Breaking Down the Real Hours Needed to Have a Successful Instagram Page

Breaking Down the Real Hours Needed to Have a Successful Instagram Page

Spoiler alert: building a successful Instagram page takes work. Hard work. I'm sorry, but to be incredibly honest with those that have followed me since the beginning it takes more than a snapshot with my iPhone and hitting the post button. Breaking down the hours and even minutes in my day to show you my process and commitment to the platform will give you an insiders look to the mindset you need to be successful on Instagram.

Fstoppers Writer Michael B. Stuart recently wrote about how the average joe sucks at Instagram. His article points to the more obvious and simple ways to build a solid start to your Instagram page or even build upon the one you already have. These simple tricks can give you a boost in the right direction, but that's obviously not enough. Those steps are far too easy and suggest that you will have tens of thousands of followers within just a few weeks or days even. Just get out of that mindset if you are one of those optimists because I have spent six years, which is nearly the entire existence of Instagram, to get where I am today and I am still considered small fish.

What Michael nailed in his article though is the fact it takes hustle, though that's like anything really. Even though that might not even be enough sometimes, it's the hard truth. Hustle got me where I am today with my photography career and those that want to bash me for having fake followers, you have the comments below. If you want to stick around and take a more realistic look into the number of hours it takes to push out great content on a regular basis and continue to build a solid foundation for your page just keep reading below. 


Let's start with the obvious questions first. How do you get followers? Should I buy followers? Should I even pay attention to follower numbers? 

If you want to believe the 'build it and they will come' theory then go right ahead. That is one of the hardest things to get past when trying to build out an Instagram page. Sure you can post great content on a regular basis and use the right hashtags but in the end don't you think every single other person read that 'Quick Tips to A Great Instagram'? Followers do help in many ways but if you build them with fake bots, many brands and professionals will catch on to that and write you off as a cheat, so please don't buy followers. They are almost always fake and bring no value to your page in the long run.

I always recommend never pay attention to the number at the top of the page. Focus on your work first and foremost and be sure then do the handful of things I explain below to build upon what you have rather than what you want. Sure you can set goals or milestones but keep those professional, don't let them be something like gain 5,000 followers this month, or get 1,000 likes on one photo. Those are unpredictable and incredibly hard to track per image. You can certainly keep an eye on those numbers over a longer span like a few months or a year even because that will yield better statistics for you to track against. 

Daily Grind

Hard work and grinding it out is the best way to describe how to make anything you want to happen on Instagram. If you want more followers or likes you need to get on a schedule for liking and commenting on others photos. No, I am not taking about saying "great shot" or "beautiful image" on every single person's photo. I mean you need to interact with others, or in many cases for myself, ask a question on every single persons post to spark a conversation. The weight of learning and connecting with someone else is far stronger in the big scheme of things.

Keeping up with a post every other day, if not every day, is not an easy task but I've been able to keep that pace for over five years. The routine usually consists of 20-30 minutes on either side of the day to reply to comments, messages, and push out replies to friends on their latest posts. Throughout the day is spent making sure I keep up with liking, commenting, and following new and current followers as well. I will take every spare moment I have, even on the busiest days, to do this and squeeze in as much social as possible.

Overall this process of simply replying, commenting, and engaging can eat up 2-4 hours of my day depending on what I want to push forward. Whether I engage with all a specific brand in one day or a all a specific type of photography. That way I can spread my name into various communities.


Creating a local feature account was easily one of the best things I've done since beginning on Instagram. The @igersindy page was created with just a few strangers I met on the platform in the hopes to feature our great city in photos. Over time that account expanded to thousands of followers and around 15 others that help manage the account. All of which help me with posting each and every day.

One of the biggest parts of this account are the monthly photo walks, or Instameets, we host and share with the community. With anywhere from 30-60 people coming to each meet consisting of 50 percent all new people is incredibly important to reading how the meets grow over time to everyone. It's a chance to meet new and old creatives in the city as well as feed off each other for inspiration. If you look at an hourly timeframe here I put about 1-2 hours per week into the account now that its shared with others as well as a full or half day shooting with each photo walk each month. If you have a local community or account be sure to check it out and head out to a local Instameet.


