Most of us have some sort of online presence associated with our modeling or photography and a lot of us also participate in online discussions in groups or on forums. This is a great way to get your name and your work out there and to build your network, find collaborators, improve your skills, and learn more about our industry. Depending on how you choose to present yourself online, you can either really boost yourself or really bring yourself down. You can be intensely motivated and skilled in person but if you come across as difficult, rude, or “diva-ish” online, you can really hurt your career. I’ve put together some tips for you to help you better manage your online presence.
1. Treat online interactions as you would in-person interactions.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is that they behave online completely differently than they do in person. Most often we think about people who talk a big game or are really quite rude online, but in person are much easier to talk to. It’s easy to get lost in the idea that you’re “safe” behind the screen and you can say what you want, but it can absolutely come back to to “bite” you later on. There are some quite talented photographers who I have marked off of my list to shoot with because they behaved really poorly or inappropriately online. I know other models have done the same and that photographers also do this with models.
What to do: Think about what you say online. Is this something that you would say in person? Are you going to be able to back yourself up if this happens to come up in an in-person conversation later on? If the answer is no, you probably need to re-consider what you are saying.
Just following this one tip alone will really lead you in the right direction. You can’t always agree with everyone, but you should make sure you can stand behind what you say no matter what.
2. Remember that people do see what you say and do online.
Just because someone doesn’t comment, doesn’t mean they don’t see what you say. I’m still constantly surprised by people who tell me they follow my work or my blogs, but who I’ve never seen “like” a post on Facebook or comment any where. I’ve had photographers who I’ve never spoken with online tell me they’ve been following my work for years. What this means is that it’s very likely that far more people follow your work and your presence than show any indication of doing so.
What to do: Just keep in mind that what you say and do online is more or less public, particularly if you’re posting in a group, in a forum, or on someone else’s wall.
3. Don’t tear other people down to build yourself up.
This is a classic example of bad marketing. It makes people distrust you because it looks like you can’t support your skills on your own merit and instead you have to focus on making others look bad to distract from your own short-comings. We probably have all done this to some degree at one time or another, but when it comes to your modeling or photography, you really need to be cautious of this and try to avoid it.
What to do: If you find yourself comparing your own work to another person, stop! Instead, just tell people what skills or other things you have to offer and leave it at that. Let people decide that they want to work with you for how great you are, not for how bad you say other people are.
4. Don’t let creepy or rude messages discourage you.
This is mainly for the models, but I know photographers deal with rude messages too. If you get a message that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel like you have to respond. There are a lot of trolls and people who seem to find entertainment in poking at others. Please don’t assume that they are automatically right or that you “asked for it.” I was guilty of this as a new model and I think it really damaged my confidence and held me back for a while. Once I decided it was okay to ignore the pervy messages and unsolicited critiques (which I’ll get to next), my confidence became much more stable.
What to do: If you don’t know the person and you don’t think your response will be helpful to you or them, just don’t respond. Ignoring them is far better than getting into an argument.
4. Don’t take unsolicited critique to heart and be mindful of who you ask for a critique.
I think that mindful, constructive critiques can be very helpful. Sometimes having someone else take a look at our work and then let us know what they think we are doing right and what we can improve on is quite useful and perhaps even necessary. However, you should be cautious about who you go to with this. This person should be familiar with your goals and circumstances. What might be great for one style or genre might actually not be so good for another. For example, What is great for a glamour shot might be not so good if the shot is fashion. And lighting an art nude can be quite different from lighting a commercial shot. Because of all of these things, I tend to caution against publicly asking for critique as some people won’t take into account your goals and such and some people just like to tear others down.
What to do: Find a couple people who know you and whose opinion you value and ask them for a critique. If you want to know about something specific, ask them. If you don’t have anyone like that, make sure explain your goals and history in the field briefly first.
More on this: Critiques and Dealing with Criticism.
5. Don’t slam/blast/out people (by name) publicly/semi-publicly as a general rule.
Any time you are working with other people, you’re going to have people who rub you the wrong way, who do things you don’t like, or who flat out break the code of ethics. However, when you publicly out these people by name, you tend to open up a few unintended “cans of worms”: 1) That person is very likely to retaliate and that’s not going to help you, even if they’re lying, 2) It makes you look spiteful and like you’re being dramatic, even if every word you say is true, 3) Sometimes there can be a threat of legal action (for libel or slander, depending on the mode of communication).
What to do: If you’ve had a negative experience and you want to warn others, do so privately. If you just want to vent, do so mindfully as people are still going to associate it with you, and don’t include the person’s name or anything that would make them easily identifiable.
My discussion here is focused more on things like flakes, bad attitudes, rude messages, lack of photos, etc. More serious, potentially or absolutely criminal things should be reported to the proper authorities, but I think most times it is recommended not to post about those things unless they have become a matter of record.
And there you have my 5 tips for maintaining a positive online presence. Did I miss any of your favorites? Share yours in the comments below.
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