Talk less, shoot more. This could really be the slogan of Instagram. The dominating social media channel did everything it takes to put images (and videos) at the forefront, with great success. Besides that, the platform is super easy to use, requires very little knowledge in tech and doesn’t ask you to be a natural born writer. Last but not least, Instagram now claims 600 million monthly active users, eager to consume beautiful photos – and possibly yours! In a nutshell: Instagram is a paradise for photographers. And it just so happens to be the perfect complement for your online portfolio.
On Instagram, the more often you publish the more you can raise your brand awareness. Yes, you’re not only an artist, but a brand too. The channel is swarming with thousands of curators, agencies and potential clients looking for fresh talent. Moreover, Instagram will help you build an enthusiastic community that begins to associate with your imagery. This forum allows for one-on-one engagement that can bring you valuable feedback on your work and endless inspiration.
So what’s the catch? The competition is harsh between Instagram photographers. Everyone is fighting hard to claim their daily portion of little hearts, comments and new followers. That’s why we’ve come up with 7 crucial tips that’ll help put the focus on your profile.
The art of hashtags
With thousands of images published every minute, there is little chance that the random user will stumble upon your photos, unless they are one of your followers. That is why we use hashtags: to allow for new curious eyes on our images without needing to pay for a promoted post. A hashtag is text following a # that is connected to a certain topic. Social media visitors can search a hashtag to discover content that would be most interesting to them and then discover new exciting artists.
You can utilize the power of hashtags every time you attach one (or more) of them to your picture’s description. Thus, you multiply your chances of being discovered and attract more followers, likes and comments.
Three questions will automatically arise:
1. How many can I use? On Instagram, there is a limit of 30 hashtags per publication. There is no reason to skimp, on the contrary. The most serious, almost scientifically-driven studies show that on Instagram, unlike Twitter, the more hashtags you put, the better your posts perform. Since you don’t want to overload your pictures, you can safely go for something between 5 – 15 hashtags per post.
2. Where will I put them? For Mark Zuckerberg’s sake, please don’t write your entire description with one hashtag per word. #Because #its #not #really #legible #is #it? Simply put your hashtags at the end of your posts for a clean look. You can also hide your tags, by including them in the comment section below the post, or by burying them beneath 5 lines made of one dot and one line breaks (Instagram caps off captions after 3 lines, so your hashtags won’t be visible).
3. Which should I use? Don’t try using obvious, common words like #photographer, #love or #landscape. They are overused, which means that your pictures will be instantly buried under thousands of new posts. Plus, you’ll receive a lot of spams comments from robots, which can be extremely annoying (you know, the “Want to know the secret method to making £500 a week?”). Instead, go for hashtags that are just popular and relevant enough to give you potential, but not too crowded, so you have a chance to stand out. How to establish your hashtag repertoire? First, check out which hashtags other photographers in your field are using. Second, consider related hashtags by browsing through posts containing a hashtag you’ve already used with success. Eventually, don’t forget to use Instagram’s search function that’ll give you a list of valuable new ideas with the number of posts related.
(H)ubiquity [aka be everywhere]
Talking about visibility boosters, hubs (also known as “feature accounts”) are pages which curate and share the most beautiful pictures. A kind of art gallery for Instagram photographers, if you wish – except that you won’t make any money from them. Some revolve around specific gear (@canon_photos or @nikonusa), others specialize in distinct photography genres such as portraits (@portraitpage, @portraitmood, etc.) or wildlife and nature (@ourplanetdaily or @thevisualscollective).
To be featured on one of these accounts, you need to use it’s dedicated hashtag and then pray for your picture to be noticed. Of course, the more stunning your photo the greater your chances of getting discovered. If you succeed, the reward will be huge for your Instagram account since the hubs attract thousands, and sometimes millions, of followers hungry for beautiful shots.
Don’t pose, compose
Until recently, Instagram users didn’t have much choice: they only could upload square images. We know that for a professional photographer this was extremely frustrating as a composition is such an integral part of your presentation, as important as the subject or the camera used to shoot. Fortunately, things have changed recently and you can now upload both vertical and horizontal images. You cannot control how Instagram will cut the thumbnail version, but at least you’ll get pictures that really will resemble what you wanted to create.
Here are the optimal sizes for each format:
Square images: 1080px in width by 1080px in height;
Vertical images: 1080px by 1350px;
Horizontal images: 1080px by 566px.
Regarding thumbnails, here’s a trick to make sure your favourite pictures will stand out on your profile: Use the Instagram grid! All you need to do is make sure you split your picture into 6 (for a landscape) or 9 (for a portrait), and then post each slice as a separate image.
Stay constant and consistent
Unlike emails, Facebook posts or even Tweets, there is no “golden day” to publish on Instagram. Studies show that images work the same all throughout the week, with a slight bonus on Saturdays and Sundays. So be constant. This means you should do what you expect from your favourite pizzeria: be up and at ‘em 24/7, open and ready to deliver.
Apart from being constant, make sure you stay consistent in your publication agenda. Internet users are a bit like Pavlov’s dog: they are quickly conditioned to develop expectations. This is why you want to keep your posting to a pattern. Now we’re not advocating that you restrict yourself to one genre, but do make sure your followers immediately recognize your signature style when scrolling through their feed.
When keyboard is the key
On Instagram, you don’t have to write a lot. That’s one of the reasons for its huge success. Still, don’t forget to add a description, or “caption” in the social media slang, to each of the images you post. It can be short, but enriched with valuable info for your community.
Without inspiration when it comes time to type? Don’t worry, you have much more to tell than you think. For example, you can talk about where your picture was taken, the gear that you used or even the people you met along the way. For the more adventurous, shape a funny haiku-like caption to show that you’re as agile with words as you are with your lenses.
Useful tip: don’t forget to tag all the people involved in the photo (from the client that commissioned it, to the hotel where you took it, to other professionals you worked with). This way, you will naturally multiply the chances of your image being seen, liked and commented on.
Don’t neglect your profile makeup
Wondering what the first thing is that people see when arriving to your Instagram account? It’s your bio. This important section of your Instagram account should always include your username, a little personal/professional info, email address for potential clients and your location. Of course, don’t forget the URL of your website. And speaking of your site, make sure you put a link to your Instagram account straight on your website as well. This way your site visitors and social media followers will be directly connected with one another, and all your adoring fans can see the whole picture with a simple click.
Need a hand?
You may be able to tell, but I'm mildly obsessed with Instagram, especially getting it right for brands sharing content on social media. If you need help getting social media to make you a decent ROI, give me a call on 0113 328 0412 or visit www.mydigitalhero.co.uk.