In the last couple of years, photographers have found Instagram to be an effective medium in marketing their brand. A lot of talents are being discovered through this social media tool and that pattern of unearthing individuals with the flair for photography is likely to continue for many years to come. This is the reason why you should take your Instagram feed seriously, and not limit it within your circle of friends and take the time to curate the content. For photographers who want to reach a wider audience and stretch their possible clientele, pimping up your IG is a must. Doing so isn’t a walk in the park either – as it takes discipline and by diligently following a proven process. So what are those? Below are some of the ways on how you can stand out on Instagram and gain a large following through sheer creativeness.
Treat your IG as your Online Portfolio
For example, let’s say you are a travel photographer. Lay out a strict rule to only upload images which you think best illustrate your job. Resist uploading ‘selfies’ or ‘group’ shots of you and your friends or other pictures that veers off your audiences’ awareness from you’re being a travel photographer. There is no shame in “cleaning up” your Instagram either to make sure the current content fits in the vision you have of your brand. In the case of our example, focus on posting spectacular landscapes, city scenery and other candid images you took while on the road. If they see that your feed is composed exclusively of travel images, there is a big chance they will scroll and view your other photographs because you have gotten their attention already. This same strategy of treating your Instagram as your online portfolio also applies to other artistic work such as a fashion or wedding photography, portrait or even a painter – you can make your IG as your online artwork portfolio.
Post Images Evenly and Not Too Often
Post regularly with consistency but not too much. One of the biggest mistakes we see is when someone rarely posts to Instagram (goes silent for a week or more) and then uploads five or more images at once. This kind of thing is often considered “spam” and will even lose you followers.
Remember, Instagram is not Facebook (despite being owned by them), so do not flood your feed with dozens of images posted at the same day. By uploading photographs that are thinly spread out in a week is the best way to keep the interest level of your followers in a constant and engaging line. Uploading too many pictures on your Instagram might tire them out and chances are, as mentioned already, you might lose more followers than what you gain.
Select the Right Filter for Every Image… Even if That Means No Filter at All
Smart filter selection can also elevate your images and garner more “ooohs” and “aaahs” from your viewers. There are two ways to go about it, either you stick with a personal theme on all your IG pictures by just choosing one filter for all images, or you delegate one filter for each type or style of image. A recent study made by researchers at Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech where they analyzed more than 7 million images on Instagram brought up some interesting results. According to their findings, filtered images attracted more engagement than unedited photos, and filters that intensified the exposure, contrast and warmth had the highest engagements. The study also suggests that by using the right type of filter, a selfie will increase its chances of being viewed by 21% and 45% more chances of getting comments.
Also, the researchers found out that filters such as Rise, Hefe, Mayfair, Valencia and Nashville are the top choices to get more likes, views and comments. Other warm-colored filters such as Aden, Slumber and Lark also produces more engagement over the extremely saturated filters such as X-Pro II and Lo-Fi which usually attracts lesser engagements. This however, is no means a rule of thumb for Instagram. It still all depends on your style and the appearance and composition style of the photographs you upload.
All that said, sometimes a filter is not necessary at all. If you are uploading images that you took on a pro-level camera, you probably have a method for editing those in Photoshop. In those cases, keeping your images exactly how you would show them on your website or portfolio is the best decision. No need to fix what isn’t broken.
If your Instagram caters to a particular niche, make your presence felt by ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’ on other related photographs found in Instagram. For example, if you are a travel photographer simply explore the #travel hash tag and start getting noticed by igniting stimulating conversation with other Instagrammers who share your passion for photography. This way, the user themselves and their followers will start noticing you and eventually they will find their way into your own Instagram wall.
Engage with your Followers
Take time to reply back to your followers. Although this can become time consuming when you reach five digit following, you should still try and do your best. Make sure you engage once in a while to at least some of them. This will make you appear closer to that audience and make them appreciate you and your craft more. Remember that you are building your own brand and keeping an open communication with your prospective clientele will help a lot in the long run.
When You are Including People, Make Sure There is a Story to Tell
Images showing people produce a lot of engagement on Instagram. If you are a professional photographer though, make sure to limit your ‘people’ shots to photographs that reveal a more interesting story. We’re not talking about the ordinary party pictures, or a group of people from your work or a bathroom selfie. We’re talking about ‘people shots,’ images of those doing interesting things. Unfamiliar situations given a story are hugely engaging, and even giving a voice to those who are generally ignored (like a window washer, garbage man, etc- like Humans of New York) is a great angle to work. In my case as an example, I uploaded a picture of a group of kids seen playing ‘real world’ games as opposed to the normal gadget-crazy lifestyle exhibited by young children nowadays. That’s a story, and it’s worth telling.
Determine the Best Time to Post
There are varied studies made trying to determine which day is the best to upload images on Instagram. If you follow our previous advice of not posting too often, then this becomes a key piece information for you. Some say Thursday is the most engagement-heavy day to post on Instagram – maybe because most of your followers are already tapering off with their work week and have more time to scroll their Instagram feed even while at work as opposed to the busy first few days of the week. Others say Sundays are the best day to get noticed because the number of images uploaded are lesser. Less competition means more chances of getting noticed. To make sure, use the Statigram platform to learn your history of posting, engagement activities and other stats pertaining to your Instagram account, to determine which days you always attract the most audiences.
Think Outside the Square
Sometimes you need to provide a different format into your Instagram feed other than the square photos. Now that IG has made it easier to upload landscape shots, why not try something better; widescreen shots showing a cinema-like scene of some of your favorite photos. This will make a few users to take notice and instantly click on your profile to check out not only your recently uploaded image, but also the rest of your pictures.
Even better, upload images whose orientation takes up more screen Real Estate at a time. When putting content on Instagram, you want limit the amount of screen time you share with others. The more space you can take up on the screen at one time, the better.
Do Not Bastardize the use of Hashtags…
Do not flood your Instagram photos with a long list of hash tags. While hash tags help you get noticed by other people, it is important to keep the use of them in check. One major tip: after including a few in the image description, write the rest of the hashtags you want to include in the comment section. This way, the hashtags won’t appear on the IG feed of others – therefore, they won’t become annoyed by your seemingly endless stream of hashtags.
…& Only Use Appropriate Hashtags
Use only the hashtags that apply to or directly describes your images. Examples of this are the name of the place, the type of activity seen in the photo or any theme (such as #breakfastAbroad, for example). There are many interesting hashtags out there, select and use the appropriate ones that accompany your images perfectly.
Compose an Engaging or Informative Caption
Showing off your work in Instagram is also a chance to share some interesting tidbits, or history about your image (this links back to the previous tip about telling a story about the people in your images). Always try to exert effort in composing an informative and engaging caption to accompany your pictures. This way, your viewers will not only find your Instagram cool to look at but they will also see it as a medium where they can learn new facts about you and the people or places you photograph as well.
Never Ever Buy Instagram Followers
Never, as in never ever. Why? Because you will only be cheating yourself. People and brands notice when your follower count is high, but engagement numbers are low. This always happens with fake likes. Besides, garnering real followers is the utmost validation that your images on Instagram are really works of art, and standing out through sheer creativity is a wonderful achievement in itself.
Now that I have came up with this list, judging from my minimal engagement and low following count on my own travel Instagram, it is high time for myself to practice what I preach by following all these tips on how to standout in Instagram. If you know of other ways, please let us know in the comments section below.