Amongst the major social media platforms, Pinterest is a bit of an odd one when it comes to photography. It is a website that you either love or hate, a veritable encyclopedia of creative ideas or a den of stolen imagery. It is, however, big, growing and looking like it's going to be around for a while.
As photographers, social media platforms generally serve two main purposes, to share and promote our photography and to seek new and inspiring ways to improve our shots. Pinterest has the potential to do both of these but only if you understand the limitations and pitfalls of using the platform.
What is Pinterest?
Think of it as the digital version of the pin or cork board. A place where you can pin up interesting ideas to share with others. With Pinterest you can have infinite numbers of boards all with individual themes and share them with friends and the wider world. Many websites now have an option to pin articles and photos to Pinterest.
To Share or Not to Share?
There are several reasons why you might share your images on a social media platform. You might just want to show your friends and family your latest creation, maybe you are looking to garner greater recognition for your photographer. Lastly you might be looking to sell your images. Pinterest is perhaps useful for the first of these but not for the last two.
Because of the way you can create individual themed boards. Pinterest is an ideal way to share, for example your latest travel photos with friends and family. You can organise them into an interesting storyline to show how your travels went.
If you are looking to show your photography to a wider world, Pinterest is perhaps not the place. Whilst your Pinterest followers may well share your pins, the overall demographic of Pinterest is not so much one that is into sharing great photography and you may find your beautifully pinned shots never really get any recognition.
As a tool for selling images, Pinterest again will probably fall flat. The people that use Pinterest are generally looking for inspiration and not purchases. Analytics have shown that the audience are predominantly looking at fashion and arts and crafts with photography a long way down the list.
One area where Pinterest does come in very useful for photographers is as a way to research and collate new and inspiring photographic techniques. If you treat Pinterest as a kind of large, visual bookmarking system, you can create different boards of, for example, creative photographic techniques, interesting articles on photographic history or studio lighting techniques. In this respect, Pinterest is a highly useful addition to the photographer.
As mentioned above, many websites now feature a pin button so when you come across an interesting article or a beautiful image you can easily pin it to a relevant board, archiving it for later reference.
There has been criticism in the wedding photography field that Pinterest stifles creativity. This is more based on the fact that wedding couples are using Pinterest to find wedding images that inspire them and demanding that their photographer replicates them. However if your photography is not overtly client driven, you will not encounter this issue.
The Copyright Issue
Being hotbed of shared images and articles, Pinterest has stirred significant controversy in its attitude to copyright. Chief amongst these is their slow or lack of response in removing illegally used images. If you are going to share images on Pinterest or indeed any other major social media network, then you are effectively going to loose control of them. If you want to retain some control and prevent any obviousl copyright abuse, only upload low resolution images and put watermarks on them.
As we said at the beginning of this article, Pinterest is an odd sort of social network for photographers. As a way of showing your images to the world, it is perhaps not the very best option. However, as a way of curating and collating interesting and inspiring articles about photography as well as great images, it can be an excellent tool.