With the news that Instagram's focus has shifted to be far less centered around images, many photographers who have spent years building their following and brand on the app are left out in the cold. This isn't the first, nor will it be the last time you are reminded of the dangers of building a large part of your business on someone else's platform.
Social media has been a revelation, of that there is no doubt. It has had a profoundly positive impact on the world in many regards, though its influence on modern society and its members is not wholly good. With that said, many businesses and industries have managed to harness the power of social media for their own ends, and photographers are undoubtedly one of them. Through the reach that social media platforms have afforded us, we have not only been able to develop wide and populated audiences, but we have also been able to find new clients and turn ourselves into a brand. It's not uncommon to hear people say that artists can get more eyes on their work than anyone in human history could have dreamed of previously, and while it's true, there are caveats. Firstly, very few of those eyes are meaningful, keen eyes, there for your work. Secondly, the platform on which they are viewing your work is rarely your own, and again, they're very rarely there for you.
This isn't to say that those eyes are not valuable or desirable, but it's important to remember that you aren't the main attraction. While that wouldn't matter if the platform was persistent and unchanging, it can become an issue when you have built a following for your work on a platform designed for it, then that platform changes or disappears.
When Instagram launched a decade ago, it would have been difficult to predict that it would evolve into anything that wasn't centered around photographs. At first, I wasn't particularly interested in the app — it seemed like a niche platform you could take photographs and put filters over the top of them, rather than something aimed at photographers — but, I was eventually lured into trying it. It was restrictive (square crop only) but enjoyable, and the algorithms that dictated your success and views were intuitive. I became a little obsessed with getting more followers and more likes, which can be seen as a negative reaction, but its impact on my desire to create more and better images was positive at least.
Over the last few years, however, I have grown increasingly disillusioned with the app, to the point where I no longer post to it. Where once I was getting clients and growing analytics, a change from the chronological feed, followed by myriad other prescriptive alterations to who sees what meant it became frustrating and demotivating. I more or less gave up on using Instagram altogether, but that's because I didn't get particularly "big" to begin with. Photographers with six-figure (or more) followings could still harness it to make money and get unimaginable exposure. So, what's the problem?