Graeme Roy has one of the top photography positions in Canada as the Director of News Photography at the Canadian Press, one of the country's largest news providers to magazines and newspapers. Roy looks after a team of staff photographers spread throughout Canada and arranges or sends staff around the world to cover news events of interest to his Canadian subscribers.
The department is outfitted with the latest digital and video wonders, yet the camera that he reaches for more often is already in his pocket. The iPhone, and Roy is a regular contributor to Instagram.
He's not posting pictures on Instagram as part of his job but simply because its fun. "I get to post pictures you couldn't get away with ethically on a news wire. With Instagram I can post whatever I want and don't have to worry if I alter the photo or apply a filter."
With a top level staff job, Roy isn't trying to promote himself through the work, or get another freelance job. He just enjoys posting images and putting the work out there. "Instagram is more out of the box, where you can do things that people don't expect." And this keeps it fun.
Roy also mentions how it levels the playing field for everyone who wants to get involved. A top name photographer starts off with zero followers and builds a following, just like a novice photographer. In fact Roy attended a recent 'Instagram Gathering' with others who use the service to go shooting and a beer afterwards. He currently has almost 600 followers but met hobby photographers who had collected almost 22,000 followers on their site. "Instagram is a democracy of photography, it doesn't matter who you are, you can put pictures out there, and if people like the work, they will follow you."
According to Roy there's a triangle of issues taking place. You have the device in your pocket, you're connected, and the process is right there. You can post images instantly with so little work.
This quickness has attracted work to CP Images as well. If there's a major news event he's searching through Instagram and Twitter to find images to put on the wire before the staff have a chance to get to the event. The week we talked there was a 50 car pile up on one of the highways because of a winter storm. CP found pictures on Twitter, purchased the publishing rights and moved the images before they started receiving images from regular contributors. At first they moved pictures on the wire of the "altered images" with filters and all, but soon the photographer was able to send them the raw files which had no "effect" applied and then CP transmitted those as well.
In fairness to the photographers Roy says he respects the work from these photographers and pays them the same as he would for a regular contributor.
In addition to using the Instagram outlet, Roy is cross posting the images on Facebook, which allows more people to view it and adds to the fun.
"There's two camps with Instagram and even those shooting with a phone. You have one group who enjoy it and the second group who think it's the spawn of Satan. In the last while I've noticed a lot of photographers who's work I really respect doing it, so they've also come to grips with it."
One photographer that Roy mentioned as having great work, a great following and seems to be building his "brand" around the work is Koci Hernadez who posts often and has a following over 100,000. Hernadez has leveraged this following into something and I plan to contact him next week to see how it works for him. Hernadez is a top photographer on Instagram if the number of followers mean anything, and once you go to his website you'll quickly see his body of work supports this.
One issue with Instagram that Roy cautioned about was "Once the work is out there, they're out there, anyone can copy them, download them and the caption and file info is vapourized." He suggests posting low-rez files... and to just get over it and have fun with the medium.
Although I've worked as a photography all my life, I'm currently back at school trying to finish my Masters in Fine Art Degree at the Maine Media Workshops and College. Jan Rosenbaum is one of my mentors for this semester and the project I'm working on is a paper on social media and new options for selling photographic work.
My retail store for rangefinder gear and Zeiss lenses is www.rangefinderstore.com
My retail store for large format photo supplies is www.bigcameraworkshops.com