I’m always on the lookout for photographers who use social media to build an audience and then leverage that audience to success by selling them something or attracting commercial and editorial clients who are interested in the audience. There are lots of examples where photographers attract other photographers by talking about the business or their process for making pictures, but the real potential lies in attracting consumers outside this industry.

I’ve been lecturing about social media marketing for artists for several years and my go to examples of this are:Β The Sartorialist, The Cobra Snake and The Selby, all three of whom built their careers (in varying degrees) using social media. A few years back I was happy to add to this list an established photographer (Michael Edwards) who took a tried and true formula (nearly naked wormen plus tumblr), but added in his skills as a pro picture maker, and watched the whole thing go viral:Β http://meinmyplace.com. But, the success in the whole endeavor lies not in his ability to attract hundreds of thousands or horny college kids to his site, but to leverage the whole thing into a monthly column at Esquire, which he did for a year and a half and has since moved it to Playboy.

PDN has an interview with Michael (here) where you can get the full story.

If you want to study success in social media with photography these 4 are excellent case studies and pioneers in the industry.

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  1. I wouldn’t call The Sartorialist a marketing activity for Scott Schuman’s photography. He’s mainly a blogger, and The Sartorialist blog is his main business–he’s not using it to market something else. There’s a big difference between that, and social marketing for artists wanting to promote work that exists outside of and independently from the Internet.

    • same.. is “all I have to say about that”

  2. Check back in 10 years when the Selby is the only still making images…he’s the only one not based on a gimmick.

    • While his image making might not be quite as narrowly focused as the others, the concept of his work is no less gimmicky. Find someone who is creative and successful and go and shoot them and their workspace… sounds like a gimmick to me.

  3. Interesting article. Really looking forward to the second part where you discuss the “excellent photography”.


  4. If you take away the social media aspect of these four photographers you will still see a very important trait that they all share. All are extraordinarily prolific.

    They’re obviously not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. They’re out there making their own luck, honing their skills and building an audience.

    The constant output of new work and skillful social media makes for quite a synergy.

    • this is a good point.

  5. The selby is for sure my favorite of the above. I’d also add in Paul Octavious, he’s doing some really fantastic work and has 345K instagram followers.

  6. I can see now that a marketing budget in the future will a portion set aside to purchase Facebook “likes” and Instagram followers.

  7. No shit. Naked women = instant success with lots of pats on the back and hi-fives from other penises. I’m amazed. If only things had been different…

    • “hi-fives from other…..” thanks for THAT visual! Well played.

  8. I think the concept is interesting, but the site resembles many other soft core sites – right down to the “pay to see more” and creepy-ish captions. Main difference I see is the photog puts his name on it.

  9. I disagree with the term “Pro picture maker”
    These images are nothing special and just designed to titillate male fantasy.

    Soft-core porn, nothing special.

    I say this a a guy who likes women…

  10. I’m really sick of “Because it was successful on social media, means it was great art” being thrown around…No, that is not true. If your measuring great “professional art work” on the context of viral states, then you must think Rebecca Black and her song “Friday” was the next best thing since Alicia Keys (Which is ironic because Alicia Keys isn’t the best song writer either).

    I won’t even go into discussion topics about objectification and exploitation, because that’s already evident.

    Frankly, I’m tired of this work being promoted as “The best the business has to offer” and “Man these people are so great”…No, they are GWC’s doing the same thing EVERYONE else is doing (and I mean EVERYONE), they just go a bigger deal then the rest.

    Made their own luck? Yes. Worked hard on promoting? Maybe (Which is pretty damn easy, because even my grandmother likes nice boobs), Good content? No. Good Art Work? Where? I don’t see it. Interesting concept? Missy Suicide did it first, and more artistically tasteful as well I might add, when she first started.

    This “Hipster” bullshit trend of imagery needs to die and die fast. It’s boring, lacking of much technical skill, any vision at all, and is down right worth nothing. Anyone who pays for it even more stupid.

    I follow your blog to see good work, not garbage, which is what this is. G.A.R.B.A.G.E. No talent, cliche’ riding crap, and to boot, promoting it?

    Get out man, worst post I have seen from you yet.

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