Austin photographers face social media pressures

Aisling Ayers

Competing in a city full of creatives, millennial photographers have to find ways to set themselves apart or get lost in an endless Instagram feed.

Ultimately, photographers said balancing the pressure to compare everything from Lightroom presets to digital strategy processes can be exhausting.

Lauren Parr, a wedding and lifestyle photographer, said her main marketing tool is her Instagram page. She said she posts photographs with warm tones and pops of color to highlight her emotion-driven style.

When she began her professional account, Parr said she committed to posting multiple times a day, using hashtags and trying to boost follower engagement. Three years and 6,000 followers later, Parr said her initial tactics drained her.

“If I haven’t posted in a week, it’s not going to hurt me,” Parr said. “I’ve gotten to a more comfortable place because it feels good not to have to worry about that all the time.”

When Danny Solano, a lifestyle, portrait and family photographer, began with 700 Instagram followers, he said he was obsessed with creating the perfect account. Now with over 13,000 followers, he said he learned how to show his personality through his page and no longer places his audience on an imaginary pedestal.   

While Instagram provides the perfect market, Solano said he feels pressure to remain relevant and constantly compares his work to that of others.

Constantly seeing others’ work can sometimes make photographers forget about the opportunities they have, Parr said.

“You (have to sit back) and stop comparing their highlight reel to your full story,” Parr said.

Courtney Cope, a portrait and wedding photographer, said she isn’t concerned with the pressure of securing clients among a competitive industry.

“The people who hire me are hiring me for me,” Cope said. “I don’t necessarily want to do work with those people if they’re not the people who want what I’m offering.”

Cope’s website reads, “If you’re looking for a photographer to completely recreate someone else’s ‘look’ or style … I might not be the girl for you.”

But Cope said she struggles with equating her personal worth to the success of her business.

“The most challenging part is getting my worth as a person from how many jobs I have or how many bookings I’m getting,” Cope said.

Because Instagram plays a key role in the photography business, Cope said anyone has access to everyone’s work. Seeing a photo that mimicked one of her own used to upset her, but she now views it as flattery.

“When you hold on to that resentment, anger and bitterness, then you’re not going to continue to make great art, and you’re not going to continue to take good pictures,” Cope said. “The sooner you let it go, the sooner you can level up.”

Originally inspired by colors captured by wedding photographers in the Pacific Northwest, Solano said his photos have a moodier color tone that attract clients. Unlike some photographers, despite feeling the pressure to compete, he is eager to share his curated look, including custom Adobe Lightroom presets and shooting locations, Solano said.

“If somebody else wants to come in and they have ideas, and it’s better than my look, then it’s better than my look,” Solano said. “Anybody can do this. All the knowledge is on YouTube. Tutorials are waiting for you.”