Are you a photographer struggling to get Instagram followers and likes? Is your photography Instagram stagnating with little to no engagement?
Whether you are a seasoned photographer or someone venturing into the field as a hobby, learning to use Instagram to properly showcase your work is essential.
Being a visual medium, Instagram has become increasingly more difficult for photographers to stand out from the crowd. You may use all the hashtags similar photographers use but don’t see much organic growth.
Before we go further, we want to give a big shout out to Emanual Pinna for allowing us to use his photograph for our main image. The rest of his work is equally as great as well! Additionally we want to give a shout out to Jonny Greenstein of jgrnstn.com for his free photography resources. 2 of his articles were used when we updated this article. They were:
- Twitter for Photographers – Building Exposure and Marketing Your Prints
- How to Sell and Market Your Photography on Instagram
In this article, we will look at:
- Current trends on Instagram
- Instagram social media strategies for photographers,
- How to grow photography Instagram accounts, and
- Instagram best practise for creating content.
Current trends on Instagram
Instagram, like all social media platforms, have trends that ebb and flow. Remember when Facebook was a must have? Exactly.
Before looking at the current trends on Instagram, it is worth looking at who actually uses it.
- As of June 2018, there are almost 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram. An active user is anyone who has signed in within a 30 day period.
- Out of that total 1 billion, almost half sign in and engage every day.
- Two thirds of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly active users are aged between 18 and 29.
- A post will receive 50% of its total engagement within the first 19 hours.
In numerous surveys, Instagram users have highlighted authenticity as a driving factor behind engagement. Aspirational content generates significant amounts of engagement from users but people want to feel a connection. Using your photography and the accompanying description on Instagram to create a story generates must more emotive engagement, leading to repeat engagement and followers.
So, how do you get more authentic Instagram posts?
Don’t ditch the glossy aspirational posts too soon. Work alongside them. Yes. That aerial photo of you lying on the boat in the turquoise water looks amazing and has the ‘I want some of that in my life’ factor. But why not flavor those posts with more behind the scenes imagery? Maybe your first 10 shots were not perfect? Post one. Highlight it. Show people that, like them, you also don’t get the perfect shot in one take.
Perhaps, consider posting a photo before editing it.
Using Instagram Stories for authenticity
Instagram Stories is the in thing right now. The feature has over 1 billion users posting stories each day.
As we touched on above, you can use Instagram Stories to show authenticity. Use it to post behind the scenes clips, boomerangs and photos that highlight your journey to that perfect photograph.
Stories can be especially useful for travel photographers on Instagram. Use it as a way to quickly document your trip around posting the ‘highlight’ shots in your posts.
Instagram social media strategies for photographers
As a photographer, do your need an Instagram social media strategy. Short answer… no. But… we are willing to bet that all the best ones do. Few people hit it lucky on Instagram let alone hit it lucky consistently.
So what do photographers need for an Instagram social media strategy? Here are some key things to ask yourself:
- What is the demographic or audience I want to reach?
- Do I have common goals and aspirations with my audience?
- How can I add value?
So, with those questions in mind, lets look at building an Instagram social media strategy as a photographer.
What is the problem?
This can also be what is my need as a photographer? Answers can be along the lines of…. get more followers, or, get more likes, or, get my comments, or all the aforementioned.
What is my desired result?
This should be the answer to your problems above, ie, the answer to I don’t have many followers is (you guessed it) get more followers.
How much time can you allocate?
Pretty self explanatory. The more time you can give, the more you can utilise and build upon your strategy.
As a photography Instagram account, what are your Instagram social media strategy goals and how do you measure them?
You may not work in sales but we are sure you have heard of key performance indicators or KPIs. Set yourself some KPIs for your social media strategy. If you cant measure your growth and engagement, you wont know what works best.
Another thing to consider is making sure your KPIs are SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based. An example of a SMART Instagram social media strategy KPI could be, “To get 50 likes and 4 comments within the first 4 hours of posting.” SMART KPIs will change and depend on your followers. 50 likes in 4 hours may seem unachievable to some and very easy to others.
