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The Best Way to Hashtag for Instagram

Using hashtags is still one of the best ways to get new eyes on your content regardless of what social media platform you are using. This method will save you time and change how you apply hashtags forever.

Growing a following on social media has many different rules to follow, and every bit counts if you're trying to get more eyes on your work. My biggest issue with hashtags was simply how long they take to do, especially knowing platforms "shadow ban" repeated use of the same hashtags. This means if you come up with a generic list and use it for every post, it will stop showing up in those hashtags. 

Secondly, the best hashtags to use are typically ones that match the content you are posting, which you also cannot accomplish with a simple list that you post to every image. So, how do you avoid repeating hashtags and use hashtags that match your content in a short amount of time? The answer is comically simple, yet incredibly time-saving. 

Text Replacement

Old method

Previous to finding out how to do this, I kept a document that had hashtags for any type of photo I might post. These could be location-based, subjects such as aerial or long exposure, or tags that match the vibe. You'll notice just a fraction of my tag sets in the above picture. The problem was having to scroll through and find all the appropriate tags for whatever photo I was posting. This saved time but still wasn't anywhere close to as efficient as what I'm about to show you.

Text replacement: you know that annoying thing on your phone where you type "omw" and it writes out the statement instead. It's that simple, and it wasn't until a friend suggested using it for tags that I had even thought about it. Here is how to do this for both systems.

iOS Instructions

  • Open Settings > Navigate to General Keyboards > Text Replacement > Tap the "+" Icon

Android Instructions

  • Open Settings > General Management > "Brand" Keyboard Management > More Typing Options > Text Shortcuts > Tap the "+" Icon

Adding a new hashtag

As an example, if you wanted a tag that was specific to the Milky Way, you could use "#milky" like above and input any hashtags that relate to astrophotography. One caveat is Android doesn't allow you to use the hashtag symbol in the shortcut, but you could just use a word like "tag," resulting in "tagmilky" instead.

Text replacement examples

It's as simple as that. This allows you to populate a lot of unique hashtags for every post in a short amount of time. You just have to do a lot of upfront work deciding on which hashtags you want to use for any subjects you cover. Keep in mind you'll want quite a few generic sets of hashtags but not to repeat them in every post. 

Hope this was helpful for you as it was for me when I was turned on to it. As always, thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments if you think there are other great ways to go about this.

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26 Comments
Deleted Account's picture

My reach was limited to people who interract with my profile (the only reason I haven't closed the account is those people).

New rule for me is a title and precisely 2 hashtags. It hasn't changed my reach at all.

Alex Armitage's picture

Really depends on the photo for me! Sometimes its a complete miss, other times it's not.

Deleted Account's picture

It doesn't for me. I consistently get about 1% of my followers seeing my posts.

I imagine there's a tipping point, where the algorithm starts giving your post exposure. I'll never reach that point, and I increasingly don't care.

The more time goes on, the more I realise how empty social media is; people reflexively hit "like" and move on, forgetting what they just looked at.

John Perhach's picture

Hmm, I hate to say it, but I truly feel that photography would be in a far better place with a lot less Instagram,Facebook, or Twitter!!!
With that said, Pretty much at this point in the game hashtags aren’t even that important because people no matter their skill can simply pay their way to gaining Instagram exposure a long side all the other ways people get ahead on there.

My personal feelings about social media especially Instagram & Facebook it reminds me of if you were to put frogs into a pot of water and slowly brought the water to a boil when it comes to how much they have both damaged the way people interact socially & with the landscape while they are in the field experiencing things. Instagram is so baked into peoples lives that they can’t live with out being on it for longer than a hour or less often or even worse they wont communicate with people outside of the stupid app like basic normal texting or phone calls even if they have your number or you reach out to them that way.

You can go out with people and pretty much the who time they are only thinking & talking about Instagram related everything, they are collecting videos for their story’s the whole time regardless of what is actually going on right in front of them or if they have a chance to have real conversations with people.. Everything is just Instagram Instagram Instagram and once the outing is done they rush to cell service to dump story’s and to hurry up and be the first person to post a photo or multiple photos from the outing with in a hour of getting home.

All in all, It is simply my belief that social media is gross and has seriously weaseled its way deep into one to many people lives at this point with detrimental results even if they don’t see it themselves.

Deleted Account's picture

My suspicion is that something better will come along, and people will just walk. I don't know anyone who likes FB or IG, and FB is for old people.

And yeah, social media has done us no favours. The Social Dilemma on Netflix is worth a watch.

John Perhach's picture

Exactly! I just wish people didn’t think being hooked onto another social media platform (Twitter) was the savior because it is not. All of them are simply designed to be this way. Their whole business model is to hook people for life and exploit their emotions & data!

I actually have not watched “The Social Dilemma”, but have very much experienced or have recognized everything that was said in it plus I have listened to both of the podcasts that Tristen guy has done with Joe Rogan so that might be just as good as watching the documentary if not a little better due to them being able to elaborate a lot more with new information.

It is also super good for photographers who have woken up to the true nature of social media to talk to each other about it. If anything it helps people not feel like they are crazy or alone with their realizations.

Tom Reichner's picture

I respectfully disagree that social media has "done us no favors".

Because of Instagram, I have met dozens of other wildlife photographers all around the United States. We first meet on Instagram, because we like and post photos of the same species of wildlife.

Then we comment on each other's images, often in detail.

The detailed comments become too big to post as comments, so we start direct messaging each other.

We continue messaging each other, and become friends, and via direct messages we discuss all sorts of things about the wildlife photography that we're doing, and that which we aspire to do.

In the course of messaging, we invite each other to meet at places we plan to go for upcoming wildlife shoots.

