Instagram has changed a lot in the past year with new algorithms, new content opportunities, stories, and live videos, just to name a few features. Although Instagram’s organic reach isn’t as great as it once was a few years ago, the platform can still be a key component of any photographer’s business. Here are seven tips to help photographers get more exposure on Instagram.
1. Use the Social Aspect of Social Media
A lot of people forget that social media is a social platform. You need to interact and talk or chat with other people in your niche to achieve any goals you have. While a select few of us can simply leverage the content we produce and not interact, Instagram favors people who comment, post to stories, and use the app. It doesn’t have to be for a long time, just 10-20 minutes a day will suffice, but it can help you out in the long run. I’ve found that commenting on people's photos in your niche and on people who also comment is a great way to drive interaction and engagement. I've also noticed a great way to gain followers is to target hashtags in your niche. These posts tend to be seen more and can help you focus in on your target audience.
2. Connect with Instagram Influences
Previously, it was fairly easy to grow your following through likes, comments, and posting regularly. Unfortunately, those days seem to be going away as Instagram becomes more commercialized and favors paid, sponsorship-oriented content. In order to get more leverage and exposure, you can reach out to influencers in your niche using the platform. Try to form a meaningful relationship with them through a cold email, personal message, or just actively engaging with their content in a meaningful and positive way. Even if you don’t succeed in doing a shoot or becoming their best friend, your exposure and engagement will grow due to naturally piggybacking off of their devoted followers. Accounts that regularly collaborate with each other will grow faster, and having multiple influencers involved through video, stories, and live feeds only accelerates that process.
3. Gram Quality Over Quantity
It’s important to post, but I’ve noticed that if your account doesn’t have a major cult-like following (which some do), posting less frequently with better content is the way to go. At least for photographers, you don’t need to use Instagram 24/7, just enough to keep people who follow you interested and show them that you produce content with value. I've found that this is actually a welcome change for those of us who believed that they need to use Instagram constantly to do marketing or outreach.
4. Instagram Stories
It’s true that the story craze has hit Instagram! Stories are great for several reasons. You can tag and share with brands, businesses, other photographers, and your models in order to get noticed (with a chance for a re-share). You can utilize live videos if you have a larger audience to easily engage with your followers. You can keep yourself relevant by posting great content to your story and ensure that it goes to the top of your fans’ pages. I’ve noticed that often, people will engage and interact more with stories than with my actual images. For better or for worse, this is an essential part of keeping yourself in the hearts and minds of your fans. Photos and videos you post to your stories can also be directly sent through direct message to followers, a quick way to spread information about an upcoming event or to showcase your latest content.
5. Use 4:5 Ratio
This tip is actually an Adobe Photoshop tip for those who want to optimize images for social media. During shoots, you can “shoot wide” and then crop down to a 4:5 ratio (check the crop ratios at the top of the page in Photoshop or use the editing tools on your phone's photos, VSCO, Preview Apps, etc.) to ensure you have all the parts of the image you want in your Instagram post.
In terms of cropping and what you can do, Instagram users have also got creative with their design and the layout of their feeds, utilizing white space, images that span two panels, and other fun experiments to break the linear square or landscape ratio that can seem to limit creativity at times. Experiment with different crops and see what you can come up with.
6. Use a Business Profile
If you want to see the analytics of your Instagram Page, switch to a business profile! This feature allows potential clients or customers’ access to a direct line to email or call your business through Instagram and also shows you audience demographics and what the best times of day to post are for your profile.
Speaking of profiles, it's also important to keep your bio interesting and to have a recognizable profile photo for your photography business to ensure that people go to your page and instantly want to follow along. Depending on who your audience is, you should tailor your profile to what can provide the most value to your customers while still letting your personality shine through.
7. Utilize Other Forms of Content Marketing
At the end of the day, you should try to socialize on and utilize Instagram as a platform, but you shouldn’t worry about the amount of followers you have. Instagram is one of many ways to connect with other photographers, models, businesses, and clients. If you don’t become Instagram famous overnight, you can still become a successful photographer through your website, referrals, connections, friends, or family, and those are just a few avenues to help grow your photography career or to help maximize your hobby.
It seems photography is almost synonymous with Instagram in 2019. The platform is the front runner for photographers to share their work and curate their online presence. Whether you choose to use the platform or not, it can be a great addition to your social media tool kit and helpful for networking, generating leads, and finding inspiration artists. Here are five hacks for optimizing your Instagram usage whether you actually want to spend less time on the platform, make your stream more visually appealing, or crack the instagram algorithm to get more re-shares, likes, and comments.
8. Use the Preview App to View Your Content
The preview app is a great little app from the app store that lets you see your stream before you post. It also includes editing tools, a direct post feature, and a lot more nifty content. I use this to plan my feed in advance and do a little post as well. Super useful when you really just have your phone and want to do a little photography editing or overall re-tool the look of your feed on the fly.
9. Crack the Instagram Code
The key to Instagram in this post algorithm world is to engage! Instagram will try to pigeon you into seeing the same content over and over again, essentially limiting the amount of new opportunities you can view and interact with if you don't make it a habit to click around a.k.a don't just scroll. Engage with the new users that you find (and you're current following) and you'll be pleasantly surprised on how much your followers (and amount of business too) will increase over time. Of course posting three times a day and having engaging content will always come first but for that extra boost, engagement is key.
10. Use Buffer to Schedule Posts
If you want to get really sneaky with how you optimize your time (after all, I'm sure not everyone wants to spend an hour a day on the gram) you can use Buffer (a free desktop app) to schedule posts for your followers. Not only will this cut down on the amount of time you spend on the platform but it will help optimize your workflow and provide an easy way to schedule posts in advance. For those of us that are especially busy, this will help save you time and (potentially) send you more monetary business.
11. Utilize the Highlights Reel
Highlights (found on the profile section of your Instagram profile) are an easy way to promote a specific product or service when people first land on your page. The more aesthetically coordinated or interesting the content that compose the highlights are, the more I've found people are likely to click through and take interest in what you provide. Travel bloggers and travel photographers are a great example of what makes highlight reels work, showcasing the various locations they've traveled to for shoots, business, or vacation, each in their own separate bubble. Try it out!
12. Photographers of Instagram in Real Life
Finally, as a photographer you should get yourself out there and meet other artists, photographers, models, influencers, you name it... The more people you meet who utilize the platform to it's potential, the more likely you are to meet someone who can tag you in a post, feature you in a story, or give you a shout out. Good old fashion real life networking is a whole other skill set in itself (for both photography and the real world) but it's a resource that shouldn't be underestimated when you're looking to grow your account and generate more interest in your photography business.
Want To Learn More Photography?
If you’re interested in learning more about a specific photography subject or idea, shoot me a message on Instagram or contact me via email email@example.com I’m always happy to answer additional questions or comments.
Morey Spellman is a Los Angeles based fashion photographer.
His work combines a love for beautiful light, authentic beauty, and natural scenery.