Why Instagram is Crucial to Lead Generation for Photographers

Why Instagram is Crucial to Lead Generation for Photographers

There is a lot of debate within the photo community on the importance of a social media presence. As social media has increasingly evolved as an essential in daily life, it’s time for photographers to stop fighting against the current. No matter your niche, there is value in participating in an online presence. Instagram is a particularly important tool for photographers to generate leads.

Editors, Agencies, and Scouts

Believe it or not, some people truly are discovered off of Instagram. Editors, agents, and scouts are active on social media on a daily basis. They are looking for hidden gems, the next undiscovered talent in their niche. They are looking for you, so let them find you! Refinery29 photo director Toby Kaufmann described Instagram to EE Photo Group, saying, “It's a feast. I am working on a longer-term project and there was a very specific type of photographer I was looking for. I did it through hashtags, then reached out via DM..." Curating an active and thoughtful presence on social media is a huge opportunity to create leads.

Higher Engagement Shows That Your Work Resonates with a Large Audience

High engagement on your Instagram takes time to build, but it’s worth the effort. Showing that your work has high engagement is proof in numbers that your work resonates with a large audience. When your next client stumbles upon your page, they’re going to want to hire you, someone they can trust to produce a crowd pleaser. That being said, we know that just because a photographer’s follower count is high doesn’t necessarily mean that their work is the most technically proficient–– but it sure speaks to a lot of people.

Showcase Consistency in Your Branding and Image Quality

A consistent brand or “aesthetic” often pairs with an engaged audience. Just like when you’re showcasing your work to clients, you want them to know exactly what they are getting with you. A major factor in that is consistency. Instagram allows you the opportunity to curate a visually pleasing brand image that lets clients know your style, and what your work is all about. Just like a portfolio book or site, if the image quality and consistency aren’t there, it’s not likely to generate as much interest.

Marketing Tool for Finding Potential Clients, No Matter Your Niche

No matter what niche or market you’re working in, Instagram’s platform gives you access to millions of people who are definitely interested in what you do. For smaller niches, it takes a little longer to find and develop your audience, but once you have them, the chance to retain their interest and business becomes easy.

Localizing your Instagram with hashtags and locations can introduce you to paying customers in your area.

Local Tagging Generates Local Clientele

If you are working in a local market, local tagging is everything to building a base of real, paying customers. Find local hashtags and use them to your advantage. So many people are looking for their wedding photographers, family photographers, and more through #LOCATIONweddingphotographer #LOCATIONwedding. Another crucial detail: location tagging. People who are looking to shoot or hold an event at a particular spot are looking at location tags to see what it looks like, and they wind up on your page because you captured exactly what they’re looking for. Localizing your Instagram also arms you with the opportunity to connect with local creatives, vendors and more to collaborate and cross-promote.

Generate Photography Leads with Instagram

Instagram is a highly valuable tool to generate leads for photographers. Building an online presence overall is crucial to booking clients, so why wouldn’t the largest visual platform available be important, too? Elevate your brand with a curated, consistent Instagram presence and let your prospective clientele find you.

Megan Breukelman's picture

Megan is the owner of Brooklyn Wedding Photo, and host of the Photo Opp Podcast. She aims to share actionable tips to help photographers grow and scale their businesses.

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One maybe forgetting the fact that when someone like myself post an image on instagram, the image can't be stolen with the right click save option. However it still can be copied via the "print screen". Knowing this, I've been given a place to showcase my work without having someone steal it. So for me, it's safer place to display my work. So far the only persons that's been discovering my page, are those whom want to sell me something or bots which latch onto a particular phase I've added to the image.

Here's a direct link to your latest instagram post:

All you have to do is right click on your image, choose view source, and cntrl F or command F search for ".jpg" and there's the link. Takes only a few seconds.

Nice that you've discovered one of my oil paintings based on a blurry black & white photograph. Didn't say the system was flawless.. I guess the best way to not have your images stolen, is not post them online.

