Archivi categoria: Industry

Photographers Claim Instagram is ‘Shadow Banning’ Their Accounts

Over the past few weeks, the PetaPixel tip line has been flooded by reports of Instagram ‘shadow banning’ accounts. This practice, ostensibly limited to business accounts, is destroying engagement on these photographer’s profiles.

The term “shadow ban”—also called “stealth” or “ghost” banning—refers to banning a person’s account without them knowing it. From their perspective, everything seems normal, but nobody else can actually see the photos or comments or videos they’re posting.

In the case of Instagram, these “bans” seem to be limited to the tagging system. According to several reader reports, and confirmed with screenshots sent to us by the affected users, their images are no longer visible on Instagram’s hashtag pages when the page is viewed by someone who does not follow their account. Several photographers sent us screenshots proof.

Here’s just one example. In the first shot, you see the original photo complete with the two hashtags #soexcited and #howheasked.

This photo is visible on those hashtag pages… as long as you’re the person who posted the photo. However, when the photographer logged in using a new account, her image is suddenly gone, no longer visible under “recent,” as you can see from screenshots 2 and 3:

Other photographers showed us similar examples. When viewed from their own account, the photos are right there where they should be, but when you’re logged in from a personal account that doesn’t follow that business profile, they’re gone.

Here’s one more example. Viewed from the photographer’s business profile, the circled photo is there. Viewed from another account, it’s gone:

Ideally, a “shadow ban” should be invisible, but the photographers who are emailing us noticed the issue because engagement on their photos dropped precipitously.

“I noticed about a week ago that my engagement just cratered. I was getting about 1/3rd of the normal likes, and they were almost entirely from people following me already,” one PetaPixel reader told us. “There are apparently a lot of us, none of whom seem to know anything about why this is affecting us, and having no luck getting any response on multiple reports to Instagram.”

In fact, Instagram has responded publicly to these concerns, but in a way one reader called “hopelessly inept.” In a post on the Instagram for Business Facebook page, the company admitted there was a problem, but offered no solution. Instead, they basically told people to stop relying on hashtags:

“When developing content, we recommend focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags,” reads the post. “Having a growth strategy that targets the right audience is essential to success on Instagram.”

As you might imagine, this response didn’t much please the users who have seen as much as 2/3 of their engagement go out the window with this “bug.” How are you supposed to target any audience if you can’t reach anyone who doesn’t already follow you?

But when pressed about when a software fix might be implemented, Chelsey of the Instagram Team only had this to say:

Based on Instagram’s response and the fact that followers can still see these photos, it seems these accounts aren’t being “shadow banned” in the traditional sense. A true ban would mean losing all visibility, and followers, at least, seem to still be seeing and interacting with the images. But these accounts are being seriously stymied.

Some users claim they’ve been at the mercy of the “shadow ban” for months, and there are user reports online complaining about this as far back as January. Some have ‘fixed’ the issue by converting back to a personal account, others by logging in from a different device with a new IP, but none of these fixes seem to last long or cover everybody. And judging by the increasingly desperate emails we’re receiving, the problem is only getting worse.

Given that hashtags are the main discovery mechanism on Instagram, an issue like this is no laughing matter. What’s worse, nobody knows if this is a true bug, or some algorithm that is treating highly active accounts as bots and reducing their visibility. Instagram, in the meantime, is still being opaque about the issue, labeling it simply, “issues with our hashtag search.”

If you have had issues with this, please let us know in the comments. In the meantime, we’ve reached out to Instagram for comment and will update this post as soon as we hear back.

I Was Paid to be a Camera Tester… And I Think They Actually Listened

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one Friday night when a promoted post popped up and caught my eye (and there wasn’t even a bikini, donut or motivational quote involved).

It read:

Photographers wanted by leading camera brand for equipment trial. Selected applicants will be paid in cash.

It was obviously too good to be true; that’s the golden rule of the Internet. But there was one thing that differentiated it from the usual Web spam: a local telephone number. I called the number immediately and left a message, wondering what the scam could possibly be.

The next day my phone rang, with someone from a market research company asking me to do a survey in order to determine if I was “eligible to undertake the trial.”

I was still a little dubious, but the questions were all straightforward: name, age, how long I’d been shooting for, what sort of camera body I mostly used, what sort of things I shoot. When they asked me to name some of my favorite lenses, it became clear that if this was some kind of swindle, at least they’d done their homework!

After a few more questions, it turned out that I was just the kind of person they wanted to put their gear through its paces. All I had to do is go and pick up the equipment and fill in a survey after using the gear.

