Get the Most Out of Instagram With These 6 Rules

I finally took the plunge and signed up for Instagram. For me, an Instagram account always felt like it would be more work than fun — after all, people expect a never-ending stream of awesome photos from a professional photographer. I wouldn’t want to hurt my business or reputation by posting an endless supply of photos documenting my most recent meals or all the places I thought it appropriate to take a selfie. However, I have recently discovered how to get the most out of Instagram and that Instagram can be fun and not all that much work, even for people who take photography very seriously.

Here are my six rules to get the most out of Instagram while keeping it fun and useful to my work.

Sample of Instagram photos

1. Put up something beautiful or shocking

People get on Instagram to see stimulating photography. They want to be inspired and entertained. The people that have the most followers are doing one of these things, or both, really well. I would prefer to inspire people (and I’d love to have lots of followers!) so before posting a photo I try to determine if others would find it beautiful, at least enough to “like” it.

2. Pace yourself

Social media is the kind of thing that requires a steady stream of content to generate engagement. Other Instagrammers will not want to follow someone who posts once and then disappears. It’s also annoying to follow someone who posts 20 photos at once (flooding my image stream) and then nothing else for months. I like following people who post one or two really good images a day. I feel connected to what they are working on and get insight into their process.

3. More signal, less noise

David Hobby, the photographer behind Strobist.com, vowed for his latest writing and teaching to be “more signal and less noise.” I love this phrasing and think it sums up what everyone really wants out of the Internet in general, and desperately on social media. As I check my various social media accounts, there is more and more that I just don’t care to see. Rather than adding to the noise, I want to carefully curate what I put out there. On Instagram, this means that the images I do post need to have more signal, meaning they have purpose.

4. Be consistent

I love to follow people with a consistent style. If I look through a Instagram user’s photos and see a particular style or subject that is carried through, I know what to expect when I follow that person. Consistency is a great way to get attention from people who pay as well. I have read so many stories about Instagrammers who were approached by an ad agency or major brand because of their style on Instagram. Wouldn’t that be cool? Build your own brand by being consistent with your style.

5. Be selective about who you follow

I know that a lot of my friends are on Instagram. It may hurt some feelings, but I decided not to follow all of my friends. Sorry, guys. I’m only going to follow people who have consistently inspiring photos. I think that weeding out some of the junk photos in my life may make me a better photographer. Rather than being the most creative person in your social circle, surround yourself with those people who push your creativity and make you a more inspired photographer.

Dimensions for an Instagram upload

6. Play by the rules

Of course, you have to know the platform to make the best use out of it. Currently, you can size your photos up to 640 x 640 pixels, and images are always square. You can add borders to photos if you really want to display a photo that is anything other than square, but the total image can’t be more than 640 pixels long. Making use of hashtags and geotags lets other users find you easily and increases the chance that a random stranger will find you. You have to upload your photos from the app, so if you want to post photos taken from other cameras than your phone or tablet, you must find a way to get to them. Dropbox is a common and convenient method.

I hope you enjoyed these tips on how to get the most out of Instagram. Got more signal than noise? I want to know who you are. Leave your Instagram handle in the comments! My Instagram handle is @nicholasdonner

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