Category Archives: For Professionals

I wrote a very lengthy article about a year and a half ago about some of my tips and mistakes of second shooting for other photographers. It was coming off of a great year of second shooting a lot of weddings with some really amazing photographers. In the article, I wrote about how I had my primary photographers sign a contract because I wanted to be able to protect myself as a second shooter as well. This may turn off a lot of primary photographers, but the last thing I need is for a photographer to get published off of my images or build their portfolio site off of images that I took.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of people email and ask if I would sell my contracts that I have my second shooters sign and, when I was second shooting, have my primary photographers sign. So, without further ado, if you’d like to purchase these contracts, for what I think is a very reasonable price, they are now for sale. ***Please note that I am not a lawyer and these have not been inspected by a lawyer so what is written in here may not hold up in your state.*** Thank you so much for your purchase of the 2nd shooter contract. Please note that refunds will not be given if you purchased the wrong contract. Also, please note that I am not a legal expert and these are templates only. By purchasing this item, you hold harmless Jen Shannon and all affiliates, from any claims that arise.

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This year has been my busiest year second shooting. I’ve been in business for almost 4 years. Since January, I’ve second shot with other photographers at 14 weddings. I’ve learned a ton from second shooting. I wanted to share some things I’ve learned that I think help out the primary photographer a lot.

***Updated 6/6/13: Contracts are now for sale here.***

First, let me say that I don’t think second shooting is beneath any photographer, no matter how experienced they are. Second shooters aren’t always photographers who are just starting out that are trying to learn how to be a primary photographer on their own someday. Sometimes it is just that a primary photographer has a client who hired a second shooter and they want someone they know they can trust that helps them out.

Before I left Chicago, I had built a nice side business between portrait clients and weddings, especially in 2009. However when I moved back to Jacksonville, it was like starting over again. The first time I second shot a wedding was in early 2009 when my brother got married. I also second shot a couple of times for free for another photographer to gain some experience before shooting my first solo wedding in June 2009. When I started out as a professional photographer, I started with pet photography. I did pet photography for over a year before I shot my first wedding. One day out of the blue, the manager for PetSmart, who had hired me to do a weekend of pet photography during an adoption event they were hosting, asked me if I did weddings and if I would consider doing hers. I had no wedding experience and was very up front with her about it but told her if she wanted me to, I would send her a quote. Ultimately she hired me and referred another couple to me as well. I then listed my business for weddings (in addition to pet photography) on Google and was getting a lot of inquiries and quite a few bookings.

Going back to what I was starting to say, so when I moved back to Jacksonville, it was like starting all over again. I had met some photographers over a forum I had been a part of, one of which lived in St. Augustine. She invited me to lunch and before I knew it, she was referring me to second shoot. Long story short, referral led to referral and between these photographers, they hired me multiple times this past year.

Recently I’ve had a couple of emails from photographers wanting to know how they can start second shooting for photographers, which inspired me to write this post. I don’t know that I really have any good advice for how to start second shooting or even start shooting as a primary photographer, but what I can offer is what I think helps a second shooter become reputable and what really helps primary photographers. So here goes.

