How to Choose What Photos to Post (and What to Hold Back) on Social Media
There's an inevitable question that comes up when you're working on a photo story or project that you know you want to get published: what images can you share on social media? What's smart to share and what's oversharing that could shoot you in the foot later on? We tackle this conundrum by asking one simple but essential question.
Getting strategic about social media and your photo stories
Today's episode is inspired by my Conservation Photography 101 students because over the years, as I've taught them how to find, photograph and pitch their photo stories, inevitably, this question pops up.
They're out there working on their photo story and of course they want to post on social media what it is that they're working on. They want to be able to keep their audience engaged, or highlight the cool things they're doing in the field.
But the question is, “Okay, what do I share? What do I hold back for when I'm ready to actually pitch this story?”
So if you find yourself in the same spot, this quick tip episode will give you the strategy you need to make confident decisions about what to post, and what to keep tucked away until the right time.
Episode 120: How to Choose What Photos to Post (and What to Hold Back) on Social Media
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
[00:00:00] Hey there, and welcome to this quick tip episode. So today I wanted to tackle the idea of what photos do I post on social media and what do I hold back when I'm working on a photo story or a project that I know I wanna get published somewhere? Today's episode really is inspired by my conservation photography 1 0 1 students, because over the years as I've taught them how to find, photograph and pitch their photo stories, inevitably this question pops up because they are out there working on their photo story, and no doubt they want to post on social media what it is that they're working on, what they're up to.
[00:00:38] They wanna be able to. Keep their audience engaged or really highlight what they're doing. But the question is, okay, what do I share? But what do I hold back for when I'm ready to actually pitch this story? So if you find yourself in the same spot, maybe you're working on a project that you know you want to roll out in a bigger way, but that's [00:01:00] gonna be down the road a little bit.
[00:01:01] Or maybe you're working on a photo story that you know you wanna present to an editor. You're not quite sure when it's gonna be done, and in the meantime, you wanna be able to show what it is that you're photographing out in the field to your audience on social media, like on Instagram. What is it that you put forward and what do you hold back?
[00:01:21] Now, the quick and easy answer to this is simply, Don't publish on social media. Anything that you know later on you are gonna wanna have in a portfolio to get published. If you know that you're creating something that is really high quality, it's kind of representing the essence of the project or the story that you're working on, don't put that on social media because you know that you're gonna wanna put that in front of an editor down the road.
[00:01:47] And have that be unique, original, never before seen work. You want that work to be a surprise. You want that to be part of the big bang of what you roll out. So [00:02:00] if that's the case and all of your best imagery, your most exciting, most storytelling imagery that you're creating from your project or your story is being held back, what then do you put on social?
[00:02:13] Well, let's go back to the whole reason why you post on social media in the first place. What is that reason? And it might be different depending on your own personal why. As a photographer, you might be posting on social media because you wanna build a following around the cause or the issue that you're photographing. You might be posting on social media because you want to simply build community around your work. A group of people who are really loving what it is. That you're up to and are there to celebrate it and learn from it and enjoy it.
[00:02:46] You might be posting on social media because you know that you want to have some sort of a presence for editors, potential clients, to be able to see your work and see what you're up to, that you're active out in the field. There might be all kinds of reasons why [00:03:00] it is that you're posting on social media, so go back to what that is and feel free to be brutally honest with yourself. It may come down to the fact that you just want to be seen. You want to post because you know that you're seen and that reminds you that you and your work are relevant and important, and that is perfectly okay if you are posting on social media simply because you want other people to know that you're active as a photographer and that you're doing cool stuff.
[00:03:26] Great, no problem. Embrace that, celebrate it, move forward with it. But whatever the reason is, get really clear on that reason, because once you're really clear on the reason that you post to social media, that's gonna really guide you in what and when and how you post work from your projects or stories. And once you're really clear on the why that you're posting, and therefore the what and how you're posting, the decisions that you make around what you post and what you hold back get incredibly easy and incredibly clear. So, [00:04:00] for example, if you are posting on social media, because you really wanna build a following
[00:04:05] Around the conservation issue that you're really passionate about or the stories that you are super engaged in, even as they evolve over time, but you want your following to be in it with you. You wanna be educating, informing, creating awareness, creating action around that. Then what you post to social media from the projects or stories that you're working on
[00:04:25] might be little story snippets, storytelling shots that add to the overall narrative, but aren't directly related to the project or story that you want to be put in front of an editor down the road. So they might not be the images that are core to that story, but a side note. Let's pull up an example.
