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Insights & Thoughts

Would Your Photography Business Survive if Facebook Died?

By Matthew Saville on January 24th 2014

Allow me to set the stage:  I woke up this morning and began to do my usual thing as a professional photographer. Over breakfast, I check all kinds of social media.  On my phone, on my tablet, and on my computer.  It’s everywhere!  Notifications, likes, messages, …and (hopefully) client inquiries and rave reviews, which are the lifeblood of my business.

To be honest, in real life, I’m actually not very “social.”  I’d rather be camping in the wilderness with just a few friends, miles away from any Internet.   However, since I’m a photographer who relies on social media to make a living, I work diligently to master its use.  In fact, almost all of my wedding and portrait clients who find me online do so because of Facebook.

slr-lounge-facebook-decline-photographers-marketing-1Source: SkyNewsHD

I actually know a handful of fellow pros who built their entire business through Facebook alone, and have achieved incredible success by doing very little other than simply “tagging” their brides and being active on FB in general.

So, when I saw the news that Facebook could lose up to 80% of its users by 2017, I was definitely surprised.  However, lo and behold, according to the report from SkyNews (click here) there is indeed an indication that Facebook’s overall interest has peaked.  Yikes!

slr-lounge-facebook-decline-photographers-marketing-2(Click to check out the rest of the article, it even has an algorithm to prove their point!)

Photographers Who Rely On Facebook For Business

The question is, should photographers start to panic if they rely on Facebook for large portions of their business?  Well, that depends on how you’re using Facebook, and how well you understand social media in general.  Personally, here’s how I see it:  There’s always something new.  If Facebook declines dramatically, it will be because something else has taken its place and is even bigger and better.  In which case, if I am able to adapt in time, my business will be even better off!

So, as long as I am vigilant and try out new social media platforms as they come and go, I feel like I’ll be alright.

Will Social Media Become Its Own Economic Bubble, And Pop?

The real fear I have is, what will our overall economy do with social media in general, over the next 5-10 years?  It seems that a new “bubble” comes along every 10-20 years, and when it pops, it hurtles the entire economy into a recession.

I feel this is relevant to profession photographers, because a recession is an especially difficult time for a self-employed pro, or any artist for that matter.  The attack on our income is always twofold, at the very least.  First, there are fewer people with disposable income to spend on photography.  Secondly, there are a lot more unemployed people who own a camera and decide to “go into business.”

[ Rewind: How Social Media Affects Photographers’ Copyright Protection ]

Then again, some things on the Internet never seem to die.  Ebay isn’t going anywhere, and it is quite honestly one of my favorite places to (cautiously) shop for camera gear.  Or if you don’t mind risking getting mugged or even killed, Craigslist seems to be standing the test of time and is a great place to look for shady, “probably stolen” camera gear.  (We DO NOT recommend shopping for camera gear on Craigslist!! And Ebay with caution!)

In either case, it seems that the next big Internet bubble is social media.  MySpace rose and fell, as did a few other sites that I used to rely on for the survival of my photo business.  (Remember Xanga?)

So, hopefully the economic forecasters and investors of the world will be smart enough not to panic and cause another recession if (or when) Facebook starts to lose steam over the next 5 years.  Unless that happens, we photographers will be just fine.  It just goes to show, you might be just a few months away from rocket-launching your photography career if you can catch onto the next big social media superpower!  I don’t know about you, but I’m Twitter-ing less (okay, not at all) and Instagram-ing more, for example.

Which reminds me, here’s a list of SLR Lounge’s other social media sites, in case of Facebook’s untimely demise. Please go join us on these platforms as well:

What do you think the next big social media platform will be for photographers?  We would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below!

Take care and happy clicking,

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ian Moss

    While I don’t rely on photography for the major part of my income, the reality for me is that FB has absolutely no impact on my paid work whatsover. Facebook is for fun.

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  2. JT

    g+ see you there!

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  3. Mary Hurlbut

    I feel an Instragram account is a must have…so many people only use that now for their social media

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  4. Alvaro sanz

    For me Facebook is my great tool to comunicate with my students, it really works. Sometimes I think that 10 years ago i don’t know how it would be possible to have people around my country travelling with me in my photo workshops. ¿Printing posters?
    What is true is that as the time pass and I have more fans in Facebook, I feel that the reactions are not growing proprtionally. Too many noise in Facebook?
    I’m beggining to use G+, not just because I feel is nicer and better, just because as you mention, if Facebook ends as Myspace. wanna be prepared.

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  5. Jay Rodriguez

    These constant changes really get me frustrated sometimes. But hey, if thats how our fans and potential clients want to communicate and showcase our work, for now its working. Its just the matter of keeping up with it.
    Once you see that your favored on one platform just stick to it.
    Thx for sharing the interesting read. Now back to the drawing board.

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  6. Jeremie

    See i have this issue with using social media with photography, so ok too the point. So ok people around these parts seem to like going around judging peoples work, on things that they post that are unrelated to there work at all. like hes not serious or he doesn’t look professional and or other stuff.

    i know this may not be relevant to the actual post but i just needed to vent it out.

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  7. David

    “However some critics have pointed out flaws in the Princeton study.

    It is based solely on Google search data, when more and more users now access Facebook using mobile apps rather than through a browser.

    It is not peer-reviewed either, meaning other academics have not had the opportunity to challenge and critique its findings before publication.”

    Could we not use alarmist headlines to grab attention, when it’s speculation it’s more than a little irresponsible.

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    • Matthew Saville

      David, I wouldn’t have posted such a headline if I didn’t believe it were entirely true and inevitable. The question is, do you really think Facebook will be around forever? I don’t. And I want my fellow photographers to be prepared and keep an eye out for the “next big thing” in social media, so that they don’t lose an un-survivable chunk of their business.

      In other words, if you don’t think that there are photography businesses out there that will crash because they don’t anticipate a dramatic shift in social media trends, you’ll probably be mistaken. Having already seen the rise and fall of numerous other social platforms, personally I’d bet money on it.

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  8. Hanssie

    Facebook just keeps shooting themselves in the foot by becoming more and more greedy. I understand that they need to make money, but to try to squeeze it out of us by force is a recipe for mass exodus. They created a free product and people don’t value something if they get it for free.

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