  1. First, always show up early. In 2010, I second shot for a photographer where, the first time, I showed up early, but the second time, the client said I showed up late. I actually happened to be right on time when I arrived, but their expectation was that I be shooting at that time, not getting out of my car. Lesson learned, always plan to be there 15 minutes early.
  2. Second, this should be a no brainer, but I’ve heard some stories. Always show up with your gear ready to go. Be sure your cards are formatted, your gear is clean, and show up ready to shoot. There was one wedding in 2010 that I second shot where I did forget to grab my spare camera batteries off of their chargers. I think the battery lasted the whole wedding, I really can’t remember. I don’t remember having to borrow a battery from the primary photographer, but my memory is currently on prego brain so I really don’t remember. I do remember telling her that I forgot my spare batteries and may need to borrow hers, but I don’t think I ended up needing them… That leads me to my next point.
  3. Always have a check list. Make sure to have a check list of things you need to take with you. It doesn’t matter how many times you shoot a wedding or second shoot for someone, always have a list and go over it. Pilots do it every time they fly a plane. Naturally, our brains can slip up and we may forget, but we need to have a system in place that doesn’t allow us to forget.
  4. Always carry your extra camera body. You are being hired as a second shooter. If your camera fails or heaven forbid the primary photographer’s camera fails and they don’t have a spare, there needs to be a back up. You need to be able to shoot the wedding as though you are the primary just in case anything happens, so be sure to bring your extra camera body.
  5. There’s nothing worse than showing up to second shoot and you don’t know the name of the bride and groom. Always make sure you ask the primary photographer to give you their information. If you’ve asked for it and they haven’t sent it to you, then send them a text before the event to try to get it. You are representing their company and it is your job to make them look good.
  6. Many times, there is some down time before the ceremony. Always ask the primary photographer if there is anything you can help them with or if there is anything you can get for them (water, soda, etc) so that you are staying busy. If they tell you just to hang out, then either find a way to keep busy, or just hang out.
  7. I always bring my own water because I drink so much water on a regular basis, that I can’t go a full day on one bottle of water. I’ll typically buy a couple of large Aquafinas or bring two of my own water bottles with water in it. If you stop to get bottled water, pick up extra for your primary shooter just in case. Worse comes to worse, you have more for you.
  8. Sometimes people think they are second shooters who don’t have to carry bags. Your job, even though you are second shooting, is to help the primary photographer in ANY WAY you can on a wedding day. If that means being a loud mouth to gather family for group pictures, you do it, even if you’re shy. If that means carrying bags, setting up lighting, holding off-camera flash, etc, you do it because that is your job.
  9. When you are second shooting, don’t shoot over the primary’s shoulder unless you are getting a different perspective. Sometimes I’ll shoot right next to the primary, but I’ll be focusing on rings, hands, bouquets, etc while he or she is getting the bigger picture or doing portraits. Always try to find a different and unique view. After all, photographers don’t need duplicate photos of what they’ve already shot. That’s not why they hired you.
  10. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you pass out your own business cards at their wedding. That is not your wedding that you booked and their clients are not your clients. Instead, ask the primary photographer for a stack of their cards and hand them out at the reception. Some photographers use event cards that guests can pick up to view photos of the wedding at a later time. It helps their print sales if you go around while you’re photographing the reception and hand out the event cards and say, “Here is where you can go to view and purchase prints of sally and johnny’s wedding.” Of course, be sure it’s ok with the primary photographer before you do this.
  11. There may be times where you are working for a photographer that does things very different from you. That’s fine. You are working for them so do things the way they want them done. Plus, you may learn something you didn’t think you’d learn.
  12. If you can, bring a laptop or ask the primary photographer to bring their laptop with a card reader and an external hard drive so that at the end of the night, you can give them your files without having to waste discs. In my case, I shoot for several photographers who either don’t have laptops or don’t want to lug them around all day, so I’ll bring my husband’s laptop and a cheap $30 external hard drive I purchased from Target and at the end of the night I’ll load my cards on to the drive and give it to the primary with a self-addressed prepaid shipping envelope so all they have to do is pop it back in the mail to me when they’re done with it. If worse comes to worse, I’ll offload my cards at home and ship them the drive with a self-addressed prepaid envelope for them to send it back to me. I think primaries love this because it is fast, easy, and they don’t have to keep track of 6 or 7 discs.
  13. Lastly, ask for feedback. Every time I second shoot for a photographer I’ve never worked with, I always email them afterwards asking for feedback. The only way you’ll learn to get better at working for someone else is to ask for feedback, making sure that you are helping that photographer in every way you can, so that they are benefiting from hiring you as best they can. Plus it opens a dialogue where they are comfortable giving you constructive criticism that they may not have given you otherwise.

Here are a few recommendations I do have as a second shooter that I think helps the relationship to be cohesive and beneficial for both parties. The point in second shooting is not to build your portfolio, or gain experience, but to help that photographer. Now, let me just interject that earlier in this blog I mentioned I second shot for free on a couple of occasions for a photographer in Chicago to gain experience. In this case, I had posted on a forum that I was looking to second shoot for free to gain wedding day experience and see how weddings go BUT this is not typically why you’re hired to second shoot. In that case, I wasn’t necessarily hired because I wasn’t paid and the couple hadn’t paid for a second photographer. It was simply a great photographer helping out a newbie. If you gain experience while doing it, then that is even better, but ultimately, you need to build your relationship with that photographer by doing whatever it is they tell you to do and helping them however you can. If you work for a photographer who doesn’t mind you using photos you take as part of a second shooter portfolio, then that is awesome.

