal discusses the role of social media in the process of making images

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US.


Do whatever you do intensely. The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life.- Robert Henri

Discussions of photography most often focus on aspects of making images—tools, techniques, locations, subject matter, etc. All are important, to be sure, but one topic that is consistently neglected and that, in my opinion, is equally worthy of consideration is the photographer’s motivation: why we do what we do, and in the way that we do it?

Ask most photographers and responses generally will point to a desire for creative expression, or a love for certain subjects (wildlife, places, architecture, people, etc.). However, an impartial review of the flux of images posted daily to various Internet sites suggests the existence of other motivations, as well, and particularly those of a social nature, by which I am referring to the practice of photography for the sake of social interaction.

I do not suggest that social interaction is by any means a poor motive, only that when it becomes the foremost reason for photographing certain places or subjects in certain ways, using certain equipment, in order to win contests or for the sake of popularity; one is in peril of becoming a victim of ones own success, unwittingly sacrificing what I consider to be the greatest rewards that photography (indeed, any creative pursuit) has to offer, in exchange for lesser ones.


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