On the way to collect my loaner camera, I fantasized about what it might be. Could it be some super-secret new prototype? An update of an existing model? Some sort of bizarre hybrid camera I’d never imagined?

It turned out to be none of those things, but picking it up was still like Christmas Day for a camera nerd—a top of the range mirrorless camera, 4 lenses, a flash unit and a battery grip. I own a lot of video and camera equipment, but I’ve never had such an instant hit of gear before, it was almost overwhelming.

So now I had a bunch of new gear, a week to use it, and some homework to fill out. Time to get shooting. I started in the same way everyone does when they get a new camera… I ignored the instruction manual completely and went straight outside to snap some photos.

Things went pretty well for the next few days. I’d basically leave the house each day and concentrate on using one lens, seeing how it compared to what I knew, how inspiring it was to shoot with and how easy it was to navigate my way around a new system in a range of scenarios like landscapes, long exposures and portraits.

While I mostly avoided reading instructions, I did look at guides online when I was truly stumped by something specific (why won’t this particular SD card format? What does this picture profile actually do? How do I do timelapses?).

Once the week was almost up I sat down to do my “homework,” which consisted of completing a large PDF file. It required me me to upload photos I’d taken, rate the usability of the camera and lenses, compare the loan camera to my existing system, and give my thoughts and feelings about using the camera in general.

It wasn’t a grueling bunch of questions by any stretch, although it did take a little time to edit the images in Lightroom, and then insert them and the EXIF data into the PDF. Another slightly tricky element was adequately describing some of my thoughts—is ‘crunchy’ a useful adjective to a camera manufacturer? How do you properly describe being confused about a menu setting?

The next stage of the process involved a focus group with three other photographers who had also undertaken the trial. To sit in a room with other shooters, share some war stories, and learn about their process was great, and the two hours flew by quickly despite the barrage of questions.

The hardest part of the evening came when we were all offered the same hypothetical question; would we be willing to swap all of our current equipment for the equivalent equipment in the brand we’d been testing? A one-for-one swap, with no money being spent to completely swap brands.

For the first time of the night we were all silent as we weighed it up… it was tempting for each of us, for different reasons. Personally I had enjoyed the megapixel bump, and the options it gave when cropping images. In the end, we all agreed that while the offer was extremely tempting, we’d stick to our preferred systems for the time being.

On the way out of the focus group I was asked if I wanted to do one final test—a field test where I would show members of the company how I work with my current equipment. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and by this stage I’d begun to enjoy the process of thinking a little bit deeper about my working methods and what I expect from a camera.

So two days later I met with five staff members from one of the biggest companies in the world, to show them how I do what I do. Despite some awful weather and the slightly awkward situation of leading a ‘tour group’, it was a really beneficial experience.

I often shoot wildlife photos, so I took them to some local parklands that often has some interesting creatures, despite how close it is to the CBD.

After trudging around in drizzling rain, the weather finally cleared and I got to show them some local animals and demonstrate with both my camera and their camera what sort of thing is useful and frustrating in the field.

The best part of it all however, was that they actually took the feedback on board, and weren’t at all defensive about their product.

Think about it—I was a goofy Australian in a raincoat who shoots semi-professionally telling them that the camera they’d spent unimaginable amounts of time and money on could be better.

Instead of getting mad at me for saying that the slight lag in shutter actuation ‘feels funny’ when shooting birds, they took the information on board. They didn’t try to convince me that their superior noise-reduction algorithm was the reason long exposures took so long to process, they just listened to me. And they agreed that diving through menus wasn’t useful when trying to get close to a nervous bird.

By the end of the entire experience, that was the most valuable thing that I took away from it all—that at least one camera company values the input and feedback of people using their equipment to try and capture their vision. They may get it wrong sometimes, but at least they’re trying.

I mightn’t be ready to jump over to a new brand just yet, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been. And at the end of the day, the more awesome cameras there are on the market, the more opportunities photographers have to capture awesome images. I’m more brand agnostic now than I ever have been, and I’d recommend the experience of being a lab rat to anyone who enjoys photography.

Plus, I got paid a little over $1,000 for my trouble… not bad. As for what I did with that money; I bought more camera equipment of course!


About the author: Corey Hague is a digital content creator for ABC, where he has produced photos, video, audio, and writing for over 6 years. His photos have been published in Australian Geographic, Australian Birdlife, Sneaker Freaker, The Age, and ABC. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Instagram.

Canon Just Launched a New Clothing Line

Are you a die-hard Canon photographer who has longed to wear Canon-branded clothing? If so, Canon UK just launched a clothing line for you. It’s a collection of gear that includes jackets, bags, shirts, hats, umbrellas, and even a baby bib.