One of the most controversial issues I’ve come across, because I mentioned it on a forum, is that I require all of my primary shooters to sign a contract with me. Most primaries will make you sign a second shooter contract that outlines their expectations of you (such as how to dress, portfolio usage, etc) but sometimes things that are important to a second shooter can be left out. It’s important, however, that if your primary photographer takes issue with any of the things in your contract, that you work with them on those issues to make sure it is reasonable. Here are a few examples of why I require a contract, some suggestions, and some of the things in my contract. You have to protect yourself and having a contract that lays out your expectations that does not contradict anything in the primary shooter’s contract is always a good idea. For example, one photographer I frequently second shoot for will not allow me to use a couples’ names in my blog posts because one time, a couple Googled their name and found the blog of a second shooter she used where the photos were edited completely different from her style and some photos were not included on the final disc. It is the primary photographer’s job to cull images and decide what fits their studio’s standards and what the client gets as final images so you could imagine what a headache this made for the primary photographer. Be sure you are flexible with your primary photographers because ultimately, you’re there to work for them, but on the same note, you also have to protect yourself.

  1. Work with a photographer and your contract: I had one photographer that was a little leery about my cancellation clause. My cancellation clause says I can cancel 2 days or more (more meaning I cannot cancel 1 day before the event) before the event should I be able to book my own wedding. More often than not, you won’t be contacted for a wedding booking 2 days before a wedding, but it could happen, which would mean my earning potential for that day would be higher, however, in some areas, it may be hard to find a replacement second shooter within 2 days. It was important to both of us that we work out a time frame that worked for them. Ultimately we did and that was that.
  2. Shooting on the primary photographer’s cards: I will not shoot on someone else’s cards. There are many photographers out there who require that you shoot on their cards. This is not uncommon and it isn’t a bad thing, however, I want to be able to have these files and blog them without the primary photographer keeping them from me. It is not an uncommon practice for a primary to require you to shoot on their cards and it is also not uncommon for you to not be able to use the images. Even though the photographs are the property of the person I am primary shooting for, my contract also outlines my usage of the photos (I can use them on my blog and second shooting portfolio with clear indications and a link back that the images were second shot for that photographer). With where I am in my business, this is just something I feel strongly about, but again, it is not uncommon to be required to shoot on another photographer’s cards, especially for higher profile photographers. Part of why I feel so strongly about it is because I want to be able to showcase my second shooter work to other photographers to see so they can see what they are getting when they hire me.
  3. Payment expectations: In most cases, I will not release my RAW files until I have been paid. I’ve heard too many stories of second shooters not being paid after they’ve given the files to the primary photographer and that is not fair. On a couple of occasions, I’ve second shot and the primary photographer has either forgotten my check or cash to pay me at the end of the night. If I’ve second shot a time or two with a primary photographer and they’ve built a good rapport with me, I’ll give them the files because I know that they are good for their payment.
  4. Other things to consider: There are several other things to consider. What happens if the primary photographer, heaven forbid, can’t make it to the wedding and you, then, have to primary shoot alone? What would your pay rate be? Who would retain copyright? How can you use the photos? What about double headers? What if you have to shoot until 1am and then accept another job with the same photographer that starts at 8am and you have an hours drive to and from? Do you charge extra for that? What if the photographer gets published off of your images under their studio? Do you require that they credit you for your images taken for them? What if you are second shooting for a photographer who is still building their portfolio and they end up using your photos on their website as their portfolio images and don’t credit you? These are important things to think about because until you’ve developed a relationship with a photographer, you may not have any references to go by as to if they have good work ethics. There are a lot of people out there who are not and you have to protect yourself. I’m lucky that I have worked with really amazing photographers with solid ethics, so I’ve never had to enforce any part of my contract.

Lastly, the only advice I can really give about getting into second shooting is to find a group of photographers that meets every now and again and make connections. Don’t go with the intention of trying to work for other photographers. Get to know them, have lunch or coffee with them and really invest in getting to know them as friends. Relationship building is everything. If nothing, second shooter job wise, comes of it, then you know at least you’ve made some great industry friends/piers.

