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.

Instagram Tips for Photographers

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.

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john wheatley's picture

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

Philipp Pley's picture

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.

Philipp Pley's picture

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.

Philipp Pley's picture

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.

Philipp Pley's picture

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.

Christian Santiago's picture

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.

Kirk Darling's picture

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."

Juan carlos Chu Zhang's picture

i follow my photographer models

Aaron B.'s picture

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.

amanda daniels's picture

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.

Kirk Darling's picture

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.

amanda daniels's picture

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

Andre Goulet's picture

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.

Krzysztof Kurzaj's picture

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 :)

John Skinner's picture

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.