I haven’t posted to Instagram in about 2 years and in that time have really grown to detest it. It’s such a popularity contest that pressures users to post, and sucks all its users’ time. In the 2 years I did use it I noticed a pronounced negative effect on my own images and vision. I had to quit for the sake of my photography, ironically.
I know many if not most photographers have an IG account and some probably use it to their benefit as a business, marketing, and/or sales tool.
I would be interested in knowing:
Why are you on Instagram?
Please limit your responses to the benefits. I don’t want this discussion to become a rant.
If you want to identify the downside then please balance it with the positives.
I think I’m mainly on Instagram to increase exposure, primarily because Facebook throttled so much traffic over the years. And yes, that’s ironic because FB owns IG, and IG is almost certainly throttling my traffic too, but I’ve been dealing with it from FB far longer… so of the two I dislike them more for it. I’m also more active on Twitter now for the same reasons, and that’s something I never thought I’d do.
But I find that dealing with this type of stuff is a necessary evil. Facebook especially has produced business for me. I’m not sure Instagram has been nearly as effective during the shorter period of time I’ve been there. In part that’s because a higher percentage of my IG audience is made up of more serious photographers, as opposed to the more casual/non-photographers that I’d consider my primary clients/customers.
Everything you describe in your opening statement can be applied to just about any photo-based social media platform, IMO. It sure reminds me of my time on Flickr over a decade ago, when I posted daily, obsessed over Likes, etc., and generated almost zero business.
What an interesting topic. I’ve thought about this a lot, as I’ve gone through several distinct stages in my time on Instagram.
In my early days, it was really easy for me to get caught up in the popularity contest. My experience was consistent with what you’re describing – negative impact on my photography as I tried to please the masses, or more accurately, the algorithms, as well as that feeling of disappointment when images I loved didn’t receive the amount of attention that I hoped for (or expected).
What I’ve learned since then is that this was totally the wrong way for me to use Instagram as an artist. My mindset made it a toxic environment that was detrimental to my art.
It took me a couple years to figure out that the right way for me to use it is for the community. Nowadays, I focus on genuine interactions with other photographers, and over the last year or so, I have made a number of “Insta-friends” all across the world. These are real connections – people who I would try to meet in person if I were in their neck of the words. They have genuine interest in my work, read my articles, comment on my posts, and respond to my stories. And the interest, of course, is mutual: I love hopping on and seeing the latest work from my little community of friends on Instagram.
So to answer your question, no, I do not hate Instagram. Focusing on quality over quantity, and shifting my focus away from the popularity contest and toward building community, has made it a very valuable platform for me as an artist.
I dislike Instagram so much that I never bothered to join it. Facebook too for that matter.
Exposure is possibly the only benefit that I see to Instagram, and even that has it’s downsides. Luckily, I do photography as a hobby, and do it for my own satisfaction, rather than trying to market my work. I prefer NPN for the quality over quantity factor. I get @Nick_Becker comments about using IG to connect with other photographers. But man, IG seems like a lot of extraneous stuff to wade through to get to those connections.
Matt, even though I’ve never belonged to Instagram, I understand your comment about the popularity contest mentality having a negative impact on images and creative vision. About 15 years ago I belonged to a camera club that held competitions, and scored images. It was very easy to get sucked into that mindset. With landscapes it encouraged tripod hole locations and trophy hunting, because that’s what the judges rewarded. The quality of my photography took a big leap when I decided that competition was actually stifling my creativity, and I quit the club.
I think about this all the time! I am on IG but I also generally detest it. I’ll do my best to not just rant about the things I don’t like For context, I am not trying to become famous or really make any money with photography.
@Nick_Becker’s post has a lot of wisdom that I identify with. As much as I wish that the most popular photo communities were places like NPN and flickr, that’s just not the case. A lot of photographers that inspire me or that I’m am friends with are professionals, so I don’t blame them for being on a platform like IG. NPN and flickr is just going to have photographers on it, but IG has both photographers and regular Janes/Joes, so professionals are going to be there to cast a wider net for business. Therefore, I need to be on there too if I want to have community with those people.