Now that I've gone over how much time goes into the community aspect of Instagram, let's get into the posting itself. I can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to over 3 hours editing, creating a caption, adding hashtags, adding proper hard tags, sharing with my Instagram pods, final editing touches within the app, and then finally hitting send and tracking the stats within the first hour. The first hour, or less, can give me a solid read into how well the post will do in the form of likes and comments but it is best read in long-term analytics. 

The image below for example took 20-30 minutes to sit back and wait for someone to find that light pocket to pose within. The edit took only a few minutes but the caption, tags, sharing with pods, and final edit within Instagram took about an hour. If I push out more than one post a day that's over an hour per image. That adds up.

Now all of this just depends on how much time I have and doesn't always take into account creating the shot. That will depend on the scene. This part needs to be seen as more than just hitting send. If you want to be successful at Instagram and posting work to social you need to pay attention to all the aspects of how it's done and what you can do to maximize on the quality of the work and the overall reach. When all those things mentioned above come together it's like a perfect symphony.


I hope those tips were helpful and gives you a more realistic look into the grind behind the Instagram game for many that use it as a main marketing and professional tool. In the end, if I spend three to five hours each day that is commitment to my work and craft for expansion and growth. I always shoot something better and push the engagement further with every post. I want the photos to speak to an audience and these little tidbits all add up in the end.

I don't want people to think that this is the only way to do things but it's a little sneak peek into how I go about taking the time to build what I have and put the time into everything I do on Instagram to make it count. If you have any questions or ways you want to share how to post on social hit me up in the comments below.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Andrew Griswold is a photographer and designer based in Indianapolis. Born and raised in Indy he has made a name for himself by staying very active in the creative community in both photography and design. He has also founded a community of photographers via Instagram connecting them with brands to work with and shoot locally.

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I swear this isn't meant to be mean, genuine question. Do you think it's worth all those hours? The photos posted on this article were all sub 1000 likes each. That doesn't seem like super high traffic for "up to 3 hours" worth of work.

But, I could tooootally be misreading it. Maybe 700 likes is enough to drive more work your way? Once again, not a slam. Just trying to figure out if it's realistic for me to spend hours each day for 5 years for such little exposure.


Completely valid man. I've asked myself that exact same question but this hourly time frame wasn't always this way. It wasn't until about 2 maybe 3 years ago max where I spent that many hours max on my posts. When they are validated at $500-2,500 per post I'll take a more serious look at it because that's worth something to me and breaking it into an hourly rate is still quite high. It took awhile to get to those numbers but those last couple years have been incredible. I still shoot what I want and post those fun shots at a high quality but at a lower time of edit, etc while spending more time on the paid gigs.

Is it worth it for everyone? No, maybe not. But this is the path I'm on now and it built up to this so when evaluating where you want to be and what you want to target I still think IG is incredible for that and it can create a solid marketing plan for any creative.

Where are you getting that per-post value?

There are quite a few sites on the web right now that offer an algorythm based on your pages stats to average a number per post. Some are wildly low like $11 and then others are putting me in the $200-600 per post range. Then I charge upwards to make up for my worth and experience.

I would rate it about $25 per post, but I could see $200-600 if you are taking the photo for the client, etc... You have a lot of ghost followers which is the problem, but maybe a client won't notice. I have about 17% more followers than you, but have 500% higher like rate per photo and my account is considered to be just average on the interaction rate because I have a lot of foreign followers.

Thanks for the genuine response! Definitely a fair way of looking at it! Appreciate you clarifying, happy posting :)

I've found it impossible to digest the content of articles focused on growing a social media presence. When I read my mind automatically substitutes the word narcissist for every word in the sentence.
Edit: and I agree with Josiah... Your hustle hardly seems worth it. I don't keep up with any social media platform like IG so maybe I'm wrong.
3 hours per day x 5 days per week (2 days off) x 50 weeks a year (2 weeks off) x 6 years is 4,500 hours. I'm guessing that working at a fast food restaurant in one of those ridiculous cities which have set the minimum wage at $15 an hour would have yielded a better financial return. Putting all that time into improving your craft would have yielded better images which ironically, may have organically grown your followers without much work.

Totally agree. The balance between personal and professional work is all in preference. I would say 1-2 posts per week are branded and take the max amount of time. Never have I hit all days of the week for commercial work but it's building. The time is worth it as I mention above this comment with the valuation of my posts being between $500 and $2,500 depending on the client and campaign ask.

