Being an Instagram photographer is becoming a legitimate profession. Some Instagrammers like Kael Rebick of @PunkoDelish are able to make a living sharing photos on behalf of brands and building their followings. Others like Carly Bright, the doggy-parent behind @DeanTheBasset, are growing towards that. Both spoke at Centennial College’s conference Talk is Cheap 8.0 in early November and shared their insights on how growing an Instagram following.
1. Take a lot of photos.
Instagram is a visual medium. Before setting your sights on becoming an Instagram influencer, become familiar with some photographic basics. Composition is key, and some Instagrammers will take hours setting up the perfect shot. Rebick developed her craft for years before starting her account and has posted thousands of photos to the platform—there are however untold thousands that didn’t make it online.
This also means you should publish regularly; Rebick and Bright both share multiple photos a day.
2. Engage with other users.
Follow people whose work you enjoy, like their photos and comment on them. Like any social media channel, being an active participant helps you build your following. This process of reviewing will help you find a visual style that suits you while learning what works well for others.
“Being an influencer means you have built a following and can motivate that following to like others things,” said Rebick, who often points her 454 thousand fans to other great Instagram feeds.
That give and take of influence helps her build relationships with other photographers who will reciprocate that exposure.
3. Plan for the long-term.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a good Instagram feed. Rebick began posting within a couple of months of the app’s launch in October of 2010. Since then it has grown to more than 400 million users, which also makes it easier to generate a larger following with more niches to explore and people to reach out to joining all the time.
For Carly Bright and her dog Dean it took more than a year for her channel to begin building traction. More recently media exposure helped grow her channel – they were included in a piece on Buzzfeed and another on Time Magazine’s website. Without an extensive catalogue of posts that media exposure would not have happened.
4, Give your fans what they want.
When someone finds something they like, they want to see more of it. Keeping the style of your feed consistent will ensure your followers come back for more. For Bright, her friends had been joking with her that she should make an Instagram account for her dog, since she had been posting so many photos of him.
Turned out it was a great idea. Carly has spun Dean into a brand of his own and even sells an @Deanthebasset calendar.
Listen to your followers and do more of what gains the most likes.
5. Shoot with a digital SLR.
Cellphone cameras are getting better with every generation of phones, but there is no way to compete with the rapidity and lens quality of a real camera.
“Shooting a dog without one is impossible,” said Bright, whose boyfriend has to hold treats above Dean’s head to get him to sit still for more than a minute.
Kael Rebick began shooting with her iPhone but began in vesting new tech once she started working with brands on tourism campaigns. Rebick will be flown on tourism press junkits along with traditional journalists and while they will write and file stories she’ll snap pics and share them on Instagram.
“There is a lot of travel and you will never hear me complain,” said Rebick. “This is an absolute dream.”