I Stopped Posting to Instagram for 90 Days and This Is What Happened

I Stopped Posting to Instagram for 90 Days and This Is What Happened

Posting consistently is one of the most recommended tasks you can do to grow organically on Instagram. What happens when you stop posting all together?

My last articles about posting everyday for a month and spending $50 on instagram inspired me to talk about what happens when you stop posting anything. Before I dive into this I want to address that those previous two experiments were purposely planned and documented. I never planned to stop posting to Instagram, but after being pummeled by a massive hurricane and a tragedy in my family, Instagram became far less of a priority.

For anyone trying to put themselves out there and grow their brand there are a lot of tips and tricks you can do to give yourself the best chances of growing a following. Curating your feed or following a consistent style are prime examples. No matter what trend or tip you choose to follow, posting consistently is the most important “rule” when trying to grow your brand. Thus there’s a lot of pressure to continually make content and post on a regular basis. Fleeting thoughts such as “I haven’t posted in 4 days, I absolutely need to post today,” or “I’ll never grow if I don’t keep up the pace.” These can weigh on you especially when traveling and taking photos is still considered a hobby that doesn’t pay any of your bills. So here is what happened after not posting for 90 days.

The Results

The world did not end. All of my followers didn’t abandon me. My photos didn’t cease to exist. This is the follower growth I had throughout September (the last recorded data I have):

September 2018 Follower Growth via iconosquare

My last post was on October 2nd and I have no data after that point. I had roughly 6,487 followers before I took a hiatus. My current follower count as of writing this article is 6,405. Thus after not posting for over 90 days I lost a total of 82 followers, a 1.2% loss. Keep in mind that even though I was not posting at all, I was still gaining followers. Take last week as an example:

Follower Gain Without Posting

I actually messaged a few of these people to find out why they followed me or how they found me. Some of them followed me because they stumbled upon articles I wrote on Fstoppers, others found me through a random assortment of websites that my photos are hosted on. Many people are spam/fake accounts or only following me in hopes that I follow them back. You’ll find yourself gaining and losing followers constantly when you are trying to grow - the trick is gaining more than you lose to find growth.

Conclusion

I realize that these results are quite obvious. I didn’t post, thus I lost followers. Why waste time writing about it? For me it’s a reminder that sometimes life happens, sometimes we get in a rut, or sometimes we just stop seeing purpose in what we may be doing. Yet we pressure ourselves to do whatever we can to grow. That anxiety can become overwhelming, it can take away the joy you once had with photography or sharing your work. It can start to feel like a job with no results. You find yourself wanting to take a step back but not letting yourself take a break because you don’t want to lose all the hard work you’ve put in.

If you have ever felt these things, this is for you. You won’t lose all your followers, the world won’t end, and everything will still be there whenever you’re ready to come back. Most importantly, your photos are timeless. Twenty years from now you’ll be able to look at a photo you took and reminiscence about that moment; you won’t remember your follower count or how many likes it got. 
 

If you're passionate about taking your photography to the next level but aren't sure where to dive in, check out the Well-Rounded Photographer tutorial where you can learn eight different genres of photography in one place. If you purchase it now, or any of our other tutorials, you can save a 15% by using "ARTICLE" at checkout. 

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48 Comments
Deleted Account's picture

Why is this even remotely important? Instagram....how is it related to real life at all? Who are the followers? People that we do not know, do not care and they do not care about us? What is even more strange is that people do all this effort for the sake of followers, just having a higher number knowing that they get zero business from it. I know that some do, but most do not and yet invest money and time to have followers. I have experienced, read and seen enough to see how bad it is. I had Instagram with thousands of followers and had a FB fan page with 14.000 followers. Here are my findings:
1. It impacts negatively the creativity
2. It makes people do same images as thousands of others and trying to adjust to a style that they think is popular or needed
3. Nobody cares about you, people only care about themselves:-)
So my suggestions, do yourself a favour and get out of social media altogether and be free:-)

Marcin Świostek's picture

Not everything has to be related to real life. Followers may not care about you - it's not a support group - they might care for your work. They might care enough to drop a nice comment from time to time.

Deleted Account's picture

And do nice comments pay your invoices?

Alex Armitage's picture

Nope! But they can give me a smile from time to time :)

Marcin Świostek's picture

Does any promotion pay your invoices? No. But it may attract potential clients. If nothing else, Instagram is a showcase, not a shop.

