When it comes to photography, the internet is equal parts helpful and harmful. Ok, maybe not in perfectly equal parts — it’s certainly going to lean heavily in one direction or the other depending on who you are how you use the internet, but for most people, the nett effect is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50/50.
Of course, this isn’t news to anyone. We all know rather intuitively that the internet comes with pros and cons, even for photographers. But have you ever stopped to think about the ways in which the internet specifically helps or hinders your creativity?
Consider the following three points and what impact each might have on your photography.
Many consider the internet to be the great democratizer. I tend to agree with that train of thought. No matter where you are in the world, you have access to all the how-to information you could ever need to become a photographer.
Whether you’re interested in the history of photography and the evolution of the art form, or the technological advancements in imaging and the companies that have spearheaded those improvements, it’s all online.
Did you lose your camera manual or buy a secondhand camera that didn’t include a manual? No worries, you can find it online.
Perhaps, as a novice photographer, you were thinking about attending a class or workshop to get a better grasp of the fundamentals — exposure, composition, etc. No need for that when you can have someone on YouTube take you through the basics from the comfort of home.
It’s all online.
While this ease of access to information is convenient and no doubt useful, it also has the potential to be a monstrous time vortex. How many hours have you lost poring over reviews as you search for your perfect camera? How much time have spent researching a particular technique instead of just going out and shooting?
Knowledge is indeed power, but words on a screen will only take you so far.
Once you’ve sifted through all the relevant reviews and finally landed on what you presume to be your ideal camera, it’s time to buy. This is also something you can do without ever physically entering a store.
In fact, it is probably to your distinct advantage to mine the internet for your next gear purchase. You’ll find rare gems, enjoy discounted prices and have access to the most expansive secondhand market in the world.
The fact that the internet makes it so easy to expand your personal gear inventory also poses the potential for you to waste a lot of money buying things you don’t need and that don’t offer anything of value to your shooting experience.
Additionally, the virtual marketplace can burden you with choice overload, which eventually leads to information overload as you get sucked into reading reviews in an effort to make the “right” purchase.
Of course, it’s relatively easy to sell your excess gear once you realize you’ve gone a bit overboard. You’ll never get back what you put into it, so it’s best to temper your gear lust and make wise buying decisions from the jump.
Sometimes, social media platforms fully live up to their “social” intentions — I’ve made a few real-life friendships that started online over photography talk. Even when friendships remain online, they are no less valuable when it comes to learning new things, exchanging ideas, getting advice and generally finding support for all you create.
Then there’s all the other stuff — likes, investing too much time trying to get likes, dealing with trolls and other unpleasant characters. So on and so forth.
There’s undoubtedly an aspect of social media that can be detrimental to one’s mental health, in addition to living up to its potential as yet another time waster. Plus, only ever seeing photos at social media (read: Instagram) size simply doesn’t do them justice.
There comes a point where you would do well to put your phone away, meet up with a real-life friend and go on a photo-walk or visit a gallery.
So, is the internet more of a benefit or a detriment to you as a photographer? Only you can determine that. Sure, there’s always some bad that comes along with the good but, as with all things in life, it’s up to you to strike a rewarding balance.
Give us your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below