Using Social Media to Judge the Quality of Our Photos: Pros and Cons

How does a photographer determine if their photos are good?  Can this be ascertained by more likes on social media?  What about having them rise to popular on 500px?  And let’s not forget about having them elevated to “Explore” on the popular photo sharing service Flickr.  All of these are fine goals to strive for but does achieving them necessarily equate to taking good photos?  There are pros and cons to using each of the aforementioned methods as well as others for judging photo goodness. 

The Pros

I must admit that I have been guilty at times of using social media for measuring the “goodness” of some of what I deem to be my better photos.  However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Using social media as a gauge of which photos are good and which are bad can definitely help a photographer grow and learn from his or her mistakes.  

Case in point.  Nearly 10 years ago I had purchased a new Canon Digital Rebel XT.  I know, not the best camera but it seemed that way to me at the time.  so I was like a sniper with it shooting everything in sight.  I decided to take a photo of the sunrise behind my home over a small pond/lake. 

After importing the photo into my computer I was astonished at how well it had turned out.  I was very eager and anxious to share it on a photography site that I had recently joined.   I quickly uploaded my beautiful photo and awaited the glowing responses that I was sure to receive.  The smile on my face quickly turned to a frown of disappointment after one comment was highly critical of my work of art.  I thought to myself “how could this be? How could anyone be so critical of my amazing photo?”  The criticism was of two small lights that could be seen in the photograph.  These were either lights from houses in the distance or small street lights which the commenter found to be a distraction from the rest of the photograph.  

I was both upset and angry that someone could actually be so picky in pointing out such small minor details.  The more I pondered this criticism the more I realized that it was probably correct.  The two lights were indeed very much a distraction from the interesting parts of the photo.  From that point on I have been extremely careful to not include distracting elements in my photos as well as framing them with the intent of maximizing the viewer’s center of focus on the interesting part(s) of the photograph.  Obviously, the photo I was so proud of had more issues than just the two distracting lights.  

Likes, +1’s, and Loves from the various social networks can also be instrumental in determining if photos are good or not.  However, I would only trust social networks that are dedicated to photography or have groups and/or communities dedicated to photography.  Some of these networks include Ello, Google+, Instagram and EyeEm.  Although 500px and Flickr are not technically considered social networks they can also help determine how good one’s photography is progressing.  You know are doing something right when your photos are consistently being promoted to popular on 500px. 

The Cons

Although social networks such as Ello, Instagram, Google+ and EyeEm can help  photographers determine if their photos are good as well as help them improve overall as photographers, they can also hinder one’s growth as a photographer.  Sometimes we as photographers become too fixated on the likes, +1’s and loves rather than the reason we are taking the photos in the first place.   This reason should be our passion for photography and should never be solely about pleasing others and acceptance on social media.  

On many occasions I have found myself refreshing my social media posts to see how many likes and/or +1’s I had received.  “If I don’t get x number of likes I might as well delete the photo but it’s no good.”  “Maybe I’m just not a good photographer.”  These are just a couple of thoughts that have crossed my mind.  We should never use these social affirmations as the only conditions to determine if our photos are good or not.  The most important measure of their goodness should be if we, the artist, are pleased and happy with them.  I can’t remember the photographer but I read a quote that summarized this thought not too long ago.  So, my thought process is now to post photos that I am well pleased with, not simply because I think it might get a gazillion likes.