Here are some of the products that are now for sale in the “Official Canon Merchandise” section of the Canon UK website:

Camera History T-Shirt (£29)

“Black T-shirt in men’s regular fit featuring a white graphic print showing some of Canon’s most iconic cameras.”

Vintage Logo Cap (£12.50)

“A black baseball cap featuring an embroidered vintage ‘Camera Kwanon’ logo.”

Canon Umbrella (£25)

“Stay dry with this 92cm (27-inch) black golf-style umbrella, which is decorated with a timeline of iconic Canon cameras.”

Vintage Logo T-shirt (£29)

“Grey T-shirt in men’s regular fit featuring a black vintage Camera Kwanon logo from 1934.”

Vintage Logo Hoodie (£50)

“Regular fit men’s hoodie in navy blue, featuring a white Camera Kwanon logo.”

Canon Gear Baby Bib (£8)

“A colourful, waterproof baby bib featuring a Canon EOS digital camera – perfect for the budding young photographer in your life.”

Canon Windbreaker (£125)

“A water-repellent windbreaker jacket with photographer-friendly features, keeping you and your camera gear dry when you’re outdoors. Includes pockets to store lenses, SD cards and batteries, plus a detachable lens cleaning cloth.”

You can find the complete collection of Official Canon Merchandise here.

Burglars Steal Hundreds of Cameras and Lenses from Midwest Photo

The priceyness and portability of photo gear makes camera rental and retail outlets a popular target of burglars, and last week yet another big name in the industry was looted. The camera store Midwest Photo in Columbus, Ohio, was broken into on March 15th, and a huge number of items were stolen.

The burglars got into the new facility in the late night hours by sawing the roof and ceiling open, sliding down a pole, and then entering the stock/storage area. The entry was so stealthy that the perpetrators were able to stay long enough to steal hundreds of cameras, lenses, and photo accessories by Sony, Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Olympus, Panasonic, Hasselblad and Sigma.

Midwest Photo declined to share the dollar value of the stolen items.

Midwest Photo in Columbus, Ohio.

“This break in appears to have been pre meditated and carried out by experienced individuals,” Midwest Photo tells PetaPixel. “Police and local detectives are involved as this break in is potentially a part of a larger crime wave going throughout the Midwest at this time.”

Here are a couple of surveillance camera frames showing one of the burglars creeping around in the stock room:

Midwest Photo is in the process of gathering the serial numbers of missing items and using scraping software to scour the Web in hopes that items show up for sale somewhere online.


P.S. Two services/tools you can use to track serial numbers are Lenstag and the Stolen Camera Finder.

The Holga 120N is Coming Back from the Dead

After its launch in the early 1980s, Holga cameras became popular options for people looking to shoot medium format 120 film on the cheap. Production was shut down in late 2015, but now the camera is making a comeback: the classic Holga 120N is coming back this year.

Los Angeles-based Freestyle Photographic Supplies writes that the original 120N camera molds were obtained by a factory that’s working to begin manufacturing again.

“We have found a factory that obtained the old molds that we thought to be destroyed and this camera is available once again,” Freestyle writes. “What was thought to be gone forever is back.”

The Holga 120N shoots 120 medium format film and features 2 shooting formats (12 6x6cm images or 16 6×4.5cm images), two shutter speeds (1/100s and bulb), 2 aperture settings (f/11 and f/8), a hot shoe adapter, a standard tripod mount, a cap, and a strap.

Originally introduced to the Chinese public as a cheap everyday camera, the Holga was quickly embraced by photographers who loved the lo-fi look it produced:

You can buy the camera for $40 today from Freestyle, but delivery of the camera won’t happen until after July 9th, 2017.

The Holga 120N is just one of many film products making a comeback in recent days. Other notable revivals include Kodak Ektachrome and FILM Ferrania P30 films.

4 Lessons for Photographers from the Story of Desiree Genera

On Wednesday night, a developing story kept popping up on my feed featuring Katrina Ortiz (a photo client) and Desiree Genera (a photographer). Initially, Katrina posted positive feedback regarding her hired photographer after receiving an edited image in digital format.

Like most clients excited about their most recent professional photography session, she made it her profile picture and couldn’t wait to see the rest.

Desiree had posted on Facebook that the rest of Katrina’s maternity session would be complete and available for viewing on Tuesday (3/14/17), 2 weeks ahead of the photographer’s initially-stated timeline.

At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Katrina checked in via Facebook messenger to see if her photos were complete.

