15 Best Instagram Tips for Photographers
As you navigate across various social media platforms, you’ll surely notice one thing: it’s hard to get noticed! As a photographer, you are competing for exposure with millions of other people who are trying to do the exact same thing. Even if your work is brilliant and unique, you need to know how to use Instagram and all of its features to get your photos seen.
Instagram is easy to use, and you don’t need to be a techie or marketing wiz to self-promote yourself successfully. After all, it’s a visual platform, so your photos can quickly captivate and intrigue the platform’s 1 billion + users. Even if you don’t go viral, Instagram is still an excellent platform for exposure as a photographer.
In this blog post, we’ll share the best Instagram tips for photographers in all niches to help you gain more exposure and potential new clients.
Why Photographers Should Use Instagram
Photography is a visual medium, so it’s no surprise that a visual social media platform is the perfect way to showcase your best images for the whole world to see. It can be a complement to your website or online portfolio.
The grid layout helps people see a roundup of pictures and get a feel for your aesthetic.
You are the curator of your profile, grid, and feed, so you can choose what to post and what content to consume. It’s a great way to find like-minded virtual friends and followers.
When you use Instagram, you essentially create a brand for yourself. Photographers and artists can post as individuals but share a beautifully uniform brand aesthetic. It’s a great way to get found by potential clients, talent scouts, and brands worldwide.
Just imagine that brands are browsing through photography hashtags and profiles in search of new talent or new collaborators. If you tell an exciting story through your images, you have a chance of landing some fantastic gigs!
There’s one crucial thing to note: competition is harsh on Instagram. Since there are so many photographers on the platform, you’re challenged to get those likes, follows, and shares. That’s why you need to check out tips and tricks that will get you ahead of the pack.
Best Instagram Tips for Photographers
The following tips are in no particular order, but they all reveal essential advice to making it big on Instagram. Some tips are short and sweet, and some are general guidelines to help you brand yourself successfully.
1. Find your Niche
You hear the word ‘niche’ being used all the time in various contexts. But finding your perfect niche is somewhat challenging, especially if you are just delving into the world of Instagram.
There are thousands of huge niches with many other sub-niches. As a photographer, you must figure out your niche and develop your aesthetic accordingly.
A niche can refer to a particular photography style, like black and white, film, minimalist, macro, etc. But, the niche can also be based on your theme or subjects.
For example, you can be a travel photographer, where travel is your main niche, but then you may also focus on Europe, so European travel photography further develops your niche.
Whatever it may be, exploit the niche as much as you can by using all the relevant hashtags for it. This allows new users to find you and to appreciate your images.
2. Interact with Users
Whether it’s loyal followers or random people, always try to answer as many comments and DMs as possible.
Take a friendly and casual approach when it comes to your writing on Instagram. This tip applies to captions, comments, responses, and private messages.
Your goal is to gain a larger following, so good manners are important. Therefore, make time to respond to comments politely.
Skip and delete spam comments and don’t bother wasting time on those, or you risk getting your account marked as spam. To make people feel closer to you, compliment them back, and return some likes if you find something interesting on their profile.
Communicating with your followers is the best way to get feedback and see what your fans like.
3. Share Video Content
I know that you’re a photographer and you want to promote your photos. But stories and IGTV is more popular than ever, and it’s your chance to grow your profile.
The best social media platforms are thriving on video content. Therefore, short videos are a fun way to engage your viewers.
When you post videos, you have the chance to beat the Instagram algorithm and get ahead of the game. Make use of Instagram Stories to create hype around your photos. Or, use them to offer brief momentary glimpses into your life as a photographer.
As a photographer, you can post behind the scenes videos or share your favorite tips with others.
People are always looking for short, easy to digest educational video content.
Another idea is to explain and show how you took that perfect grid photo to your followers.
4. Grid Layout
These days, photographers have more options when it comes to posting photos. In Instagram’s early days, the choice was just one: a square photo.
But that doesn’t always work because, in reality, you shoot in portrait and landscape.
Composition is essential to making your grid look good, but it’s also a key part of your work.
Unfortunately, Instagram still has the final say when it comes to the thumbnail cut of the photo. But, you can get creative and post different sized images.
Here’s a brief photo size guide:
Portrait images: 1080px by 1350 px which equals a 4:5 aspect ratio
Landscape images: 1080px by 1080px which equals a 1:1 aspect ratio
Square images: 1080px by 566px which equals a 2:3 aspect ratio
Some photographers choose to display a large version of their favorite photo by posting multiple parts of the photo to the grid to complete the whole image. It’s called a puzzle grid, and it invites the viewer to look closely at each individual element before seeing the big picture.
