There are a lot of reasons why photographers take photographs, but I think, one that unites us all, is that we like people to view our work; indeed we like people to like our work. But leaving aside why we might want exposure, another important question to ask is that when we have taken an image, how do we give it the most exposure possible? In this blog, I discuss some techniques I use to get exposure for my images, including both on-line and print exposure. I explore some of the pros and cons of each of the sites I use for sharing my images and for driving traffic back to my site here.
Given the nature of photography today, most images end up online, on one site or another (often on many sites). My preference is to host the images here on my own site and then simply hot link to it when posting it else where, but more often than not, if you want to share/display your images online, you’ll have to host them on various different sites. These are just some of the ones I use.
I’ll start with the one I use the least and dislike the most Flickr is a free image hosting service, with options for advanced/paid membership. It allows you share your images with other Flickr members, allowing comments and feedback, as well as providing functions which allow users to add your images to Favourites and Groups. What I dislike most about Flickr is that there is no focus on quality and the exposure you get depends on you networking with other users in order for your images to be seen. If you don’t network (add friends), then in all likelihood your images will go by unnoticed. In my opinion, the comments and feedback your receive are by and large tripe More often than not, it’s people salivating over images, giving the whole “Hey… nice job!”, even if the images are a pile of poo. As an example of the amount of exposure I get from Flickr, I posted the image of Raphaella above at lunch time yesterday, and today it has received just 19 views, 1 comment and 2 favourites.
1x (1 exposure) is a different beast to Flickr entirely. Like Flickr it offers free hosting (far more limited) and the ability for people to comment on your images and add them as favourites etc. However unlike Flickr, 1x is a curated gallery with a focus on quality, where images have to successfully be selected from submissions, before being displayed. The goal of the site is to be the premier image gallery on the web and by and large it is. Very few images are accepted a day from probably 100′s if not 1000′s of submissions, so it’s no mean feat to have an image displayed there. However, it is this submission/selection process that a lot of people do not like about the site. Generally, you receive no indication of why an image is not selected; you’re simply told it’s not. Another downside to the site, is that once an image is selected, you have no way of deleting it The moderators can be contacted and a request made for removal, but it’s certainly not straight forward.
To date, I have had 6 images selected for display, out of 13 submissions (a little under 50%). I did submit the shot from yesterday, but it is still waiting in the approval queue and may or may not be accepted. But images that are receive a HUGE amount of traffic. The least view image has received 27,336 unique views and the most viewed has 42,334 with an average of 36,000 views per image. I typically leave a comment with each image, linking back to my website and once an image has been approved, generally I see a significant spike in re-directs (no where close to 30 or 40 thousand hits… but a peak none the less). For me, 1x is less about driving traffic back to my site and more about the achievement of being accepted… so it’s more about the quality of exposure, than the quantity.
500px is a REALLY NICE hybrid between both Flickr and 1x. It offers the free, uncurated hosting of Flickr, but combines the quality aspect of 1x. Every shot uploaded will be displayed on your profile page, however 500px offers a “scoring/voting” system, where users can Like your image, or add it to their favourites. It does not depend on you being in a social network, or having a list of friends. Once an image is uploaded, it is available on the “Fresh” page for all to see. Once (if) it starts to pick up votes, it moves to the “Upcoming” page(s) and if it picks up enough votes it will start moving up through the ranks of the “Popular Page(s)”. The voting is very genuine as are the comments and the quality of the images on the first few pages speaks volumes. Quality images will receive the most exposure and the “dross” will get lost, never to be seen again.
As an example, I again submitted the image above to 500px at lunch time yesterday. Currently it has a score of 91.5 and is on page 4. At it’s peak it had a score of 96.8, was listed 4th most popular image on the site (at that time) and so far has received almost 2000 views. Again, like 1x this has translated into a spurt of traffic to my site coming from re-directs. The higher the score your image can achieve and the longer it can stay in the first few pages of popular images, the more views and exposure it gets. But as time goes by, newer images will begin to push the older images out of the way. My most viewed image on 500px has now received 30,720 unique views.