Clearly, from the exchange, Desiree was not happy to be interrupted while trying to do the editing. For her, this meant Katrina would now have to wait the full 4 week turnaround time instead of receiving them 2 weeks early.

Despite this news, Katrina politely backed off and apologized for the interruption. Katrina thought it was over until just a short while later she noticed she was a topic of discussion on Desiree’s personal Facebook page.

Desiree was openly discussing the altercation with her audience and even went live on Facebook, expressing her annoyance with the interruption. In these live videos, Desiree described the need to fix her client’s wig, stretch marks, fat, cellulite, etc. You can view the videos below (warning: there is plenty of foul language):

After seeing this happen right on her own news feed, Katrina’s opinion of the quality of service offered by Desiree changed. She began recording the live videos and sharing them on her page, as well as explaining to her friends what took place.

The story then quickly spread across Facebook. Some people expressed sympathy and suggestions to Katrina given the rudeness she had to endure, others began attacking Desiree’s photography business.

Desiree seemed to welcome the traffic, spending the day uploading new videos, as well as sharing old ones related to her business. Perhaps she was holding on to the adage, “all press is good press” because, despite the incoming negativity, her videos and posts were racking up views and interactions.

She went as far as to suggest that she would soon be “cashing in” on all the viral attention.

Katrina then requested on her Facebook for those following the story to report the images on Desiree’s page to get them taken down.

Many went a step further, leaving nasty messages, comments, and negative reviews on her brand’s marketing accounts. Others were tagging local and national news outlets in an attempt to bring an even bigger spotlight on the story.

Now, I didn’t bring this story up to tell you that it’s not a good idea to conduct business in this manner — if you were considering doing so there probably isn’t much hope for your business’s future. However, I found so many things in this story that have huge implications on our industry.

#1. Mixing Business and Personal Life is Dangerous

Whether you are deciding to go live on Facebook, or determining if you need 2 separate Instagram accounts for the various aspects of your life, it’s always worth considering your audience.

Most importantly, who you choose to discuss the quirky and infuriating intimacies of our industry with can always come back to bite you in the butt. This is most dangerous on social media, where…

#2. More than Just Your Friends are Watching

Curated feeds are designed to promote posts that get the most interaction. All of Katrina’s phone videos on this altercation now have tens of thousands of views. Even Desiree’s videos completely unrelated to the exchange have had a dramatic increase in traffic.

If it’s interesting enough, your message (positive or negative) can quickly spread around the world. Despite the fact that all the live videos Desiree shared are now deleted, along with many of the associated posts, screenshots and other people’s recordings live on. Remember, every time you post you are starting a fire that you may not be able to put out.

#3. Beware the Tribe Mentality

Katrina has every right to leave a negative review if she is dissatisfied with the photography service she paid for. Like all of us, Desiree has to accept the possibility of negative feedback with every image she delivers. This is all part of a single transaction.

However, as soon as the story spread the tribe mentality took over. When people are acting as part of a large group, they are far more likely to exhibit hatred. One commentor even offered to push this story to her Facebook group of over 20,000 mothers to help punish Desiree’s business.

While I find Desiree’s response and videos unprofessional, I do not think she should be at the mercy of a massive group that was uninvolved in the transaction.

At the same time, her continued defiance and traffic-relishing tells me she’s not very upset by the negative attention. After all, our society has been known to catapult people to fame simply by hating them enough. How bout dah?

#4. What’s Obvious, Isn’t.

In this instance, Katrina felt she had every right to stop Desiree from using the images to promote her work. Some commenting even suggested that “if you already paid for these (photos), they don’t belong to her anymore”.

While the photographer here may have made some questionable decisions, she does still retain the right to the images she captured.

When our entire day-to-day is based around a specific industry, we tend to assume that the standards of our industry are glowingly apparent to the public. Back when I waited tables at Chili’s, I scoffed when a guest was unaware that the salad garnish in the Quesadilla Explosion Salad had onions in it. Those guests were not chefs.

Your clients are not professional photographers. It is our job to educate clients on all aspects of the photography service, as well as outline it within contracts. Failure to do so leads to incorrect assumptions by those hiring us, as well as the general public.

Conclusion

It’s never a good idea to go off on the struggles of our industry on a social media platform, regardless of how infuriated you are. Be wise to any message that you put out to the world, even if you think just your friends are listening. Educate your clients on the specifics of both the industry as well as your brand.

As photographers, we are trusted with people’s memories, personalities, and passions. We also carry the weight of their imperfections. It’s best to treat them all delicately.


About the author: Robert Hall is a wedding, portrait, and commercial photographer based in Michigan. You can find more of his work on his website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.