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TikTok for photographers - A quick guide to grow your audience

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you have probably heard of TikTok. It is a video sharing platform that was made famous by dancing and lip syncs, but over the past few years has become so much more. With content for pretty much any niche: fashion, music, life hacks, comedy and anything else you can think of. TikTok has become a global phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. Not only has TikTok been wildly successful, but it has also spawned similar services on Instagram (reels) and youtube (shorts). Since short form video seems to be a format that is here to stay regardless of platform, I wanted to write this post to talk about how photographers can use TikTok to their advantage. A lot of people I know still view the platform as a place for teenagers to do dances so I want to try and dispel those stereotypes and show you what you can do on the platform to grow your audience.

How does TikTok work?

TikTok lets you share short videos, originally they were limited to a few seconds but now you can record up to 3 minutes. This gives you a lot of different content styles that you can publish on the platform and a lot of different niches you can fill. Videos can either be recorded directly in the app using the cameras on your phone or recorded elsewhere and then uploaded. Music plays an important part of the TikTok world since the app started mostly as dancing videos. Using trending audio has the potential to get your content seen by vast numbers of people and seeing how others use a song can be a great way to get inspiration for your own work. Another important point about TikTok is trends, these are things that people do over and over again and copy off each other. This all started with the dancing, someone would make a dance for a specific song, others would learn the moves and post their own version and then others would copy that and so on. The result would be millions of views for what was just people copying each other and songs that would skyrocket in popularity because of the trend. While we’re not going to be doing dances as photographers (unless you want to of course) the idea of trends is a very important one. There are often video formats, audio, effects etc that are wildly popular for short periods of time and using them during that period is a great way to give your content a boost. A good example at the moment is people posting their year round up, there is audio that starts with “and with that, the 2022 season comes to an end…” that people are using before a montage of clips from their year. As a photographer those clips could be BTS videos from your shoots or just a collection of still images, sync them to the audio and you have a trending video as well as a nice round up of your work over the year.

How long should your videos be?

This is really up to you, you could post a 3 minute long video of you reviewing camera equipment or teaching people an editing technique or you could post a 10 second montage of images you have taken. Finding your niche is important on all social media and TikTok is no different, once you have figured out what content you want to create you can start experimenting and find what works well in your niche. On my TikTok, I primarily post montages of my pictures or behind the scenes videos from shoots I’ve done, normally these are 10-15 second clips. Others will film themselves constantly with a body worn camera and then put together a video showing them taking pictures and then the final image, this style may be more like 15-30 seconds. Some creators will post editing tutorials, gear reviews and longer behind the scenes content, this tends to be 1-3 minutes. So depending on what you are wanting to do on the platform, different video lengths will be more or less appropriate and more or less desirable to your viewers.

Do I have to be on camera?

Once again this is personal preference, some people have themselves as the focus of their content while others are never seen at all. If you want to post editing tips then having yourself in the shot can be nicer for the viewer than just looking at a screen capture of photoshop with your voice over that top. If you don't want to be on screen though then you absolutely can just record the screen while you edit and never show your face. Posting montages of images means there is no need to show yourself, just sync some of your shots to music and you're good to go. People often post “the scene vs the shot” videos, these are normally filmed pov so there is no need to show yourself. If you do want to get in front of the camera then there are lots of content styles you can do, you could film yourself talking about your gear, get someone to film BTS content of you while you work or even just have an intro clip of you putting a camera to your eye before cutting to a montage of images. You can experiment and find out what you're comfortable with and as you get used to the app you might find you become keener on being in the shot.

Should I film directly in the app?

This is something social media managers say is an effective way to get the algorithm to push your content to more people. I have not noticed a difference whether I film in app or elsewhere so how much of a difference it makes I can’t say. Editing videos is certainly much easier in other apps though so I tend to film on my phone, edit in an app and then upload to TikTok. If you are trying to sync something to audio though this is often easier to do in the app, but for most trending audio, someone will post a tutorial video showing you the timings for each cut which makes life much easier.

What hashtags should I use?

If you watch a few TikToks you will see people using # fyp, # foryou, # foryoupage etc. These hashtags have billions of views on them and historically were how people believed you got your video onto people’s for you page (this is where users view content from people they might not follow so is how you can reach lots of people and gain followers). Nowadays social media managers say it is best to avoid these hashtags and focus on ones specific to your niche as it looks less spammy. If someone is interested in photography then using # photography will make you more likely to show up on their FYP than # foryou will as they will be actively searching for photography content. Do a bit of research on the app, search for the type of content you are wanting to make eg: street portraits, photo editing etc… and see what hashtags other creators are using.

Content ideas to get started

I’ve already mentioned a few ideas throughout this post: photo montages, editing tutorials, gear reviews, scene vs shot etc. My tip for coming up with ideas would be to search your niche and see what others are doing, TikTok has always been an app about copying, improving and following trends. That doesn’t mean ripping off your fellow creatives! But see what music people are using, see what transitions they do and think about how these things could apply to your content. The easiest video to get you started is a photo montage, just find a song that has a tutorial with the beat timings, use an app like Capcut or VN video editor and make a video out of a collection of images following the timings in the tutorial. This is super easy and doesn't require you to make any new content, just recycle what you already have.

Hopefully, this information has been useful to you and has given you a few ideas to work with. TikTok is a platform that is growing massively and provides a great opportunity to get your work seen by a larger audience. If you have any other questions about how the app works or how you can use it, let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to help you. If you liked this post then please subscribe to my mailing list, this will give you exclusive discounts and offers on my store as well as keep you up to date on all the latest news and posts I put out. When you head over to TikTok and start creating, give me a follow and see what I’ve been doing on the platform.


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