Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an…

Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an independent photographer

Ahead of our Arete photographer social takeover next month, we have put together our top tips for managing your social media platforms as an independent photographer or videographer.

You won’t be surprised to hear that there isn’t a magic formula for making your social media accounts successful marketing tools overnight. But there are some steps you can take to ensure that they authentically represent you and strategically position you to take advantage of online opportunities.

1. Choose your social channels carefully

Although being on more social channels will undoubtedly expose you to a broader audience, it can also leave you with a lot to do. If you choose to actively post on more than 2–3 channels, this will require both planning and management, which in turn could damage the spontaneity and authenticity of your posts. Find the right balance for the time you have available.

Social media management tools such as Hootsuite, or Buffer are useful — but quite often have limited options compared to posting directly on the platform. A good example is Buffer (a very popular social media management tool) that doesn’t allow you to add on additional tweets to your original post when you hit the character count. It is usually better to post directly on to platforms via their official apps if possible.

Your target audience and your content should lead your choice…

Identifying your target audience is vital. As an independent photographer, this might be publications you would like to be published in, commissioning editors or communication directors; these will be specific to your ambitions. Now you know who your target audience is, the chances are there is someone in your extended network who works in your target audience’s sector or perhaps even in the specific role. If at all possible, try to get a few minutes to pick their brain and discover which social media channels they use most regularly and for what. Failing that, a little online research can go a long way…

For example, generally, Facebook is often used as a personal storyboard for friends and family, LinkedIn is used as a networking and self-promotion tool, and Instagram is built around images, videos, and ‘influencers’.

If you would find a personal consultation on this topic helpful, please just let us know.

This is why it is important to choose your social channels carefully. Try to focus on those where your target audience is most likely to be and are designed for the content you will be posting.

As a photographer or videographer, Instagram will likely be your greatest tool. Although the most popular social platforms change from country to country, as of 2020, Instagram is the number one globally. Instagram has been built specifically for the sharing of images and short videos, so make sure this is where you are focussing most of your attention.

Separate the personal and the professional

If you like to use platforms such as Instagram personally, it is worth having a separate account for your photography identity and to set it up as a ‘business account’. This will give you more options for self-promotion and ensure other people don’t have to ‘request to follow you’ to see your posts.

Having separate accounts will benefit both the personal and professional aspects. By only having a professional account, you could end up stifling your creativity — as you worry about taking or posting photos that don’t match with your professional persona or chosen specialisation.

Conversely, with only a personal account, the photographs you display become less of a specialised edit and more of an eclectic mix of anything and everything you like to photograph. Which brings us nicely on to the next point…

2. Know your niche

Your niche or specialisation should be clear from the moment somebody visits your social media page. Think assiduously about what cover or profile photo you choose, set a scene from the start and tie this in with a short piece of informative text.

The bio section on Instagram is an excellent example of this. Your characters are limited, so it is important to choose your words carefully. Don’t be afraid to use emojis in place of certain words, and make sure you take advantage of the option to add a link to your website, Vimeo or other supporting material.

If you have decided to be a professional photographer, then you most likely know your niche by now. This could be something such as, Photojournalism, Wildlife, Documentary, Event, Sports, or Adventure. Keep in mind that anything you post (including captions) will add to the overall image of who you are as a professional photographer and person. Stay on brand, demonstrate your devotion to your niche, and people will soon begin to associate you with your speciality. Always ensure your spelling and grammar are good — people who may want to employ you will notice this.

If you look up any famous photographer you will notice immediately what their niche is:

David Hurn — Documentary Photographer

Georgina Goodwin — Documentary Photographer

3. Hashtags are your friend

Pretty much every social media platform has incorporated the use of hashtags. By clicking on a hyperlinked hashtag on a platform such as Twitter, or LinkedIn, you are immediately taken to a page. On this page, all the posts that have used that hashtag are displayed chronologically.

Hashtags can be great for joining a conversation about something that is very current, such as #Covid19 or #BLM (Black Lives Matter). Hashtags are also very useful for aligning your content to a global interest or theme, such as #photojournalism or #ThrowbackThursday.

Don’t underestimate hashtags as a tool for getting your content in front of your target audience. Think broadly about subjects your target audience may be interested in and then do a little research into popular hashtags within these subjects. For example, we work with many charities and NGOs, so we often use #CharityTuesday to position our photographs and other content in front of people who are interested in charity.

It can also be useful to spend some time exploring hashtag pages yourself. This can be a great way to stumble across opportunities for you to join a topical conversation, engage with people in your target audience, and collaborate with people in your field.

4. Collaboration is queen (or king)

The clue is in the name, social media. Don’t be afraid to contact people out of the blue to network or discuss opportunities to collaborate.

It is worth managing your expectations — keep in mind that hugely popular social media personalities with tens of thousands of followers are likely to find it challenging to respond to every single private message or comment.

