Common Mistakes Photographers Make on Instagram

Common Mistakes Photographers Make on Instagram

It’s no secret that Instagram has been working on its algorithm for quite some time. Gone are the days of tricking the algorithm to get more visibility. Now, more than ever, Instagram values excellent content. Here are a few practices to avoid when posting on the popular social platform.

Photographers have been playing the old song and dance with Instagram for a few years now, trying to find the best strategies for getting more visibility among non-followers. Ever since Facebook purchased Instagram and the platform’s feed changed from chronological to an algorithm-based order, photographers have struggled to keep engagement and visibility high.

When using Instagram, we have to consider the goal of Instagram as a social media platform. Social media platforms seek to build community by encouraging valuable and meaningful interaction. Because of this, we as users can assume that the Instagram algorithm is looking for content that is considered to be both valuable and useful to the company’s users. With that being said, first and foremost, the goal of photographers seeking to get more visibility on Instagram should be to provide valuable and engaging content to followers and potential followers. Here are a few things to avoid when trying to achieve building your following and engagement on Instagram.


Because Instagram’s algorithm is looking for valuable and engaging content, there are cues the Instagram algorithm is probably looking for to help determine if content can be considered worthwhile. One of those cues is how many followers and non-followers engage with your posts. In addition to the engagement you’re receiving, it’s likely that the Instagram algorithm is also looking to see how much you’re engaging with follower’s posts, as well as different areas of the platform that are meant for building more community like the “Explore” tab.

One of the biggest mistakes photographers make while using Instagram is not being intentional about engaging and interacting with other posts besides their own. Not engaging with other users is a red flag to Instagram that your account is not interested in valuable interaction with other users.

A great way to help engage with other users is to set aside some time every day to browse your Instagram feed and comment on other user’s posts. Your comments should be relevant to not only the photo and its content, but the caption as well. Instagram isn’t looking for a simple emoji response either. Make sure your comments are at least five words long and inspire further interaction by asking questions about the photo or expressing further interest in the user’s work.

Reciprocating engagement can be a key factor in receiving better engagement on Instagram. Always set aside time to engage with other users' content. Photo by via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Photo Captions

Along the same vein as providing valuable comments on other users’ photos, it’s also essential to be creating valuable photo captions so your followers and non-followers have even more content to engage with on your Instagram profile. Often, as gorgeous as a photo may be, users may find it hard to engage with a photo that doesn’t have a caption to build a reply on. Captions are one of the best tools photographers can utilize to encourage more engagement on their photos, and the more engagement you get, the better your photo will do within Instagram’s algorithm. 

If you can get good engagement within the first hour of posting a photo, Instagram’s algorithm is more likely to show your photo to more people, thereby gaining more traction among followers and getting shown to non-followers through hashtag lists and the “Explore” tab.


Everyone knows that hashtags are one of the most powerful tools any user has at his or her disposal. Not only do hashtags help to categorize posts, they also improve a user’s visibility by adding yet another avenue to getting found. However, if not utilized properly, hashtags become a vain attempt at getting discovered by potential followers.

When utilizing hashtags, photographers need to be sure that they’re using relevant hashtags, as well as varying their hashtags with each new post. Photographers shouldn’t be using the same hashtag lists over and over again.

A great tool to help quickly discover popular and relevant hashtags is “Display Purposes” aka DSPLPURP. DSPLPURP is a fantastic tool that allows photographers to input a relevant hashtag or the main hashtag they’re using for a post and instantly get a grouping of popular hashtags being used by other users in conjunction with the main hashtag given. This is a quick way of discovering more hashtags so you can vary those you’re using for each new post. Ensuring that you’re using many new hashtags will help your posts get discovered by a wider pool of potential followers.

Making sure that you’re providing great content that is easy to engage with and easy to be found on Instagram is key to gaining favor with not just the Instagram algorithm, but your pool of followers. Remember that Instagram is not just a platform to display your work, but a place that allows you to build valuable interactions. Consumers of today are not just looking for products and services; they’re looking to build relationships with brands. If you consider yourself to be a professional photographer, then you have a brand. It’s worth focusing on your relationship and interaction with followers on social media. These are just a few ways you can up your game and continue growing your following.

Lead Image by via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Danette Chappell's picture

Danette is a Las Vegas-based wedding and elopement photographer who's photographed over 1,500 weddings and elopements in 14 different states. She has a passion for teaching business and helping other creative entrepreneurs succeed. She also loves cats, Harry Potter, and the occasional video game.

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I've been having barely any visibility from hashtags, typically less than 30 reach from hashtags. Are you having better luck?

Ever heard of pixelfed ?

It's an opensource instagram like you can install on your own server ("pod") to keep control of your data and connecte to other servers throug a federation. Every pod admin enforces his own conditions.

No algorithms, no bullshit, just people.

I tried that network out but found it a bit difficult to navigate around and find stuff, none of the hashtags seem to work and the images aren't letting me leave comments :( but .. good to mention sir!

hey, hello Karl ! Well, this project is still in active early development, I follow the dev and, my God, that man doesn't sleep…

Great article - thanks!

You just have to work hard and make good content. That is all. That's the trick.

I only engage with those I know. i don't often leave comments but I do like people photos often. I don't any use hashtags. I post very rarely. My instagram is doing just fine.

