This morning I crossed the 500 follower mark on Instagram. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. 500 followers, is that all? Well yes, it is. While that might not seem like a lot to some, to me it is. As the tortoise says, slow and steady wins the race. Next stop 5000. As Tom Brady might say, let’s go!
When I started this experiment, I didn’t know what to expect. Admittedly, my expectations were very low. At most, I thought I had an outside shot at gaining 50 followers. In Alex Armitage’s Instagram experiment, he started with 5871 followers, or roughly 50 times the number I had. At the end of 30 days and 30 posts Alex had gained 107 followers.
I’d always assumed social media follower growth was exponential. Once you reach a critical mass adding followers gets easier. I’m not sure how many followers it takes to reach critical mass on Instagram, but I know it’s a lot more than 100.
I’m not sure if 5871 followers are enough either but it’s a lot better than what I had. Intuitively I would have guessed Alex would have gained a lot more than 107 followers during his experiment. Since that was the only real data I had to go by, I thought I would have little chance to add even 50 followers, let alone 100.
Surprising to me was the fact that I gained roughly the same number of followers as Alex, even though I started with so many fewer. After all, our experiments were roughly the same. It made me wonder how Alex had so many followers in the first place.
I consider myself some random guy on the internet with virtually no platform. Being a contributor at Fstoppers, Alex obviously had a presence on the internet. I’m sure that helped build his following.
The other thing that helped is time. Alex posted his article in June 2018, or almost four and a half years ago. I just checked his account and he now has over 12,500 followers. Alex’s work is very good, and there’s no doubt that helped build his following. Even though he hasn’t posted on Instagram in over a year, his follower count has doubled since his article was published. They say time heals all wounds. I would say time builds your follower count as well.Read More
Over the course of 40 days, I’ve made over 40 posts. The majority of images were taken as RAW files on a Nikon DSLR camera, although for some I used a Samsung Galaxy phone. I took all of the images during the course of normal play. In other words, I never went out to a golf course specifically to take pictures. I never used a tripod or had much choice in the light or time of day.
All the pictures were taken while my son was playing, so I was limited in where I could stand. For example, I couldn’t walk out on the course during play just to get a better angle for a shot. Unless it was a practice round, I was mostly limited to cart paths, tee boxes, or hanging out near the green. I would have loved to bring along a tripod and a variety of lenses. Unfortunately, I was never able to do that.
Editing the Pictures
I edited the pictures in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. They were cropped, almost always to 16×9 format, and had the contrast, exposure, and color adjusted. If the images had extraneous objects in frame, such as a golf cart or spectators, I would clone those items out. I tried to edit the photographs so they would all have a similar look. I spent anywhere from ten minutes to several hours editing each image. Photographs that I really liked I would spend extra time editing, with the goal being to print ten 16” x 9” images to frame and hang in my office. That’s the reason I took these pictures in the first place. The Instagram experiment just ended up being a side project.
I uploaded all Instagram posts by hand, either on my computer via the web or directly on my phone using the Instagram app. I didn’t use any software to schedule and make the posts automatically. After a quick search, it didn’t seem that there was any free and worthwhile tool to handle this task as I needed.
Usually, I would select the image and write the caption immediately before I would make the post to Instagram. Sometimes I would select the pictures and write the captions early so they would be ready to post quickly. I did this for a week’s worth of images when I travelled to Cape Cod to watch my son and the Tufts University Golf Team play in the New England Championship. I knew when travelling I wouldn’t have time to curate pictures and write captions, so I did it before I left. That way all I had to do was copy and paste the caption and upload the image directly from my phone and onto Instagram.Read More
Being on the wrong side of fifty, I can’t say I’m much of a social media guy. As a former engineer, being tech savvy is not the issue. I just never saw the point. Sure, I have Twitter and Facebook accounts, but I use those just to read the news and follow current events. I rarely if ever post.