Tip: There are many puzzle layout templates you can buy to make the work much more manageable, plus there are no tech skills required!
5. Style Speaks for Itself
Every photographer has his or her own personal style and aesthetic. Your Instagram grid should reflect that and draw your viewers in.
The best way to make a mark is to post consistently to keep followers interested in your work.
But, don’t overlook the fact that people love patterns. Keep a consistent style and pattern in your work.
If, for example, you shoot landscapes, try to keep that as your main ‘theme.’ It’s okay to add in a unique photo every once in a while, but you’ll realize people are attracted to a signature style.
When a user scrolls through Instagram, they devote less than a fraction of a second to each image. So, your photo really needs to stand out in order to capture people’s attention.
If your photo doesn’t, the person will scroll past it in the blink of an eye. That’s why it’s essential to have an aesthetically pleasing grid where photos have an underlying theme.
6. Get Up to Speed With Hashtags
You can make the most of Instagram’s algorithm by using the right hashtags.
Users search for content using hashtags. So, in order for someone to find your photographs, you need to add the right combination of hashtags to your work.
The largest photography hashtags, such as #photographylovers have over 21.7 million posts. For your work to get seen with that hashtag, you need to be extremely lucky!
But, there’s an easier way to rank well on Instagram and get exposure. The secret is to use smaller niche-specific hashtags.
Examine your niche and use only hashtags related to it or those relevant to the subject in your images. This gives you a much better chance of random people seeing your photos when searching for specific things.
After all, the competition is much smaller in small hashtags than it is in the huge ones.
Take note of some useful information about hashtags:
- You can use up to 30 hashtags when you post a photo. You should aim for 5-10 relevant hashtags. While you can use all 30, you don’t really need to. When you overload your pictures, it can make the post look spammy.
- Make the hashtags visible but not overpowering. Make sure to include an interesting caption for your photo. It should include at least a sentence. Then, leave lots of blank space and put your hashtags at the bottom of the post.
- Choose hashtags that are attainable. Don’t aim for the most popular ones. Instead, choose ones that aren’t too crowded. You can always do some hashtags searches and see what other photographers in your niche are using.
7. Imperfection has Potential
There’s a common misconception that the best Instagram accounts look perfect. But that’s simply not the case. People love beautiful things, no doubt, but they also get bored easily too.
Instagram users don’t want to see only perfect curated photographs. Many users are interested in ‘real’ photos, meaning that they want to see all the unedited images, as well as all the shots it takes to capture that Instagram worthy one!
Take a look at this unedited photo:
View this post on Instagram
8. Detailed Profile
Don’t neglect your Instagram profile, especially your bio section.
When it comes to making connections with potential clients and brands, you need to be reachable. Therefore, you need to make sure your Instagram bio contains all the necessary information, including:
- Your Instagram handle
- Your real or professional name
- An email address where people can reach you for inquiries
- A link to your website, portfolio, or other social media where your photos are visible
- Location – add the city/town where you’re based so locals can find you easily. Many people search for local photographers, so there’s a better chance they’ll find you
If you have a website or online portfolio, be sure to include a link to your Instagram profile. This way, people can see your social media presence and follow you on those platforms.
You can also choose to showcase your Instagram feed on your website through plug-ins and apps. These apps sync your feed to your site automatically, so you don’t need to update them. The widgets look like a mini curated gallery wall and add a touch of coolness to your site.
9. Create a Business Profile
Personal accounts are perfectly fine, too, if you just want to show your photos. But, if you create a business account, you can upload new photos straight from your computer or mobile phone.
Creating a business account is completely free, but it allows you to work on brand development, offer services, and even sell your photos!
Business profiles are a great way to showcase your brand. They are more professional, and therefore people are more likely to reach out and ask to work with you.
A business account enables you to add more contact information, including an address, studio hours (if applicable), and a phone number.
10. Editing and Filters
Until you find the perfect aesthetic, you need to experiment with different editing techniques and Instagram filters.
You can use special photo editing apps like Snapseed or VSCO, among others, but you can also make additional tweaks straight from the Instagram app.
It’s up to you how and where you edit your images but try to stick to a specific editing style to make the grid look uniform and aesthetically pleasing.
It’s a bit of trial and error when it comes down to figuring out what your audience likes.
You’ll notice that some photos get a ton more likes and comments than others. Sometimes the editing makes a difference, but it may come down to your subjects.
However, don’t well on the numbers so much, and use an editing style that works for you. And even more importantly, represent your photography style with pride.
