In today’s Social Media for Photographers installment, we’ll be discussing how you as a professional photographer should be using Instagram.
As a photo-centric platform, Instagram seems a natural fit for a photographer. However, with Instagram’s rise to popularity being fairly recent, many photographers are hopping on board with little direction for how to actually use the platform. As is the case with each social media platform we have discussed, there are quirks to using Instagram that you should be aware of in order to market yourself most effectively there.
We’ll be addressing some common mistakes photographers make when using Instagram, and what you should be doing instead to effectively build up your brand.
Don’t: Set your profile to private.
Instead: Make your profile public and include a description with a link to your website.
This seems like an obvious point, but we frequently come across photography business accounts that are set to private. If your account is private, you’ll have to approve all followers and those who aren’t approved won’t be able to see your images or follow your hashtags to find you. If you’re not comfortable sharing certain personal images to a public account, create a separate public account for your photography business. Be sure to include a link to your website in your description, as it’s the only spot on Instagram that supports hyperlinks.
Don’t: Target older generations.
Instead: Focus your attentions on your younger clients.
It is not unusual for a child, their parents, and their grandparents to all have Facebook accounts. It’s less likely for this to be true on Instagram, which appeals primarily to younger generations. While you might not be able to reach your entire target market on Instagram alone, the advantage here is that you only have to focus on one age group when crafting posts. If you photograph seniors and families both, you might want to focus a bit more on the senior photography market on Instagram than you would on other platforms.
Don’t: Post image after image of your edited portraits (or even your back-of-camera shots).
Instead: Share behind-the-scenes shots from portrait sessions.
As we have mentioned when discussing other platforms, posting your favorite images from sessions should be considered a right hook. If you’re using Instagram to provide each of your clients with a sneak peek to their session, you are not using it natively. More than any other platform, Instagram is about the jab—about building your brand and making an impression on your followers without overtly marketing yourself. One way you can do this is by showing what an incredible experience your clients will have if they book you! Snap a photo on your phone while your client is having their hair and makeup done or take a silly selfie together at the location—be creative! You’ll earn the reputation of being both professional and fun to work with.
Don’t: Make it all about your business.
Instead: Give your followers a glimpse into your personality and your everyday life!
Branding on Instagram is not just showing your followers what you’re like as a photographer; it’s also showing them what you’re like as a person! Sharing images of you at work (whether on a photo shoot or an editing marathon at your home or studio) is great, but don’t stop there. Go to an awesome restaurant? Jump out of an airplane? Post those pictures! You’ll especially be effective if your personal images relate to local events or establishments, which your target audience are likely to be interested in.
Don’t: Be scared of hashtags.
Instead: Use hashtags to your heart’s content!
While we recommend using only one or two hashtags on each tweet, this rule does not apply to Instagram! Here, you can use three, five, or ten without harming your post engagement. Select hashtags that your target audience will be likely to search. For a photographer marketing to a particular city or region, these will be location-specific. For example, a Chicago-based wedding photographer might use more generic hashtags such as #chicago to increase exposure, but would also include #chicagowedding, #chicagobride, etc. You can also take advantage of hashtags used by events and businesses in your location area. Search the hashtags you intend to use to see if they’re popular. You can post hashtags both in your photo caption and as comments on your photos with the same result.
Don’t: Spam your followers’ feeds.
Instead: Limit your posts and scatter them throughout the day.
We often see photographers post several photos at once, filling their followers’ feeds with their images. This is not native to Instagram and is a quick way to be unfollowed. Daily posting is great, but limit yourself to no more than three or four images daily (we prefer one or two) and space them out. The great thing about Instagram is that all of your followers will have all of your posts appear in their feeds, but this also means you have to consider how much is too much on a daily basis. There’s no real consensus on the best time of day to post to Instagram; images tend to see similar engagement regardless of the day or time of day shared. It benefits you to post at varying times to reach as many followers (and potential clients, through the use of hashtags) as possible.
Don’t: Overlook Instagram’s video capabilities.
Instead: Post videos on occasion during the off-hours.
While research shows that Instagram videos are less engaging than photos, there is still a time and place for them. Post the same sort of content in video format that you would in photos—the behind-the-scenes clips, a few seconds from a local concert, etc. Videos on Instagram see the highest engagement when posted outside of working hours, as many are unable to view the videos (with sound) during their work days.
Don’t: Expect to gain exposure just by posting photos.
Instead: Take initiative and engage with your target audience and other local vendors.
Just as others can find you by searching hashtags, you can find great opportunities to network by doing the same. Follow other local businesses that you might be able to build partnerships with and like/comment on their photos! You can also seek out those in your target market and comment on their posts (Comments such as “Congratulations on your engagement!” are sufficient; you don’t have to blatantly advertise for yourself as they’re likely to visit your profile regardless).
Keep in mind that Instagram is not built for businesses; in order to be native to the platform, to fit in on your followers’ feeds, you’ll need to be familiar with the structure. It’s a platform for micro content and relationship development, not advertisement. Follow the basic guidelines we’ve outlined here, and you’ll be set for success on Instagram.