Separately, although I do best to make photographs purely for my own enjoyment, there’s some part of me that feels like if I don’t share my photos then there’s no point. I’d feel like a dragon sitting on a pile of gold (well maybe that’s being too generous for my photos but you get the point). Sharing on IG scratches that itch. I’m still trying to figure out how to approach sharing to NPN (showcase galleries don’t get tons of discussion, sometimes I don’t want critique on an image but critique sections have the most discussion, and I don’t want to post too many images).
I think with IG the trick is to constantly fight against the forces that keep you hooked and that make the quality of content so low and derivative. To me, there’s invisible social pressure to follow people that follow you, or to sign on regularly and “like” a bunch of pictures, or to post a bunch of pictures. If you can ignore that and keep your feed to a concise group of photographers you are inspired by, it’s not so bad. If you can completely ignore how many likes and followers you get, it’s not so bad. If you take the time to write out full sentences that have substance and generate discussion (as opposed to “nice shot!”-style comments), it’s not so bad. If you can forcefully limit how much time you spend on it, it’s not so bad. It’s kinda like swimming upstream, though.
It’s hard to find positives. So why I’m on Instagram? Because I was told to do so if trying to share my images.
nearly almost all photographers can be found there and their profiles all look the same. This is the most efficient method to get an overview over one’s work at a glance. Whereas each personal website looks different of course, the viewer often has to be more patient and spend much more time to find representative images of the artist.
Since Instagarm is in fact much too overcrowded, no one can be found by chance anymore. Everyone has to actively seek for someone else or for a specific location. For this reason I will never face the problem beeing overwhelmed by to many followers, likes, or comments.
How do I find other photographers in Insta?
NOT by searching directly, but via external links or by typing the username which I’ve found somewhere else.
My lack of understanding:
Why is this plattform so popular among photographers, do all of them use magnifiers? For myself the images are far too small to recognize even medium-sized details (no I didn’t forget my reading glasses…). Isn’t it ridiculous, most of the professionals and engaged amateurs shoot with full-frame cameras or even larger and post-process their images with huge 4K monitors with at least 27 inches. Just to compress their art afterwards to little tiny squares, to be seen by other users within a fraction of a second before wiping away to the next image.
Do I have problems spending too much time with Instagram?
No. Having 35 followers (no not thousands or hundreds, just thirtyfive…) and following 46 users, it’s not so much effort to keep my account up to date. Besides of this, I always have a very, very bad conscience if spending more then a few minutes in Instagram. I always feel I’m just wasting my time.
So in fact, I have a neutral opinion, but nevertheless I won’t spend more time there.
I wrote a whole rant and realized that’s what you asked us to not do , so for anyone who wants to see that I’ve hidden it below.
Why am I on there? Because it’s one of the few ways to reach people anymore. Facebook hides your posts with the algorithm, flickr is pretty much dead, so you’re left with the only option. I still post occasionally to share my work, but I don’t get any satisfaction from that. I’m moving more towards creating collections of work rather than single images so my website is better suited for that (which I desperately need to update!). Anyway, I don’t have much good to say about it.
Click to see rant
I’ve never been a fan of Instagram. I still post images there occasionally but I’ve largely disconnected from it. My dislike for insta and facebook was a big driver to revive NPN and bring back authentic discussions on photography, not just likes and attaboys.
I’m a full-time photographer, so like many others I thought I had to post on insta to stay relevant and it did effect what I shot and posted. Over time I realized it didn’t matter and started posting what I liked, and slowly not posting much or interacting at all. Guess what? Business got better! I focused my energy on building a mailing list instead of wasting my time on insta and it has paid off incredibly well. Unless you’re a huge name or an ‘influencer’ you’re not going to find clients on insta, or at least very few.
I think insta drives ‘sameness’, people go to the same spots to recreate the same cliche photos that will do well on there. Granted, there’s lots of amazing work, but the algorithms make it hard to find. I also can’t stand the idea of consuming piles of photos in a sitting. You scroll, scroll, scroll, double tap to like, and scroll some more. Only mere seconds are spent on each photo, no thought or introspection is given to the artist’s work. And how could you give any thought to an image the size of a thumbnail anyway?
