Using Instagram Stories as a Marketing Tool for Photographers

Using Instagram Stories as a Marketing Tool for Photographers

Are you using Instagram Stories in your marketing? Are you wondering how photographers are using Stories? With new features like tagging and Boomerang being added this week as well as the possibility of links being added in the near future, Instagram Stories is quickly becoming a great tool for marketing that every photographer should take advantage of. Here is a list of ways you can start using Stories for your business today.

What’s New

Boomerang, which was introduced last year, is now also an option next to the record button when you create a new Story. If you haven't used Boomerang before, it takes a quick series of stills and turns them into a GIF-like loop that you can use to experiment with motion in your stills. Users can now also tag or mention people in their Stories similarly to how you currently can in comments and captions. Most interestingly, Instagram mentioned it was unrolling a trial for Verified accounts to add “See More” links at the bottom. The possibility that adding links in stories has for marketing and sharing your content is huge. For all the advantages there are for marketing within Instagram, directing traffic back to your blog or portfolio has always been the biggest thing that's missing.

Adding a Tag to your stories

Why Instagram Stories

Stories is similar in functionality to Snapchat, but with a considerably larger audience built in. There are lots of reasons you might use one over the other, but for me, Stories have the opportunity to appear more professional and less raw. Unlike your regular Instagram feed, Stories only last 24 hours. This feature is what makes it so powerful for marketing. You don't have to worry about outdated posts being found in your feed or going back later and deleting them.

Since they are only temporary, it's important to post them at optimal times for your audience. Just like in your feed, you want to try to produce Stories that represent your brand. For a lot of photographers, you yourself are your brand, and Stories are a great area to showcase a different side that doesn't fit in your feed. It also seems that the more you post within that 24-hour period the higher you'll place on your followers feed. Stories always seem to go in order from most to least at the top of my feed. Creating a series of Stories that work together to tell a bigger story not only opens you up to more creative options, but will get you more views.

Examples of getting more out of Stories

  1. Location or venue scouting: A great way to always have new content and seem like you're out shooting whether you have clients or not is to share images or video from test shoots or location scouting. If you're checking out a wedding venue or hiking in the mountains for an upcoming assignment, you can give your audience a peek.
  2. A look into who you are: Depending on what type of work you shoot, this can cover a lot of ideas. If you're a family or portrait photographer, maybe you’ll want to share personal parts of your life, like playing with your kids or pets. A travel or editorial photographer might tease heading out on a trip. If you want to keep it about your business, you could take video of how you pack your gear for a shoot.
  3. Tease an event or Facebook live post: Chances are if you do workshops or public speaking, other photographers or potential clients follow your accounts. Have someone shoot a little video while you're speaking or create a graphic to let people know you'll be going lLive soon. Combining these two great tools gets people that might prefer following you on one or the other service to interact with the other.
  4. Share blog content: You've built a great following on Instagram, but it's not sending traffic to your website. Create a series of graphics that tease and sum up your new blog post. Start it out with a call to action and end it with a great image. Until links get added for everyone, don't forget to change the link in your profile to your website or blog.
  5. Announce a takeover: It may not seem useful to everyone, but even if you just lend your account to a local photographer friend, it can be a great opportunity to gain and share new followers. Maybe you work regularly with a makeup artist or are shooting all day with a client/model/business. Letting them take over your account or vice versa shares a different perspective during the shoot your audience might enjoy.
  6. Share lighting diagrams. Showing a diagram alongside an image or even a BTS clip is a great way to show off your newest work. 
  7. A sneak peak of a photoshoot: Before I get home and start editing, I always like to get one shot online as soon as possible. I've incorporated a whole mobile workflow using my smartphone to get something out instantly. This increases my content output on social media without having to always be posting to my feed.
  8. Product launch or news: We don't all have products that we are selling, but stories are a great place to launch a new book, workshop, prints, or even contest.
  9. Behind the scenes: I'm a huge fan of BTS content. I can't get enough. However, sharing BTS shots on your feed might not fit in with the brand you're trying to create. Adding video and stills together is a much better solution and the thing I’m most excited about using.
  10. Your creative process: We all draw inspiration in different ways and use different tools to create our end results. Whether you're editing on your PC or flipping through magazines while having your morning coffee, there are lots of opportunities to give your followers insights into who you are as a photographer.
  11. Promotional offers: This works best for more retail-oriented businesses who sell directly to their followers. If you have holiday sales on services or discounts for following you on social media, Stories is a temporary solution for getting that info out. Since it not a permanent post, you can create a sense of urgency in the promotion.
  12. Share milestones: Just like on Facebook when we share personal life milestones, we can use Stories to share business milestones. These can be just about anything you deem important and worth informing your followers of. This one is very dependent on the type of work you do and your brand.
  13. Turn a single image into a story: Sharing more info about a single image is a very important part of getting more engagement in the images on your feed, and it's just as important when you're making Stories. Think of it like short blog posts about a single image mixing in text and video to give a more in-depth look.


The power to post temporary insight and behind the scenes views into your photography simply and on the fly is a great tool we can all use. However, taking some time to plan and create content in advance really opens up the marketing potential of what Stories can do for your business. Using Instagram Stories as a marketing tool will also make your Instagram feed more professional-looking as well as show your followers you're keeping up with social media trends. These are just a few examples of how photographers are using Stories and each individual photographer has unique opportunities that others might not even think of. If you're unsure what you should be posting or what your followers might want to see, just ask. Use your existing engagement to guide your strategy going forward.

Bonus Tip

Play music on your phone before starting your Stories to add music and atmosphere to them.

Do you have any tips or techniques you've been using to get more out of Instagram Stories or some examples of photographers that are using stories in a great way? Share them in the comments.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Michael DeStefano is a commercial/editorial photographer focusing on Outdoor Lifestyle and Adventure. Based in Boston, MA he combines his passion for outdoor sports like climbing and surfing into his work. When not traveling or outdoors he is often found geeking out over new tech gadgets.

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..."Being famous on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly."

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You are one of the lucky ones my friend. While i have fostered good relationships across the world on instagram, business from the multitude of industry people who follow me who tell me they enjoy my work has not transformed into clients. It is my favorite social platform by far, however I routinely tire of seeing the armies of talentless denizens enjoying large followings and the benefits that come along with it.

Ive been learning the realities of penetrating the fashion business..and my observations come down to, just have a friend that works on the inside. Opportunities trump everything, because if you don't have chances to shine, its all for naught. Focus on getting friends that havr the ability to refer or hire. Most (artistically) heartbreaking to me is other peers refusing to share any info without paying for thier classes or being part of thier insider clique. So much for artists sticking together.

Otherwise, Long live IG.

I have to disagree. Thanks to my growing Instagram. My business has grown exponetially in terms of revenue and also got a few free goodies.

Another great post Mike!

Social value.

Thanks for the tips Mike - much appreciated.