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3 months - 50 followers. Reality of Instagram.

Let's start by saying that I am not another Andrew Griswold and I am not going to tell you a magic recipe for getting a business through Instagram, or reaching 50k followers.

What I might do however, is to reassure some of you that you are not the only one struggling out there. There is at least two of us!

Who am I then? I am probably one of you. A typical reader of Fstoppers considering photography a passion but always hoping for more. I have a loving family and a decent full time job. I am a happy man.

I started photography as a hobby, then shooting for friends and then occasionally some commercial work. I like all photography, but product photography is what I am passionate about. My problem however was the fact that I am a bit of an introvert. I do things quietly. I don't go out there shouting out loud how great I am and telling everyone I do photography. But just recently, whether it is a realisation of time passing by or my character changing with age (35), I decided that I need to go out there. I need to start talking about what I like to do and what my aspirations are, or it will never happen.

And what are my aspirations? I don't want to be the most famous photographer out there. I don't even aspire to live of photography. I just want to develop a part time, but fully commercially viable photography business.

But how do I do this? I never used social media before, I am not on Facebook or any other service. But hey, everyone else is. Being an introvert the idea of social networks appealed to me, so my plan was to choose one of these platforms, and focus all efforts on it.

I knew three from top of my head and explored few more just by browsing Internet.
- Facebook everyone said. I tried. Not only this thing is beyond me but I do not agree with its policies. Facebook out.
- Twitter must be the thing for me I thought. Everyone tweets now. Again, I tried but I could not understand it.
- The last one was Instagram. It is simple, visual and the whole interface appeals to me. I felt that this is the place I can express myself and "go out there" from the cosines of my living room.

I set up an account and posted my few recent photographs looking at all the people flooding in to follow me. Well, they didn't come. They didn't follow. I thought I need more photographs, so I uploaded few more. Nothing, still nothing. Barely anyone noticed and no one commented.

I went back to drawing board. I read some articles, got some advice and decided I need to interact with other Instagrammers more. I started commenting on other people's images, I was interacting and more often than not I really enjoyed it. Did it help in terms of followers? It did. It was however painfully slow. It still is, but I worked out that I have two options really. And I was more than sure which way I want to go.

Option 1: Forget what you like, post what Instagram likes. Look at the most successful accounts and copy. Follow everyone and like everything.
or
Option 2: Carry on doing my thing, post more often and better quality, and interact. Follow who I really like, like what I really like (if that makes sense). Give it a time.

I think I don't need to tell you which way I decided to go. I know it will take time, but I will do my best to enjoy it. After 3 months of my presence on Instagram I barely reached 50 followers, which is what some achieve in few hours. But what I like to think, is that these 50 followers are there because they like what I do, not because I followed them back (I did not in many cases), and this is more audience than I have ever had before.

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16 Comments

I'll offer some tips, as I have gotten off to a slow start as well. First, only post work that others would want to see. Remember to post at different times, until you find the best time for your audience. Next, hashtags are everything. It's how people find your images. Find work similar to your own, and see what tags they use, then add them to your images. Fashion, portraits, cars, vintage, watches, you name it. Throw in a few local tags too, so people nearby can find you and follow you. I follow local photographers and businesses, and that has helped me out a great deal. Finally, you need to interact. Go through your feed, like the photos that interest you, and comment on the ones that catch your eye. If you engage, you will succeed.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Yeah that part about posting what IG wants to see is sadly true. Some of my posts just don't get the kind of likes that other posts of mine do. They key is do follow similar styles of other photogs and imitate them.

Joakim Drake's picture

Pawel, I'll follow you =) Keep posting the things you care about.

Thank you for the tips and all the words of encouragement. I am now committed to shoot and publish more often.
Thank you Joakim, hope you will find my feed interesting.

Christian Böcker's picture

Like already mentioned above, it is a combination of your option 1 and 2. I think, both will work and have their advantages and disadvantages. Option 1 will increase your follower numbers in the beginning faster than option 2. So you should start with option 1 (follow the mainstream) and get your interaction with other users into rolling. If you have reached a certain number you can slowly change into doing more of your own style, the stuff you really want to share. Then you can reach a higher number of people with it.

Try Latergram.me to schedule your posts. It's free. I also use another free app, TrackGram, to get some stats, and see who is following me/unfollowing. I'll follow other accounts if they have content that interests me, but I don't automatically follow everyone that follows me. If someone likes one of my images, I'll at least have a look at theirs, to see if there is anything there that catches my eye. And also to browse hashtags.

TIMEZAC Photography's picture

Just checked out your account, you have great work. Unfortunately, quality work uploaded to Instagram doesn't always get its fair share of attention and gratitude. There area bunch of talented photographers on there, but they all receive less attention than some "big name" person (with significantly less talent) in their category. I would say its a mixture of options 1 & 2. Just find your balance & over time you will gain a larger following that truly appreciates your work. I would add more hashtags to an image you post, it will help your images reach a larger audience.

There. You are now at 70 followers! :) Just keep your feed focused. If product photography is your passion, make it all about that. Put your best work up and reach out with the hashtags and conversations that is in that space.

Thank you all again for all your advice and support. I really appreciate it and I already took most of the advice on board and started putting into practice.

Anonymous's picture

If you really want to increase your followers on Instagram, hire a PR firm to help you. That's if you're serious about building your business and brand presence online. PR agencies are used all the time in other brand development endeavors. Why not social media too? There are PR agencies out there who will find legit followers, specific to your criteria / target prospect profile. Do your homework and you will find them-

Mike Moses's picture

Pawel. I started my instagram account almost a year ago with the goal of 1 picture every 24 hours for 365 days. Some days I might post 2 photos, some days just one. I would go out on a group walk and capture 5 or 6 that would make up the next weeks pictures. My flow right now is to edit in LR, post to my apple account and then post the edited pictures from my phone when it is convenient. I started off slow as well, and until about a month ago was stagnant around 400 followers. Since then I have set aside about an hour a day looking for photos that are in my genre. Following those people, and commenting on the ones I like. I also thank every commenter, albeit some times a week late. My account has started to take off and I'm about to break the 1200 follower mark.
From all this I can tell you it does take time, it does take interaction, and it does take patience.
Hang in there, I find that even though instagram is full of Narcissism, there is some great artists to follow.
Key words are KEY.
Good Luck

I am stuck on 94, tried many of the things people wrote about on how to get noticed on instagram. I seem to lost a person for everyone that follows me at this point. the interest also seems to be all over the place for me, two photos of the same thing seem to get two completely different reactions. I posted a Milky way shot and I gained 3 followers from that one alone and then the next two saw a drop of the same number, then I mix it up with a landscape of the Rockies, same thing. Seems to me Instagram is too fickle to do anything with it.

oops lost another person, didn't do anything this time

Bob Zhitkov's picture

World famous photographer Erwin Olaf have 756 followers (at the moment). :)

Leif Egil Hegdal's picture

One of my biggest inspirations told me that I shouldn't focus to much on the amounts of likes. And I also got the question why likes are important.

The sad fact about likes is that they may not bring you one single sale. They may not really make you more famous either.

The importance lays in knowing what you want with you social media presence.?
If you want x amount of likes it would really be a natural choice to post whatever people love. If you want to show yourself. Post, use the hashtags, and maybe one day you get famous through social media.

Keep up posting, i have spend 3 months at 50 followers too, and you be surprised to see how much people are followning me now. Work always pay:) https://www.instagram.com/p/Bed7jCEnrfD/?taken-by=limmichelpics