A good place to start is with other photographers or photojournalists that have a similar follower count to your own. By offering to share some of their content on your page, and vice versa, each of you gains the opportunity to get your imagery in front of a new audience. Although time-consuming, this is a great way to grow your following and increase your brand awareness.

When contacting people, if they offer an email address on their profile, this should always be your first port of call. If not, then a private message should do the job. Aim to keep your message concise and authentic. If you come across too formal, it may be misconstrued as spam; alternatively, if you come across too informal, this could also reflect poorly. Just be yourself and don’t overthink it.

5. Maintain your presence and choose your content carefully

Once you have gone to all the hard work of identifying your target audience, gearing your pages to authentically represent you and your niche, the next step, and sometimes the most difficult, is to maintain your presence.

There is a lot of noise in the social media space, although that doesn’t mean you have to shout the loudest to be heard.

As a photographer, your content is your voice. Don’t just put any old up there, perform a mini-edit, and choose only the best shots. If you post too much, you will just be contributing to the noise.

A carefully thought out caption and selection of hashtags, alongside a captivating image, will go a long way on a platform such as Instagram. And remember, keep your content relevant to your niche.

Consistency is key

Aim to post a minimum number of times per week. We recommend somewhere between 2–4 times per week.

This will work to retain the followers you already have as it will remind them why they chose to follow you in the first place. Furthermore, each post will act as an opportunity to attract new followers. And finally, if there is a hashtag you often use, such as #wildlifephotographer, this will also ensure you maintain your presence and relevance on the #wildlifephotographer page for frequent visitors.

6. Your social is your shop window

Never shy away from self-promotion. There are certainly more tasteful ways to do it but avoiding it altogether because you feel awkward will only serve to harm your opportunities. Think of your social media as your shop window — a shop all about you, the professional photographer.

You’ve gone through all the previous steps to build your social media pages , curating the content, and joining online conversations via hashtagging and collaboration. Each of these steps serves to make your shop window look as attractive and interesting as possible. But even this doesn’t guarantee your target audience will engage with you.

Seek out self-promotion opportunities via the web, network both online and off, and most importantly, direct all potentially interested parties to your social media account. If there is genuine interest or they have an opportunity to offer, then your social provides them with all the tools they need to get in touch with you.

And that’s all there is to it! Now get out there and get your shopfront in order.

Contact us for a consultation on how to manage your social media channels as an independent photographer

Read more from the Arete blog

Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

From the Photographer — ‘Get me back to Caracas’: desperate Venezuelans leave lockdown in Bogotá

From the Photographer — ‘Get me back to Caracas’: desperate Venezuelans leave lockdown in Bogotá

Arete photographer, Keoma Zec, writes about his experiences documenting the homeward journeys of Venezuelans from Bogotá. For many Venezuelans living in Colombia, fleeing the COVID-19 lockdown to walk over 500km through the extreme conditions of the Andes, looks like their best hope for survival.

A Venezuelan family takes a break outside of Bogota, Colombia on their journey home to Cucuta, Venezuela on the 3rd of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

Back in early April when the lockdown had just started, Colombia like every other country on the planet was anxiously waiting to see what the virus would do. After two weeks of waiting, I ventured out with my friend — fellow journalist Bram Ebus to the highway leaving Bogotá.

We had heard that hundreds of Venezuelans had decided to leave the city, and even the country, on foot because of the measures imposed because of Coronavirus, to return to their home country. Why? Because of the lockdown.

Since 2016 Colombia has seen a steady influx of Venezuelan migrants looking for better lives in Colombia. It is estimated that 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants came to Colombia, the majority of whom are working in informal industries. This usually means they have very few savings and so a few days of no work means no food on the table.

Venezuelans walk past a military post in Bogota, Colombia as they begin their journey back to Venezuela on the 3rd of May 2020. © Keoma Zec
A Venezuelan child pokes their head out of the cart normally used for collecting recyclable materials. His family are embarking on a journey back to Venezuela, pictured outside Bogota, Colombia, on the 7th of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

As we ventured out to the highway leaving the capital city of Colombia, we instantly noticed lots of people walking. We ran into many groups of Venezuelans, mainly families with kids and they all had the same response.

They weren’t able to afford rent anymore so they had no choice but to go back. Inter-city transport had been put on hold — which is still the case four months later — so many people had just started to walk back.

To give you an idea of this challenge, Bogotá is at 2559 metres in altitude (which is higher than any ski resort in the European Alps) and is surrounded by the Andes mountain range. The walk to the Venezuelan border town Cucutá can take between 3 and 5 weeks and over 500 mountainous kilometres, and that is only to the border. Over the weeks working on this project, I met people who had walked from Peru, through Bogotá, towards Caracas. A journey that is 2500 kilometres long and would take months. This journey goes from freezing cold at high altitudes to blistering heat nearing the Venezuelan border.

