There are so many areas to cover! What time of the day should you post? How do you get more followers fast? It can all get overwhelming. And so many of us, as photographers and creatives, end up asking ourselves the question: do we even want to use Instagram?
Despite the pressure to maintain a curated feed and chase a huge follower count, Instagram can still be a source of connection and inspiration, a place to share what photography means to you.
Building a successful audience on Instagram doesn't have to mean you have 500 000 followers. A strong community of followers could consist of 50 000, 5000, or even just 500 people. What matters is what you get out of that audience: Do people engage with your work? Do they offer feedback and criticism? Are you finding new ideas, new clients, new collaborators?
We reached out to ten talented photographers with Instagram follower counts in the 5000 to 100 000 range. These photographers aren't mega-influencers—they're just creatives with beautifully curated Instagram feeds and audiences who clearly care about their work.
We asked each of them for their top tip for growing your Instagram as a photographer. This is what they had to say.
This was the number one tip shared by the photographers we spoke to. There can be a lot of pressure on Instagram to be something you're not — to only post the most perfect shots that fit perfectly into your uber-curated feed.
What will help you build an Instagram audience and offer something interesting to people isn't striving for impossible perfection, but rather revealing what makes you unique and focusing on your passion. "I don't like overthinking it. I just post with my heart," says Flora Westbrook (@flora_westbrook). "If people like it, great. If they don't, that's fine too."
Samir Belhamra (@grafixart_photo) agrees: "People will come to you naturally if you do what you love." He stresses that stressing about likes isn't worth it. Says Elina Sazonova (@sunnmy), "I think it’s important not to think about how to grow, but just follow your heart and not be afraid to share what it has to say."
Whenever you post anything public on the internet, there's always the chance of negative feedback, whether that's simply a post that didn't get as many likes as you hoped, or someone leaving a rude comment. As your Instagram following grows, you'll receive more feedback of all kinds, and some of it may be negative.
Be confident in your content, take meaningful criticism into account, and ignore the haters. "Always be yourself, and never limit yourself by thinking of what people are going to think about you or your work," says Jonas Ferlin (@Outontheearth). "Be who you are, or who you want to be."
While authenticity is key to a successful Instagram feed, it's also important to create some consistency. Of course, we all contain multitudes—you don't need to always post images with the exact same color scheme or super-similar compositions to be consistent. Consistency on Instagram is about establishing what defines your photography style.
Matheus Bertelli (@bertellifotografia) says that consistency is the one tip that's always useful, no matter what's happening on Instagram. "Instagram has changed a lot in the past years since I started using it in 2015," he notes. "Whenever Instagram updates, it gets trickier to grow an audience there. Despite everything, what I noticed that works well throughout the years is to maintain a consistent style for your feed that works for Stories as well."
"I see my Instagram like my CV in many ways," Flora says. For photographers seeking paid gigs through Instagram, a consistent look can make all the difference. Think of Instagram is as a casual version of your portfolio. "I do like to keep a certain consistency with my posts so people can see what they will get when they book me. That's really important to the client and important to me too."
Maybe it goes without saying, but posting regularly is a great way to maintain consistency when it comes your presence on IG. Gül Işık (@ekrulila) says that "sharing regularly and producing useful content" is her key to Instagram success. Posting daily is great, but if you don't have the time or content to do so, be sure to post at least a few times a week to keep your Instagram fresh and present in people's feeds.
Photographers with engaged Instagram followings tend to have one thing in common: they care about their followers. And not just as a number to be tracked, but as a group of people who can offer inspiration, support, and community.
Ian Beckley (@bklyphoto) says that engaging with your existing followers, even if it's just a small group, is his first tip for growing your Instagram. "Call them by their names when responding to comments. Check out their pages. Build a connection with that audience and then they will naturally want to share your work with others."
If you're just starting out on Instagram, reaching out to other photographers and creatives is the best way to get connected and grow your audience. Like posts that inspire you and leave thoughtful comments. We all know Instagram is full of bots, spam, and endless comments consisting only of hearts and cry-laughing emojis—so taking the time to write some genuine feedback can help you stand out from the crowd.
"Find other photographers that you like, and comment, share, and like their work," Ian suggests. "Be personal and take the time to get to know people, even if through just comments or DMs." Who knows, you might even make some new friends! Ian has: "Some of my best friends have been met through what started out as a comment on their posts, and now we get to take trips together and explore the world.
"Always talk to your audience," Matheus agrees. And, he points out, being an active liker and commenter has potential to help get your own content seen more. "Instagram likes reciprocity! If you comment on a post, it'll be more likely that your posts get shown to that person so they like and comment back."
This tip follows from "stay consistent"—a big part of that consistency is curation. Creating a standout Instagram feed means putting some time in doing the hard work of choosing which images make the cut and which ones don't.
This is where Instagram Stories are such a revelation for photographers. You can share behind the scenes shots, outtakes, and silly phone snaps without compromising the polished look of your feed. That's not to say that those personal Stories aren't valuable in their own right.
Showing people who you are behind the photos can help your Instagram feel more special. "Being honest, real and creative has always been key for me," says Flora. "I like to post personal stuff in my stories too. Very special friendships have come out of that."
Saving your more personal content for Stories and maintaining a slightly more polished feed can lend your Instagram a professional feel. You might share ten shots from a recent shoot on your Story, but only share the best one on your feed.
Ensuring your Instagram feed looks top-notch is Emre Kuzu's (@emrrekuzu) top tip. "I think the most important things for Instagram photos are the aspect ratios and tones of photos," he says. "Effective framing and colors people will love are always important."
Emre adds that effective use of hashtags is a handy option to help make sure that great work you're sharing gets seen. His tip is to copy/paste relevant tags from other photographers and IG feeds sharing similar content.
It's fast and easy, and you might be surprised at how many top photographers continue to add tons of hashtags to their content—you can always stash your tags in a comment, or below a series of dots in your caption, if you don't love how it looks.
Aisan Nourbash (@designecologist) has defined a distinctive, playful style of photo art on her Instagram. "For me personally, Instagram is a platform that allows me to showcase my passion," she tells us. "At first I explored posting various types of content, figuring out what I’m really good at. Once I discovered my niche, what I truly enjoy creating, I began strengthening it."
"I've always liked to do creative stuff, so everyone that follows me knows that they'll be getting creative stuff out of my Instagram feed," Matheus says. A creative outlook on photography defines Matheus' Instagram style; what defines yours? It's up to you to find out, and use your Instagram feed as a place to develop and hone that style.
Luis Dalvan (@luisdalvan) shares the same advice: "Try to specialize in a photography niche, studying references and perfecting your technique." He highlights the importance of practice when refining your photography style.
Stressing over likes and curated consistency aside, Instagram can be an invaluable platform for sharing that practice, a place for figuring out what makes your photography unique. The feedback you get from followers and fellow creatives can help inform your work.
And whether you archive your old posts or keep them live to look back on, Instagram also creates a useful archive of your creative progress as you refine your style. "Your first post compared to your recent post will always amaze you," says Aisan. "Your progress is an achievement that’s out in the open! Your true supporters will appreciate that too, and from there your audience will grow."
Aisan sums up her recipe for Instagram success neatly: "The four things to always remember: find your niche, make it your passion, build it, and be consistent! Post what you love and in return your followers will grow."
Cover photo by Designecologist.