I love seeing how people do things on the edges of what is possible. In this case, how people make a living off being viral/popular on any social network. Most networks don’t have direct mechanisms to pay users, so instead people have to improvise all sorts of other ways to try and make a living within the confines and limits of a social network.
To date, most often you see accepting payment for posts that sell a product, but recently I stumbled across a street photographer with viral Reels where he randomly walks up to strangers and asks to take their portraits.
Here are just his reels if you want to see what I’m talking about.
The people he films are often hesitant, because it seems like he’s bothering them or hitting on them but then he shows them his Instagram feed (screenshots below, they are really good portraits!) and eventually they comply and you see him take a handful of shots quickly and he shows them what’s in the viewfinder. The kicker is the final, fully-developed image is impressively dark and moody and with enough bokeh that you know he’s using an extremely good/expensive lens with the f-stop slammed down. They’re professional-looking portraits that make ordinary people look extraordinary.
The interesting part is what follows. At the end of these, he’s actually selling photo filters to get the same moody, dark look in his portraits for anyone using a photo editing tool like Lightroom. And I assume it’s working since he’s in my Reels feed quite often and shows no signs of stopping.
There’s a whole world of ultra-viral TikTok and Reels out there of people drawing strangers on the street, or shooting photos, or singing to them or whatever, but it’s interesting this guy has taken the format and joined it to selling his own tools to help people get better/more interesting photos while also blending a bit of showing you how he frames a subject and takes a decent shot to begin with.
It’s an interesting mix of a popular viral format to make the viewer feel warm and fuzzy from watching but also throws in some photography lessons so the viewer feels like they learned something too and then the kicker at the end is you can buy a filter to make your photos look like his. It’s something I haven’t seen before done and it’s done well.