5 Common Mistakes Beginners Make When They Share Photos Online

I look at more photos online every single day than most people go through in a month. It’s part of the job, scouring 500px and the Internet at large for the best photography out there and then writing about it—and over the course of 5 years doing this or something similar, I’ve learned some things.

I’ve learned what will get you published, what will get you noticed, what ‘exposure’ is really worth, and what topics are so dead-horse beaten that they make me nauseous every time I see an article about them (did you know that you should NEVER EVER EVER give away your photos for free… except, of course, when you should… duh).

I’ve also come to recognize the most common mistakes photographers—both newbies and, surprisingly, advanced shooters—make when they begin sharing their work online. Below are the 5 most common mistakes I see, and if you’d like to have your work noticed and appreciated, NOT doing the 5 things below is a fantastic place to start.

1. Being Overprotective

The overprotective sharer shouldn’t be sharing their work online in the first place. They’re so abjectly terrified of having it stolen that they ensure anybody who finds it online not only CAN’T steal it… they frankly wouldn’t even want to in the first place.

They do this in two main ways:

The Massive Watermark

You know it when you see it… and by see it I mean can’t help BUT see it. In fact, you probably are having a hard time seeing what the photo itself is through the 50% opacity logo/signature.

Tiny Files

This is the passive aggressive version of the massive watermark. Few things are more disappointing to me as an editor than seeing a photo I love on 500px, clicking on the thumbnail, and discovering that the thumbnail is almost larger than the full file.

If you don’t want to share your images at 2000px across, by all means don’t do it. Many of the most successful photographers on 500px cap theirs at 1250 or sometimes even a bit smaller than that. But if you’re uploading 500px files to 500px, you’re forgetting that the site was named about a decade ago—I don’t want to have to grab my loupe when I start browsing your portfolio.

Jokes aside, many of us will relate a little bit to the overprotective photographer. It’s aggravating when people steal your work. But why share your work online at all if it’s too small or covered up to enjoy? If you want to enjoy the benefits of exposing your work to the massive online community, know that you may have that work stolen… it comes with the territory.

Rule of Thumb: When it comes to watermarks, less is usually more unless you get really creative. When it comes to file size, never share something smaller than 700px on its longest side and consider upping that limit to 1000px.

2. Using the Wrong Color Profile

A simple mistake that gets us all now and again, but an easy one to rectify. When you are getting ready to share a photo online and you’re exporting from Lightroom or Photoshop, export as sRGB.

Exporting using the AdobeRGB or ProPhotoRGB color profile may look good to you at first but, depending on the browser/device the photo is being seen on, those colors you spent hours getting JUST right will be totally out of whack.

I made this mistake with the first photo I ever uploaded to 500px. It looks fine sometimes, but open it up on the 500px app and I cringe.

Rule of Thumb: Export as AdobeRGB or ProPhotoRGB for printing your images; export as sRGB for sharing online.

3. Being a Jack of All Trades (Master of None)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying different genres of photography, finding your niche, and experimenting. In fact I encourage it! But as you do it, begin honing in on a genre and then a style within that genre that you love.

If you’re trying to get your work noticed, your work has to look like YOUR work. Far too often I click on a profile and find a little bit of landscape, a little bit of portraiture, and a little bit of macro (among other things). There’s nothing to latch onto. Better to find a genre or style you love and stick to that, develop it, get GREAT at it, then move on/evolve when you feel like you’ve outgrown it.

It takes time to explore and develop your abilities as a particular type of photographer; don’t sell yourself short by jumping around like some crazed grasshopper.

Rule of Thumb: Don’t be a jack of all trades when it comes to photography. There are a few photographers I’ve seen who can pull it off, but the vast majority end up a master of none.

4. Sharing Everything

Did you capture an amazing sunset yesterday? Or maybe you found the perfect spot to shoot the milky way and snagged some truly staggering photos. Great… don’t share them all.

60 photos of the same sunset do not belong online—it’s the modern-day equivalent of forcing your friends to sit through a slideshow of your boring family vacation photos. Worse, it makes your profile forgettable because I have to scroll down for half a minute before I see anything beyond your last photo shoot.

Share your best photo of that sunset, or go crazy and share your best 5 if they’re unique or different enough, but please don’t share all 60!

Rule of Thumb: Share one photo per day, and never more than five at a time unless you’re migrating your whole portfolio to a new service. We all have a limited attention span—one to three great photos per day will captivate us, while 30 photos uploaded once per month will go by totally unnoticed.

5. Sharing Nothing

This mistake happens one of two ways:

1. You join 60 photo sharing sites and social networks and promptly let 59 or all 60 of those slowly wither by sharing a single photo every month or three… if that.

2. You’re too intimidated to share anything, so you talk yourself out of uploading every time that scary “Publish” button comes up.

The solution to the first problem is to pick a few communities and networks Facebook, maybe Instagram—and consistently upload at least a few photos every single week to ALL THREE. Developing a quality network takes time and dedicated attention. Only join as many sites as you have time to care for.

The solution to the second problem is to force yourself to overcome your fear of publishing by putting yourself on a consistent, zero-tolerance schedule. A great (and often transformative) way of doing this is to start a 365 project and tell everyone about it so they can hold you accountable.

It will force you to go out and take pictures every day, but more importantly, it will force you to SHARE one of those photos every day as well.

Rule of Thumb: Try to upload one photo per day, but at the very minimum upload one or two per week. You will never develop a dedicated follower base in this day and age unless you provide a steady stream of work. Not everyone will like everything you share, but you’ll give them a reason to follow you and check back on your work regularly.

Eventually, these are the people who will buy your prints… or the companies who will license your best work.

Sharing your photography online can be incredibly rewarding, educational, and, yes, sometimes frustrating and scary as well. We obviously think that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to sharing your work on the Internet, especially for beginners and passionate amateurs, but you’ll have to make your own judgement call on that.