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Social Media Photography: What Clicks?

Telling stories with photos has been a part of our narrative since the first photo was taken with a camera in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Over the centuries, photography has evolved enormously and the advent of digital photography has revolutionized the entire field. Now, taking, posting and curating digital photos has become a form of art for many individuals who use social media platforms such Instagram and Facebook. It takes great skill to capture photographic content that is interesting to viewers perusing their Instagram accounts. What is going to grab someone’s attention as they scroll through? What is going to encourage someone to push that Follow button? Vehicle accounts are popping up like crazy on social media, but what makes one more interesting than another? One of our ambassadors, Michael Yi (@youngrav4) is extremely consistent with his excellent photos so we wanted to know “How do you create the magic?”

The Inspiration

Michael is an avid Instagram poster and created his YoungRAV4 page in July of 2020.  He has quickly amassed followers by posting anywhere from once to three times a week and everyday people are being drawn in by the very clever photography content. His trick is planning ahead.  Michael is not only a college student, but holds two jobs as well.  During his free time he researches photo locations via geo-tag and Google, concentrating on natural lighting, backgrounds and the “cool” factor.  He also likes to play with juxtaposition on his account as he switches back and forth between cityscape and nature.  Both places have hidden locations to explore and stories to tell.  However, wherever Michael plans to go, there is one thing he always does before he heads out the door – he checks the weather forecast, an absolute must if you want to have a successful shoot.

The Method

Lots of auto enthusiasts hire professional photographers to take pictures of their vehicle, but Michael takes all of his own using a Canon 5D Mark 4. Typically, he hand-holds his camera but in the case of a long exposure in dark areas or at night, he will use a tripod to keep a steady shot. He only uses natural lighting which is an incredibly challenging feat – no flashes, no reflection panels, no extra lighting.  Post photography, Michael will occasionally include filters or graphics from Photoshop, Lightroom, Snapseed and LD to add a humorous or fantastical touch to his photos. The post of a C-17 flying over his RAV4 exemplifies his graphically creative approach.  It is not only his favorite (he made it into wallpaper), but it is the most popular post on his page, as many viewers believed it was real!

The Goal

The goal for Michael’s social media accounts is to grow a following that can share resources and helpful information within the Toyota and Subaru overlanding communities.  He is passionate about his RAV4 build and wants to share the process (his concept, what products he selected, and what companies he has partnered with) with other individuals as they look for assistance or ideas for their potential builds. His enthusiasm for both his vehicle and photography is definitely conveyed through the images he has posted of his “YoungRAV4”.

When asked for his best piece of advice for social media photographers, Michael immediately responds with “Take your time when taking photos and pay attention to the small details that can so often be missed.”  These small details in both photographic technique and content are often what makes the difference between a post that stops you in your tracks and one that keeps your finger scrolling.

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