As photographers we all love to create and capture something we hope we can share with the world and bring even a small moment of joy into someone's life. While that may not be your main goal with wildlife photography I assume that is certainly a part of it, big or small. Having a way to know people have enjoyed that photo is great and seeing that return with like/loves and comments is certainly a wonderful thing. There is an entire separate argument to be made that's not why we should be doing this, create art for yourself and all, but lets face it, this is the world we live in and I just as much as the next photographer love getting that feedback.
Take a look at the title of this post, did you have a clue what this was going to be about based on the title? It's not very informative is it? Lately this is how I feel about the thousands of comments I see on my own as well as other's photos on social media every day. Here are just a few of the examples that I see every day.
- Great shot
- Love it
- Wonderful snap
- Great click
- Oh my!
- Splendid capture
Let me start by saying I am as guilty as the next person of this commenting behavior and have done it countless times myself. Lately however I have been feeling more and more that these types of generic and short comments lack the information the commenter may be trying to get across, just like the title of this blog post. I've also become curious as to the possible reasons for taking the extra time to write these sort of comments.
Leaving a comment on another photographer's photo is a great idea. Just a way to let them know you appreciate them taking the time to share the photo with the world and that you think it's a well done photo worth your valuable time. It seems to me that the like/love button is there for those instances when you don't have time or any number of reasons you won't be typing out a full comment A quick and simple way to acknowledge your enjoyment of a photo to the photographer who shared it. All social media has a system in place for this.
If the like/love button is there to give a quick and simple nod to the photographer the comment should be the next level of feedback. What do these generic or emoji comments tell me about the photo they are shared on? Not much at all in my opinion. Some of them are so generic they are hard to decipher. "Nice", nice what? "Great shot" well I certainly thought so or else I wouldn't have shared this photo with you all. "Epic", what does that even mean anyway? "👏👏👏" are you applauding the fact that I was able to figure out this crazy social media and share a photo in the first place? I hope you see where I'm going here. Why do we leave these super short, nondescript comment over and over again when they pretty much serve the same purpose as the like/love button? I don't really know, is it possibly to get more visibility in addition to the like/love button? If that was the motivation does it seem selfish, sort of a "hey look at me" tactic? Is it possible that you like it so much that you wanted to click that like/love button more then once? If that is the case maybe a more thoughtful comment could inform the photographer why you like it so much.
The most obvious negative outcome I see of this comment behavior is the diminishing impact these comments have after you have seen them for the 3,000th time. The first few times I saw "nice click" I thought to myself, hey that's great they like my photo. Now that I've read that comment over and over, the meaning is all but gone. Go ahead and hop on your favorite social media site for sharing photography and give a scroll though the comments on a popular photo. How many of those comments have more then 5 words to them? How many times do you see the same word or phrase used repeatedly? It really becomes diluted and I find myself mindlessly scrolling right past those comments, very often not even noting the name that is associated with it. If your purpose was to get a little more attention it may have the opposite effect.
Now onto those emoji comments. I was always under the impression that emoji were meant to be interpreted, which is sort of the fun of using them. If you are taking the time to leave something in addition to the like/love button is your intended result to let the photographer interpret what you meant? Would it not make more sense to leave a more detailed and thoughtful comment? If your goal was to let the photographer interpret your meaning then by all means keep up with the emoji, some photographers may certainly enjoy the interpretation.
Another negative impact that I know most of us are never purposefully doing is to possibly mislead a beginner photographer. We were all beginners once (shameless plug, Scott and I did a video all about that) I still remember the feeling I got when my friends and family told me I should be a Nat Geo photographer during my first year of wildlife photography. Sorry to break it to you, those friends and family are just being overly kind. They may not be wrong in the long run, you may certainly stick with it and hone your craft and have an incredible eye for wildlife photography that you turn into a career, I sincerely hope you do! But I'm guessing you don't have that skill in your first year starting out, if you do then you better stick with this because you have a natural talent that most of us would die for!
The Thoughtful Comment
My whole reason for writing this post is not to tell you what to do or judge those that leave this type of comment, as I said I'm just as guilty. My reason is to hopefully persuade you into trying to leave a more thoughtful comment the next time you would like to give some feedback. Lets try this for example. Below is a photo from my good friend Scott Keys.
Lets compare comments:
- What a photo Scott, this really caught my eye as soon as I saw it. The bird's pose is very unique and the head tilted gives a real curiosity to the bird. I also really love that thorny green vine going through the shot, it adds a nice splash of color and texture. The overall tones and lighting in the image work well together and make for a pleasing shot. Well done!
Which comment stands out more to you? If this was your photo and you were scrolling through dozens of 1-3 word comments and a sea of emoji which comment would make you stop and see who left it? Regarding the first comment, that's great you think it's wonderful but what is wonderful? The bird, the lighting, the pose, the camera or lens I took it with, the photographer's choice of settings to get this look? The word "wonderful", while descriptive, doesn't describe much by itself. The second more thoughtful comment lets the photographer know exactly what you like about the photo. It took me all of 30 seconds to type it out too. I don't think you need to write an essay or even as much as I did in that comment for a thoughtful comment to be effective. If I had left a comment along the lines of "The pose on that Canada Warbler is really unique and caught my eye" that alone is already better then the average comment left on a photo. Below are some things I like to think about when leaving comments.
What caught your eye at first about the photo? What was it that made you want to comment in the first place?
- Do you like the lighting?
- Do you like the subject?
- Do you like the composition?
- Do you like the color palette or mood?
- What does the photo make you feel?
I've been holding onto this topic for quite some time. It's something I've wanted to discuss but didn't know exactly how to write it. I didn't want to sound like I was only complaining and really tried to think about the issues on both sides of this topic. Hopefully you understand my thoughts on this and maybe the next time you want to do something more then click that like/love button you will leave a thoughtful and descriptive comment. My guess is you will get the attention of the photographer much more that way!
*edit added 6/11/18
After reading a lot of feedback from many people I have a few additional points I want to make clear regarding this topic. Thank you all who have taken the time to read and comment and give me more to think about on all sides of this topic. It seems I am not alone in thinking more in depth on this.
- I personally very much appreciate a viewer just clicking the like/love button when they either don't have time or the photographic experience to leave a more detailed comment
- I don't think anyone should feel guilty for only clicking the like/love button
- I do appreciate all the comments I get on my photography, even the short 1-3 word or emoji ones, I wanted to clarify that I do feel that all those comments get lost, for lack of a better term, due to how often the are repeated. If you would like to have a comment stand out then possibly a more thoughtful comment will do just that
- To those that are beginners or feel less experienced with wildlife photography and may aren't exactly sure how to articulate a thoughtful comment. I don't feel that you have to get all technical and use lots of fancy "photographic" terms. Just let the photographer know even on a basic level what you like about the photo. Using Scott's photo above as an example lets try this comment "What a neat looking bird, I really like the little gray feathers on its head and the way its head is tilted is sort of funny." That comment doesn't require a lot of photographic knowledge but still lets the photographer know what you enjoy
- Lastly just to reiterate one more time I'm all for the use of the like/love button when you are short on time, have a lot going on, are too tired to think, or any of a hundred other reasons, that is what that button is there for. Clicking like lets the photographer know you have seen their photo and enjoyed something about it enough to taken an action, even as small as clicking like, to let them know you appreciate it.
And since this is a wildlife photography blog here are a few of my recent photos that I haven't shared anywhere yet for you to hopefully enjoy. Feel free to leave a comment 😉