It is rare to find a career creative who doesn't cultivate a social media presence. Facebook. Twitter. Something. Love it or hate it, the fact remains that a large portion of time is spent using social media to expand our creative reach and photography business.
Our time on social media doesn't stop after we make a post. We scroll the feeds of our friends and family and, just as often, we follow the famous. But why do we follow? Is it because we truly care about what others have to say? Do we follow along because it gives us a sense of kinship with celebrities?
There is another, more specific reason to follow. Like other forms of social media, Twitter can be a learning tool.
Like any widely popular industry, the business of photography has its own stars. Paying careful attention to the industry's heavy hitters provides a wealth of information pertinent to photographers. Identifying and analyzing the social media idiosyncrasies of our professional heroes can help us glean industry insight and allow us to have a snapshot of the creative well that famous photographers draw from.
Who do your favorite photographers follow on Twitter? What brain juice do they feed upon as they scroll, scroll, scroll?
Here is a look at some of today's most influencial shutterbugs and who they follow on Twitter.
David Hobby is a veteran photojournalist. Now, as a photography instructor, he has devoted his time to helping amateur photographers understand light. As the creator of the Strobist, Hobby maintains a blog dedicated to the craft of lighting.
Peruivan Mario Testino has been churning out quality work for nearly four decades. As one of the world's most influential portrait photographers he works with models, celebrities and even royalty. His fashion work has been featured over and over again in the three V's (Vogue, V Magazine and Vanity Fair). Testino's work doesn't stop there. He remains active as a creative director, editor and museum founder.
Pennsylvania native and Temple University graduate Brooke Shaden is an amazing portrait artist. Starting with self portraiture, Shaden's painterly techniques have brought her a great deal of acclaim in recent years. Her exhibition list is already an arm's length long and is proof of her hard work and determination as an artist.
Chase Jarvis goes hard with everything he does. He is a photographer, videographer and entrepreneur. For years Chase has been an outspoken champion of creativity, inspiring artists of all kinds to tap into their inner flow. As the founder of Creative Live, Jarvis continues to promote teamwork, community and collaboration.
Though she was born in the late 80's, Zhang Jingna has done more in her three decades than most achieve in a lifetime. A former air rifle shooting champion, Jingna dropped out of LaSalle College of the Arts. Yet, it wasn't long before the young photographer was shooting for Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. She is currently producing Motherland Chronicles, a highly anticipated, fantasy artbook project.
With over 100 editorial assignments shot for the New York Times, Mott consistently delivers editorial eye candy for major publications. His commercial clients are some of the most recognizable brands in the world. Shooting any assignment with confidence, Justin is one of the industry's most versatile photographers. He also happens to be the resident pro on History Channel's Photo FaceOff.
With over a quarter century of experience, Los Angeles based Sue Bryce is an award winning portrait photographer. Because of her exquisite style and uncanny ability to make women look and feel beautiful, she is also a sought after speaker and teacher of photography. As a Canon Explorer of Light, Sue hits the road to help aspiring professionals realize their potential.
If you own your own gallery, you are a force. By this definition, Rankin is one to be reckoned with. With covers for Elle, Esquire, GQ and Rolling Stone, Rankin isn't exactly in need of a resume boost. He has published over thirty books and continues to create editorial and advertising campaigns for major brands like Nike and Swatch. He is the cofounder of Dazed and Confused and AnOther magazine. Rankin is actively involved with Women's Aid and Break Through Breast Cancer and has worked with OXFAM in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. Basically, the guy is a boss.
Florida boy Scott Kelby is the founder and President of KelbyOne, editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine and host of weekly photography talk show The Grid. He is a best selling author with dozen of titles penned. But don't let his impressive resume fool you. Scott Kelby is a regular human who publicly admits that he loves romantic comedies.
If you didn't hear her distinct British accent, there would be no reason to assume that Lara Jade was not from New York City. Everything about this girl screams fashion. Her work has been featured in Elle Singapore, Hello! Fashion and Harrods. Ms. Jade is also a heavy hitter in the commercial world with clients such as Sony on her list. But her work in the industry doesn't stop when she puts her camera down. Lara hosts portraiture workshops for aspiring professional photographers all across the world.
Annie Leibovitz is a world renown portrait artist. As a staff photographer for Rolling Stone, she honed her style by documenting the music industry's most celebrated musicians. Having created some of the most iconic celebrity portraits of the 2oth century, Annie doesn't need much of an introduction.
What do they have in common?
Stepping back, I can identify four common trends among the photographers I choose to follow. Largely, they are:
1) Invested In Peers
Largely, these photographers want to see the work, news and opinions of their colleagues, This trend shows the power of networking and confirms that no man is an island.
2) Invested In Products
Famous shutterbugs are invested in the products they use. It doesn't matter if it is lighting equipment or editing software, these shooters are keenly aware of what products are available to get the job done.
3) Invested In Clients
These photographers follow their clients. Not only do they have a professional relationship, they keep their clients close on social media.
4) Invested In Themselves
Like anyone else, famous photographers are multi-faceted and complex. They are multidimensional, full of interests unrelated to the photography industry. They are curious and interested in more than just their job and feed their minds with a magnitude of creative sources. Who they follow reflects a desire for self growth.
Judy Garland said, "Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of somebody else." She was right. You can take as many photos of Afghani girls with green eyes as you like. But you will never be Steve McCurry. Sign up for every Creative Live class out there. You won't metamorphisize into Chase Jarvis.
Following the exact footsteps of a famous photographer will, at best, turn you into a second rate version of one of your idols. But that doesn't mean that you cannot learn from their social media habits. Pay close attention to our industry leaders and you will be led to valuable new resources, techniques and inspiration.
Just make sure you get off of social media long enough to apply what you have learned to your own photography craft.
Who or what do you follow on Twitter? Why? I would love to hear about it in the comments section!
Award winning photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. Specializing in portrait photography, he shoots a variety of portraiture, editorial, event, and commercial photography assignments. Andy is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.