Its a fine line. Dont set yourself up to fail however make sure you are challenging yourself.
Lets look at a few examples of how social media strategy objectives link to goals and which metrics are affected.
Lets say your object is to get more followers. Your goal therefore will be to build awareness. This can be measured by number of new followers.
Or… perhaps you want to get people to talk about your drone photography offline. The object would be to turn browsers into advocates. The goal is to generate increased engagement. The measurable metric is comments, likes, tags etc.
Set yourself some objectives, goals and attach the relevant metrics. Note them all down in a spreadsheet and do a rolling 3 month review. 3 months should be enough time to see if what you have done has made a measurable impact. If it has, keep it up. If not, change it up. It may not sound helpful but experimenting works.
How to grow photography Instagram accounts
Growing an Instagram account can be tricky. For new photographers setting up their first account, seeing their posts get little engagement and no new followers can be disheartening.
So, how do you grow a photography Instagram page?
It is more than likely that different people will give you different ideas. Some of Drone Photography Bible’s growth marketing team gave us some advice for this article.
This may be self exploratory and you probably do this already but are your doing it properly? Lets give a quick fact…
Did you know that having at-least 1 relevant hashtag can increase engagement by about 12%.
Hashtags are essentially a way of joining in on an established conversation.
Instagram allows each post to have a maximum of 30 hashtags. This includes hashtags in the comments as well.
Due to this limit, try split your hashtags into two groups. The first will be hashtags relevant to your account whilst the second are hashtags relevant to the content of the image or video.
Lets give an example. You post an aerial photograph of a cruise ship taken from a drone. It is taken near a Caribbean island and the water is beautifully turquoise. Hashtags from group 1 could be along the lines of #dronephotography, #aerialphotography etc (so long as your account is mostly drone photography. If it is a mix of drone photography, DLSR photos and GoPro work, mix it up).
The second group can be along the lines of #Cruiseship #boat #Caribbean etc. This may some like simple stuff but there are still lots of people who do not hashtag properly.
Are all hashtags equal?
Another thing to mention on hashtags is always look at the number of posts within each hashtag. Naturally, the higher the number, the more popular it is. But, if you post into a hashtag with 4.2m posts, you are competing against a lot of fresh new posts and even more established ones.
What we find works for our personal accounts is to use hashtags with around 100k to 500k posts. In our experience, this gives a good balance.
Engage with other relevant Instagram accounts
You know that photographer you follow who posts breathtaking images? Maybe you follow more than one. Do you love their work? If so, let them know.
Engagement leads to more engagement. Like their posts and comment on them. Behind most accounts is an actual person who may look back and engage.
Some of our staff find that posting a comment such as, “Great work! INSERT ASPECTS OF THEIR POST YOU LOVE. Maybe you can check out my profile? Would love to get your opinion.”
Looks a bit cheesy but it does work.
Can you use emojis in engagement?
Sure! why not. Dont be shy to use emojis. But, dont over do it unless you want to look like a bot. It feels like the message of this article is to find a balance that works for you and your Instagram photography niche.
Engage with calendar days
Another way to engage is to join in on calendar days…. so long as it is relevant! Dont post something cheery and hashtag a memorial day. You will look insensitive and uninformed.
Want to find calendar days to join in on? Hubspot has a handy list that some of our staff use. Now that you have the knowledge and foresight, plan ahead. Get your content ready. Perhaps re-use or recycle or re-post an existing post with a new hashtags that fit the calendar day.
Turn your Instagram followers into supporters
This is an essential if you want to grow a following.
Make your photography Instagram account a main hub for your supporters. This sounds harder than it is. It takes carefully curated content and time.
Post authentic, inspiration and emotive content. Make sure your content tells stories and educated people. If it does, they are more likely to save, engage and follow.
Post timely and relevant third party content. If you are an drone photography Instagram, perhaps post images and videos from the likes of DJI or Parrot (depending on your preferred brand). If a new drone is announced, talk about it in your stories. Add questions to your stories to get people to engage by answering them.
