How to Use Instagram as a Professional Photographer

If you're going to be on one social network as a photographer, it should probably be Instagram. Here are some tips on using the platform to effectively promote your work and distinguish yourself from the average user.

1. Instagram is not your portfolio.

Don't simply regurgitate everything that’s in your portfolio. Have some fun with it. Experiment, and share spontaneous shots that may not be published elsewhere.

You can think of it as a visual diary: give your followers a glimpse into your life, or a behind-the-scenes look at a project you’re working on.

With all this in mind, remember that you're trying to promote yourself as a professional. Create a sense of balance between more carefully planned out photos and more impromptu ones.

2. Be consistent in your subject matter.

Let people know what to expect. When someone lands on your feed and sees a general theme — whether it's landscapes, portraits or street photography — it gives them a reason to follow you.

3. Use a consistent editing style.

Whether you’re posting photos from your DSLR, iPhone camera or both, establish an editing process. Most photographers prefer third-party apps — such as VSCO Cam or Adobe Lightroom Mobile — to Instagram’s built-in editing features. (To distinguish yourself from “Instagram photographers,” you may want to avoid Instagram filters.) Keep in mind that your Instagram photos will be viewed at small sizes, so you don’t have to worry so much about details like noise and grain.

By using a consistent editing process, your feed will have an overall cohesive look.

4. Write a good bio.

This is the first thing people will see. Keep it short and to the point. Include a link to your website, as well as your email and location, so people who want to work with you will know how to contact you and where you’re based.

5. Write short descriptions for your photos.

Include a description with every image, and be concise. If your text is longer than a few lines, people will have to click "expand" to read the rest.

Add context to your images. If you’re posting a photo of a landmark, for example, name it in the description and use the location tool.

6. Use hashtags wisely.

Don’t insert hashtags into every other word of your photo description — it looks unprofessional (ex: This is yesterday’s #model at my #photoshoot in #nyc). Instead, attach them to the end of your post, and don’t go overboard. If you’re using a lot of hashtags, post them as a comment instead of in the original description.

Do some research and experimenting in deciding which hashtags to use. Keep in mind that if you use popular ones like #photography, you might end up with a lot of spam and bot comments. Try to find some niche hashtags that describe your photography style and are not overused.

Once you’ve found what works for you, you can use apps like Tagsdock to create custom hashtag lists that you can re-use to save time.

7. Engage with the Instagram community.

Find and connect with photographers who inspire you, and follow accounts that you are genuinely interested in. Join conversations in a meaningful way (don’t just spam for followers). And be sure to reply to people who comment on your work. 

There are a lot of “quick fixes” to build your following, but if you share great content and explore Instagram from a place of genuine interest, you’ll grow your following organically with followers who are you actually interested in your work.

8. Keep a regular schedule.

Don’t flood your followers’ feeds by posting a series of photos all at once. Post once a day, or every three days. Whatever you decide, keep a regular schedule.

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Don’t overthink it, don’t be afraid to be emojis and remember to have fun with it. While you should have a general plan for how you’ll use your account, as well as an editing system in place, Instagram is about sharing images quickly and with ease. And don’t forget that it’s a social network. Ideally, you’re connecting with other photographers by following their work and sharing your own.