I hope my mistakes and advice helps anyone looking to try to second shoot for other photographers. I’m very blessed to have had the opportunities to second shoot this year with the amazing photographers I have second shot with. I hope next year I’ll get to second shoot for them too.

I’ve seen a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks about whether or not photographers give their clients the unedited images on a disc and only edit the ones that go into their albums or retouch only a select number of images. I heard about this method a couple of years ago when I used to follow a bigger name photographer. I have to say, for the last couple of years, I’ve never understood this methodology. I do understand that it cuts down on post processing and many times the client looks at their disc once or twice and that’s it, but here is my beef.

When a client hires you, they see all of your edited work on your website. Everything you put on your website, blog, facebook, etc is all edited. That’s one of the biggest reasons a client hires you. They love your style of photos, aka they love your edits.

I also need to let the cat out of the bag here. I have no problem handing over my raw files to other photographers. I’ve second shot enough to where I don’t care whether or not they see my unedited images. Ultimately, they are going to edit those photos in a way that best represents their work and it may be completely different from the way I edit my photos. Yes there are settings in your camera that can make changes to your photos but for the most part, no ones’ photos come out of the back of their camera looking like the photos posted to a photographer’s portfolio. HOWEVER! That does NOT mean that there is much to do in terms of editing. My philosophy has always been to get it right in camera so editing on the back end doesn’t take as long. I certainly have my share of over and under exposed photos, especially during times when the sun is spotty, but in general, if you can get it as close to how you want your photos to look on the back end, it cuts down on your editing time. If your exposures are always the best you can make them, then on the back end, you won’t need to do much adjusting. Some styles are more heavy in editing, which is fine, but my point is that a digital photographer’s final work is typically edited in some fashion.

I do, however, have a problem showing clients the back of my camera. I do it from time to time but I don’t like showing them the back of my camera because many times a client cannot see the end result. Similar to when you buy a house with a not-so-pretty interior, many changes are cosmetic and many people buying homes can’t see past that to what the end result could look like (which is why staging and paint colors are so important to successfully selling a house). Clients aren’t the professionals so what you show them is what they see. But that is another tangent in and of itself.

Here are a few examples with explanations below.

Here’s an example of an image that is mostly exposed correctly and slightly edited to bring in some darker details that were slightly more washed out in their faces.

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Here’s an example of one that is exposed correctly (for my style) but needed some brightening and some slight dodging and burning.

Lastly, here is an image exposed for the sunlight around his hair and then brightened with fill light (during the editing process) to make the image better. Add some over all brightness and this is what you get.

My point in all of this is to say yes, your raw files may be almost perfect, mine certainly vary, but what you see online and in portfolios is typically always edited in some fashion. Why would I want to give my client 400-500 images of their wedding and have only some of them edited? Not only is that not reflective of my style of photos, but in my opinion, it feels like they are not getting what they paid for, nor are your photos the best representation of your business. I know there are several arguments on both sides of the issue, but it just seems like a way to do less work for the same amount of pay, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case, it seems cheap and like a cop out.

That’s not to say the images in your portfolio and blog aren’t edited a little bit more, but consistency should be key. When I come home from a shoot, I’ll look at my digital negative reel and exposures from various lighting situations will be different. Some may be darker, some lighter, but mostly they are exposed at about what I would like them to be exposed at, but I couldn’t imagine handing those over as the final product that my client is getting on a disc and only editing a few. It’s like putting the drywall up but not painting the wall itself or making a recipe but only using 75% of the ingredients needed to make it. It’s similar to the 19th century when impressionism came around and critics called the impressionist paintings unfinished sketches.

That’s my take on the issue. Do you give your clients unedited images? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Leave a comment letting me know.

So what do you all think? If you’re reading this on my blog, then you can clearly see that there is a new design! Many of you who visit my blog on a regular basis may have seen that I was using my blog as my website/blog (aka blogsite) but then switched back to having a separate blog and website. I didn’t like the design because it wasn’t very fluid. It just didn’t flow.

