Whether taking photos is a creative or professional pursuit, Instagram is one of the most powerful tools that both budding and established photographers can use to promote their work.
The visual social media app is an effective way to build interest in your work, connect with other photographers, find potential clients, get published, and give and receive feedback to improve your practice.
Read on to discover 12 tips that will help you promote your photography on Instagram like a social media pro.
01. Define your niche
Think of Instagram as an online space to develop and define your brand’s aesthetics. Use your feed to showcase photos that revolve around a central theme in your work. This may be a specific subject type (such as architecture, travel, food, fashion, people, or sports) or a particular style of photography (such as black-and-white, film, or minimalist photography).
Your followers will expect you to maintain a feed that features a cohesive style or subject matter—one which will ultimately keep them coming back for more. Instagram users will typically land on your profile and make a decision to follow based on your last nine images. Because of this, it's a good idea to make sure the top of your feed always represents who you are as a photographer in order attract and build your audience.
02. Post your best work
Treat your Instagram feed like a highlight reel of your portfolio by posting only your best images.
As you develop your photography practice (both professionally and online), make sure each post delivers its own ‘Wow!’ factor individually, yet still looks good collectively. By creating a consistent aesthetic—through a common theme, colour palette, saturation or style—visitors will become engaged followers.
If you have several photos from one shoot and can’t decide which particular image to show, use the multiple picture option, so only one image appears in your feed, but followers have the option to view more.
03. Give it a personal touch
Your Instagram feed can also be a journal of your photography or an opportunity to show what goes on behind the scenes. Give followers an insight—or teaser—into your shoots or capture important life moments and interesting day-to-day scenes. Try and keep to the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your photos should be focused on your photography and practice, while the remaining 20 percent could be personal or behind the scenes.
If you want to show a more personal side, set up another Instagram account, or use the Instagram Stories function. Instagram Stories are also a smart way to garner more interaction with followers.
04. Ditch the smartphone
Use a DSLR or mirrorless camera to take high-quality professional shots. These cameras produce significantly better image quality than smartphones and give you greater control over how an image will look. You can manipulate focus, depth of field, and shutter speed as well as change your lenses depending on the needs of your situation. DSLRs are also much better for shooting in low light conditions and for zooming in on a subject.
Bypass the Instagram filters and use an editing program to adjust light, shadows, lines, and clarity. Shooting in RAW will allow you more control and flexibility when editing as RAW photos contain much higher detail than JPEGs. You can fine-tune exposure, highlights, and shadows, make changes to portions of your photo, and modify the white balance and apply noise reduction.
05. Post strategically
Focus on quality over quantity and publish images regularly, but not too often. Relevant, quality content has a higher chance of garnering a positive response, which can help your posts rank higher on followers’ feeds.
Developing a posting pattern or routine not only helps build a sense of community on Instagram, but also develops your photography. As photographer George Byrne tells Vogue, “What I like about Instagram is that it’s led me to have a daily practice, a discipline…it makes me flex that muscle every day and think about pictures and what I’m trying to say.”
The morning is the most popular time of day for people to scroll Instagram. Depending on where you live or what time zone you want to target, post in the morning for higher engagement. Studies also show that Sunday is the day for the greatest number of interactions.
06. Craft your captions well
People are more likely to spend more time on an image if there is an engaging caption to read. So, share a story or tell viewers about the image or what it means to you. Give them something to mentally engage with to prompt a genuine interaction.
Captions are an opportunity to create a more personal connection and evoke an emotional response from viewers. If you have an engaging caption, people are more likely to read it or click the “more” button, spending more time on your post.
Another great technique is to ask an open-ended question to encourage your viewers to contribute to the comments section.
07. Use hashtags
Hashtags are another effective way to increase engagement and attract relevant followers. Use specific, popular, and appropriate hashtags to boost exposure. This practice has become even more important now that you can follow specific Instagram hashtags. You can hashtag the location, subject, client, brand, business, or even the equipment that you are using. Community and hub destination hashtags connect like-minded users around a specific subject. You could also create a hashtag that’s unique to you and your photography.
There is no rule on how many hashtags to use, but keep in mind that you can currently include only up to 30. Take the quality over quantity approach and make sure they are relevant and specific to your photo and the audience you want to reach.
08. Build your community
Building a relevant community is about interaction, not just numbers. Seek out photographers you admire. Follow them, and like and comment on their work. They will likely reciprocate.
You can also build a community related to your photography subject. If you are an architectural photographer, follow architecture-related accounts. If you are a fashion photographer, follow fashion brands. It can be a great way to network by getting your name and portfolio in front of potential clients.
09. Reply to comments
The Instagram algorithm identifies high-interaction posts (those that receive lots of likes and comments) as quality, engaging content that people want to see. Furthermore, if your image gets a lot of interaction shortly after it’s posted, it will get shown to even more of your followers.
Take time to engage with people who have commented. Reply to their comments, answer their questions, appreciate their response, and thank them for the time they’ve taken to comment. It’s good etiquette and an opportunity for feedback. Do the same in return by giving compliments and thoughtful comments on their posts.
10. Tag businesses, clients, or people
Engage others by tagging locations and other Instagram users. It may be the person or client who is the subject of the photograph or even a local business where the snap was taken. It’s another way to gain exposure and to build your community, as your posts will now appear in their tagged library.
11. Look for Instagram hubs
Hubs are Instagram accounts that curate and share other users’ images, sort of like an online gallery. These accounts feature images solely related to a specific topic, which can be anything from a photography genre to a color scheme or subject matter.
Find them, follow them, interact with them, use their dedicated hashtag, and hope to get featured. It will boost the exposure of your account and help you attract relevant followers.
12. Maximize your Instagram profile
Create a hardworking Instagram profile that will represent and promote your brand on its own. Choose an account name that is instantly recognizable and easy to memorize and remember. Use this same name across all your social media platforms if possible. Select a profile photo—either of you or of your main subject matter—that defines your brand of photography.
Include in your bio what your specialty is and where you are based. Make it easy for people to find and get in touch with you off of Instagram as well by adding your contact details and a link to your website.
In the end, quality over quantity is the name of the game when it comes to Instagram. Upload your best pictures, be strategic about when you post, interact with others, and watch as your photography continues to reach more and more people with each post.