How Facebook could be amazing for photographers

2014-07-14

I recently ended up on a two week vacation, took some photos, and was excited to share them. I went straight to Facebook since all my friends are there – turns out, Facebook isn’t so great for photographers!

We all know it’s fine for people just posting snapshots, but as someone who spends a bunch of time practicing photography, Facebook makes it hard to build a body of work. Flickr solved this problem a decade ago, yet people like my friends aren’t checking Flickr these days. If you’re not actively into photography itself, you probably aren’t either.

I tried a compromise—organizing all my photos on Flickr and sharing them to Facebook—but that’s no good either. The best option involves posting links to Flickr one-by-one on Facebook, which divides conversation and loses all the viewing and sharing UI—and engagement—Facebook has honed in on. Similar services don’t seem to address these problems yet either.

It seems having the best audience doesn’t mean having the best tools. But I think Facebook could get there:

  • Let users pick the highlights. Facebook picks the 5 photos they highlight in your timeline for you, and those may not be the best of the album. Flickr used to send a daily digest email showing off the first 5 photos you uploaded that day; photographers would usually upload their best 5 first to take advantage of that. First impressions matter.

  • Offer influence over thumbnail cropping. Photographers seldom put the most important part of the photo in the center, yet Facebook auto crops to the center. It’s probably not feasible to give photographers complete control as Facebook has a multitude of devices to support and regularly experiments with their interfaces, but influence over preferred cropping would go a long way.

  • Sort albums in bulk. The best view for an album is often to have the most recent photos at the top, so folks visiting your album can find your latest work. Photos added to a Facebook album are placed at the bottom. To fix that, you have to drag each photo one-by-one from the bottom of the album to the top. The longer the album gets, the harder it is to sort.

  • Make public albums truly public. Unless I’m simply inept at navigating Facebook privacy controls, my album is set to public, yet this only means public among Facebook users. From a photographer’s perspective, getting someone to click through to your work is a huge win, so it’s crazy to turn them away. For whatever reason someone isn’t logged into Facebook, it’s critical they can still see a photographer’s album.

  • Don’t bury comments under infinite scrolling. Even in an album with just 100 photos, finding the comments is a pain. As you scroll you’ll see a glimpse of the comments before infinite scrolling kicks in, adds more photos, and pushes the comments out of view. Making it easy for viewers to add and read top-level comments is important when portraying a body of work.

  • Help photographers embed their album or photo stream elsewhere. Many photographers have blogs or appear on other sites. The best options available right now are to embed photos one-by-one or to use clunky, limited third-party services. Having a more content-rich embed option would make life significantly simpler on photographers and feed engagement back into Facebook. Surprisingly, none of Facebook, Flickr, 500px, or other photo services seem to have solved this.

Even just making a few of these changes would give photographers reason to take Facebook as a medium seriously. And if Facebook can get this right, things like Graph Search—which offers an unprecedented way to find content through your network—would be killer for professional photography discovery. Add advertising and commerce to the mix, and you have a real platform for photography businesses.

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michael schade

I built out engineering and operations teams at Stripe as employee #20 from 2012 to 2019; now I'm working on something new. I like helping people, photography, reading, gym, traveling, and learning new things. Say hi! 🏳️‍🌈