Deleted Account's picture

*Potential* clients don't pay invoices either……

Kirk Schwarz's picture

Did you pay to use Dairylea's Laughing Cow? ;)

Alex Armitage's picture

You really can't get into landscape photography with money in mind. You're setting yourself up to be very disappointed.

Chris Silvis's picture

And how is that relevant? Dropping a nice comment? It strokes your ego. Big woopty doo. Heres an idea, play to your likes and dislikes and f**k the lot.

Jeez people and their insistant need for immediate gratification and approval. Something is to be said about that behavior.

Alex Armitage's picture

From the perspective of a business it can be quite important. It just depends on how you see your photography. If you just take pictures for fun with no goals in mind then your reasons to use instagram or put time into it are probably quite low. Maybe I could have made it more clear that I personally approach instagram with less personal interest and more on the business side of things.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

If you're on instagram for business, do you plan to post some findings that address the impact your hiatus did or did not have on the revenue you generate from instagram?

I deleted my account a couple of weeks ago, the result of concluding that it had been a huge waste of my time. I created the account for business purposes and never got any business from it, despite following the best practices in earnest over a good period of time.

I'm honestly happy for the people who are able to get business from instagram. But every time someone posts on Fstoppers about how to use instagram to get business, there's never any evidence that they're getting business from instagram, including the previous two articles you wrote.

If you track the business you get from instagram and are tracking the cost (your time and money) of maintaining your account, that kind of info would be much more insightful.

I don't mean posting your sales figures and such. I mean at least some kind of general ROI discussion about your instagram activity.

Like I said, too many authors post "instagram gets you business" articles here with no discussion whatsoever of any manner of their revenue metrics to support their claims. Rarely, if ever, does anyone on Fstoppers promoting instagram for generating revenue present some dots connecting their instagram advice to their actual revenue.

Likes and follower counts are irrelevant if there's no discussion of revenue generated. This is your third instagram article. When is there going to be a discussion of revenue/ROI from all your instagram activity?

Alex Armitage's picture

Hey I’m glad you asked about this as it’s obviously very important if you’re approaching your photography as a business. The honest truth is I don’t make any money from landscape photography. Something I actually plan to write about in the future because monetizing shooting landscapes is seemingly very complex.

That said, for me, investing my time (and sometimes small amounts of money) doesn’t necessarily need to equate to $$ back in my pocket. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my past articles but I never talk about monetization or ROI, I simply focus on gaining followers as the end goal.

That’s not very straight forward for some markets or types of photography. Take wedding photography as an example. You don’t need 100k followers to be a successful wedding photographer. There are many out there without an instagram at all!

That’s where the complexity of monetizing landscape photography really comes in. There’s a few ways to make a feasible living doing it and all (most?) require you to have somewhat of a following. So with that in mind, when I approach Instagram like a business. I simply mean that I’m not just posting my personal photos all the time for fun. I don’t have the follower count (yet) to really give a list of things that could be considered “ROI.” But it’s also not the type of business where you get clients simply from posting. However if you reach out a prospective client and have a decent sized following, it certainly puts your portfolio high up on the list. It's a build up and honestly can be daunting when I think about it. Which is probably why I let it fall off from time to time.

The "dream scenario" is to gain a big enough following, doesn't necessarily have to be instagram, to turn it into a means to live. I hope this answers your question.

Charles Gaudreault's picture

the majority of my clients reach to me on facebook, to get a shoot, the majority of my clients tell me how they like my Instagram and they know the pictures I took of them will be good because all my Instagram posts are good, so I don't have proof of Instagram getting me business directly. I don't send quotes but I can say it a very very good free advertising for me in my local area!

I don't have many followers, almost 1k but my engagement is pretty good. So even for a small account like me, I think putting a few efforts can be good for business even if you can't tell the % of impact it has.

Also, the photographers in my area that have 40k plus followers are getting very cool deals with brands and they get to shoot awsome commercial stuff. So yeah having a good following even if the people that fallow you are not your real-life friends can be very good for business I think! @d.c.d.g

Darren Loveland's picture

Last year I picked up three of my best commercial clients through Instagram. They saw my work and reached out via message. It's another platform to get paying gigs. I agree some people obsess over the medium and take it to another level, but properly used it can be a great vehicle for revenue.