A young Venezuelan man, having left everything behind, rests from his 500km barefoot journey back home to Venezuela, outside Bogota, Colombia on the 7th of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

After talking to many groups of people, listening to their stories and taking their photos, I decided I had to do something. Not only to get the story out, which ended up being published in The New Humanitarian and with Crisis Group, but I decided to tap into my own network of friends in Europe and gather some donations to help these people out. This is obviously far from a long term solution to a large and complicated problem, but at least I could help a few people.

I managed to raise around £1800 and started looking for other people to help me. A Dutch friend of mine, who runs a charity, decided to help out, as well as a new friend who owns a vegan restaurant and was willing to cook fresh meals. So far, we have made 250 vegan meals and taken them out to the people, as well as 250 big bags of food for families in need. We ended up driving out of the city looking for people who were walking. We handed them meals and other food that they could take with them on their long walk, as well as some blankets we received as donations.

Three months down the line, the problem hasn’t developed — nor has it been solved. Venezuelans still are walking back. The Colombian government have decided to prolong the quarantine until August 1st and cases are now hitting record highs every day for the last few weeks. This obviously puts many people in increasingly difficult positions as cases rise and the lockdown tightens, forcing people to stay inside and stop working.

An estimated 100,000 Venezuelans have returned home now, via the border town of Cucutá which is now a big problem in itself. Thousands of Venezuelans end up by the border not being allowed to cross home because of Coronavirus. Only 300 people a day are allowed to enter the country and the horror stories circulating among Venezuelans here in Bogotá of what is happening to people who are stuck in limbo — are haunting. Yet many people continue to make the decision to return home. Knowing the future is very uncertain and that they may face persecution upon arrival at the border — yet they are left with no choice. At least in Venezuela, they will have a roof over their heads and family they can count on.

A Venezuelan father and his children take shelter in their makeshift tent in the migrant camp by the highway on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia on the 8th of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

In early June, it was thought that the flow of people walking had reduced so a makeshift refugee camp was set upright on the edge of the city. Initially, about 600 people lived in the camp with no electricity or water. I decided to take a look to see what was happening and spent the rest of the donation money on helpful goods. I managed to buy an infrared thermometer, stoves to cook on and about 400 bottles of disinfecting alcohol. The migrants stayed there as a form of protest — asking for help from the Colombian government to get to the border. Now the camp has been cleaned up and a lucky few have been taken in buses to Cucutá. The rest are still stuck in the bus terminal. The Colombian government promised weeks ago to help put them on buses to the Venezualan border — but this still hasn’t happened.

This is a silent humanitarian crisis — and one that is getting very little attention globally. While people now just want to go home, they have seen the opportunity of a better life that has now slipped through their fingers. They now don’t know what is waiting for them on the other side. Once their suffering in Colombia comes to an end and they make it to the border, their next ordeal awaits them in the broken country that they call home.

A young Venezuelan man walks across the boundary of Bogota city on the 8th of May 2020. This is the beginning of his month-long walk back home to Venezuela. © Keoma Zec

From the Photographer — ‘Get me back to Caracas’: desperate Venezuelans leave lockdown in Bogotá was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

From Our Photographer: Covering Coronavirus in Lagos’ Slum-on-Stilts.

By Damilola Onafuwa

Arete photographer Damilola Onafuwa tells us about his experiences on assignment for our client the World Food Programme in May 2020. He was documenting their rollout of a home school-feeding programme in disadvantaged areas of Lagos in response to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Arete Photographer Damilola Onafuwa on assignment for WFP in Lagos, Nigeria, on 21st May, 2020. © Damilola Onafuwa

Lagos is the economic centre of Nigeria. With a population of about 25 million people, it is densely populated with a largely informal economy. Most people have to earn their living daily.

The first COVID-19 case in Nigeria was in my home city, Lagos. When it was first discovered, I could not help but wonder what a major breakout in Nigeria would be like. My main worry was that if COVID-19 spread here, it would be a disaster nobody was prepared for. It was clear that the people living in low-income areas would be the most affected.

I have lived and worked in Lagos most of my life and the rhythm of the city is like nothing I have experienced anywhere else: the colors, the noise, and the lifestyle. Lagos is a place of activity; everything is loud here, the music, the markets, the often-cramped yellow buses, the churches and mosques. At the end of March 2020, the President announced a lockdown of Lagos and other major cities within the country to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All economic activities were halted and everyone was told to stay at home to curb the spread of the virus.

A crowded Balogun market in Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria on 25 September 2018. Photo: Damilola Onafuwa

Another major issue presented itself as Lagos went into lockdown. With economic activities on pause, the vast majority of people who depended on daily incomes to feed their families were no longer able to make a living. This seriously affected their ability to get by.