Current maximum resolution for Instagram is 1080 x 1080 pixels which roughly translate to 1.1 megapixels. Images obtained from Instagram are not usable for any serious reproduction work nor sale because their quality is simply shit (pardon me my French). In other words, Instagram is probably the safest way to post your work giving viewers just enough of the idea of what you do and how you do it.

I've since closed my instagram profile as I've just created a private server for my art & photography only accessible for friends and family.

Dang sorry dude!

OK, you can do that of course. Except you are clearly not getting much new exposure from this setup.

What is 'the truth' then?

I did the same thing with Flickr for years. There is nothing unique about Instagram that makes me want to spend a great deal of time putting content on it.

R.I.P. Flickr

Nick, Flickr isn't dead yet, and despite the pronouncements by some there are a number of photographers who still ply their trade on Flickr. I can still search for photos on Flickr through Google which is how I got "discovered".

For a number of us Instagram is nothing more than a necessary evil. I post on it because people expect it. It doesn't make it a great platform for photos, popular is not always good.

Well thats the glory of Instagram. It really doesn't take much time to put up said content (depending on your wishes).

I'm glad Instagram is working for you. But to say that it's "crucial for lead generation for photographers" is an absurd, irresponsible, and tired narrative that ignores mountains of evidence to the contrary.

A person can follow all the guidelines for Instagram success and still never generate one thin dime from all their efforts. Zero dollars in revenue is what the overwhelming majority of photographers will make from Instagram, regardless of the level of time, money, and effort they put into it.

Instagram marketing has been discussed on Fstoppers for years. The dream of hashtagging your way to revenue has been sold for years and bought by many of us who now know better. Many of us have bought into the advice you're suggesting and thought we were doing something wrong when it didn't work for us. Then, we talk to each other and realize that it works for almost no one.

I really am glad that Instagram works for you, but an article like this sets up the overwhelming majority of people who believe it to waste A TON of time on something that's never going to yield a single client for them.

I spent a couple of years trying to figure out Instagram in earnest and got nowhere. My results are far more typical than yours. In contrast, I spent about thirty minutes designing a gift certificate to donate to schools for their annual auction (I'm a family portrait photographer) and I've gotten four-figure clients from it who recommend me to people like themselves.

Instagram is "a" way for "some" photographers to get clients, as is every other marketing strategy. But to write that it's crucial just ignores the reality of the data. Some people win Powerball. That doesn't make it a sound investment strategy.

I agree, I also know a lot of good photographers who shoot big campaigns and have 1000 - 2000 followers only. The success of a photographer is not related to their Instagram followers. Big clients always work with their lead agency and they have their own way to find a new photographer maybe sometimes via Instagram but that is really rare.

The best ways to get a photo production is in my opinion:

- Recommendation via existing clients
- Representative
- High-Quality Marketing (Like Portfolio Book)
- Fairs
- Editorial publications in magazines

By no means is this article irresponsible. Advice is everywhere and we choose which deserves our time and effort.
I think too many of us carry the crazy notion towards social media that "I posted regularly and it didn't work so success isn't possible." Instagram is one of the many avenues to get noticed and get ahead, but that doesn't mean it's easy or automatic. As the old "your results may vary" saying goes, we've given away a number of gift certificates for basket auctions and gotten very little return.
I also agree with Nico that the number of followers isn't nearly as important as what you are able to do with those followers.

We may end up just disagreeing on this because I do believe it is irresponsible to write that "Instagram is crucial for lead generation" when for the overwhelming majority of photographers, it will do no such thing.

What Instagram has the potential to do and the results that someone can reasonably expect from Instagram are two different extremes. This article only addresses one of those extremes. There's millions of people on one extreme and a relative handful enjoying success at the other.

I never said it would be easy or automatic. And I certainly didn't say it was not possible. I never even suggested any "crazy notion" about social media success not being possible. If you're going to reply to someone's comment, you should be responding to the views that they expressed, not the views of "too many of us..."

