The other day, a brand I was communicating with called me an influencer, and quite honestly it made me uncomfortable. One look at my follower count will clearly tell you that based on popular standards I don’t fit into this category, and I’m okay with that. I don’t want to be an influencer, because I’m a small business owner. A professional photographer. My roots have been in this field far longer than I’ve been familiar with the term in question.
When you think of the word influencer, what comes to mind? These days, it’s likely sponsored ads, vacations, and promoting brands in exchange for free stuff. While not always the case, maybe you think of purchased followers or likes. I understand that for many, being an influencer is a full-time job that provides necessary income. Getting to use your creativity in addition to the perks it brings, of course I can see why this may seem an attractive path. But being lumped into this description just because there is the overlap of photography doesn’t sit well with me.
While admittedly it can be frustrating, I love Instagram, the opportunities it has led to, and community this platform has allowed me to build. That said, I have zero desire to wreak havoc on my mental and emotional well-being by feeling pressured by when to post, what to say, whether I’m getting enough engagement, or how high my follower count grows. I fully believe that occasional, well-chosen collaborations with brands who’s message aligns with your own can benefit both parties. However, when every post becomes a promotion, no matter how honest the opinion given, it begins to feel artificial. We live in such a noisy world, that I personally see so much more benefit in living quietly.
I believe you can have influence, without being an “influencer” in today’s sense of the word. With every image I take, caption I write, or post I share, I ask myself what value am I contributing? How am I using my business as a tool for impact? How am I serving the clients I work with, or bettering the world around me?
A pretty picture for a sponsored post isn’t enough.
I work closely with artisans and conscious businesses to strengthen their brand through the use of thoughtful, cohesive imagery that specifically fulfills their needs and shows off the quality of their work, so that in turn, they can attract their target market and cultivate personal connections with their community. I tag my clients in product photos, not because I’m obligated to the way I would be if I were partnering with a brand, but because as a business owner who heavily relies on word-of-mouth referrals, I know how much it means to me when my clients properly credit my work. It builds each other up, and as they say “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”. When I share the stories of these entrepreneurs, it’s not to get you to buy a specific product or to earn a commission (doesn’t happen!), but because they are my peers — small business owners that want to make a difference — and I believe in supporting their message. By connecting buyers with ethical makers and shedding a light on topics that inspire others to lead a slow, intentional life, we as consumers are empowered to be a part of the change.