What I’ve Learned About People’s Taste In Photography From Social Media

Eagle Owl Photo by Scott Bourne

Opinions – everyone has them. You like more salt, I like more pepper. Which of us is right? Neither. There’s no wrong way to spice up your food. There’s only YOUR way. Once done, enjoy every bite.

Wait – what? Are you saying you want to get buy-in for your spice preference? Are you going to take a poll to see what everyone thinks about substituting white for black pepper? Will you wait for the Internet mob to tell you what you should and shouldn’t enjoy on your very own tastebuds?

Of course not. It’s just silly.

But yet, many photographers will do just that (seek the approval of the mob) before posting pictures to social media. The pursuit of the almighty “LIKE” seems to be the new mission for serious photographers. I personally haven’t figured out how to take those likes to the bank yet, but maybe that’s just me – I might be too old to have that part figured out.

Eagle In Sunset Photo by Scott Bourne
Eagles by Scott Bourne

Back to the pursuit of likes – if not for money – Why?

Validation is highly overrated. These “likes” aren’t going to pay your mortgage. They are ego strokes – AT BEST. And most of them from people you don’t even know.

I post a picture on social media – every day – as in for more than a decade. I regularly post images to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr. Sometimes I also post on LinkedIn.

I have been keeping note of the reactions that I get on these sites and while I am not sure what or why it matters, I will share them with you – if for no other reason than I find it interesting.


The first thing I note is that just because one picture is popular on one platform, doesn’t mean it will be popular on another. For example…I posted a picture of a brown booby on all five platforms mentioned above, and it was way more popular on Twitter than it was on Facebook. Why? I have no idea. I suppose people follow me for different reasons. Most follow because of my photography, but some may follow for ornithological reasons and that could mean interest in THE BIRD – not THE BIRD PHOTO drove response.

Bosque Sunset Photo by Scott Bourne


What works on every platform? Well friends, I am sad to say that the audience on social media is a little lazy. They are suckers for sunrise/sunset photos. As a bird photographer, if I include a sunrise or sunset in the shot, my engagement level goes way up. What else works? Owls. People LOVE owls. I mean they are CRAZY for owls. I could post a bad picture of an owl and it would still get a lot of attention. No matter what kind of photography you do, I highly recommend you figure out a way to work in an owl on the stage of your next shoot 🙂 (I have pretty good luck with all raptors – especially owls and eagles – fyi.)


You shouldn’t live or die by the reactions of social media to your photos. Maybe, you can get a sense, based on audience, what people think in general – but my position is that it’s none of your business what everyone else thinks. Your job is to create art. It’s everyone else’s job to judge it. While they are busy loving (or hating) you should just be out there doing more creating!

Owl Photo by Scott Bourne


Since I do this for a living, there is one audience I really do care about – that is my client base. It’s funny, but often an image that I licensed for thousands of dollars won’t generate much heat on social media – yet an image that was rejected by more than a dozen publications was super popular on social media – yes, it was an owl at sunset but I digress….


If you are using social media as a barometer of your success (or failure) as a photographer, my advice is to get a different metric. The social media audience is fickle, and in a hurry. After all, they have hundreds more pictures to scroll through after seeing yours.

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