I put a lot of time and effort into Instagram, and some money, as have many others. Instagram is not the lead generator that this article is presenting it to be. Precious few people are able to generate business via Instagram, relative the the number who try. And I'm talking about people who really try.

Someone new is trying their hand at earning a living through photography every day and those people come to sites like Fstoppers for advice. This advice that WAY oversells what one can reasonably expect from Instagram is irresponsible.

Regarding the school auctions, I never presented it as "crucial for lead generation", I just cited it as an example of something that worked for me. I didn't oversell it as a marketing strategy the way this article oversells Instagram in every single paragraph.

Words matter. If this article had presented Instagram without way overselling its effectiveness, I wouldn't have commented. Instagram is not crucial for lead generation. For most people, it will do no such thing.

I was genuine in including myself in the "crazy notion" i.e. https://fstoppers.com/originals/why-us-average-joe-photographers-suck-in...
In mentioning the gift certificates I was simply offering a contrasting view on what worked for you. There are people finding success using Instagram. I would also suggest photographers use it.

i have only 1.2k followers but most of them are local i alredy make a lot of bookings thanks to instagram .

>> I'm glad Instagram is working for you. But to say that it's "crucial for lead generation for photographers" is an absurd, irresponsible, and tired narrative that ignores mountains of evidence to the contrary.<<

It's just clickbait writing - a very bad habit to have.

Interesting! Does someone know any good hashtag to get found by clients?

Another total BS article. Instagram does practically nothing.

Hi John! Thanks for taking the time to look at my personal feed. However, you're missing the bigger picture not only of the article, but the experience behind it as I manage not just my personal feed but multiple brands on Instagram.

I see what you did there, John. (Good job!)

Seriously, however; I'm completely on board with the majority of detractors posting replies to this article. Social media approaches to marketing are attempts to gain market share by sheer volume; but as necessitated by the model, for penny margins while swimming in red water territory.

I made a decision early on that I was going base my business approach regarding my photography passion in such a way that should I succeed, I would do so WHILE remaining satisfied, passionate and happy in the process. For me that meant to never get on board the "social media" train. It means for now keeping my day job. The clients I work for are not "jobs," but collaborations and partnerships where we both are highly satisfied with the process. Their referrals are worth infinitely more than a million hits or views.

Hi John,

Thanks for the email, must have missed your reply but I’m going to bring the conversation back here. My personal Instagram feed is just that–– more or less a personal diary of sorts where I also post my professional photo work. It’s a mixed bag for *my* personal feed, and that’s what my audience responds to positively. However, I manage several visual brands on social media including Instagram where the platform has become a vital tool in their business and marketing strategy.

My work is in photography, but additionally marketing and production. I’m by no means an influencer but do manage successful social presences. In terms of the demographic, Instagram has definitely broadened from when it first started out, and the scope of the available audience is not solely a younger demographic.

Appreciate you taking the time to comment with your opinions, but don’t appreciate the attempt at targeting me personally with your comment on my personal feed. I don’t feel I owe you any further explanation of my merits or credibility. The mission of my work professionally is to help creatives succeed at their craft, and writing articles like this is helpful to creatives who are building and establishing their brand presence.

I tried instagram several years ago and didn't like it. Maybe I was not using it right. I was expecting something like Flickr but all I remember about it was getting a never ending page of random photos. Not sure how you would get clients with that. Probably have better luck with Facebook. As for Flickr..... I like Flickr but I think Mug is gonna Fluck it up.

try promote your posts and customize your algorithm . i do cosplay shoots and i put only cosplay ,anime and vdieogames in interests. i got 4-5 clients in a single post.

I asked many of my models with many 5k-170k followers what site do you make your money from and most say model mayhem still. Thing is these same models still showcase themselves as living the high life on IG like it’s critical, secretly messaging me for paid shoots all the time cause they about to get evicted. Instascam!!!!

