by Sue Dawson
SO MANY people have been coming into the gallery and mentioning how glad they are to see Alison on Instagram, that I thought I’d ask her a few questions about joining into the social media craze. Just to give you a little background, Alison has a Twitter account, tweets very occasionally, and never follows anyone else. To be honest, she doesn’t get the allure of Twitter – perhaps because she’s not a movie star, politician, musician, or under 35. She had a personal Facebook page, but again, didn’t really use it. People kept friending her, she kept saying yes, and when she got to thousands of “friends,” she realized it felt too weird to post personal things to people she didn’t even really know. Not her thing to snap a photo of the pretty swirl in her morning latte, or pass along the latest political rant (actually, that’s more me). We switched her over to a business page (which we both monitor) and that works much better.
Bottom line, Alison isn’t much of a social media type. But Instagram kept coming up. Everyone was encouraging her to jump in – friends, family, colleagues, students, gallery customers. She did sign up for an account, but never posted anything on it. People even started following her, with zero posts. Nada. So in April, I updated my “Marketing and Social Media” training for our Mentorship students, and found examples of prominent photographers’ pages on various social media outlets. I wanted the group to look at what’s out there, and I talked about each platform. And amongst the professional photographers’ pages, in all its glory, I surprised them all with Alison’s proud Instagram page…
We all laughed. Then this past June, Alison jumped into action. Seems like a great place to start our interview…
SUE: What did you think when I showed that empty page?
ALISON: Haha (sighs and leans back a bit). I think I said “Here’s a great example of ‘Do as we say, not as we do.’ ”
Did it light a fire under you at all?
It really wasn’t until we were promoting our first show of my new SHORELINE series, that I thought, ‘what could be so hard about Instagram… If they can all do it, I can do it.”
Did you just start posting, or did you have a plan?
My plan was to do regular posts on that one subject, the SHORELINE series. I started at the end of June, a week before the show opened, putting out one new image each day. I actually amazed myself that I could keep up the pace and be consistent about it. It was easy, and fun.
And what’s been the response so far?
I’m now over 500 followers, growing each day, and I love seeing “likes” on my posts. And what’s so fun in terms of being a teacher, is that I’m keeping up with what my students are doing. The people I’m following are primarily either photographers whose work I admire, other photography professionals, and our students. I’m really using it professionally, not personally. I don’t even follow my own kids (sorry, guys).
Do you think this will get you to shoot more?
I think it’s going to be motivating for me. With SHORELINE, I tried to do all new images. But I’m not taking a worthy new image every day – certainly not in the busy season. So I’m now dipping into my archives, and most of those are a new look at my lesser-known images. In the long run I think it will motivate me to get out with my camera, because eventually the archives will run dry. Over the course of the next month, I’m looking to dig back into my b&w Vineyard Gazette archives, to promote a show at Featherstone this September. One of our Advanced Mentorship students has just started on Instagram, and is promoting her future show by posting an image every day. She’s already sold two prints, just from promoting the show ahead of time.
Why is Instagram resonating more than the other social media?
It’s purely image-driven, and is super easy to use. I don’t need to be sitting at my computer – I can do it all from my iPhone. It’s clean, simple, and even I can understand it. No operator errors. I don’t have to be asking you every day to dig me out of a social media mess 😉
I’ve noticed that you’re regularly cropping horizontal images to square. Why is that?
I think the horizontal display makes the image too small, and the square is more interesting, classier, more concise. I find that 90% of my images survive the square crop. With verticals, I’m leaving them as a vertical, to keep the larger display.
Interestingly, you’ve posted one personal image.
Not really. I’ve been posting in anticipation of events, and one of them was the Ag Fair. So I was able to sneak in a picture of Sarah (our daughter) and her blue-ribbon-winning pie, from well over ten years ago. I was being a proud mom when I took that photo, but it nudges over the line to a professional shot in this case.
Are you gonna post through the winter?
I hope so. That’s my plan. I hope we have an interesting winter, so I’ve got something to photograph.
Any parting wisdom about jumping into Instagram?
Just do it.
SUE again: And thank you to everyone who pushed her to do just that! Here’s the link if you want to follow Alison’s Instagram.