2014 Texas Photo RoundUp Social Media Panel. Photo courtesy of David Weaver.

2014 Texas Photo RoundUp Social Media Panel. Photo courtesy of David Weaver.

I attended the Texas Photo Roundup Panel: Social Media, Brands and Photographers last week in Austin. Moderated by A Photo Editor’s Rob Haggart, the panel included talent from across the country. Whitney Johnson, Director of Photography at The New Yorker, presented work from The New Yorker’s two Instagram accounts. The @newyorkermag account is PR focused and supports the magazine. The @newyorkerphoto account pays a day rate for photographers to take over the account for a week at a time. The latter works as a supplemental publishing platform and highlights the photographers with whom the magazine assigns print work. Johnson said allowing photographers this kind of freedom is a risk for The New Yorker; but it allows them to publish in real-time, even faster than on their own website. She showed some compelling photography by Radcliffe Roye who was shooting for her during Superstorm Sandy. Conflict photographer Benjamin Lowy captured our attention with some serious (and occasionally hilarious) images and insight. Lowy discussed Instagram as a publishing platform and also as a photographer’s legacy.

Without our pictures, the story doesn’t exist. They need us.

Lowy also discussed the state of being a photographer in the digital age.  “Sometimes we get treated as the help… but without our pictures, the story doesn’t exist. They need us.” The conversation often changed to photographer’s rights and compensation, which is always on our minds. Lowy even challenged The New Yorker’s rates at one point during the discussion; to which Johnson replied: “We’re really lagging behind (on updating photographer’s day rates).” The discussion then moved into the audience, where an editor for Bloomberg maintained that it’s up to photo directors to push for higher rates for photographers. “The day rate hasn’t changed since 1984,” Lowy replied.

A modern vibrant brand is passionately visual, speaks fluently agnostic of platform, and is a true patron of the arts.

Maury Postal is an eloquent and inspired Associate Creative Director from Ogilvy, who presented some beautiful work and philosophy from a campaign he produced with The Lincoln Motor Company. Postal has a unique, forward approach towards visual branding. He not only challenges his clients to see differently but also his photographers. Postal asserted that a modern vibrant brand is passionately visual, speaks fluently agnostic of platform, and is a true patron of the arts. Mobile photography superstar Steph Goralnick let us in on her secrets of luck, collaboration, and building a six digit social media following. Postal reminded us that quality is just as important as quantity. The panel also discussed what to post: where and how often; from Instagram to Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook (with its punishing algorithms). Lowy commented that awareness of your following can sometimes get the best of you. Knowing what is going to get you likes versus what will get you unfollowed can start to inform what you choose to post. Matt Heindl from Razorfish presented a unique interactive campaign for Mercedes in which the photographer with the most likes got to keep the car he was loaned for the project. You can view the campaign here, they might even let you borrow the car.

Social media is the new print.

Overall takeaway: Social media is the new print, and creatives are challenging their clients to do new things. Advertising is being reinterpreted as well as how we publish editorial photography. This evolution into social media commands the ongoing conversation about fair compensation for photographers. That conversation has to include informing clients of the value in paying fair rates, especially when photographers can bring in potential clients from their own following. It was definitely an impressive panel of experts this year and it would be an honor to work with any of them.

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