by Guest Contributor Ling Wang
As a follow-up to my last blog post about how to gain followers on Instagram, I wanted to touch more on the subject of curating a gallery on Instagram that is follow-worthy and creates impact at first glance.
As a senior portrait photographer, Instagram is my social media platform of choice. While Facebook is still a force to be reckon with, it has become more fickle recently. We all feel the impact of their ever changing newsfeed algorithms.
For example, this photo below was posted on Instagram and Facebook with minutes from each other. At the time of writing, it has 79 likes on Instagram, and 5 likes on Facebook. Pretty big difference.
When I reviewed my analytics, I discovered that more people visit my website through tablets and phones than web browsers. This tells me two things: 1) My website needs to be mobile friendly. 2) My Instagram needs be my second portfolio.
By curating my Instagram like a gallery, the likelihood of potential clients following my account goes up, as well as future bookings.
I want to share with you how I curate my Instagram. Keep in mind there are always multiple ways of doing anything. This is just my method.
It’s important to remember that most people follow your account to be inspired in some way. Whether your photography inspires them, the fashion, or the food photos. Whatever it is that you post, ask yourself “will people be inspired by this? Will this post make their lives better or move them in some way?”
HASHTAGS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Every time you hashtag your photo, you’re indexing it to be a part of a larger gallery of all the photos with the same hashtag. It’s smart and relevant way for potential clients to find you.
Some examples that you can use for yourself are: #(yourtown)photographer #(yourtown)(yourgenre)photographer #yourtown #yourphotographybusinessname
Also, be on the look out for feature accounts and their hashtags. Those are Instagrams that repost and feature multiple artists and their photos. This photo of mine was featured on @instasenior (my favorite senior portrait related instagram), and I gained almost 100 followers in a day. If you can land yourself a repost on a feature account, it’s massive exposure, so definitely pay attention to them.
SHARE COMMON VALUES WITH IDEAL CLIENTS
Great portrait photography is built on trust, and sharing commonalities is the quickest way to establish relationships.
I love animals, and almost 99% of my clients are pet owners. I know this because I visit client homes for ordering sessions. By posting a dog photo, I’m telling all dog owners that we share something in common.
Another thing I share every once in awhile are quotes, like the one below:
I thought it was a great quote. I know my target audience would probably like it, so I shared it.
Don’t be afraid to share who you are. By sharing your values, your ideal clients can more easily identify if you are the right photographer for them or not. Contrary to popular belief, it’s okay that not everyone is on board with your message or your values. You will never please everybody. It’s better to straight forward about who you are and brand an identity unique to you. That way you only attract the clients that are right for you, and you don’t have to bother with the ones that don’t care for you.
One of the most common ways I use Instagram is to give ideas. Whenever possible, it’s better to be inspiring rather than patronizing. Anyone can say, “so and so is gorgeous!” However, if you’re using a person’s photos as an example for future clients, that’s an even bigger compliment.
Instead of talking about how glamorous my senior looks in the photo below, here’s what I wrote instead, “Switching to a bold red lip half way or at the tail end of a session will give you a whole new look. It’s a quick change up, and it’s glamorous.” I complimented my senior indirectly, and inspired future clients with a new idea for their own session.
SHOW PEOPLE WHAT YOU DO
Most people love to see behind the scenes photos. You don’t want to do this too often, especially if the photos are similar, but posting behind the scenes every once in awhile will connect your audience to you.
The photo below was taken by the mother of a senior. Some senior moms really enjoy taking pictures. If you can tell they want to get more involved with the shoot, why not hand them your phone and ask them to take behind the scenes photos. Most have a field day with this task. With my senior moms, by the time I’m done with a scene, they’ve taken more photos of me than I took of their kids.
TELL A STORY
Storytelling personalizes photos. What you say or don’t say next to a photo can bring about a positive or negative impression of the photo and you.
For example, here are two possible captions to the photo below:
1) I’m so lucky to be in New York right now.
2) New York sparkles after the rain.
I opted for the second because it’s more descriptive, and it captures the imagination. It makes people want to see New York, whether rain or shine. It allows them to look forward to my next post about New York because it may be their next vacation spot.
The first caption doesn’t really tell anything about New York except that I’m lucky to be there. It may even come across as bragging, which is best to avoid.
NOT EVERY PHOTO IS GOLDEN
I have been known to delete photos after I post them if I decide they’re not strong enough for my Instagram gallery. It does hurt a little every time, but pruning out the so-so photographs for the really great ones, that’s what will make a difference in the long run.
I’ll be honest, when I started my Instagram, it was a mix of professional and non-professional photographs. I had very few followers because I was inconsistent. Once I started curating my gallery to only professional looking photos (meaning good lighting, proper exposure, etc), it made a world of difference.
Case in point, let me share with you this not so glamorous example from last year when I had no idea what I was doing with Instagram:
I thought whoever made the Ariel balloon figure had mad skills. Nobody else thought so. The photo had zero likes. Why? Because what is cool to me isn’t always cool to others. Plus it added no brand value. No one was going to hire me because I took a filtered iphone photo of a balloon mermaid. I didn’t even add a funny caption, so the post was essentially useless.
If you really feel that you need a place to post whatever you want, a personal Instagram account in addition to a business account is a great idea. I have a personal account, which very few people know about. It is for my family and myself, and I don’t care to curate it for the public. There’s no pressure involved, and it’s just for fun. If Instagram is that for you, then that’s brilliant. Do that! But if you use it for business, don’t mess around. Have a plan for when you post, what you post, and why you’re posting. Curate your brand, and your bookings will follow.
1)Post your photos during times when your target audience is likely to look. It varies from demographic to demographic, and it also varies depending on which day it is. Just experiment.
2)Instagram allows you to change your Instagram name. If you started with a name you didn’t want to keep, you can change it.
3)Limit the amount you post every day, and never post photos in succession. Your Instagram followers are pruning their own newsfeeds. If it takes them awhile to get to their friends’ photos because you’ve just posted five in a row, they’re going to contemplate unfollowing you. Just be courteous to your followers. You want to add value to their Instagram experience, not clog up their feed.
About the Artist: Ling Wang is a portrait photographer from Houston, TX with a penchant for travel, music, and the creative arts. Before photography, she was a musician and recording engineer. She discovered her love for photography while photographing bands and artists in college. Currently, she is also mentoring a few photographers on how to launch their business legitimately.