Instagram has become one of the most popular platforms for photographers, according to April statistics, Instagram has 200 million daily active users. So it’s not surprising that everybody wants a piece of that big cake.
Okay, okay, it’s cool if you have lots of followers, but what can you do with it? Well, let’s suppose you have 5K followers, in that case, you have a higher chance that somebody buys your photos, brands can reach you to sell their products. For example; you need to wear their stuff and make a post about it. You could earn some great cash with only one single post. Sounds great, right?
These days everyone chasing these dreams, but Instagram could be a ruthless place, there are follow4follow users, they follow you randomly, and if you don’t follow back within 24 hours or less, they unfollow you right away.
There are bots (Instagram is killing them nowadays though) it does the dirty job for users. It likes and follows, even leaves comments on your posts. Maybe that’s why you see irrelevant comments and waving follower numbers on your profile.
In this article, I share my experiences and teach you how to increase Instagram followers. It won’t happen overnight though, but if you follow these tips and be patient, you could earn more followers.
Find your niche
If you just started photography, it might be difficult to find your niche, but don’t worry it will come along easily. For example, I love hiking so I decided to photograph landscapes and I always post nature related content; mountains, waterfalls, remote areas etc to my feed.
There are a bunch of categories you can choose from; Landscape, Cityscape, Lifestyle, Animal, Architecture, Portraits, Street, Food and so on.
Just go and shoot and eventually it will fall off what you really like to photograph. If you have more than one category what you are interested, then create separate accounts for them.
Use a DSLR
Phone’s cameras have developed really well in these years but they are still struggling to collect all those important details what a DSLR can do in a RAW file.
You don’t need to invest in a high-end DSLR machine, an entry level camera with a good lens will do the job for you. Canon or Nikon cameras would be a good choice for beginners. Since I am a Canon user I recommend the Rebel series, simply because I also started with this camera.
Consistency is key
This one is the most important step of all. I would never upload a street photo to my account, simply because I am a landscape photographer and it would hurt my follower base and eventually I would lose lots of followers. They followed me because I shoot landscapes, so they don’t want to see different pictures on my feed. So it is very important to be consistent. I break this topic into separate parts to help you understand more easily.
Quality over quantity
I know it is quite difficult to hold back and only upload your best shots. It works, believe me, don’t upload every piece of photo what you just shoot on your journey. Wait for a couple of days and only select your best ones. It doesn’t matter if you only upload 1 picture a week, that’s totally fine. Try this method with your next 6 pictures and you will realize your feed will look much better.
Use a color theme
Instagram users will more likely follow if you have a consistent color theme on your feed. Purple, Blue, Red works really well together. Some Instagrammers only use a specific color scheme on their account, like green or purple. And some others always upload color series of their pictures. My friend Ferederik uses his green theme on his account really well.
Think in series
I tend to use series to cover all of my favorite colors. Instead of uploading a single picture from a photo shoot, try to think in series and upload at least 3 of them. In this case, you won’t break the look of your feed. This example is from Austria, where the frost covered all these trees in the valley, so I have created a series of posts, simply because there were lots of cool subjects in every direction.
Post at the right time
It might sound crazy first, but it’s proven that if you post at the right time, you will get more exposure.
So what is the secret timing formula?
There are two peak times that works best; 8-9AM and 6-7PM when people are on the commute or they are chilling after work. They are more likely scrolling their feeds in these peak times of the day, and there is a higher chance to find your pictures.
It worked me best on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and noticeably lower on Friday. The reason why Friday didn’t work is not surprising; People goes to party.
I have also tried 2 PM on weekends which was slightly better, I guess everyone checking their phones after lunch.
If you have tons of good photos then you might be able to post daily, which is one of the best methods to gain more and more followers. That’s what my buddy does and he gains a very great amount of followers each week.
Not everybody has that extra amount of time to travel to breathtaking places. But consistency is also very crucial here. Let’s say you only have 1 photo a week, then post that picture on Thursday at 6 PM in the peak time, but keep this method and keep posting once a week.
Format your post
Build up that post not just submit it. It is also very crucial that you always format your posts and add every little piece of information to it.
Tell a short story here, not just say “I captured an amazing sunset”. Tell them how it happened, what you were doing there, what journey you went through to get to that location. People love to read these stories. You can even place a call to action phrase here to get them to comment your post.
A recent trip to Austria was quite special, however there were no big fluffy snow on the trees, it was a frozen wonderland instead. An intense day with a really early hike to catch the sunrise, and an other to explore the gorge in @gesaeuse National Park. At this particular location I was really tired, but my buddy @gabornagy_photography forced me to hike up to a close chapel to take this shot. I really appreciate I have friends like him, who always inspire me to push myself beyond my limits.
It’s a good way to reach brands and hubs; saying hey I was there and shot a great pic of your interests if they find your photo interesting and relevant, the chance is higher they will feature you on their pages. It happened to me several times and those features brought me some great amount of followers.
People will find your post easier if they search for a specific area they want to visit or want to see pictures about that location.
Instead of adding your hashtags to the caption, add them to the first comment.
Hashtags are keywords for your posts, so you must be very careful to select all the relevant ones for your photos. Brands and hubs also create dedicated hashtags for their own pages, this case they can find posts easier. Natgeoyourshot uses #YourShotPhotographer as their hashtag on Instagram.
But what hashtag you need to use?
When I started uploading posts to Instagram I always used only relevant hashtags for my images; #mountains #landscape #river etc. I quickly realized I need to use more relevant ones because #landscape has 55 million posts. There are too many users uploading images with this associated hashtag and it means my photo will be lost in that huge pool.
So how to gather relevant hashtags for your posts?
Search for other Instagrammers photos in your niche and find out what they used. Search for pages and hubs and use their dedicated hashtags. If you click on a hashtag it navigates you to its page and you can quickly find out how many times it was used.
You can use a maximum 30 hashtags for one post.
Create a collection of hashtags for your posts. Collect 30 ones for your mountain shots, then do other 30 for your waterfall picture. I also include location based hashtags, like #VisitAustria or #DolomitesWorld.
There are a bunch, so search for them on Instagram and use their hashtag to get featured on their pages.
Shootout a story
Stories are those circles on the top of the app, and it’s a great way to engage with your audience.
Right after you posted your image, also create a story and write a short call to action phrase and tag yourself on it. This way people will click on your username and land on your page straight away.
Shoot short videos and post them to your stories, keep your followers entertained. More frequently they see quality contents from you the chance is higher they will share and like your photos.
Get active on Instagram
Follow people from your niche and leave comments on their pictures, like their photos. Eventually, they will check you out and follow you. Let people know that you are there and you create quality content they would love to see more often.
Instagram has a massive user base and if you follow these steps you would get a good amount of followers. As I mentioned earlier it won’t happen overnight, be patient and you will get along more easily.