Hien Nguyen's picture

What happens when you post again, though? Will your organic reach be the same as before you took the hiatus or will it be significantly lower?

Alex Armitage's picture

I'll find out out and let you know!

Hien Nguyen's picture

Please update us. I wouldn't be surprised if it trends significantly lower. I've had that happen to me when I am inactive for a prolonged period of time. But there are constantly moving parts to their algorithm that it's not easy to discern what exactly is going on.

Deleted Account's picture

This is an important question. Reach is affected by engagement so if you don't have much for recent engagement data, Instagram might limit who sees your posts. While it's not going to wreck a profile forever it could be a significant growth stunt to your audience.

Alex Armitage's picture

Next article idea perhaps? Either way I'll update you here directly as soon as I post!

Alex Armitage's picture

So I posted yesterday and the photo is my second most engaged post in the last year. Not sure what this means quite yet. But it certainly doesn't feel like my post went unseen because I hadn't posted.

davidlovephotog's picture

I see more people unfollow if you post too much than if you post once a week. I do the same. Don't want to be spammed all the time if I'm trying to view a variety of stuff.

JetCity Ninja's picture

for all the posts relating to instagram on this site, not one of your bloggers has ever posted the photographer to potential client ratio of your followerships.

because unless you’re selling prints to other photographers, the ratio is likely very poor in your favor, like most every other instagram-using photographer out there. and it is to that hypothesis i wonder why so much time and effort is made by the site and its bloggers to spend so much effort reporting on their experiences with the platform.

i was on instagram for 2 years and i can speak for myself and those who followed me that they had a lot of photographers on their follower lists. over 50%, in general. the exception were professionals who weren’t using instagram as portfolios, but as a photographic ephemeris.

Alex Armitage's picture

I'll confess I've never made any money from instagram or business. I did get a gig to fly to Bora Bora, Spain, and Indonesia through it. But that one is a really long odd story...

The business of landscape photography is very strange though. Something I'd like to write about in the future.

steve fischer's picture

As much as i am fed up with IG throttling engagement I have to disagree with you, clients do find you on instagram. granted what type of photography you shoot probably makes a big difference. But nobody is "selling prints to other photographers". The client bookings don't come from your followers necessarily but from clients you have worked for posting to their large followings and tagging/photo crediting. Art Directors and Editors follow those accounts and they do take notice of who is shooting for them. For instance when Playboy started posting images to their account from an editorial i shot for them I had more than 20 foreign editions of Playboy then publish to their editions and license those photos. I shot a campaign for a medium sized swimwear company out of Bali and once those were posted by the company and the model agencies i was contacted by a branding agency and booked a $24,000 shoot from that. I do not focus at all on building followers (i only have a couple thousand) but rather build into my deal sheets that the client and model agencies have to tag or photo credit me when using the images on social media. And then there are the models that have large followings and when they post images they are typically followed by large fashion brands and editorial clients that then know who the photographer was. Some large clients like Playboy do follow me but the majority of the large clients i get do not even follow me because they have a social media agency managing their account. But the art directors, creative directors, producers etc all still see the photo credit. I would say i book about 70% through people that find me on IG, 25% through ad or branding agencies and 5% or less through my website. I stopped focusing on gaining followers myself and instead focused on making sure clients tagged me. Because their competitors and editorial directors do keep a close eye on who is shooting for who.. Just my opinion

Jeremy Thomas's picture

What really matters are the people in my phone book and whose birthdays I remember. Who's making 100k a year leveraging their IG network here?

Jonathan Brady's picture

Come back strong with some incredible, edible egg pictures and you'll be King of the Instagram world!

Alex Armitage's picture

I'm thinking of taking pictures of eggs in front of beautiful landscapes. I have high hopes!

Matthew Saville's picture

I see your 90 days, and raise you this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMKZa-yPvUA

Alex Armitage's picture

While I don't disagree with many of the words spoken here. Recording and posting to youtube is a bit ironic if you're intention is to entirely disconnect and avoid the aspects of social media. Granted I guess if you just turn your camera on, talk into it and post without ever interacting. Maybe it's different enough.

