Instagram for Photographers: How to Grow Followers and Engagement

Ever wonder how you can get more followers on Instagram? Interaction on Instagram is something that even professional photographers struggle with. But as the photography industry evolves, it’s more important than ever before to have a steady presence on Instagram. Here are a few simple tips that helped me more than double my followers in just a few months. I’ve also seen a dramatic increase in the number of likes I get on each photo. And most importantly, I’ve gotten paid client work thanks to my activity on Instagram. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been on it for a while without much success, read on for a few tactics to help you grow your following and audience.

Updated on October 31, 2017 for current Instagram best practices.

Why Do Photographers Need Instagram?

If you’re a professional photographer thinking that Instagram is just for kids, think again. Instagram has surpassed Twitter in terms of monthly active users. For this reason among many others, the platform has added more business-friendly features including the ability to convert your personal account into a business account (more on that below). Today, many brands are more active on Instagram than any other social media platform, including Facebook. Why is this important? Because those brands are potential clients for photographers.

Instagram Marketing

Instagram as a Marketing Tool

This year, I’ve noticed that many of my current and prospective photography clients are paying more attention than ever before to my Instagram posts. How do I know? Well, it’s not just the occasional likes and comments on my photos. But it’s when those clients call me and say, “hey, I’m loving your Instagram posts! They reminded me that I need new food photos for my project. Let’s talk!” This tells me that Instagram is the new email marketing–it’s a way to show clients what you’re currently working on.

Whether it’s obvious or not, clients DO look at your Instagram feed when they’re considering working with you. In fact, this photographer wrote an article where he described a client meeting during which his client preferred to look at his Instagram photos instead of his printed photo book. The lesson here is to be sure to curate your feed. Which leads me to my next point.

Instagram as a Portfolio

If you take a look at Instagram today, you’ll notice tons of high-quality images here. It’s no longer in your favor to post mediocre content here. Instead, treat it like an extension of your photography portfolio. Only post your best work here, and try to have an overall look or style that is consistent. Some photographers might use Instagram as their sole portfolio, but I’m of the opinion that you still need a separate photography website where you have more control over the design and presentation.

Tips for Using Instagram More Effectively

1. Convert your personal account into a business account.

If you’ve ever wanted to see analytics behind your Instagram posts, there’s an easy way to do this. It involves turning your regular profile into a Business Account. It’s free, very easy to do, and gives you more insights into how your posts perform throughout the day.

How to Convert Instagram to a Business Profile:

First of all, be sure your profile is set to Public. Private accounts can’t switch to Business Accounts.
Log into your account on your mobile phone and go to your profile.
Tap on the option to Switch to Business Profile.
Select the Facebook Page you’d like to associate with your Business Profile on Instagram.
On the Set Up Your Business Profile page, review your business’s contact information, make any changes and tap Done.

1. Use popular hashtags.

The key to getting more followers is to give your posts maximum visibility. This is achieved by adding hashtags, which is a keyword or phrase preceded by a number sign. Hashtags are the key for getting discovered on this platform. Users can click on a hashtag and see all posts that have the same hashtag attached to them. Thus, using the right hashtags can expose your images to a larger audience. Without hashtags, your posts will only be seen by your followers. Note that Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. Studies show that the best performing posts tend to have an average of 11 hashtags.

How to Find Relevant Instagram Hashtags

When adding hashtags, don’t just choose words and phrases at random. Do some research to study and utilize the hashtags that have the most images associated with them. There are two simple ways to do this:

a) Start entering in a hashtag into a post and notice that Instagram starts to suggest hashtags, along with a number indicating how many other images are associated with the hashtag.

Best Instagram hashtags

b) Use Websta to research trending hashtags in a hot category, or enter your own keyword ideas into search to find relevant hashtag suggestions. Notice that many of the top 100 Instagram hashtags are pretty basic words or phrases that have hundreds or millions of other posts within them. This means that these photos are getting high visibility.

2. Cross-post Instagram photos to other social networks.

Instagram has made it incredibly easy to simultaneously publish new posts to other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr at the click of a button. This makes posting the same content across all social networks much faster, but with a couple of catches.