Could also just be worth it for the sake of it being a project. My friend and I have put substantial time into @ohiouniversity for what is really just a huge unfunny joke account with no real value in sight besides personal enjoyment. Seems like you've made some real friendships and connected people with cool content via those hours so I'd say it's worth it.

My most popular pictures were incredibly mediocre. I cringe in embarrassment now when I look at them. As my photographs got better, more creative and more personal, it is now mostly ignored. Still have 500+ followers after 4 years but 5 likes is hitting it out of the ballpark for me now...

holy that's work. I would rather be, well, working instead of posting about working. no offense, you take a good shot and your grid is lovely but man, if i'm gonna hustle, i would rather hustle IRL.

but you do you, man.

Haha, well considering I do have a full time job already as an Art Director the freelance photography I pull in comes directly from marketing through Instagram. Those posts and hours spent go to paid gigs. This is IRL if you would and in 2017 social media is a real thing for those looking to expand their presence in the creative world. You can reach brands, individuals, etc with ease and some good tactics. To each their own though, I began my career through Instagram so its easy to fall back on that as a solid freelance tool.

ah! ok...makes more sense now. My day job is being a full time photographer, so I would rather spend the time working being a photographer and creating content for clients than creating content just for social media. I also use social media as, well, social media - 85% of my posts are shot on my iphone while shooting and lets people know what's going on right then - about 5 min or less a post. Of course, I'll post finished work if it's relevant or topical but if I spend all day working on social media content, then I've spent all day working on something that isn't editing or shooting.

Thanks for the discussion - always enjoy your features, it's always interesting to see how people use tools to advance their work.

I just wrote about this exact thing in a Reddit post ( I would rather spend my time talking to commercial clients than trying to play the game of a much younger generation. I think all photographers should have Instagram, but I would rather chase $$$$ paying jobs than hoping to have a client select an older photographer over a hip kid with a camera. We will lose that bet every time.

600 likes for 67.2k followers, that's like 1% of follower population who liked your post. Not good man! Did you buy fake followers? lol...

Kidding aside, I treat instagram a place for learning, getting inspiration and networking with other creatives. Nothing more than that. If you are after stats it's pretty meaningless. So many people keep liking/commenting for the sake of getting noticed, follow/unfollow just to get followers and I think it's a waste of time.

For almost all accounts, no more than 5 percent of the account's followers engage in likes. Standard is 2 per cent.

Yeah IG is fantastic for networking/inspiration and meeting other creatives.

How did you know that? My photos usually have over 100 likes with 1.7k followers. That's over 5%!! Is that weird? : P

keywords: "almost" "standard"

The downsides of getting featured by Instagram in the early days. I was featured on their suggested user list a couple times excelling my page to those numbers. The engagement on the other hand is fairly high still on the analytics side so I am not too worried about it. Brands still find value in it when building out campaigns and I see a totally differen 600 people like one style of photo than another which is awesoem.

I treat Instagram as a tool. That is it. I have used it to advance my networking and portfolio online for a few years now and its a great resource for anyone looking to jump into the photography career or advance their career now.

I don't think it is worth it at all, but I'm willing to see how it changes things for me.

I like the article, a lot of parallels to how I use and work with mine as well. I find it interesting reading the comments of people who really dislike social media. Maybe this will open your mind to it... how many people now a days watch TV? How many of those people actually watch the commercials?... Most people nowadays stream TV shows from sites like Netflix and avoid the commercials all together... when was the last time you saw a billboard and thought to look up that product? Most people ignore billboards anyways... what's the one item that most people have on them 24 hours a day... their phone... social media is the natural progression of advertising, why else would companies like BMW, Nikon, Air Canada or Rolex have accounts?... you have to go where the people are. That used to be radio, TV, Cinema, now online. This is why people invest the time into the account and each post, part of being a photographer is not just shooting for clients but showing the content. What good is your look book if no one sees it, or even your website for that matter. Another reality of being a photographer is you have to generate multiple streams of revenue. There are few photographers that can rely on one source of income, especially when you are in the building stages of your business. Sponsorships and brand building comes from being an influence on others. You can't build a brand without building community.

This is why I like articles like these because it shows what it takes to build your community and following. It's not easy but it's important.

Great read! It's clear that your efforts are paying off. Thanks very much for the shout out. :)