Instagram is a key tool when it comes to promoting your work, building a following, and growing your career. It can be a source of income in itself, as the most popular accounts are often offered sponsorship deals and given goods or money in exchange for advertisements. But how do you reach the point where you are actually being recognized for your Instagram profile? Here are some tips to build a strong account that will really take you places.
Focus on quality
The first thing you absolutely need to be focusing on is the quality of the photographs that you post. It’s not a good idea to just post whatever you have for the sake of it. Rather, you want to treat your Instagram profile just like a portfolio: remember that it’s only as strong as your weakest image. This means that everything you post should be up to your best possible standard.
It doesn’t mean that everything has to be perfect. Some of the more popular photography accounts will post unedited shots straight out of camera to their followers, in order to show them how they are edited. They also might put less perfect shots, or out-takes, into their Instagram Stories so that followers get to see a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes. More on that later!
Instagram accounts which post consistently and regularly also tend to do best. There are a few different reasons for this. First, users do enjoy seeing one new post every morning from accounts they follow – or whatever your update schedule will be. They like to know what to expect and when. This makes them more likely to follow you.
Secondly, a consistent posting schedule will also earn you rewards within the Instagram algorithm. When users click on, comment on, save, or like your post, it gets a boost in the algorithm which means it goes higher up in the feeds of people who follow you. If they are doing this every day, and you consistently get good interactions, then gradually you will find that your posts get a boost in the algorithm as soon as they are posted – because Instagram knows that your followers want to see your posts right away. You can also build up speed when you hit the top page of the ‘most popular’ images under any given hashtag that you are using, and then even more speed if you manage to get enough interaction to be pushed into the explore tab.
The explore tab hosts images and videos that the algorithm has determined a particular user might be interested in. A lot of users like to browse here regularly, and the exciting thing is that they don’t have to be your followers to see your posts.
It all builds up: the more consistent you are with regularly posting high-quality images, the more popular your account will become.
Take followers behind the scenes
People really love to go behind the scenes – sometimes these kinds of posts are actually more popular than the finished landscape shots. They want to know what camera and equipment you are using, how you get to your destination, what you have to do in order to get the shot, and how you edit it.
There are several great ways to do this. Some photographers will fly a drone overhead with a small action camera attached so that they can upload footage of themselves shooting the landscape. Others like to have a friend along who will capture the journey, or they will share snapshots from their phone as they travel. Some will share before and after versions of edited images, or even post video tutorials.
The way that you do it is up to you – you can even test out all of these options and see which your followers seem to prefer. Get them involved by posting polls on your Stories so that they can tell you what they think.
Use every available tool
The way that Instagram works is that you are rewarded for any actions you take, so long as they aren’t deemed to be spammy or against the rules. This means that in order to boost your exposure and build your account, you should use every available tool at your disposal.
The first step is to post both photos and video on your account. You may have mainly photographs available because that’s what you shoot, and that’s fine – the videos don’t have to be posted as regularly. Every now and then, just put together a behind the scenes story – or you can even create a video slideshow of some of your most popular photos. What’s important is that you try both mediums.
Next up, you should be posting to your Story fairly regularly. It doesn’t have to be every day, but you should do it as often as you can. When you post to your story, it actually boosts your recent posts in the Instagram algorithm, as they want to reward you for using their alternative to Snapchat.
Similarly, Instagram are very keen to compete with YouTube, so anything you post on IGTV will be rewarded handsomely. Again, these can be tutorials or behind the scenes footage – you can even just film a vlog of yourself talking to the camera about how you work. You could ask your followers if they want to ask you anything, and then film a Q&A video.
You should also be sure to interact with other accounts. Follow photographers that you admire, like and comment on their posts, and be active in your community. There are a lot of landscape photographers on Instagram, but you will soon find that the circle is smaller than you think – and the number of accounts who are really active in the community is smaller still. Get involved by chatting with others, answering their stories, and so on.
We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but hashtags are super important for Instagram success. You want people to see your posts, right? Especially when you have a smaller follower count, it’s really important to get your work seen through hashtags.
The limit for any post is 30, and while advice may vary on how many to use, you may as well use them all to start with. Look for relevant and specific hashtags: #landscape is great, but #landscapephotography is better. Even better would be to find a hashtag used by one of the many landscape photography groups on Instagram.
There are a lot of feature accounts which all have their own hashtags and rules. Choose a number of them where you would like to see your work showcased, follow them, and use their hashtags on your photos. This will put you in with a chance of having your work reposted, potentially to tens of thousands of users. That exposure can really help you to grow.
While we’re talking about tags, be sure to tag anyone relevant in your post: for example, you could tag the location if it has an official account. This is important because your post will then show up under their tags for anyone who is visiting their page, so you could get more engagement and followers that way.
You should also tag the location. This again gives you another place for your photos to appear when people are browsing by location.
While all these tips will really help you, the biggest things you need for your account to grow are time and patience. If you keep that consistent quality up and you stay active, your account will grow stronger. It might not be overnight, but you will certainly be putting yourself into the best position for that to potentially happen.
You can try tricks like following other people to get them to follow you, until you either unfollow them or have a ridiculous following count, but these tricks don’t usually tend to get you very far. Instagram is cracking down on this kind of behaviour and banning accounts – or shadowbanning, where your posts are removed from hashtags and explore pages without any warning. These penalties can really hurt your account, so growing organically is really the best way.
The great thing about building an Instagram account this way is that your photography will also become stronger, as you push yourself to do better. This way, success can be the only outcome.