Matthew Saville's picture

Not sure if you follow Dave's business model, but it's actually very liberating. He actually spends months of every year off in the wilderness, completely ignoring all contact with the outside world, (at least on social media) and letting his website run itself which I suppose generates residual income through the traditional (oldschool, almost, at this point) funnel-style business model.

It's a very different thing to just record videos of your adventures, and post them when you get back from that adventure, while still having zero other social media presence. I follow a handful of photographers and backpackers who do this, and it's a great way of life if you can make ends meet.

Alex Armitage's picture

I was being overly cynical and I can totally see how liberating that is. Not something I think I could do myself but certainly have felt those feelings of disconnect in smaller spurts.

Glem Let's picture

Some of us got our photo career going before digital and before social media.. nothing special about that, it was just as tough to get a break, an ‘in’ and to slowly get established. But after time and effort your career grows.

I am still as busy as I ever was, if not busier and I’ve never put any of my work on social media. And I’ve moved continents twice, so had to start again twice...I’m not saying social media is rubbish, far from it, look at those making big money on YouTube...

But can anyone tell my how a bunch of followers on Instagram turns into paid work..?

The people I work with, both old and new clients just don’t have the time to scroll through Instagram looking at photos... their interns might but the money spenders, the creatives are far too busy.

Add to that two possible negatives for posting your work on SM.

People steal it, use it and don’t pay you.
People copy it and make what was once a unique image commonplace.

I am open to changing and adapting but can anyone explain to me how Instagram is more than just ego massaging for serious amateur photographers..?

As Alex the OP said, he posted nothing for a month and nothing AT ALL changed..

I’m sitting here, ready to be convinced..

S

Alex Armitage's picture

I'd say if you are thriving and doing well regardless of social media, then who cares? It's quite a daunting task to start freshly in and certainly can be overwhelming for someone like me. I'd also point out that Instagram isn't your only option to find your way into clients or job. It just happens to be hands down the most active platform that's centered around photos.

I'm making a guess here but I can almost guarantee you that people such as Erin Babnik, Ted Gore, Ryan Dyar, or Daniel Kordan have found workshop clients or sponsors directly from Instagram. Again I have no proof to back that claim up, but it's highly likely. That's only pointing out landscape photographers.

If you look at people like Karl Shakur, heykelseyj, jamesrelfdyer, giuligartner, the list is countless. These are people traveling the world, earning a living, working hard and producing content just on Instagram. I have my qualms with this type of photography as it can begin to feel a bit narcissistic but at the end of the day these people are making a living and doing something they enjoy. Is it sustainable? Who knows.

A prime example is someone like Bejamin. From what I know he launched his entire photography career through instagram, won Hasselblad masters last year, and creates incredibly beautiful art.

At the end of the day it's a platform with an insane active user base. It's a tool to publish your work and potentially find new paths in your career if you get a bit lucky and do a lot of hard work. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, if you were trying to turn your hobby into a career right now, where would you start?

Dave F's picture

"Some of us got our photo career going before digital and before social media.. nothing special about that, it was just as tough to get a break, an ‘in’ and to slowly get established. But after time and effort your career grows."

Exactly. And those of us who got started a little later are just using social media as one of the available avenues to break through, though nothing has changed regarding how tough it is to do that. I think there's this misconception that social media = instant success and when that doesn't happen, people throw up their hands and say it doesn't work.

As somebody who's only gotten started with photography in the last few years and has made a quick move to doing paid work, I can safely say that most of the business I've gotten has been through Instagram, and the reason I can say that is because since I haven't been doing this for very long, Instagram is the only outlet I've really even used. Simply put, that's the only place where people CAN find me right now (other than a website and a barely touched Facebook profile). But as you said, eventually, over time, the current connections will expand beyond that outlet and I'll take it from there.

I don't consider myself an "instagram photographer" per se, in the sense that I don't have a huge following and I'm not trying to be an influencer (though I have had some small brands approach me about promoting their products, which I currently decline). It just happens to be something I started for fun and then people started asking me to do paid work. Maybe I just got lucky, maybe I didn't, I'm not going to pretend I know either way. But I'm also not going to sit around caring about what other people think just because I've gotten jobs through Instagram and other people haven't. The point is: it's been done, therefore it can be done.

