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What do the changing social media trends mean for the future of photography?

by Gemma Bend

TikTok, the fastest growing social media platform in the world, is entirely made up of users' (usually) self-shot, short-form videos and, unlike other networks, it plays in vertical full screen. Similar to its predecessor and cult favourite, Vine, there isn’t the option to upload text or photos without having them as some form of video/movement - and users seem to be loving it. Proving especially popular with younger demographics, it’s become a social media giant seemingly overnight.

Then, in July 2022, Instagram, the first major social media platform that was entirely reliant on photography, announced a series of changes to its algorithm, which saw the platform begin to pivot away from photography and officially make video an integral part of its offering for users. They announced that they too would be adopting the full-screen view, and users would be targeted with content from outside of their circles - much like TikTok.

This change prompted a huge backlash. 

Instagram said the changes are a result of changing user behaviour and predicted future user behaviours. But users didn’t agree. Content creators around the globe began to protest, claiming the change in user behaviour was being engineered by the Instagram algorithm which was favouring video content, making it harder for content creators, including photographers and influencers, to get their work seen because it simply wasn’t landing in people’s feeds. 

Instagram announced their changes in, you guessed it, a video, and seemed to ignore the backlash. That is of course until perhaps two of the most powerful influencers on the planet at the moment made their feelings heard. Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, with an impressive 695,000,000 combined followers (individually they both have more followers than the current population in the USA!). Fast-forward to the end of July, and Instagram chief Adam Mosseri announced the platform was taking “a big step back”. Much to users delight, feeds began returning to the Instagram they know and love - photos and all. 

So, what does this mean for the future of photography on social media?

The algorithms seem to love videos, but the users… well they seem to love photos, videos and a mixture of content. Aside from the rapid phenomenon of TikTok, the Instagram backlash showed us that people don’t just want video alone.

BeReal, an app entirely based on photography, is the newest social media platform gripping the younger demographics. The app lets you upload once a day at a time when BeReal randomly notifies users, and it has to be in real-time. There are no filters, no gallery uploads and no scheduling. It’s all about showing what you’re doing in that moment; being real, if you will. The app uses the front and back cameras to take photos simultaneously and you can only view your friends' content once you’ve uploaded your own. It’s one of the fastest growing apps and ironically, its audience have used TikTok to propel its growth. 

What is a social media algorithm? An algorithm is essentially a set of rules that social media platforms use to choose which content to show us - it’s (usually) based on a mix of what we interact with, what we show the networks we like, what our friends and connections interact with and what’s performing well generally across all users (i.e. trending topics).

Our opinion is that there is definitely a bright future for photography on social media, as long as it's part of a wider mix of videos, creative copy and GIFs. When considering your social media resourcing, ensuring you have access to the talent and programmes to produce a multitude of content types is vital, especially if you're looking for growth on Instagram or looking to hit those younger demographics.

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you think about the changing social media trends, the future of photography and how your social media usage is changing.