Before you brand me as superficial – attention seeker – power hungry narcissist, first I must tell you that this post it’s not about who can get the most followers, NO … that is not what I want you to take away after you finish reading this. This post is first and foremost is an exercise on how to be a better Instagram Citizen, it’s a list of best practices you should do to make, not just yours but everybody’s stay in Instagram more enjoyable. And then … lastly it’s a guideline on how to make the best of Instagram to get optimum exposure for your works (your photography). I’m hoping that after reading this we can all make Instagram a better place.

Instagram is a social photo sharing app, with a big emphasis in ‘Social’. So, just like other ‘social’ apps out there, like Twitter or Facebook, the rules are similar. Of course in Instagram what differs is the photo. Our interaction, the social part, normally starts from the photo that we share. You can say that the photo is the glue here.

The problem is, just like in other social app situation, there is not much ‘interaction’ we can do when we only have 10, or even 100 friends. Of course if you are content with these 100 friends then probably this post won’t make much different. For most of us, after a while, we feel that something is missing, or worst … lonely. It’s actually normal to feel like this, as human beings we are naturally a social creature. Moreover, if you become serious with your photography (many Instagramers turn into avid photographer after using Instagram for a while), we need some kind of recognition from others, and even more interactions. Lets’s just say that we won’t get both without followers (and followings).

But here is the thing, unless you are a celebrity, a political leader, a media outlet or a big brand, the truth is followers don’t come for free nor they come by themselves.

This has been made even hard in Instagram because the Instagram community, especially ones who have been around for a while, are very savvy and picky when it comes to following strangers. The ones who are new realise this very quickly and learn to do the same. We hate people who are looking for followers just for the sake of it. You will recognise this kind of people because one day, out of the blue, they appear on your stream, write a comment (maybe follow you) and ask you to follow them. We call them Instabeggars.

So how can we ‘attract’ people to follow us without becoming one of these Instabeggars?

It’s basically going back to the old principle of sales and marketing, because in a nutshell this is what we are doing. We need to sell a product, i.e. you and your photograph, by the way of giving them exposure.

So, there are 2 things we need to tackle, the product and the marketing. Let’s start with the product.

Now ask this to yourself, if you were a stranger, a candidate follower, what would compel you to tap on that ‘follow’ button? Here is the key, what you share is what you get. Because we are sharing pictures, which are visual things, the type of pictures and the quality of them will determine the type of followers you will get and how many of them.

Let’s talk about type of pictures for a second. The type (or you can say style) of photography is called genre. Some examples of Photography Genres are: Landscape, Portrait, Black and White, HDR, Candid, Journalism, Sport, Travel, Nature, and so on, you get the point. Everybody seems to have their favourite genre, for example I like Street, Cityscape and HDR photography. Because I like these style of Photography, naturally I am always attracted to people that has the same style. I would recommend that you pick some of these style and stick with them.  It helps to have some consistency when you want to attract people.  You can see people who is consistent with their style because when you visit their profile you will see that most, if not all of the pictures they took are of the same style. And this would attract people to follow! So, pick your style, learn how to do it the best you can, and stick with it.

What about quality? What can we do about it?
1. First and foremost .. learn how to take a good photo 🙂 To do this you need to know about basic principle of Photography, such as composition, lighting, etc. There are plenty of ‘free’ information out there on the internet, there is no excuse not to learn.
2. Review your Instagram Profile. This will be the second thing people will see, after they see your photo. Make a good impression. Ask yourself, if you were a candidate follower, would you follow yourself after viewing your profile page. The profile page needs to convey a strong impression of who you are and your photos should tell people your style.
3. Get Inspired! As you learn about the basic principle of Photography, you will also gradually learn to appreciate a ‘good’ photo … and recognise a ‘bad’ one. Armed with this newfound appreciation, find photographers who are good at their respective style and start to get inspired. Learn from them. Study their technique. After a while, your own photography skill will also increase, and so will the quality of your pictures.
4. Learn your tools, in this case your photography apps. Learn which one to use, when to use, how to use it, to create your best work. Remember, Instagram is not the only photo app out there, there are plenty of them, free and paid. Most people who are becoming serious in doing this would use other photo apps outside Instagram to take and/or edit their photo before finally sharing them via Instagram. So in this case, Instagram is just a mere medium of sharing rather than the photo editing tool.
5. Practice … practice … practice! There is no point of learning all these stuff if you are not doing it, i.e. taking any picture! So, go out there, and take as many pictures as you can. This is one advantage that we mobile photographer have versus our professional friends. We always have our mobile with us! So no excuse of not practicing your shot.
Ok, so we finally learn how to take good photos, or even excellent ones. Now, how can we get people to see them? How do we get that exposure which we need?

1. Engagement is the key. IG is a photo social sharing. So go and Like and comment and follow people, get into conversation with other IGers, let them know that you are there and interested in their works.
2. Go to your favorite hash-tag page, and start conversation with people who you think their work you like, follow them.
3. But more importantly, don’t expect anything back. Don’t ask for a visit back or a follow back (remember Instabeggar). You would be surprised when one day they will follow you by themselves.
4. Join the many-many challenges and competitions that happen everyday in IG. Joining challenges is a good way of getting experience in your photography, you will feel that your skill will improve over time by doing the challenges, a bonus if you can win 🙂 But the most important is to interact with your fellow contenders, make conversation, make friends. Some of the challenges are actually put this interaction as requirement of the challenge. Check out @gf_daily for a start.
5. Join one of the IGers Network/Group in your town. If there is none in your area, create one 🙂 Let me know I’ll help you to connect with the Instagramers network. IGers Meetup group is an excellent way of networking, and meeting people in real life, learn some skills from them, and have fun 🙂 Of course followers will follow.

People out there, who don’t use Instagram, many of them hate it because they see that Instagram is just full of losers who take crap pictures, claiming to be a photographer. Well I don’t agree, I know many people who are very talented, who take beautiful photo and I won’t hesitate to call them a Photographer.

Having said that, I do realise that for each talented photographer there are another hundreds who just want to share their shots, ‘any’ shots!

But hopefully after reading this you might get inspired to take this ‘hobby’ to the next level and help to debunk all these negative assumptions that people are having about Instagram users. You can help.

Thank you and good luck 🙂 My IG is @mahadewa, have a visit and say hello 🙂

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