They aren't mutually exclusive. If they were using model mayhem solely they'd have exactly $0 from Instagram and would be getting evicted just as much. So why is Instagram to blame, they just don;t have what it takes for modelling as a full time job to sustain them or aren't pursuing other networking opportunities successfully enough.

The most frustrating thing for me with Instagram is the audience. The have a shorter attention span than a goldfish and just scroll through photographs that you need to really look at. The way how I look at it, is that is more of a platform that is about creating generalized content and photos that lean more towards graphical design. And how good can really look at a photograph on such a small screen like your phone...

If you can't beat em, join em! Instead of pointing out the 'flaws' use them to your advantage. Create images that POP and immediately grab someone's attention.

To get work seen by non photographers Instagram is great... The only people that look at my 500px & website are other photographers..

500px is for photographers, but the vast majority of users of Instagram are non-photography enthusiasts. I shoot cityscape photography and share it on Instagram. My main audience is people in London who love their hometown as much as I do, but don't pick up a camera.

I've made thousands of dollars of Instagram this year: booked many jobs where people valued the content I created and then also sold advertising space (this is mega lucrative).

Yes, this is not a experience a lot of people share. But to you I say don't be such a pessimist, Instagram is an ADDITIONAL way for you to be found, it's entirely complimentary to your website and all your other 'normal' networking. Embrace it, if you shut it down only you are the one paying the price for ADDITIONAL opportunities forgone.

When I look at a photographer's work, whether it's to buy prints, book, or just to see his work, I never go on Instagram. I just find his website and see his portfolio. Instagram is too limiting. Small resolution, square thumbnail... I also blame Instagram and other social media platforms for the popularity of photographers that are quite poor, while better talented photographers who work "old school" with a poor website yet have a huge talent don't get the same attention. People like James Popsys or Jared Polin would be in the first category, people like Glenn Randall or Tim Fitzharris in the second. I bet you there's more people on this website that know the first two rather than the latter two. Yet if you compare their respective portfolios, there's no denying Randall and Fitzharris are in another league. Of course in the pro-photo world, they are much more well known I assume.

That's your personal preference on how you view their work.

Blaming anyone is not exactly constructive either: those two guys you mentioned are very poor examples. because they never rate themselves on the gallery quality of their pictures but rather on their story telling ability on YouTube: A skill that is yes popular for very different reasons. You just aren't their demographic.

Also I'd challenge you to think that Instagram is not a substitute for a portfolio website, physical gallery, etc. but rather an additional platform for you to showcase your work. Randall and Fitzharris are throttling their own exposure by not adopting this additional channel to showcase their work, it's their loss ultimately...

Personal opinion/preference: I'm more impressed by people who regularly and consistenly deliver outstanding work (on Instagram for example) than someone who has 15-20 lifetime achievement portfolio pieces (on their website).

Well I'm more impressed by these old school guys because they don't use photoshop to enhance sunsets and stuff. All they do is some HDR and basic setting adjustments, and I admire their work because they keep working on a specific location for years until they get the perfect one. Instagram photographers rely too much on one or two visits to a location and then intense retouching/compositing to make their thumbnails pop and what you see is not what you'd get if you went to that location. Now I only talk about landscapes here.

I agree with you here, putting in hard work and effort and the more you get right in camera the better: what you put in is what you get out. Editing is taste, preference, and personal expression which can make a picture better or worse, it's quite subjective.

I know what you mean by "Instagram photographer" and agree with you. Instagram is just a platform though: on there you'll find a lot of selfies, a lot of mediocre photography and also some truly exceptional stuff (niche or otherwise).

I myself personally draw a lot of inspiration from Instagram but also realise that it can be a bit one sided, hence why I value sites like fstoppers so much.

Considering that Instagram is broken to the point that success in the platform is nearly impossible unless you pay for it, wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s “crucial” because for most photographers it won’t do anything to help them.

