About Us — About Now

And, another thing.

The picture is a placeholder.

It’s pretty enough, but that’s not what this post is about. I promised you my views — among a lot of other people’s views — about Instagram. In yesterday’s chaos I forgot to write about that. Sorry. Today’s post is about social media, and Instagram, in particular.

It didn’t help matters when I read about the “selling of ourselves” in a New York Times editorial piece this morning. It helped even less when a friend of mine who talks about the music business said about the same thing in an email that he sends to a few close friends. About a million of us.

Here goes.

Instagram. There is a growing belief that it hurts photography more than it could ever help. It is derivative in nature, with so many photographers producing the same kinds of images that everybody they follow does too. You know the ones. Pictures with water in them that is exposed at such a slow shutter speed that water appears to be almost mist-like. Or, the high mountain top so over produced that nature could have never made that scene. Or street photography that isn’t really street photography.

This is all done for likes and popularity. What a trade-off. We need to feel good about ourselves rather than actually try to produce something that matters. For some of us it once done in hopes of attracting new business. Not so much anymore. Either buyers or assigners know who you are or they don’t. It’s too hard to wade through the noise.

The same thing happens in every social media. A good idea becomes derivative as many people think it is a good idea, and start to copy it. I see that with my work all the time. At first it’s flattering. Then, it’s annoying.

It really comes down to this.

There are just too many of us trying to break through. There is just too much stuff to wade through in order to find the good stuff. There are no real gatekeepers and anybody who tries gets shouted down. At the same time, many people see this as a new way of doing business.

It isn’t. The same basic business rules apply. Ever hear of the 20-80 rule? Originally it meant that 20% of the staff does 80% of the work. That’s broadened out a bit. It can almost apply to anything now.


Twenty percent of the people are making pictures that might matter. Eighty percent of them make pictures that are crap. The same thing applies to music. To writing. To painting. And, on and on.

That’s not to say that something in that marginal 80% won’t appeal to someone, but that’s a personal preference. The body of work from which that one piece of art came won’t hold up under close view.  It’s also not to say that beginners shouldn’t post for the feedback… as long as they accept feedback for what it is.

Bottom line. It’s almost all noise and no signal.

Better thinkers and writers than me have said it. They go even further. They think the whole thing needs to collapse under its own weight so we can start again.  Some think slight adjustments will recalibrate the whole thing, but I don’t know.

From my own very personal perspective, I’m not immune either. About 80% of the work you see here, on Storyteller, don’t pass my own standards but are good enough. Good enough because I publish everyday and sometimes you just have to go with what you’ve got.

That’s no excuse.

On the other hand, pictures posted here don’t put food on the table. Maybe I should adjust my own thinking. Maybe I should post less, but with some really wowie-zowie work that buyers will be interesting in. If only I knew the proper SEO to get them here. I suppose I could hire somebody. But, they only know what once worked. SEO changes everyday.



For the record this isn’t a rant. Although it could be. It is really a state of the arts. Today. It’s not meant to discourage anybody. It is meant to make you think. To help you make original work. To grow. To be different. And, to own that.



Leave a Comment

  1. Thanks Ray. 10 years ago when I got my first DSLR I was excited and had high hopes. You have seen me comment, now it seems like I can’t even give it away. The state and Parish want it for free and to put my name sideways ans so small it can’t be seen. I have given up. Just don’t have it in me to keep trying, get my hopes up, and then be crushed. Good to see you keep posting though. Seeing your persistence keeps some small flame in me kindled. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kris, you have to remember that I’ve made a living at this since 1975. My clients are my clients. Since your comments come from today’s post, let me be clear that I don’t chase likes. It’s futile. I make my own pictures and although I’m influenced by others — mostly painters — I don’t copy them. If you are talking about giving away your DLSR, a ten year old digital camera is junk because technology has passed it by. You’d be better off putting it on a shelf and buying a used SLR and a few lenses on EBay and continuing your quest with film.


  2. Yes, yes, yes…
    I’m relieved to hear this from an experienced photographer. For a long time, I thought I was crazy…
    Hope you and your family had a good Birthday & holiday weekend.

    Thank you for this – it’s provides motivation for me to start the week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Advice much appreciated and duly noted 🙂

        Small rant/vent re: sns and overselling ourselves. Admittedly I cannot understand this need to overshare every detail of personal life. Maybe I’m getting old, but when I was younger it was not always a “bad” thing to keep some things to yourself (even good things). I understand the importance of transparency at certain times, but everything seems too extreme nowadays…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I understand. We are very private. If you looked at my Facebook page you’d only see pictures that are published here and a few comments. I see no reason to post about family unless you know us, in which case we have a phone

        Liked by 1 person

      • “…in which case we have a phone” – yes! This was the expression I was searching for. My husband & I have never had/used Facebook. You can imagine the looks folks give us when we say so. And the questions “how do you keep in contact with friends/family?” By putting in effort: phone, email and even hand-written (!) cards. We work to maintain relationships with those who matter 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • One of our publicists told us that Facebook is like telephone book. If you make money from what you do, you need to be there even if you don’t like or use it.

        My musical miss so dislikes social media that if she needs to talk about what she’s doing, I generally write the post.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This is thought-provoking. As an extreme amateur who is in love with the medium, I’m not sure what my path forward is, except, as you say, to photograph what I like. I was telling the Grill-Meister today as we were out and about in snowy South Park County, CO today that I need to stop only looking for “pretty”and develop an eye for “gritty”. You have that, in spades. I’ll never make my living with a camera or via my blog, but I appreciate the advice and reflection I find here, and it influences my amateur art. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The difference between amateur and professional is getting paid. Many, many amateurs are better photographers than those of us who get paid. What they bring to the art is passion and the freedom to experiment. As far as subject matter goes, they say that all art is autobiographical. And, that photographers are really expressing our insides. If you see pretty, maybe that’s how you see life. I can be very open emotionally when you look at my work. You are right about making a living photographically. But, that’s a timing issue. Just as it is in almost every art. It is possible to make a living blogging, but I’m pretty sure you have to talk about gear rather than the food itself. At least, that’s how it works in photography. You’re welcome. The bill is coming soon. 😳

      Liked by 1 person

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