Sorry, I’m just ranting because I really don’t have anything good to say about. I know lots of people who like Nick have made tons of friends and connections, but I just can’t do it, I’ve tried. I loved flickr and NPN back in the day for making new friends and I think insta has largely replaced that sadly. Maybe it’s because I don’t like doing stuff on my phone, I prefer a big screen and a keyboard. I know you can do insta on a computer now, but the interface is clunky and I still don’t like the atmosphere of popularity that it exudes.
Exposure and building a community/interactions with other photographers appear to be the greatest benefits of IG, but I hope others who have seen other benefits contribute to this conversation. Some commenters have offered advice for how to work within the limitations, algorithms, and structure of IG. And nearly everyone has a dislike for IG for one reason or another!
As an aside, some commenters, including me, have credited NPN for elevating the quality of their work. Vive la NPN!!
Interesting discussion and viewpoints here on the value of Instagram.
Although I go through periods of not posting on social media, IG, FB, and even Twitter have proven to be useful to me. However, my reasons are likely different from most NPN members.
As a full-time professional travel and nature photographer, author, and workshop leader, I know that I benefit from posting, because clients have told me they follow me and my posts have been influential in their purchases and/or help in travel arrangements.
But beyond those benefits, I find inspiration in viewing images from my photographer friends. Certainly I’d love to get as many Likes and Comments as they do, and admittedly I strive for those in my posts, but more importantly I am inspired to try new techniques in shooting and processing, and of course to explore new locations. Which is much of what I get out of being on NPN as well. The dedication and expertise of the photographers on this platform is truly wonderful.
This is a very interesting conversation, especially because probably I don’t share that big of a dislike for Instagram as most of you do around here I am new to NPN and I found this community because of Instagram, so I had to get used to the negative sides of Instagram and ignore them or try to used them for anything positive if possible.
I tried many other photo sharing places and almost all of them had more negative sides based on my opinion (like: 500px, GuruShots, EyeEm, Shuttout…) On Instagram I somehow manage to find some “golden way” of sharing that is not putting too much pressure on me for sharing too much or not enough or even sharing pictures that are trendy.
Even though photography is my hobby, having some kind of schedule (like posting once a week) helped me to organize my photo collection much better, to work on my pictures more and to have somewhere to show that so I don’t just pile pictures on my hard drive and become overwhelmed or discouraged of going out to take new shots.
I still haven’t figured out how to go about posting on NPN, and to be honest I’m a bit afraid to post looking at all those wonderful pictures shared everyday but I hope that that will change and my introversion wont bother me anymore
I can say that Instagram is not my favorite platform, but it does have some use cases. Like any platform, how you use it is important. It is a great way to cultivate a community of like-minded people that enjoy your work (and you, theirs). There are also great tricks to improve meaningful engagement (stories, etc) that people don’t usually use very well. If you use IG as a place to just drop your photos and run, it won’t do much for you in return. So, it depends on your goals and how you use it.
I have never belonged to Instagram. But every time I even remotely consider it, this is the reason that convinces me that it is a waste of time and effort. Even though I am a hobbyist, I take pride in my images, and I would hate to see my work compressed this much to such a small size. This is the one aspect of Instagram that totally baffles me.
I’m another one who’s never used IG. However, the image size is consistent with the trends of most social media. The people that develop these platforms are anticipating that they will be viewed on a phone, not a 27 inch monitor. My wife has complained that the last few major revisions to even WordPress seem to assume that you’ll be composing your blog posts on a phone. That’s just the way technology is evolving. People aren’t sitting in front of a computer anymore. They’re viewing the world on a smartphone.
I’ve never been a fan of IG, and now only my friends and a few others follow me just to see what I have been shooting. I have been a part time photographer for many years and full time the last 3 years. When I went full time, I took a stab at getting IG to work for me but quickly found the platform sucks and is geared towards the soup de jour - millisecond attention spans.
As a photographer, I can’t stand the IG small format for image display but that is just how it is now in the age where a cell phone screen is normal size and a tablet is an extra large display device. What I do like is when people I know comment on my images and I get some genuine interaction. Pretty much this is what makes NPN so special these days. From a business perspective, word of mouth is what is working great for me. Oh my…feeling a rant coming on…I’ll stop here.