Be direct with your followers
Some people feel uncomfortable being direct but posting descriptions that include, “follow me for more content that you will love” does actually work.
Be direct offline as well. Ask people to engage with your post verbally or by text/Whatsapp. The more people who engage with your post on Instagram in a shore space of time, the more discover-able your post will become.
Photography Instagram best practise for creating content
With social media, proper content is key.
Drone Photography Bible community member Kenny from Virginia, USA says…
First thing is posting quality content. Post the best that you can create. Always strive to get better. Dont settle with good enough.
We certainly agree. Check out Kenny’s work, its pretty good!
Want some facts on creating the best Instagram content?
- Posts with locations get 79% more engagement. Putting in the location is not just useful for people to see where your photo was taken but it can improve how the post performs.
- The top performing accounts tend to consistently use the same few filters on their images.
- Images with a single dominant hue tend to get better engagement than those with multiple dominant colours. Another thing to add to that is images with texture generate almost 80% more likes than untextured images.
SO what does good content on a photography Instagram account look like?
First and foremost, and we have said it over and over again, keep the content relevant.
Dont be scared to re-use, re-purpose or recycle existing content. As mentioned above, this can be done for calendar days or other suitable times.
Dont be scared to be yourself. You may admire other photographers that you follow but dont get caught up emulating their work. Add your own flair and be unique. Worried that your content doesnt look as good? Practise makes perfect. Essentially find what works best for you.
The holy trinity of Instagram content
Some of you may know of this and some may not.
The holy trinity of creating great content for Instagram is:
- Call to action
When thinking of the visual content, think in terms of, “is my content authentic, emotive, inspirational, engaging or human? Maybe it is a combination. Make sure it is at least 1 of the above.
As per the facts above, textured images work well with single or few hues. An example of a textured image could be the sun reflecting off the water, similar to below…
This example image also shows the attraction of limited hues. It mostly incorporates the blues of the oceans and the browns/beiges of the boat.
If you want further help with content, DJI has a lot of useful articles to help get the most out of your drone. We found the following to be very useful:
- How to Shoot Horizontal Panoramas with your drone
- 4 Aerial Photography Tips for Shooting in Sunrise and Sunset
Can you give your target audience a light bulb moment or a second to pause for through?
When it comes to writing descriptions, you dont need to be a best selling author. Just make sure you spell properly.
Can you add a degree of social proof? Perhaps tag in someone you know will give a good comment. Maybe a statistic?
Call to action
This comes back to our point above on being direct. If you want more followers, tell people to follow you.
If you want people to click a link through to your website, tell them to.
Quick Instagram growth best practise rules
Here are a few quick rules to follow to make sure you dont negatively impact your Instagram account.
You are human. Be human. People like authenticity.
Dont buy followers. Ever. You can see who has by putting their Instagram username into websites like IGAudit. 85% or above real people is good!
Dont follow to unfollow. You will ruin your reputation among people who are happy to follow you.
Dont neglect your social media. Make sure you post regularly and consistently.
Dont spam people. Your account will be blocked and people find it irritating.
Dont jump on hashtags if they are not relevant. We said this before higher up in this article but its important.
Fewer quality posts are far better than hundreds of average ones.
Test what works. replicate it.
We want your views!
Got some advice on how to best use Instagram for photographers?
What worked for your photography Instagram?
Leave us a comment below! Remember… engagement is key!
Join the Drone Photography Bible community on Instagram
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As always, if you want to have your drone photography featured on the Drone Photography Bible Instagram feed, tag @dronephotographybible and hashtag #dronephotographybible. Your photos will feature on our Instagram as well as on the drone photography galley on our website.
Want your images to feature on our articles? We dont pay for images but do give shout outs, promotion and praise. Reach out to us on our Instagram to show us the photo you want to feature!
Finally… Do you want write for Drone Photography Bible? We are accepting guest and featured writers now. Check out the write for us page for more details.