The Internet changed the way we share images, shop and communicate. Digital photography changed the way we create and capture. Social Media changed the way we connect and with whom. Do I miss my life from ten years ago? - NOT A CHANCE!
To start, I love staying connected to an industry I truly appreciate. Think about the people you "talk" to every day. It used to be a year between friends, often only connecting at an annual trade show or convention. Now I'm connected to those once-a-year friends every day. And, what a kick it is when you meet somebody in person who you've only met through social media!
The world is getting to be a tiny place. I talked to my friend Francesco on Skype last Friday morning at Venice Album in Italy. In fact, when he said "Ciao" at the end of the call I just laughed, because unlike Americans who use the expression, for him it's his language. And I'm connected to my old friend Taka from Asukabook in Japan and his son now and then, again on Skype.
Scott Bourne and his team built the infrastructure for this site and it was all done back and forth on the computer, which is something we all use every day without a thought to what we'd do if tomorrow it disappeared. I've never met Chris Fawkes from Australia, but we're working together to build Facebook Wedding Photographers. As we approach 5000 wedding photographers world wide, I'm blown away by how much I enjoy working with him to build this resource. He's on the other side of the world and we've never actually met.
Then there's the simple act of picking up the phone. I spent an hour last week with Leslie Ball, a photographer who I've never met in person, but in a Facebook forum saw she could use a little help and just made a phone call. New friends, new challenges and new support and it's all thanks to Twitter and Facebook. And, when my mother passed away earlier this month, I had dozens of amazing condolence comments, many from people I've never met.
Trends that used to take months to create, are out there in seconds in front of hundreds of thousands of people. And if a manufacturer produces an inferior product, the word is out on a dozen forums in a flash. Best of all, when you need help with a challenge, especially in photography, just post it on a good forum and watch the number of people, many of whom you've never met, come to your aid!
In fact, these communities, especially Skip's Summer School on Facebook, is what I love most about the Internet. It's not even my page, but was started by Brent Watkins, a photographer from Ohio who came to SSS a couple of years ago. The Internet is bringing people with common interests together to help each other, share ideas and build a stronger photographic industry.
The world shrinks a little with every step you take further into social media, but best of all is the power you have as a photographer to market yourself. If you do it right and build your website and blog with a great attitude and the dedication to stay involved, you've got the power to communicate that just a few years ago only a national magazine might have had!
So, every now and then I'll complain that my day starts out with a couple of hours of tweeting and posting and I'm answering emails before the sun comes up. But, would I go back to a nine to five job and not knowing what was going on until I literally opened my mail? Would I trade in my computer for the silver letter opener my Dad had on his desk? Would I trade in the excitement of "chimping" now and then for the pride of getting 38 exposures out of a 36 exposure roll?
The answer to all of the questions and the dozens we could all add to the list - NEVER! In the history of photography, there's never been a more exciting time and never more tools at our disposal to capture, create and share images.
But, if you're not actively involved in staying on top of technology, as well as social media, you need to take a serious look at how I predict the growth of your business is going to simply be stunted or even die completely in the near future.
I found the following quotes that are so appropriate:
"Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road." Stewart Brand
"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential." Steve Ballmer
Photo Credit: © Kadal - Fotolia.com