Quality content alone doesn't bring followers. Anyone who says "if you post quality content, you'll grow" is selling you lies, or at the very least half truths. If that were the case, people taking smartphone photos of their food wouldn't have 10k followers while some of us can't even break 500.

Yeah it does. People posting photos of their food that have 10K followers are either buying followers or have really vapid followers - who cares about either?

I looked at your instagram - you've posted pretty much the same photo since the 16th of July of fireworks. Then you spent at least a month posting pretty much the same photo of a daisy, the most common flower there is. There is a tonne of bokeh flower shots. The kind you see on gift cards. Personally speaking, I wouldn't follow you knowing I was going to get the same photo for a few months in a row and the kind of photo I can see in a gift card shop.

Do you really think followers want so many shots of daisies? :-/

You’ve completely missed the point. I’m saying that the idea behind good content alone getting you followers is a huge oversimplification for a social app based on algorithms.

You can say “you post the same kind of photos” to pretty much anyone who has a theme, personally
mine changes from season to season. I never claimed to have the best photos or the best feed. I follow people and hubs who only post pictures of bokeh flowers (tulips, daisies, roses) and they have thousands of followers, not bots. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean nobody likes it. If “nobody wants to see flowers” is true, hubs like “9vega9” wouldn’t exist. Seeing as my flower photos not only get the most engagement but also gained me the vast majority of my first 400 followers, I’d say there is indeed interest in that kind of thing.

I could say “I wouldn’t follow you” to most of the 4 star photographers on this website because I’m not into things like fine art, portrait, or car photography. That’s called having a preference. So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m sceptical of such closed minded remarks by someone who doesn’t even bother to share their own photos for critique.

I’d recommend you get off your high horse, but I’m not sure there a ladder big enough.

LOL, are you finished? Who's on their high horse? You can't even take a little feedback without getting bent out of shape.

I didn't even say nobody wants to see flowers! I said nobody wants to see the same photo over and over again for a month or two.

Good luck with that.

I’m not bent out of shape, I’m simply saying to seperate what is true for you from what is true for others. I can take feedback, but there’s a difference between good meaningful feedback and personal preferences or false statements.

If you think taking photos of the same or similar subjects from different compositions and locations is “the same photo” rather than a theme/series, then that’s all I need to know to judge the validity of what you said.

On top of that you still haven’t posted any of your photos, so if there’s someone who can’t seem to handle feedback, it would appear to be you.

There's just no helping some people...

That's great, admitting you have a problem is the first step.
Best of luck on your future endeavors, keyboard warrior.

OK Jordan McCheesy enjoy your daisies, fireworks and other cliches and mediocrities.

Yeah, I’ll continue to shoot and upload whatever I like, as should you, as should everyone. At the end of the day, it’s instagram, so we might as well be arguing about “which power ranger was the best.” That being said...

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but, I just want to point out that you described a culturally significant event commemorating the end of WW2 in Japan and the switch from a nation at war to a nation of peace using the words “cliche” and “mediocrity”, which may come across as offensive. It’s best to choose words wisely and give nuanced feedback rather than blanket statements.

Don't listen to this guy he's probably just jealous. Keep doing what your doing, it's great!

Dude you need to relax. You took this as an insult and it was just constructive criticism. If you can't handle it then you are in the wrong game.

Sorry to break it to you paul but he killed you here. You were wrong at every turn.
He exposed your ignorance towards algorithms, climate, culture and individuality. it was kind of painful to read.

In your opinion. Which accounts for very little. But thanks for your valuable input anyway.

Your ignorance in this conversation was objective not subjective. The criticisms you made were opinions. you should learn the difference or get out of the game as you call it lol
Just accept you were wrong and move on.

Why would I do that when I'm not wrong?

lol your life must be hard when you have to be right about everything, even when you're wrong. Your teachers must have loved you, but that would explain why you clearly didn't learn anything. Just wipe away your tears and move on dude.

You are the one arguing over things you clearly have no idea about. Really, do you have nothing better to do with your time? You're getting butt hurt and bent out of shape over a discussion with someone else.

I, unlike you, don't argue over things I may be wrong on.

I think it is important to consider the goals of why you are on a network, for what reason. For some, it is a backlink generating tool that drives traffic to your source.

For others it's about generating a following, sharing their work, a portfolio,

I look to these platforms as meet up groups where I meet people, have genuine conversations with them and, in turn, share stories and connections with people. I want to know the person I'm following, sit down and have tea with them.

Specifically in regards to instagram, I started approaching it the same way that Jason Matias described here:

And from that I found it wholely more relevant to what I do.

I think the important thing to start with is "what is the goal? why am I using this?" and from there you can direct one's strategy. It is not necessarily "a mistake" because not everyone's goal is the same.

I read this in the first paragraph: "Now, more than ever, Instagram values excellent content." So sorry but I can't take any of what follows seriously. The Instagram game is totally rigged by bots, fake accounts and people using pods. It has maybe been valuing good content before, but that's certainly not the case anymore.

I was just thinking the same thing, clearly this isn't based on IG in Tokyo or it would read "Instagram values girls who look way too young to be wearing those swimsuits, and smartphone photos of ice cream... for some reason"

I think instagram can be powerful when used well. Its too bad that so many people just use to for selfies. Great article