Why Google+ is Better Than Facebook for Photographers

I’m proud to say that I got on Google+ the very first day it was available for public beta (thank you again +Brian Rose). Since that day I’ve been an active user and have used it daily to publish my photography out to the the world. My Google+ workflow is pretty simple. I publish about 5 photos a day spread out over the course of the hours in a day that I’m awake. I’ve got a large archive of about 80,000 finished photos at this point so I’m posting what I feel is my stronger work there. Much of what I’m publishing on Google+ are first time photographs that I’ve never shared anywhere else. I don’t want to overwhelm people with my work, but 5 photos a day spread out over the course of a day feels about right to me. The reception has been amazing and I’m lucky to have quickly built an audience for my work.

In a little over a month I have over 38,000 people who have put me in their various circles — thank you. By contrast I have about 3,300 people who are my friends on Facebook. Despite the fact that I’ve been active on Facebook for almost 5 years, I have an audience over 10x bigger on Google+ than Facebook in a little over a month.

I believe that much of the reason why I and other photographers are having so much success on Google+ is because it is fundamentally a *better* platform than Facebook for photographs and in this blog post I’ll detail some of the key differences.

1. Google+’s photo thumbnails are MUCH bigger than the stingy microscopic photo thumbnails that Facebook gives you. I can’t overemphasize this point enough. Bigger is better when it comes to photography on the web. It boggles my mind why Facebook has insisted on holding on to their minuscule microscopic thumbnails as long as they have. They are tiny. You can’t see anything at all. Photos on Facebook are easily skipped and ignored. In contrast, Google+ gives us nice large thumbnails that invite you to interact. The photo thumbnails look sooooo better and as such they get much more attention. Super smart Google!

2. Google+ has the *best* lightbox on the web right now — by comparison Facebook’s looks cheap and dated. With Google+ when you see a bold new thumbnail by a photographer, you *want* to click through to see the large sized version — and when you do this you are rewarded by the best lightbox on the web. The photo is huge. It takes up just about the entire page except for some comments over on the right side. It’s loaded instantly — so fast. It never locks up or hangs like flickr.

Facebook by contrast, even with their revamped lightbox, only gives you a medium sized photo. The focus is not the image. Instead you see a bunch of gibberish in white under the image and even worse an advert.

3. With Google+ I can easily circle the photographers whose work I want to follow vs. Facebook’s clunky lists. Once I tried to play with Facebook’s lists to try to filter in some of my favorite photographers. It was a huge failure. I couldn’t figure it out. It was clunky. So I’m stuck with my main Facebook feed being full of non-photography related stuff. Sometimes I just want to see big bold photos instead of having to read about Aunt Edna’s latest recipe for avocado soufflé or 2nd cousin Gary’s passion for bashing the hell out of Sarah Palin 28 times a day, even after the election’s been over for 2 years now. With Google+ I can create great circles of people devoted to photography, with Facebook I can’t.

4. The Facebook/Flickr integration thing has been a huge disaster. When I first heard that you could import your Flickr photos into Facebook, I was sort of excited — but this has been one of the most poorly integrated features I’ve ever seen. Sometimes Facebook will import a thumbnail representing my Flickr photos *8* times in a row. Sometimes they won’t come in at all. When they do come in they use the worst photo for the thumbnail instead of the best (hint, last uploaded in a batch to Flickr, not first uploaded to Flickr in a batch).

And I’m not alone here: Just go to the Flickr Help forum and search “Facebook” and you’ll find post after post after post of people on Flickr complaining about how broken this process has been. Good God, there are over 1,700 posts in the Flickr Help Forum, almost all of them complaining about how broken the Facebook integration is. This has left a bad taste in my mouth re: photography on Facebook.

5. All the best photographers are showing up on Google+ and an exciting now community of photographers is blossoming. Photographers on Google+ are engaged. Every day people are sharing new lists of photographers and resharing content by their favorites. There are long discussions about techniques and methods. Photowalks are being set up. The photo community is alive and active on Google+ while it feels stale and non-existent on Facebook.

Photography is such an important part of any social network and Google+ has been optimized for photography and photographers right out of the gate. It feels central in how they’ve designed service. Google+ realizes how visual we all are and has built a far better platform for us to be visual with. Everybody loves photography right? It’s no surprise that photographers are doing so well on this exciting new platform.

If you’d like to follow my work on Google+ you can do that here.

If you haven’t signed up for Google+ yet and need an invitation you can get one from me here. (I’ve only got 129 left to hand out on this link).

You can read comments on this post over at Google+ here: https://plus.google.com/104987932455782713675/posts/8czBNGPWqEk

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  1. “Despite the fact that I’ve been active on Facebook for almost 5 years, I have an audience over 10x bigger on Google+ than Facebook in a little over a month.”

    Kevin Rose has made similar comments of this nature. I think you guys are overlooking the fact that this has happened because of the audiences you’ve built up across the web prior to the launch of Google+. 😉

  2. LaPingvino says:

    Chris Luckhardt: this is only half true. Granted, I knew Kevin Rose before, but would never think about following him on any other social network before. And Thomas Hawk I only heard about on G+ itself, never seen him before. I am pretty sure this is true for a lot of other people as well. In short time basically anyone coming from twitter gets a bigger following on G+, not including most followers they have on Twitter.

    So, it’s tempting to say it’s because we built our following on other networks before, but I’m not convinced :).

  3. LaPingvino: If you check the stats for other “tech” people with the apparent sudden large followings, I think my theory stands up to scrutiny. The surplus is due to their prior popularity, which then swelled on G+.

