In this Instagram series we dig into the world of likes and followers. Photographers with a larger following describe their Insta beginnings, the importance of their audience and more. This week it’s time for Merel Schoneveld, who has been shooting street for just two years.
Location: The Hague, Netherlands
Profession: Photographer and full-time mom
Awards: 2017 Winner Ed van der Elsken Photo competition Stedelijk Museum (NL), 2017 Winner Street Photography International Awards (UK), 2018 Winner Los Angeles Center of Photography Street Awards (USA)
Instagram username: merel_schoneveld
Favourite hashtags: #eyeshotmag #capturestreets #myfeaturehoot #streetphotography #myspc #spicollective #friendsinperson #hcsc_street #lensonstreets #challengerstreets #apfmagazine #timeless_streets #womeninstreet #bnw_demand #fromstreetswithlove #bnw_magazine #life_is_street #womenstreetphotographers #atlantecollective #urbanstreetphotogallery #lightbox
First posted photo: October 2016
Last posted photo: February 2019
Most popular photo: January 2019
1. When and how did you start posting on Instagram?
I started posting photos for the first time almost immediately after taking my first photo out on the streets in 2016. My first ever post was a black and white street photo (men with umbrellas and no heads) and I’ve been consistent in posting b&w ever since. I deleted all the posts from the first year though. I wanted to re-edit work that had too much clarity, contrast, etc. Over-editing is somewhat of a beginner’s mistake I guess. I’m not sure if I regret the decision to delete it all, perhaps seeing that growth would have been interesting. I know I love looking back at a photographer’s first work. But I also can’t stand to see terribly edited photo’s on my account. In the beginning I didn’t know much about what street photography even was, so l was interested mainly in looking at what others were doing in the genre. It taught me so much and it has been a great source of inspiration. My love for the street most definitely originated from Instagram. Although I often experience a strong hate/love relationship with Instagram because of how addictive it is.
2. How did you gain this amount of followers?
I was very active in the beginning, it was easier with less followers to be more involved and respond to comments. I wasn’t just out to get more followers though, I was enjoying it. I sort of miss that actually, now I feel it takes up too much time which I can better spend on actually going out shooting, editing or being with my kid. I still love to read all the comments and it’s motivating when people appreciate what you make. In the end what really got me the most followers were accounts that featured my work. After you reach a few thousand the growth goes at a faster rate.
3. How important to you is your your online audience? Does the online feedback influence your artistic or editorial choices?
Difficult question. I want to say no, that it hasn’t influenced my choices. But I would be lying. I’ve had to learn along the way what makes a good photo and often felt insecure about content I had posted. There were times that I deleted photos with few likes of which I wasn’t confident about from the start. But if I love a photo, no comments or likes can change that. It also hasn’t changed my personal preferences, approach, style, ideas, etc. I’m just doing my own thing and if I feel like experimenting and trying new things I’ll do that too. No online audience can dictate that and it shouldn’t. It has brought about some meaningful connections and photography buddies to shoot with, so in that sense the online audience has been important to me.
4. What kind of images are most popular and do they align with your personal favourites?
Usually yes. Photo’s that are liked most are often those in which you can instantly connect with the person/people in the photo, where there is clear expression, storytelling or emotion. Striking compositions, originality and images that have an element of visual deception which raises questions, always seem more popular.
5. Do you enjoy any financial benefits from having so many followers?
No, not directly through Instagram or due to followers. It has perhaps made my work more visible and therefore opened doors to new opportunities. I’ve recently started exhibiting work and selling prints.
6. Do you have advice for photographers who want to grow on Instagram?
It helps to follow a lot of photographers in which you are interested or are making similar work, to actively scroll through your feed, use popular hashtags of accounts that feature street photography, post daily (1 or 2), be critical of your own work and stay consistent. Generating more followers shouldn’t be your main focus though. Instead spend your time on the street, have fun with it, improve your skills and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You can’t expect to be making consistent work or finding your “voice” or vision as a photographer right from the beginning. That’s a gradual process, it takes time, dedication and being out a lot in the street. Once you do that and the quality (not quantity) of your work improves, I believe the amount of followers will grow by itself.
© All the pictures in this post are copyrighted. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.