Social Media Blues
I do have an Instagram account as well. I’ve had it for some time and while I have posted there, I’ve never done so regularly. I know Instagram is a great tool for getting your work out there, but to me it always felt like something meant for teenagers. I’ve never really had much interest in chasing followers. Like anyone though, I want my work to be seen. When it comes down to it however, the reason I do the work is for myself. Being seen is just a bonus. The extra work I knew it would take to actively post on social media didn’t seem worth it.
Then my brother, the owner of Triple Play Design and a graphic designer for over 30 years started posting regularly on Instagram. With both of his kids through college and out of the house, he found more time to pursue his personal artistic endeavors. I watched as he posted his baseball-centric artwork to Instagram and slowly grew his following. He engaged with followers and other artists and began selling his work. Soon, all because of Instagram he was attending baseball related events, working with the Buck Leonard Association, and exploring new business opportunities.
Starting with virtually no followers, he relentlessly created baseball focused art and shared it on Instagram. Soon enough he had more than 2600 followers. That may not sound like a lot to some, but to me the slow, steady growth was highly impressive. Even more impressive was the dedication and creativity needed to produce such a volume of inspiring work.
A few months ago, I found an article by Alex Armitage of Fstoppers.com entitled I Posted a Photo Every Day for One Month on Instagram and This is What Happened. Reading that article, along with the success of my brother inspired me to try an Instagram experiment of my own.Read More
When it comes to Instagram and what image size to post I found myself confused. They are numerous recommendations online from a variety of sources. Some of those recommendations appear to be in direct contradiction while others are just clearly wrong. Even Business Insider, a seemingly reputable source, has at least one aspect of their suggestion wrong. Right in the middle of their article on the topic, they state:
A landscape (horizontal) photo should be in a 1.91:1 ratio.
They go so far as to post the following guidelines for different picture formats on Instagram, posting the incorrect aspect ratio for a landscape photo in the process.
Do you see the obvious problem? A 1080 x 608 pixel image does not have an aspect ratio of 1.91:1. Does Business Insider not know how to do simple math? Clearly I won’t be taking any of their stock tips. The thing is, numerous sites seem to get this wrong as well. I assume they are all just copying information from each other rather than actually breaking out a calculator. Picmonkey gets it wrong. So does this site. At least Adobe knows how to do basic math. They suggest a landscape photo should have an aspect ratio of 1:91:1 with a size of 1080 x 566 pixels.Read More
I recently posted an article showing an example where I edited a digital image in Adobe Photoshop. Starting with the original photograph straight from the camera, I showed how the image changed during each step of the process. I wanted to follow up that post with a similar article on traditional darkroom printing where I show the process of taking an image from the original film negative to the final print.
The Darkroom vs. Adobe Photoshop
With Photoshop, the rudiments of editing a photograph is fairly straightforward. While you can spend a lifetime learning the intricacies of Photoshop, you can learn the basics fairly quickly. Not only that, Photoshop allows you to experiment and see your changes in real time. Making a print in the darkroom is not that simple.
The learning curve with darkroom printing is very steep. You can’t step into a darkroom for the first time and emerge a few hours later with an acceptable print. It takes hours upon hours to learn how to make a competent print in the darkroom. Unlike Photoshop, you can’t quickly make changes and see the results. Making a print in the darkroom involves intuition and guess work. Nothing is ever exact and no two prints are ever the same. The nuances of creating a print can only be learned through hard work and experience.
The Nature of the Craft
It’s the difficulty and painstaking nature of the craft that ultimately makes it so rewarding. It’s not about clicking a button to see what happens but rather more about looking deeper and imagining what can be. It takes time. What can be done in Photoshop in a few minutes might take all day in a darkroom.
The process all starts with the film. The film you choose can have a big effect on the final print, from the grain structure and sharpness, to the overall tonality of the image. Developing the negative is an art in and of itself, but for now we’ll focus on making an actual print, assuming you are starting with an acceptable negative.Read More