Lastly, in my opinion, where people go wrong with trying to get work through social media is that they think that by posting a portfolio "professional" images, people are going to give a crap about your work and suddenly flock to you. In my experience it doesn't work that way. Your work doesn't mean anything to people if they don't find a personal connection with it. Case in point, 98% of the stuff I post are landscape photos of my city. But I'll bet I've gotten more portrait inquires from people than some who have IG accounts dedicated only to portraits. The reason is, people don't care about seeing perfectly lit studio shots of other people's faces plastered across their IG feed all day, but they do care about seeing their city shown in a good light. They identify with that, so they follow me. And when it comes time for them to consider photography as a service, whether for personal use or a local business, they contact me because they connect with me.

So in the end, I think social media is a great way to get business, but it's like anything else... if people feel like you're selling something, they're less likely to engage with you. You need to give them something they WANT to follow.

Alex Armitage's picture

tldr: Instagram is a lot more complicated than people think. And it's not easy to monetize.

Dave F's picture

"tldr"

And that's exactly why people fail. Details matter.

Glem Let's picture

Dave
Thanks for your input, I find it amazing, we are both looking at different ends of a 25yr timespan in pro photography, and going about it in two very different ways... yet what you said at the end is spot on and exactly why I haven’t tried IG

It’s all about relationships and a persons connection with your work and then with you. That’s why they give you the work and that same principle applies to us both and to many pro shooters out there, regardless of how we get our name out.

So good for you, what pleases me is that you have a grasp of how business works and are finding success doing it your way using tools you want to use.

Keep up the good work...

I like your point that your landscapes get you portrait work. I’ve shot fashion all these years and now sell landscapes from those location scouting days...!!!

Andy Barnham's picture

Yes! Welcome to life, and work, where social media is not a priority! I've been very open about my criticism of Insta, both as a tool to find work and also as it's a huge money making extension of the (FB) Empire. I never gained any business from it or other social media.

Part of my New Year's resolutions included deleting my business FB page, resetting my Twitter (my tweets weren't focused on my business) and I'm now logging into Inst once a week to post two images. I now have a) more time, b) focused engagement with what I'm reading on Twitter and c) don't care about 'Likes' on Insta. Loving it!

Good luck!

Dave F's picture

"I never gained any business from it or other social media."

Perhaps you're just doing it wrong.

Andy Barnham's picture

Maybe. However that doesn't change my disdain of the monopoly that is Zuckerburg who doesn't care about privacy. You, I, we are all just data points earning him $$$.

Adam Nelson's picture

Man, some people in these comments seem to have some SERIOUS trauma from Instagram... Rarely do I see someone with a grotesque amounts of followers that isn't earning it... More followers often equals more exposure and more opportunity. Is that not something worth pursuing?!

Alex Armitage's picture

That's where I'm at. Keep trying unless it's too much to worry about just like I describe above. I think the issue is the entry to have an actual effect on you business is quite large. Depending on what you shoot of course.

Kirk Schwarz's picture

Gaining or loosing followers is immaterial. The real concern of not posting for prolonged periods of time is the loss of engagement and visibility, thanks to the Facebook-esque algorithm that they use.

I noticed, when I ceased posting daily about 2 years ago, that my followers have dropped from just over 5k, to about 3.5K presently. That's fair, I don't bother anymore, so why should they.

What wasn't fair was that if I tried to get back into it, as I have once or twice, the amount of people who see my posts has greatly diminished. I went from between 150-300 likes per post to 30 likes per post, if I'm lucky. When people don't interact with you on a regular basis, the algorithm thinks they aren't interested, and thus decides that you won't show up on their feeds. Moving from chronological to Arseofficial (artificial) intelligence is the worst thing Insta has done, and is a large part of me not bothering to try with it again.

Alex Armitage's picture

I guess we are about to find out what that's like when I post again. I'm crossing my fingers but also realize it may take time.

Kirk Schwarz's picture

You're not wrong, it can be like starting from the ground up... and this time the rules have changed!

Good luck!

Alex Armitage's picture

The two posts I've made since coming back are some of my highest engaged posts of the last year. So I guess I'm not worried about this? haha

Michelle Maani's picture

And what good does having a following do you? "Exposure?" I have yet to meet a photographer that got jobs because of his or her instagram feed. Exposure doesn't pay the bills.

Alex Armitage's picture

There's multiple people in these comments that have responded saying they got jobs directly from Instagram.

I think having a following absolutely can get you clients. Regardless of the medium you shoot.