@GregVaughn Your response about the positive value of IG to maintain exposure with clients is great to hear. You do well to receive such value.
@valentin_taneski You are one of the lucky few who has found a sweet spot on IG where you benefit personally from your sharing without feeling pressure to do so. Many photographers feel a great pressure to post on SM. I hope you find a comfort level to share on NPN because we would love to see your images.
@Matt_Payne As a listener to your podcast I know you’ve discussed IG with many photographers and I’m actually pleasantly surprised for your positive spin. I wonder if you’ve compiled any data on IG favorability related to whether your guests are professional or hobbyist photographers. It would be an interesting analysis to see if there are any trends.
@Keith_Flood The short attention span and small format are commonly disqualifying factors for many photographers. See @Ed_McGuirk above. I’m curious, Keith, if the interaction you get of IG is unique to that platform or if you get it on other platforms as well. Certainly the NPN community has become genuinely supportive and engaging but is not a community of buyers as IG could be with the right audience.
No, I have not collected any data; however, I will say it seems more generational than anything, and interestingly, gender as well. A lot of women that have been on the show seem to use it more as a connective hub to collaborate with other people. Listen to these for a taste:
Want to hear an inspiring story of an artist who successfully uses Instagram as her major marketing channel?
Listen to Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Podcast episode 67 with painter Jeanne Rosier Smith. She describes how she began her posting regimen, how often she posts, what she posts, the results, and way more. She discusses the multitude of ways it has benefited her art career.
As someone who has a general negative opinion of IG, I was blown away by her positive experience and I may actually model a return to IG after her. As she explains, however, it takes discipline and commitment. Success on SM is not a result of casual activity.
Listen to Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Podcast episode 67 with painter Jeanne Rosier Smith.
This was interesting, Matt. I’ve never delved too much into marketing strategies for social media, but there were a couple of important takeaways.
I think it was notable that posting multiple times per day was seen as advantageous. I’ve been so paranoid about “annoying” people with too much content that I’ve largely avoided this over the years (though I have dedicated myself to posting daily the whole time). Coincidentally, I’ve been making multiple posts per day on FB in the last two weeks, but that’s because they filter my commercial posts (tied to my holiday sale), and I’ve been following up later in the day with a “normal” photo post which doubles as a call to attention for the earlier post without all the links and jargon. Perhaps not really related to this strategy, but my traffic—new follows, comments, shares—have increased dramatically over the same period for some reason. And sales from FB followers have been good.
Responding immediately to comments is something I had no clue about. I’ve always just thought that I’ll tackle responses later (if at all), when it’s easier to do them all in one go. The fact that quick engagement helps boost posts is an important clue that probably helps on FB as well. I definitely need to change my way of thinking in this regard. The problem is I’ve always seen “comment monitoring” as tremendously time consuming, but it sounds like it’s worthwhile.
She also got me thinking again about looking at Insights to see when people are active. Friends have mentioned this to me, but I’ve never bothered much. Looked just now, and on IG the activity peak for my followers was totally unexpected (middle of the day).
Insights also showed me a few other things… my FB audience skews female, but my IG audience skews male. Overall, both accounts are currently producing the same levels of engagement and views, even though the FB page has three times the audience. This shouldn’t surprise me given how heavily FB filters my audience, except that the direct engagement on FB has seemed significantly higher than IG in these last couple weeks… I would have figured I’d be getting more eyeballs on FB right now given how things have trended. There’s definitely information here that deserves more thought.
I’m not sure Jeanne’s model will work for everyone (especially given her relationships and volume of sales through galleries), but it definitely was worth a listen. Thanks for sharing.
I’m really glad this information was helpful to you, @Max_Waugh, and should provide others with some valuable information.
Responding to comments within minutes to hours is helpful on LinkedIn as well. The algorithms definitely reward engagement within the first 24 hours. Like and respond to all comments within a close period of time to keep posts at the top of followers’ feeds.
I think that speaks to the effectiveness of consistent multiple posts per day. You are seeing your discipline rewarded. Well done.
This is some of your most important data.
Agreed, but she provides very valuable and tested methods that can work with discipline.
Thanks for describing your response to her interview and methodology.