DeviantArt is a “social network” for artists, which allows them share their work with similarly minded people. By and large there is A LOT of pretty dodgy work displayed on the site, but there is enough work from some pure gems to make membership worth while. Again, like most of the sites above, it also offers features like comments, critique, groups and collections. Like the other sites, it also offers both paid and unpaid subscriptions. As it is a social network, the best way of getting your images seen is by increasing the size of your network, by adding friends and submitting images to groups. By and large, I don’t do either, so rely on people browsing the general galleries in order to see my work. To give you an indication of views, since yesterday the image of Raphaella above has received over 500 views. Rarely do I get any traffic directly to my site through DA.
How can I forget FaceBook, the mother of all social networks? Let me the first to admit, that I am a total FaceBook addict (whore??). It’s rare a day passes that I don’t share the most menial details of my life with my FaceBook friends. But with that said, I don’t like FaceBook for sharing my images. The primary reason for this, is their restrictions on nudity. I have heard of not just images being removed from peoples galleries for violating their terms, but indeed whole accounts. So by and large, I host only a minimal amount of images there. Also, the number of views you get, is directly related to the number of friends, which I intentionally keep small.
But there is an upside to FaceBook and that’s the ability for people to both like and share pages/external links. By adding buttons to blogs, which allow people do this quickly and easily, I have seen a HUGE rise in traffic to my blog and site. Barring search enginers, FaceBook is now the biggest referring site to my blog by a long way, having redirected over 47,000 unique page views this year alone. Every blog I do, gets shared there to my friends, and every person that likes it (either through my FaceBook page or through the Like/share button) means they are sharing it with their network of friends. Without a doubt FaceBook has been the biggest catalyst for increased traffic/exposure of my images/blog.
My blog itself is without doubt the biggest source of traffic to my site. Search engines love text and love blogs… FACT Clever use of SEO (a plugin) really helps too. I get a huge amount of traffic daily from people searching for a huge range of different things. My blog ranks really highly in searches relating to “fill flash” etc. bringing in on average 800~900 unique page views a day. This figure has grown steadily and almost linearly over time, from when I started the blog back in 2009. But it takes work… and I think the secret to any blog is that it is updated both frequently, but more importantly at regular intervals (I aim for once a week – although I’ve been bad recently). Whilst the blog doesn’t give the same exposure as the likes of 500px or 1x, the nice thing is that I have total control over it. Images and content can be added, removed and/or modified at will.
There are of course other networking sites, which would also drive traffic back to your site or give exposure to your images. Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon (to name but a few). Most of these I haven’t really embraced, simply because of the limitations of both time and motivation. Certainly if I find one site to offer huge advantages in terms of exposure, over another, then I’ll be quick to embrace it. But for now the above are pretty much what I stick to. Then there is of course the photography forums, of which there are many – again sites, I use/visit less and less. These do afford you some more exposure, often accompanied with critique. But the effort involved in contributing versus the value in the exposure, makes it hard for me to justify spending much/any time on them any more.
An image on line, on-screen or sitting on your hard disc… is just that… an image. For me, it takes the step of printing it, to make it a photograph. So once it’s printed, it’s nice to be able to show it off. The main avenues I have used to date have been via my camera club and indeed through other clubs in the IPF, where I have been invited along to show my work. FIAP salons have been another avenue which I have taken, hoping that my images are not only accepted but indeed printed in the catalogs that are sent to all participating photographers. By and large I have done well here, with my work included for print in the vast majority of catalogs/salons I have entered. Recently I have also been published in magazines as well as having my work accepted for inclusion in exhibitions, all just other avenues for getting my work out there.
For me, it’s all about putting myself and my images out there. The amount of exposure you work gets, seems to be linearly linked to the effort you put into showing it.