Last week at our Jacksonville PUG meeting, we had a really great speaker on SEO and one of things he spoke about was just how bad flash websites are for search engines. Now, this was something I already knew but I thought the “SEO friendly” flash sites had some sort of html mirror of sorts to allow search engines to easily index my site, but he proved that that wasn’t true when he did an audit on my website. This was the kick in the butt I needed to get my new blog+site redesign DONE! I feel like I’ve been so busy I just haven’t had time.

So last Friday and Saturday, I literally spent 13+ hours in front of the computer each day plugging away at a new design, new layout, and SEO friendly site. And there you have it! Blogsite is done! I really love it. I don’t know why I never did it this way before. It’s not only SEO friendly, it’s incredibly cost effective.

For photographers who are wondering (and maybe potential clients who are interested) part of the cost of running a legitimate photography business is the expense of running a blog, website, proofing site, lead management/pricing software, etc. Many people don’t realize that you can easily throw down $100+ a month in these expenses alone. That doesn’t include business liability insurance, insurance on your gear, any necessary gear upgrades, rentals, taxes, business licensure, education, continuing education, etc. Running a business is expensive, but if you love what you do, it is worth it. Many people who deem themselves professional photographers just go buy a DSLR and automatically call themselves a professional photographer, but they don’t understand that to run a legitimate business, you have to have a business license and pay taxes.

Here is where I’m going to be frank, well, because that’s how I roll. Here is a run down of website expenses:

  • Website through ShowIt: $39 per month
  • Blog: $4.99 per month (you pay for hosting monthly, but pay for the blog software as a one time fee)
  • Blog dedicated hosting: $2.99 per month
  • ShootQ (lead management): $30 but am on a promotional code. Typically it is $60.
  • Proofing: Depending on who you go with, this can be very pricey. The cart system I’d like to use is either $80 per month or a one time fee of $999. So I’m currently saving some money using SmugMug at $150 per year, which is about $12.50 per month.

That’s $89.48 per month, just in website stuff. By eliminating the cost of a separate website, I’m saving $39 per month, which is a lot. That’s $468 per year. If you’d like to know, I purchased a prophoto blog from several years ago. It’s basically software that allows you to build your own blog without knowing coding, but thanks to their advances, you also have the capability of creating a blogsite. What’s really exciting, at least for me, is that they are about to release P4, which includes additional features that are going to make things that much better. When you buy prophoto and they upgrade, you get a heavily discounted upgrade price instead of having to rebuy it. The other great thing about prophoto is that you don’t have to be a photographer. You can just need a website and be able to use it for any business. When I did more web design, I used prophoto for my clients who wanted a website and blog in one. It’s super handy and I just love it.

Not to mention, it’s SEO friendly! I also don’t have to pay anything extra to have my site available on iPads, iPhones, and other devices like that. It pains me to think of the money I wasted on websites that weren’t at their best potential.

Anyway, I hope this blog article is helpful for those of you, photographers or otherwise, who may be looking to save money on expensive websites or understand part of the breakdown for why photographers charge what they charge.

And because blogs are just better with a picture, here’s a picture of the prettiest girl in the world!

As most of you have probably read by now, or at least seen on the sidebar of my blog, I’m currently reading the book, “The Secret.” It really is an amazing book about the most simple of concepts. It’s about the laws of attraction. It relates people to radio towers. You’re always emitting a frequency. The laws of attraction are quite simple. Like attracts like. You are attracting similar frequencies to what you are emitting. It’s really a simple, but profound concept. I started reading it about a month ago after practically being force-fed the book by my dad.

Before I go any further, I want to give all of my readers a swift punch to the face of motivation. haha! YOU are in charge of your destiny. Quit making excuses, don’t complain about things because it’s likely that YOU haven’t tried hard enough. Maybe you think you’ve tried hard enough, but as long as the excuses keep flowing, you’ll never get where you want to be. I’m not just talking professionally because Lord knows I haven’t gotten there and things take time to cultivate, but I’m talking about in daily life. What are YOU doing today to get you where you want to be?

You see, most of my life I’ve been a relatively negative person; always complaining, always preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, always looking for the downside, etc. I haven’t finished the book yet, but even after reading the first chapter a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to not only change my attitude, but change the way I think. If I think negativity, I will attract negativity. If I think positivity, I will attract positivity. I’ve gone through and am continuing to go through quite the amazing transformation in my mind. Since thinking positively has started to become more natural for me, I’ve noticed a TON of people around me who are always negative, always complaining, always “woe is me” and talking about how their lives suck, etc. I really had attracted what I was. I’m hoping my positive energy can change people around me but I’ve noticed it’s even changing my husband quite a bit.

