Instagram has pro potential

Instagram now reportedly has 200 million monthly active users and the photo sharing app has shown no sign of slowing down. The app has become notorious for healthy eating snaps, fitness progression pictures and bathroom selfies – but professional photographers can and do use the program effectively to market their business.

If you're at a restaurant and see this, don't be alarmed - it's just an instagrammer. Source: Mettelindgaard/Instagram

If you’re at a restaurant and see this, don’t be alarmed – it’s just an instagrammer. Source: Mettelindgaard/Instagram

We’ve already covered how a new breed of photographer has made a career exclusively through the app, but not so much how established photographers can improve their – for lack of a better word – exposure.

Photoshelter recently issued the Photographers guide to Instagram that provides tips and insights into how to use the app constructively for just this reason. While there are no real rules to how to successfully ‘Instagram’, some of the advice may come in handy to those disengaged professional photographers interested in using the app.

The advantages of using Instagram is becoming increasingly prominent: a photographer can publish directly to a community; they can use photos captured on any camera, not just a mobile phone; thousands of potential clients use it, from brides to be through to photo editors and advertising agencies; and it has a rather informal, relaxed form of communication from a photographer to their ‘followers’.

‘Instagram is… an easy way of keeping up with editors and art buyers that follow you in an unobtrusive way,’ Daeja Fallas told Photoshelter in the guide. ‘I would never send an editor weekly e-mails of what I’m doing, but I do put up posts of my shoot locations or final edits of jobs when they are released.’

In the guide, Photoshelter suggests that ‘photography is aspirational’. While photography comes in many different forms and that statement can easily be debated, in the case of this social network it seems to be true. Landscape, wildlife, adventure and travel photographers have enormous potential to transport those inner-city users stuck in their mundane surroundings to an exotic, far away place. Narcissism in small, subtle doses is somewhat celebrated on social media by the average user, so don’t hesitate to show off the finest #nofilter frame in the arsenal, followed by a personal photo taken at a restaurant later that day.

A potential way to increase the number of ‘followers’ and therefore the amount of exposure received is by including ‘tags’. It could be either a geotag, person tag or hashtag. For instance, if a wedding or glamour photographer has finished post-processing images from a shoot, they could upload a few of the standout images to Instagram and find out the clients handle (whether that is a bride, a model, or the agencies Instagram handle) and tag them with the @username. Person tagging works both ways too, and asking the client to post an image with your Instagram handle tagged is also effective. They could also tag the location of the shoot, whether it is Yosemite national park or the botanic gardens, and hashtag any words or phrases to do with the picture.

Most photographers are likely aware that seeking permission from a wedding client or other client is essential before uploading an image to Instagram. But one wouldn’t imagine a bride shying from a professionally shot image of their wedding posted on Instagram to show off to all their engaged friends!

Having a profile set as ‘public’ is a good idea, it will maximise the traffic to an Instagram profile by having any that is ‘hashtagged’ in a publicly viewable feed. Those that search #YosemiteNP, for example, will be able to see all images taken that include that tag provided the profile is public. Private profiles will not be shown on the feed.

Many may have noticed that the internet has its own strange and sometimes frightening slang, and Instagram has its own take on this slang. As cringeworthy and damaging to the English language this terminology may be, learning a bit of it can make one blend in well and get a grip on Instagram’s conventions – although this isn’t absolutely paramount.

Finally, it is worth highlighting a problem with the app. Like Facebook, the Terms of Use currently provide Instagram with royalty-free licenses for any content uploaded. It isn’t clear how exactly Instagram may use this to side-step copyright infringement as no alarming cases have surfaced so far – but at any given time Instagram could potentially license thousands of archived images and offer no payments to the original creators.

If you’re interested in reading some professional photographer’s first hand experience in how they effectively use the app, as well as other tips, click here to get the free guide from Photoshelter.

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