11. Post Timing
Figuring out the perfect time to post takes some trial and error.
People are more active on social media during different hours of the day, depending on their lifestyle.
Instagram’s users are active throughout the day, but the evenings are especially busy. The timing of your posts has a direct effect on how many people see your content.
The goal of posting at the right time is to share your photos at a time when most of your audience is active on Instagram. This is influenced by factors like time zones, weekends, holidays, and so on.
If many viewers see and engage with your images, the Instagram algorithm is more likely to pick it up as popular content. Therefore, you have a shot at getting features or just gaining more exposure and followers.
Unfortunately, there is no “perfect” or “best” time to post on Instagram. Some people claim that Mondays are more active, but it comes down to trial and error.
Figure out when your audience is active and learn the patterns.
12. Shoot With a Camera, Not a Smartphone
I’ll admit that the latest smartphones have amazing front and rear cameras so that you can take some stunning shots.
However, I recommend you use your DSLR or mirrorless camera to take photos.
The reality is that cameras produce a much higher quality image than smartphones. You have more control over how the image turns out when you use a DSLR.
Surely, you can use many handy photo editing apps straight on your smartphone, but professionals still prefer to take photos with a camera. Afterward, the photos can be transferred to a mobile device, edited, and posted to Instagram.
Here are the advantages of using mirrorless and DSLR cameras to shoot photos for Instagram:
- You can manipulate the field of depth, shutter speed, and focus.
- You can change lenses when you need to, depending on the lighting conditions.
- DSLR cameras are better for shooting in low light conditions compared to smartphones.
- You have more control over zoom, which allows for better clarity.
- It’s possible to shoot in RAW, which gives you more flexibility when editing since RAW photos contain a lot more details than JPEGs.
13. Storytelling Through Captions
As wonderful as your photo might be, it may not be enough to captivate the viewer’s full attention.
Telling a story is the most effective way to leave a memorable impression. That’s why you need to pay special attention to your captions. Like the hashtags, how you use them makes a huge difference in your reach.
Be witty, fun, creative, and most importantly, use a limited number of words to tell a touching story.
Instagram users are more likely to spend more time looking at your pictures if an interesting caption accompanies them.
Explain what the photo means to you, why you shot it, and when. People are far more likely to keep reading if you share interesting snippets of information. After all, anecdotal stories are always fun to read.
If you evoke an emotional response from your viewers, you’re likely to create a lasting connection with them.
14. Reach Out to Hubs
Many photographers overlook this important Instagram opportunity.
Instagram Hubs are accounts that curate other users’ images, kind of like online galleries.
These hub accounts usually have a massive number of followers, so they’re a great way to get exposure. Hubs are centered around a certain theme or niche, like “travel photography.” But, there are also hubs dedicated to certain colors, subjects, and genres.
Check out the food photography hub @gastroart (https://www.instagram.com/gastroart/).
The people behind the account curate all the photos posted there and the account features the coolest photos of food!
The hubs have their own hashtags you need to use to get featured. After you find a hub that’s a match for your content, tag their IG handle and use some of their hashtags.
Chances are, the person running the account will see your photo and re-post it to the hub account. Then, the people who follow that account can see your work and potentially follow you.
One thing leads to another, and these photo hubs are an easy way to get more exposure through likes, follows, and shares.
Through photo hubs, you can connect with other photographers and tons of viewers who consume that kind of content regularly.
15. Have Fun With It
Instagram isn’t a serious business-type platform like LinkedIn, so you can be as playful and creative as you like!
Users go to Instagram to blow off steam, relax, and find exciting and fun content. While people scroll through photos at a rapid rate, they are just as likely to stop and click on your profile if an image catches their attention.
Remember that Instagram is not your professional website. Therefore, you can make it a fun place where you interact with your followers. People love to see inspiring and delightful photos that transport them away from their daily life.
You can share images that don’t make the cut into your portfolio. Or, you can even post behind the scenes stories and pictures from your photoshoots. This way, users can get to know you and see different sides of your work.
It can make people more interested when they feel a connection to the photographer. Keep in mind that casual vibes go a long way on this platform, as most users aren’t looking for something serious.
With all of our tips in mind, it’s time to start making an impression with your photography on Instagram.
Making it big on Instagram isn’t an easy task; it takes a daily commitment. Let your images do the work upfront but invest time to optimize your profile.
Don’t be afraid to establish yourself as a brand and stick to a cohesive aesthetic that makes your grid pleasant to look at. And finally, don’t forget to stay active and interact with other Instagram users to grow your account.
After all, it’s called ‘social media,’ and the more social you are, the more you can grow your account!