[00:04:43] Let's say that I'm working on a photo story or a project around a particular bird species, and I go out with a group of researchers to missed net one morning, and I get these images that I know I'm gonna wanna have as part of the larger [00:05:00] project or story that I roll out in the future. I know I wanna hold those images back because they're super compelling, Super storytelling. If I put those out on social now it's gonna spoil the surprise of when they roll out in a bigger way. What from that morning might I be able to put in front of people on social media to keep that conversation going about this bird species, about the conservation issue that involves this bird species?
[00:05:26] Well, could it be a habitat shop taken from that morning? Could it be a kind of candid, behind the scenes shot of one of the researchers and just talk about who they are, what they're up to. Could it be a photograph of maybe some of the food, uh, that this bird eats? So maybe let, let's say it's an insect war and it specializes on caterpillars. Could I post a photo of that food source? Talk a little bit about the food availability for the species and what that might have to do with this conservation issue.[00:06:00]
[00:06:00] That shot of a caterpillar species might not be the most epic storytelling shot that's needed for the larger story from that morning. But it's interesting and keeps the conversation going so I could post that on there. Could it be maybe a photo of me behind the scenes as the photographer just saying, Hey, I'm working on this really cool story.
[00:06:20] I had an amazing morning out. Details will come later, but you know, I'm out enjoying this really neat morning. I don't know. There are ways that you can choose little element. Of the shoot or the experience that you're having creating this larger project or larger story that can keep the conversation going about the issue or about you working on it, but don't actually directly reveal the images that you want to unveil down the road.
[00:06:47] Let's say that you are posting on social media because you wanna be able to highlight. Really excellent work that you're creating. Mainly for the benefit of any editors or potential clients that you might want to work [00:07:00] with down the road. You wanna put your best face forward in your feed so that when they visit your Instagram feed as so many do they see the excellent work that you're up to. You might not wanna put up some of the more kind of scrappy behind the scenes shots that are a little bit more, you know, candid loosey-goosey.
[00:07:18] You might still want it to be imagery that seems really put together still. What else might you be able to put up from that same morning out in the field with researchers? That could be really interesting? That could be relevant. Well, in that case, you could definitely start to look at some of the shots that could be really nice and polished, but not core to the story, and post those. And maybe with a little bit of context about what's in the image, but not necessarily a ton of context about the story, since you may wanna keep that a little bit more close to your chest. Could there be a really great landscape or detail shot or Maybe there's, uh, a little bit of drone footage. Maybe there's something [00:08:00] from that morning that feels polished, that feels solid, that feels like it's in your storytelling style, it goes along with the quality of the images that you're gonna be rolling out as part of your story, but doesn't give away what's actually in the story. That can be really helpful because then editors or future clients, or whoever it may be, the people that you know you wanna be pitching to down the road, they're gonna see that really solid, consistent style.
[00:08:26] They're gonna get to know your. Through your Instagram handle and kind of be prepared for the quality or the style of the work that you then reveal when you go into the pitching process. So you might think about, Hey, what do I wanna post from the work that I'm doing that stays in that same storytelling style?
[00:08:45] Like I still wanna post images that are created with my dslr, my higher end equipment, whatever that might be. The same images that I might put in my portfolio. I want those to go on social rather than maybe some smartphone camera. [00:09:00] Kind of candid, rough around the edges, shots that are fun and engaging. Of course, if you are posting on social media in order to kind of build.
[00:09:08] Community around your work to feel like you are seen and that you are relevant and that there's a group of people out there supporting you in your work, then you may want to actually, instead of posting anything significant from that shoot that morning, you might wanna take an iPhone selfie and post that.
[00:09:26] Because if you're building a community of people who are interested in you as the photographer in you and your story and your activity out in the field and what it is that you personally are up to, that might be what they really wanna see the most anyway. So you might do a selfie of you hiking out in the field.