Almost two months later, a few days after the government started to ease the lockdown, I was on assignment with the World Food Programme (WFP) who were providing technical support to Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. I was documenting the provision of home food rations to parents of children in Primary 1–3 enrolled in schools that had been closed in the lockdown.

An empty classroom with books in a Primary School in Lagos, Nigeria, on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP
An empty classroom with books in a Primary School in Lagos, Nigeria, on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

I was eager to see what difference this intervention would make for the beneficiaries; I wondered what it was like to stay locked up inside your house for weeks with no source of income because your income depended largely on daily sales.

On the first day of distribution, we visited Makoko, which is the largest slum in Lagos. The scale of the population living here in stilted houses is unknown but understood to be at least 100,000. Makoko is situated along the Lagos Lagoon, between the Lagos Mainland and Lagos Island. You can see the vast stilted community from the 3rd Mainland Bridge. I had enjoyed working in Makoko several times before and was keen to return. I was accompanied by Adedeji from WFP Nigeria. We boarded a wooden boat and were rowed for about 20 minutes to the home of Alice Tinsheme, a grandmother who was receiving the food ration for her grandson David, aged 8. David’s parents live and work in Cotonou, Benin and he lives with his grandmother, attending school in Makoko.

A view of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria, on 21st May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

Alice works as a fish smoker. She buys the fish from fishermen, smokes them and supplies them to stalls at the market. She told us her business had been seriously impacted by the lockdown because the markets have been closed. With nowhere to supply her fish to, her income had vanished. She said all the money she had saved had to be spent on feeding herself and her dependents.

Alice Tinsheme, aged 50, and her grandson David, aged 8, receive their food voucher in her home in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria. 21st May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

Alice’s story highlights the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on people from low-income communities in Lagos.

The next day food distribution started in the schools. Parents had received food vouchers the previous day in their homes and were invited to come to the school and collect their take-home food rations. At the entrance, a tap of running water and soap was provided and the WFP staff ensured that everyone maintained social distancing.

A beneficiary of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme washes her hands in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

The beneficiaries were asked to present their food vouchers for verification. After this, their names were checked from a database and they were invited to collect their food rations. It was a really easy process so everyone could get their food on time and go back home.

Beneficiaries of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme observe social distancing as they get their food vouchers verified on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

On Monday 25th May 2020, I met Elizabeth who was also a beneficiary of the program. Her daughter Geraldine is student of the school and she had come to collect the food on her behalf. She told me that her dream for her daughter would be for her to “get to great heights”. She wanted her to get the education that she had missed out on herself. She expressed concern for how the lockdown had affected Geraldine’s studies but made clear that she was grateful for the food they had received. The food provision meant they would be able to manage for a while, waiting for the economy and schools to reopen.

The distribution continued for the rest of the week. I met and spoke with other parents who had been affected but were trying to stay safe while still providing for their families.

I know it is unrealistic to meet the needs of everyone affected by the impact of the Coronavirus, but I could see how initiatives like this WFP one really help to cushion the effect of such a sudden economic downturn. As the lockdown lifts and Lagos opens gradually, people will start to get back to work and be able to make a living once more.

Elizabeth Anabu, aged 30, speaks with her daughter Geraldine Anabu in their home in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria on Monday 25th May 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

There was no shortage of technical challenges shooting in this location. Firstly, it was at the beginning of the rainy season in Lagos and we had to time the canoe trips by reading the weather so as to avoid torrential downpours. The journeys take a minimum of 20 minutes but it’s easy to get caught up in canoe-traffic-jams for a long time. Another risk to avoid was falling into the water from the canoe, as happened to me on a previous shoot in Makoko — fortunately, I managed to avoid this fate on this occasion.

Gaining access to shoot in this community was a delicate process. I worked with a fixer from within the community who was able to negotiate with the area boys to vouch for our team’s integrity. They were suspicious that we were from the government trying to evict them. Our fixer acted as a gatekeeper and a conduit for establishing trust within the community who, understandably, wanted to know how the images would be used. Once we were found to be non-threatening, the people of Makoko were incredibly warm, friendly and welcoming, even offering us food and water.

The homes of the families we were visiting in Makoko were all tiny and very dark, which created a big challenge for composition and exposure. I handled this by avoiding compositions that showed the windows, but they (and their accompanying flare) were hard to avoid. On some occasions, I was able to make good use of the stark silhouettes that these conditions create. An example of this is with the portrait of Elizabeth and her daughter, shown above, which I exposed for the scene they were looking out onto. This showed them in their immediate surroundings: their world, from their point of view.

It was a real privilege to shoot this assignment for the WFP. It felt so important to bear witness to what this extraordinary moment in global history looks like in a place like Makoko.

See more of Damilola’s photos in this article on the WFP website.

From Our Photographer: Covering Coronavirus in Lagos’ Slum-on-Stilts. was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.