All this to say I want to talk about social networking. Well, really, I just want to talk about Facebook. I think people have decided that it is best to air their dirty laundry and woe’s on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to find people who can relate to your struggles, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the type of status messages that literally wreak of “someone pay attention to me because no one is paying attention to me.” We are ALL guilty of it. You know those status messages where someone freaks out and says something like, “I’m not getting on Facebook anymore because no one responds to me.” Or “I’m offended that NO ones cares enough to respond to my status messages.” Or even better, those other messages that say something to try to attract questions so someone will listen to them. Those usually come in the form of, “Ugh…” or “I can’t stop crying.” Then their friends jump to say, “What’s wrong?” It’s not just limited to that though. How about those other messages that talk directly about a person to their face without mentioning their name so as to get away with cyber bullying (come on people, you know EXACTLY who you are). Or those other ones that are somewhat on the self righteous side that say something like, “So and so is attacking me but I’m not going to play along because that’s not what God would want.” Or even the ones where you air your dirty laundry about your boyfriend or girlfriend and then delete them after you make up. Why have people decided to use social networking (Facebook) as some sort of therapy? Again, we are all guilty of it.

If I’m being honest, there are a ton of people I’d just love to delete off of my friends list because I’m tired of reading their complaints about how their life sucks and about the world. Seriously, one Facebook friend I realized was complaining so much that I went to their Facebook page and counted, of the past 20 status messages, 18 of them were some sort of complaint about how their life sucks or about something bad or “woe is me.”. I really just can’t stand it, but why do I feel obligated to keep them as Facebook friends? The strangest thing about it is that I used to be one of those people! I went back and read the last 20 of my status messages and was surprised to find that they were all happy, positive status updates.

It was then that I realized it was time to take a serious look at how, as a professional, I use social networking. I’ve always been blown away at how some professionals (photographers included) that I am friends with on Facebook and fans of on their Facebook fan page, will just outwardly say the worst things. They’ll even use cuss words on their business page! Now, I don’t care if you use cuss words on a normal basis, it has nothing to do with whether you have the mouth of a sailor or not, it has everything to do with the fact that professionally, you shouldn’t use curse words to show ALL of your clients. I mean, seriously, if you called AT&T’s customer service line and got a professional that answered the phone and said something like, “I’m f^&*n angry about this s#$%^& thing” to you about their computer or something, wouldn’t your idea of AT&T’s level of professionalism diminish? Or what if you walked to a doctor’s office and were signing in and heard one of the nurses say to the other nurse that was checking you in, “That b%^&* is next to come back” wouldn’t you start thinking they weren’t very professional? What we do reflects on our business AND in this day and age where our personal lives are on social media, our personal lives are just as public as our business lives. So shouldn’t we try to keep it personable but on a professional level?

If you don’t get anything else from this, I’ve typed out below some do’s and don’ts of social media.

  1. DO put your personality out there, but keep it positive and make yourself approachable.
  2. DON’T air your dirty laundry. There’s nothing worse that putting your dirty undies in everyone’s social media face.
  3. DO keep your friend list to ONLY people you know.
  4. DON’T include someone you knew and haven’t seen in years.
  5. DON’T cyber bully.
  6. DON’T curse on your professional page. Try not to curse on your personal page IF you have a professional page too. If you just have a personal page, then I don’t care either way.
  7. DON’T post about how your life sucks. Quit being a drag!
  8. DO invest in others that you care about on social media.
  9. DO post your successes AND failures, but again, don’t be a drag!
  10. DON’T post messages that try to pull people into your pitty party. It’s a desperate cry for attention that comes across as desperation. Instead find a way to find JOY in your situation.
  11. DON’T freak out on people and tell people you won’t be on anymore because no one pays attention to you. Really. The people who truly care most for you will be involved in your life in some other way than social media.
  12. Lastly, this doesn’t pertain to social media, but read The Secret. All of the negative energy going around is making the place wreak of self pitty and believe me, it doesn’t smell good.