[00:09:42] Or being exhausted in the middle of the day as you're photographing, or whatever you and the research team are having for lunch. All of that behind the scenes stuff, instead of posting some of the more polished shots or behind the scenes shots that we talked about for other reasons, you might make sure that [00:10:00] you're taking these fun kind of on the go shots that you can then very purposefully share to social media later on because it suits that purpose for posting.
[00:10:10] So ultimately when you have this question of, I'm working on a project, I'm working on a story, I am really excited about it. I want to be able to share some of it, or I wanna be able to share to social media that I am active, that I'm working in the field, that I'm working on something, but I'm not sure what I should share, what I should hold back.
[00:10:29] Go back to why it is that you are posting on social media in the first place at all. What is the primary purpose that drives you to want to post on social? Get really clear on that. Be really honest about it. There's no bad reason or wrong reason or whatever it is. Just get really clear and really honest about what that is and allow that clarity to then drive the decisions that you make moving forward. And what's important to remember is that reason for posting on social may [00:11:00] evolve. It may evolve over the course of months or a year or two, or as the season that you're in as a photographer shifts.
[00:11:07] So you might be posting to social right now in order to just build an audience in order to kind of stake your claim as a photographer and be recognized as a conservation photographer. You just wanna build that following with really fun content people engage with.
[00:11:21] And then maybe in three or four months you might be posting to social because you know that you wanna roll out this project. On a conservation issue and you wanna drum up awareness about it, you wanna drum up conversation about it. The reason why you're posting to social might shift, so the images that you choose to post may shift as well.
[00:11:43] So let's say that's the case. You might start out now with. Getting out into the field, you're working on that story and that project, and you're really just keeping a conversation going with engaging the audience and the following that you have. So you're posting kind of behind the scenes selfies or these fun little [00:12:00] moments from the field, this behind the scenes stuff.
[00:12:02] And then as you start to evolve, and that why for posting social shifts toward. Engagement conversation, awareness around the issue that you are photographing, then you might start to select some of those detail shots, some of those landscapes or contact shots that you wanna be able to show off to people and start to build that conversation.
[00:12:24] Your captions might shift a little bit as well. And then perhaps as you start to shift as a photographer from having it as a hobby into getting hired for assignments or for stories or really building those relationships with editors, Really building your status with editors. Your why might shift again and what you choose to post might shift again. Now, this is all perhaps a little bit more on the detailed side of answering what seems like a simple question of, I'm working on this project or this story. What do I post to social media to let people know that I'm. Doing something and what do I hold back? [00:13:00] Ultimately, don't publish anything that you are going to want to include in a pitch or that you're going to want to include in a larger rollout of the project, but what you do select to share will be a little bit dependent on why you are posting to social media in the first place,
[00:13:17] so you have the quick and easy answer for what you do and don't post. But once you start to make those decisions about what you do post, then you can get into the details about why it is that you're engaging on social media anyway. And from there, how do you wanna make those selections to go ahead and lean into that reason for posting on social media so it gets a little bit deeper than do I post photo A or photo B , But I guarantee that when you sit down to really think about this, it's gonna help you make decisions so much more easily. And even better than that, it's gonna help you create extra content specifically for posting on social media.
[00:13:59] You'll [00:14:00] know what type of content you wanna create in addition to what you're building for your project or your story. In order to be able to post on social media. You'll know what types of extra images or video. Or smaller stories that you might wanna collect specifically to be able to put on that profile to serve the purpose behind why you're engaging in the first place.
[00:14:22] Okay, I hope that this was a helpful quick tip episode. Now, if you wanna make sure to get all of these quick tip episodes, because I don't always share that they're live and out in the world for you. If you wanna make sure that you get all of them and never miss a single one, simply make sure that you're subscribed to this podcast.
[00:14:40] So right now, wherever you're listening, you can simply hit pause, tap, subscribe from whatever podcast player you're listening to this episode on, and you'll be subscribed to impact the Conservation Photography podcast.
[00:14:52] And these quick tip episodes will automatically load up for you as soon as they air. All right. Thank you so much for listening, and [00:15:00] I'll talk to you again next week.
Episode 120: How to Choose What Photos to Post (and What to Hold Back) on Social Media
Shownotes: Scroll back to top