  4. I’ve been telling all my photog friends how awesome G+ is. I’ll send this post link out on twitter.

  5. This is exactly what I’ve experienced on Google+. I was so lucky that I was able to be there from Day 1.

  6. Mike Cohen says:

    I don’t really care much for G+ because of the lack of clients & lack of integration with other services. Their iPhone app is just plain horrible.

    I don’t think Facebook is the place to share photos either. Flickr is still the best.

  7. Gokhan says:

    I will never defend FB since they have been so slow to respond to change. I agree with some good features on Google+ but after reading Scott Bourne’s blog quoting from Google Terms you sign when you registered I was not very happy!!!

    Why do you think GOOGLE wants me to sign a contract (terms of service) that gives them the RIGHT TO SELL my photos?
    I just don’t agree with that! My work should stay my work, and only seller should be me! Google plus is absolutely NOT a good place for photographers in legal perspective! Not saying it does not have any user friendly features, interface etc. It just is not a GOOD PLACE for us.
    A company making billions of billions from ad sales does not need the right to sell my work, period.

  8. Wiboon Jirasukpaisit says:

    Just want to say thanks for the invitation link in your post.

    Thank you.

  9. David Bram says:

    I’ve been using G+ with some success as well. Now waiting on the twitter integration.

  10. Daniel Sroka says:

    I’d never rely on one service as my main communications tool. That’s putting too much control in the hands of a third-party who may be gone tomorrow, change the TOS, etc. Instead, my recommendation for photographers is to share photos on your own blog – a site you own and control. Then use Twitter, FB, G+, whatever to promote them.

    Chris Luckhardt: I agree that a lot of the supposed success of G+ comes from the transfer of fans. Never equate the success of an online-celeb to your own potential!

  11. Colby Brown says:

    Nice write up Thomas Hawk and I couldn’t agree more. I was with you on day 1 as well and I have been able to amass over 10,000 followers up to today, with a growth rate that doesn’t seem to be stopping.

    As for Gokhan, you a misinformed. If there is one piece of advice I can give you or any other “photographer” out there, it is don’t listen to Scott Bourne. He was the one that cried wolf about the TOS agreement and got the Washington Post to write an article off of it. He was out of line and omitted several KEY parts of the TOS agreement.

    I wrote a piece about the TOS agreement and how it was blown out of proportion. You can read it here, http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/blog/google-social-marketing-and-the-changing-photo-industry/

    As for the “selling” of your images, that is actually an older feature of Picasa, and you have COMPLETE control over what you want to happen for your images. The rest of the TOS agreement is in plance so that Google can legally provide the service it offers, which is media sharing with your circles (and or the public if you allow it to).

    Pay attention to this line of the TOS, “This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services”. Its important.

    Getty has also said it is 100% ok with the G+ TOS and many other lawyers have chimed in agreeing, including mine. Enjoy the service and don’t believe everything you read until you have done your own research.

    Hope to see you on G+.

  12. Will Marlow says:

    I think Daniel Sroka is right on. I personally believe that Thomas Hawk’s most valuable web property is his personal website (where we are all having this discussion). You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, no matter who rich the connections are, or how big of an audience there seems to be. Whether it’s Flickr, FB, G+, Twitter, these are all just “outposts,” and they should be used as great tools for sharing your work with new people, and deepening your relationships with friends, colleagues and customers. That said, great writeup here – thanks, Thomas.

  13. Great article Thomas! I’m fairly new to Google+ and haven’t quite got it dialed but after reading this I think I’m going to pursue it more. Thanks again!!

  14. I absolutely adore Google+. I get way more feedback on my photos than I ever did on Flickr or Facebook, and it’s so much easier & faster to follow others’ work, as well. It’s all right there in one place, ready to be explored. The lists of photographers people have been putting together have been very useful, too.

  15. Thomas Hawk says:

    Lotus good point. I do like that square and landscape shots look bigger. I was totally thinking about this just the other day.

    Celine, love seeing your work on there.

    Will Marlow. Personally I don’t care about what is my most valuable web property. As an artist my goal is to distribute my work to as wide an audience as possible. To that end I’ll use all channels to get my stuff out there. Google+ is by far the biggest audience I’ve seen on the web for my stuff yet. I’ll still use other channels, Flickr, my blog, Twitter, even facebook from time to time. But most of my energy will be going into G+ as a distribution channel for my work going forward.

    Good point on that FUD Colby. I don’t really talk about copyright stuff anymore because the stalking and personal harassment just isn’t worth the trouble, but good work on your part for setting the record straight on that.

    Chris, I’ve found the engagement personal growth is relative. I’ve met lots of people who didn’t have large followings on the web that have quickly amassed thousands of followers on G+. I think a big part of it is that it helps to be very active on the site. Reciprocation and involvement seems to dramatically increase followers. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that leaving comments on other people’s stuff especially boosts their follower count. Probably because people see the comment and it’s so easy to hover over someone and add them to a circle.

    Probably the number one way I add people personally is seeing them make an intelligent comment on a post of mine or someone else’s.

  16. Leon says:

    Google plus…

  17. Gokhan says:

    Just and FYI, what Scott Bourne published on his blog was not something he made up. The text was taken straight out of Google Terms and conditions. Everyone will have to make a choice depending on their needs, views and what they do with their photos, I still strongly believe that just because I am uploading an image on a social media site I should not have to GIVE UP MY COPYRIGHTS.