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The Top 5 Social Websites for Photographers

By Curtis Walker

Being a photographer means being a visual communicator, and the Internet is finally catching up to us. We’re now able to casually post a shot during free time, connect with friends, and keep a fresh set of photos where the greatest number of people are likely to find them, all the while providing a source of entertainment and inspiration that doesn’t infringe on the viewers’ usual activities or feel like a sales message. It's also wise to overlay your logo and copyright to any images that can be reshared so that you continue to get credit for it as it spreads to more pairs of eyes.

The best improvements in efficiency come from sites and services that integrate with the services we already find indispensable, Twitter and Facebook chief amongst them.

1. Instagram — This iOS-only "visual Twitter" streamlines the act of photography, editing and sharing into a single app. Using an iPhone as a camera is kind of cheating, but it has honed my craft as a photographer, while letting me follow some of my favorite photographers and their snapshots. Some people prefer to keep their aesthetic pure by posting only photos taken with other cameras. If posting photos to Twitter is already part of your regimen, filtering the flow through Instagram will enhance the experience and promote sharing to a plethora of other sites. Note: An Android version was announced at the end of 2010, but has yet to materialize.

How I use Instagram: On a daily basis. I dedicate myself to posting the most interesting thing in front of me at any given moment. Sometimes it’s old work, sometimes a picture of my food (what better way to share lunch suggestions?!). I can then turn on the geotagging feature, allowing me to check into Foursquare. I can also set the post to forward to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr and so forth. I feed different content to different networks. Portfolio work goes on Tumblr, which has its own feed to Twitter. If I recycle an old image from my vast archive on Flickr, I might want to turn off posting to Flickr. On the other hand, I may want to shuffle something old to the top of the deck and see who responds.

Bonus Add-on Service: Statigr.am. This service builds detailed reports about Instagram activity and allows full interface with Instagram content. It even makes suggestions about the best time to post images, based on previous interactions. The iPhone app remains the sole way to post content, however.

2. Pinterest — This visual smorgasbord is the mature descendant of the lowly bookmark, and the visual equivalent of Facebook's Like button. Using it as a means of organizing and cataloging content from across the Web, users "pin" sites of their choice, and select the image of interest. These pins are organized by user-defined categories, such as "cool wedding photos" or "props." Photographers can pin photos from their own site as well, adding their work to the conversation and exposing their portfolio to new eyes.

Currently, Pinterest is invitation only, but getting an invitation is usually as easy as asking for one from a contact already on the site.

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3. 500px — The idea behind this site is to get photographers to focus on a finite number of photos by limiting the gallery to 500 images. Free accounts are limited to uploading a mere 20 images per week. This discourages spam and encourages thoughtful curation of portfolios. Images can be offered for sale as large canvas prints (24x36 and 30x30 inches) and shared directly to Twitter and Facebook for added promotion.

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4. Tumblr — Tumblr has emerged as the happy medium between the decidedly short-form Twitter and  long-form blogging platforms. For a photographer without a website in place, Tumblr is a great place to get started. Well established and well accessorized, it’s possible to make a Tumblr site with a custom look and strong integration with Facebook and Twitter.

How I use it: I use Tumblr as my photography blog, feeding it single images, occasionally accompanied by a lengthy caption. I've configured the site to post to Twitter automatically when I make a new post. Reblogging is a popular activity on the site, so I try to post images with a logo or watermark in case someone wants to find out more about them.

5. Flickr — This venerable champion of social photography still offers an unparalleled feature set. The free option allows streams of 200 images to be shared with privacy options ranging from completely public to completely private. Even if you don’t use the other features and functions of the site, simply adding images to Flickr makes them accessible from a broad variety of devices.

How I use it: I've been with the site since 2004. It’s taught me the importance of good tagging procedures—one never knows what he might want to search for in the future. I use these tags to program slideshows on an AppleTV feeding into a flat panel television. I've also got a WordPress plugin that allows me to pull images from Flickr directly into my post.