Social media poses opportunities and challenges for ASU photographers

The field is changing, and some say it's not for the better

There are a vast number of ASU student photographers, both freelance and professional. Some shoot to earn money and prestige, while others do it more out of a passion for the art.

ASU students Mazhar Badani and Dean Maniuszko and ASU alumnus Corey Johnson held an event last weekend titled The Portrait Project. With a bright yellow backdrop and a bag of funky props, they invited friends on Facebook to partake in mini-photo shoots as a fun way to practice their photography. 

“The event was an opportunity for the three of us to better ourselves and practice our craft,” Maniuszko, a junior studying film and media production, said. “The Portrait Project gave me the opportunity to stick myself in the most creatively uncomfortable position possible: shooting a bunch of people you don't necessarily know, in a variety of environments, with only 10 minutes to shoot.”

This project was entirely a creative experiment with no goal of money or social media fame involved. 

“It’s called TFP: trade for print," he said. "As a photographer, I take photos (of models) and it helps me build my portfolio. I can then give them the photos for themselves as models and it helps both of us."

This method seems to be very popular among freelance photographers, as they are able to be creative with their shoots and see photography from an artistic standpoint rather than a commercial one.

Johnson, who graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, shoots events such as weddings and graduations professionally but he said the fun, creative shoots he does on the side with models and other creatives are his favorite.

Badani, a junior marketing major, uses photography solely as a creative outlet.

“Whatever opportunities come up, that’s when shoots happen," Badani said.

With Instagram as a major outlet for photographers to showcase their work, it is simple for someone to market themselves as a "photographer." As phone camera quality improves, it is becoming more and more convenient to become a photographer — even just using an iPhone.

Popular Instagram photographers can rack up millions of followers on their page, creating a divide between photographers who are in it for the followers, and people who do it for the art. 

Badani said nowadays it seems like many photographers in Instagram are more interested in getting likes than creating quality content. He said that this perspective is not uncommon among photographers as Instagram photography becomes more popular. 

“Because of social media, there’s an opportunity for people to get known. There’s an opportunity for people to share their pictures and create something with it,” said Victor Ren, a sophomore freelance photographer studying journalism. “I think that part is cooler than the saturation in the field.” 

But Ren, who has taken pictures at concerts of artists like Logic and Khalid, does not see a problem with iPhone photography or the growing trend of Instagram photography. Although it makes the photography industry more competitive, he recognizes that if someone is good at what they do and passionate about it, they will eventually find success.

The idea that professional photographers will be replaced by amateurs using their phone is very possible, as is shown in Apple’s “shot on iPhone” commercials.

A video from Apple demonstrating the IPhone camera's quality.

“It can be intimidating as a photographer, like ‘Oh, I’m being replaced by a phone,’” Badani said.

Although it is easier for anyone to take photos on their phone, the skills photographers need cannot be downloaded. 

Johnson said what sets practiced photographers apart from the public is their technical ability, including an "understanding of color, composition and light.”

But ultimately, Ren said, no photographer will find success without some passion for their craft.

“If you just pick up a camera and your goal is to make money, you’re not going to be able to,” he said. “Everyone wants to make money from what they do, but I honestly take photos because I genuinely like it.” 

Reach the reporter at and follow @meganbarbera_ on Twitter. 

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