First of all, if you take hashtags into account and stuff them all into your Instagram post, these same hashtags will show up on other platforms too, which appears messy and just plain ugly.

Twitter hashtags

Luckily, there is a workaround. When adding a new post that you plan to cross-post to another platform, caption it with little or no hashtags and hit publish. Then, go back into that published Instagram post and add your hashtags as a comment. This keeps your hashtags contained to one channel.

Best Instagram hashtags

3. Connect with Tumblr and IFTTT for image embed cross-posting to Twitter

Another problem with cross-posting has to do with image formatting on Twitter. Notice in one of the examples above that when we cross-post from Instagram to Twitter, we not only get ugly hashtags, but the Instagram photos show up as a hyperlink. This isn’t a major problem, but studies show that Twitter posts perform much better when images are embedded. One of the ways to address this problem is a workaround that uses two other platforms: IFTTT and Tumblr. The full steps are listed here. It does require a little extra legwork to set your accounts up, but once all of that is done, you’ll have both a Tumblr account to auto-post to, and your images that are cross-posted between Instagram and Twitter will be beautifully embedded like so:

Twitter embedded instagram image

4. Add links to Instagram

One of the challenges to using Instagram is the difficulty in adding clickable links to your posts. Luckily, there is a decently good workaround in the form of Linktree. This free service gives you the option of adding more links to the one you get to put in your bio. It’s perfect if you’re trying to get people to click on content other than your main portfolio.

Instagram Linktree

5. Up your smartphone photography game

Are you avoiding posting on Instagram because you think your cell phone takes terrible photos? If so, there’s some great camera technology out there that can help. Let’s start with how to enhance your camera phone photos. There are tons of smartphone camera lens options out there that allow you to take telephoto zoom and even wide angle shots. Another thing to consider is upgrading your cell phone altogether. I’m hardly an early adopter and very rarely have the latest and greatest smartphone. But ever since I upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S8, I’ve often been using it in place of my mirrorless and DSLR cameras. These newer smartphones are packed with impressive cameras that shoot great still photos and can even record in 4K. My rule of thumb is upgrading every 2 years, which I plan on sticking to, especially as these phones keep improving.

Smartphone Camera Telephoto Lens

Having too much fun with my new camera phone lens.

Another way to enhance smartphone photography is to shoot photos with cameras with built-in Wi-Fi technology. This allows for quick transfer of images directly to your phone. All three of the main cameras I use are Wi-Fi enabled and have definitely helped me step up my Instagram game. These cameras are the Canon 6D DSLR, Sony a6300 mirrorless camera, and Olympus Tough TG-4 waterproof point and shoot camera.

6. Above all, use Instagram often.

Ultimately, the best way to get the most out of Instagram is to use it frequently. This is something that kids get right and adults often don’t. The current algorithm rewards frequent usage. Beyond posting new photos (aim for one a day, or one every other day), it’s important to interact with other Instagrammers. Aim to post a new image daily, and engage with followers as much as possible. Respond to every comment you receive, even if it’s a simple “thank you!” and answer every question asked. Likewise, be sure to comment on any photos that catch your eye and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most users will respond to you as they understand that engagement is the main secret to building a solid social networking community.

Quick tip: It can be a pain to browse and comment on Instagram using your cell phone, so one of the easiest ways to manage your account on your desktop is to use Iconosquare. It’s a web-based tool, meaning it’s not available as an app, but it’s a great platform for quickly engaging with and managing content en masse, and it provides analytics too so you can see how your posts are performing.

Over To You

Do you have any tips or tricks for growing your Instagram account? Let me know in the comments below! Also, feel free to connect with me on Instagram if we aren’t already!

Instagram photographers Pinterest

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By | 2017-10-31T22:35:55+00:00 October 31st, 2017|2 Comments

About the Author:

Suzi Pratt is an event, food, and concert photographer based in Seattle. She started Intrepid Freelancer to inspire and teach others how to start a photography business. View her at photography portfolio, and subscribe to herYouTube channel.

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