You’re better off networking with potential clients.

In my local retail portrait market, it's not the following of the photographer that brings in more business, it's the following of the photographer's clients. Influential past clients influence future clients.

In that respect, social media is just the modern "word of mouth."

i follow my photographer models

I know I may have said this prior. But there is a market for everything. If you shoot campaigns or wildlife or even weddings. Instagram isn't probably going to do you any good. But if you shoot a lot of portraits, family events, babies, night life/parties. Things that will connect more with the average joe, then it is likely that you can find some success through it. I've gotten good leads through Instagram myself.

Is it the greatest way? No. But it is a way. And if your branch of photography lines up with the utilization of the app then by all means use it.

My personal experience with IG hasn't been good at all. I've done it all, posting every day, started using the stories, trying polls for engagement. going on IG for at least 1 hour a day to engage with other photographers, tried to make my feed consistent, use my location hashtags, add locations to my images. I have not once booked a client from IG. Sometimes my posts will do "ok" and then other times they do terribly. I gain followers only to lose followers throughout the week. IG is very frustrating. So now I use it to post my work and to engage with other photographer that I admire but I have no expectations of booking clients from it because it just becomes to discouraging for me personally. When people say the majority of their clients come from IG, I have no idea how they do it or how it happens because trust me I have tried to all. I gain my clients from Facebook and referrals. My work might not be the best, but obviously people do like it because I do book many clients. IG makes me personally feel bad about my work when I have expectations, so therefore I have none anymore. I post what I want and I engage with other creatives, but I have no expectations of gaining clients from it.

I heard the other day, kids aren't on Facebook anymore--Facebook is just for moms.

Heck, yeah. I've know for decades that moms are my primary customers.

Exactly! I am part of some of those "mom" groups and I have booked about 10 sessions this year when I announced my fall mini sessions

The problem with this type of article is that it's perspective based. Instagram never helped me one iota for my chosen genres, but help some people immensely. My areas of expertise do very well from word of mouth, so the effort of using Instagram simply isn't worth it. That's because my photos aren't for a large audience.

On the other hand, if you're trying to be the next National Geographic photographer, broad audience tools like Instagram may help you like no other tool in history could have.

So this is why I've read so many contradictory articles on Fstoppers about social media's value to photographers. One's definitive that "social media is a waste of your time" while articles like this one are here also - and is also why this article is wrong.

To be honest, I don't take much away from articles like this anymore because I'm looking for hard statistics and such rather than pure opinion pieces. Stats are the only way that these articles will have any value going forward.

Being an enthusiast photographer I have the benefit of using Instagram more as a tool for my amusement and showing off my work to narrow group of friends and affiliates or whoever may run into it. Having said that, if I was using Instagram for commercial purposes I know I would have been quite disappointed and most likely frustrated.

Following all the above tips may generate few desirable views here and there and maybe even an occasional follower other than account promising more followers (yes, welcome to my follower base) but anyone expecting to grow their follower base by thousands just by fulfilling above steps needs a bucked of ice cold water over their head.

I can tell you however how to get a lot of followers but unfortunately it will have nothing to do with your work if you are say wildlife photographer or street photographer. Just forget about showing your work because nobody cares. What Instagram viewers do care about is young, hot chicks with nice bodies running across the shore of Ibiza on a sunny day, eating ice cream for breakfast, having some of those fancy drinks with little umbrellas in a tall glass while traveling and living a party 24/7. If your daddy is a millionaire and you already do all those things then just set up an Instagram account. If you are not so lucky then and happen to be an overweight, middle aged guy you may still pull it off and Bow Wow this shit if you are creative.

What do you say? Instagram is shallow? Well, with 800 million users one can say it is a reflection of the society :)

There are a lot of people with opinions. Some of them I can relate to. This isn't one of them.

Beautifully written article! Instagram is a very important marketing tool for photographers if one knows how to use it correctly.