We meet up in real life when we're each at a wildlife photography location, such as a National Wildlife Refuge, National Park, or State Park. After each day of shooting, we eat dinner together. We may even lodge together, because going in "halfsies" on a hotel room makes the trip far more affordable for each of us.

Or, when an Instagram friend comes to my area to shoot the wildlife around here, he stays at my place. And when I go to another Instagram friend's area to shoot the wildlife near them, I stay at their place.

Then of course we keep in touch throughout the year and share what we've been up to, with regards to our wildlife photography endeavors. More opportunities to meet up and shoot together, or go in together on trip expenses, pop up from time to time.

We both do much better at wildlife photography because we are sharing all of our info with each other.

Now when you see that many of us have developed a dozen or two such friendships, all because of Instagram, you can see how valuable Instagram has become in bringing people together who have similar niche interests. There are, quite literally, thousands upon thousands of photographers who are using Instagram in this way - as a way to make friends who soon become real life friends. It's like the greatest matchmaking service for wildlife and landscape photographers who want to get to know other wildlife and landscape photographers all over the country or world!

So that is why I beg to differ with your "done us no favors" comment. Many of the people who I am very close to in real life, I never would have met, had it not been for Instagram.

Thank you, Instagram!

Deleted Account's picture

I meant our species.

John Perhach's picture

I do understand that for many it has been great, but I suspect that since you are shooting wild life and not so much involved in shooting landscapes the people you come across are probably a lot different. From what you described basically the folks you deal with are like normal and understand that in a relationship reciprocating things is part of being friends.

In the landscape world things are most definitely super different at least in my experiences especially living in the PNW. It would also be a lie if I said I never met anyone on the app because in fact my only legit photography friend is someone that I met on there. He slide into my comments and not long after into my DM, but the biggest difference was he came to me as a equal with zero suspect of him ever wanting to be anything besides my friend. Other people not so much at all sadly, most people drop into my DM with the “Yo Bro take me here” bullshit because they can’t find anything on their own even if it is in their own back yard. I have even tried to link up and plan something with someone locally that once inspired me only to have them get enough info off me before saying lets hold off, but they went that very weekend to the location with out me, I have had other people blow smoke about shooting, but when it comes time thats all it ever was. Even when I came into contact with a big time pro from the gram it seemed like all they ever did was talk a insane amounts of shit on everyone and that was all they ever wanted to do vs talking about weather stuff, coming up with photo adventures, going to scout locations at off times which leaves me super confused because in the beginning I was very much led to believe the best put in a lot of time on the planning end of things and understand the weather. There is also very much a serious high school level hierarchy of cool people & clicks out here that is 100% for sure as well.

I still recall the first person I ever planned a meet up completely flaking out on me which led me to sit waiting for them out on forest road for a hour and later on when I went on their Instagram it turns out their excuse of being sick was a complete lie because they went to all the waterfalls we talked about with out me.

Believe me for what ever reason I have had a super terrible time

John Perhach's picture

To drive my point home about people not being able to find their way around their own backyard. There was a guy around me that has taken a lot of workshops and is good as a result, but home boy legit is scared to and or has invested no time into the art of finding places so they clearly and very unashamedly use others to take them places.🤷🏻‍♂️ These types of behaviors are rampant on the gram from what I can see so it isn’t even just that person to be fair.

It really didn’t take me long as someone who has never taken a workshop or lesson, but who has spent the time to learn google earth & other tools to find places without asking others or needing to depend on others that he is only out to use me.
At one point he even had to ask me where the god damn Instagram famous old rusty car is at Columbia hills (wildflowers) and the “tree” which blew my mind because the car is visible from the parking lot!! used google earth to find the stupid tree in seconds for him even tho I had never ever been to it which yet again blows my mind considering he fancies himself as big time professional at this point.

S M's picture

So I tend to agree with both John and Tom in this convo. At first, IG was fun for inspiration and learning more about photography. It was easy to meet people with the same interests and be able to have something to talk about when I was out shooting and discovering myself (I was also transitioning careers at this point). I met a few photographers I still talk to today in the landscape world, but they niched down on what they liked to photograph (IE Tom and his wildlife friends), and then the ones chasing clout I moved on from. I felt the majority of them had similar looks and my feed was becoming very homogeneous because of it.

I also feel that PNW and California have the same issue worth clout chasing photographers, wanting to be the next Shainblum or Getty, rush to post a half-assed edited image to claim their stamp on the shot and wanting to move on to the next one. There's no true personal relationship built with these people, they are mostly about themselves and I grew tired of it.

By the way, John. If you have met and are friends with Josh Latham, or Tara Workman, tell them I say hi. I met Josh up in Oregon 4 years ago when I was road-tripping up there. We caught bioluminescence out where Pistol River meets the ocean.

Tom Reichner's picture

What a nicely written comment! Thanks for that.

Tom Reichner's picture

My goodness - I feel terrible for you, that other photographers have mistreated you in such ways.

Within the wildlife photography genre, things couldn't be more different. Many photographers who I have never met before offer lots of information, give up locations, offer to house me for the night, loan me gear, guide me to new spots ..... often without asking for, or expecting, anything at all in return.

I am in the Pacific Northwest myself. Well, at least I am if you consider the eastern slope of the Cascades to be in the PNW. I'm not much of a landscape photographer, but I do come across some good landscape opportunities from time to time. I would be glad to share any such opportunities with you.

Not sure exactly where you live within the PNW, but I am in Okanogan, Washington, about 4 1/2 hours east of the greater Seattle area. Would be glad to show you anything I know about that you may be interested in. Have been having some nice "winter wonderland" landscape opportunities lately, due to the recent cold snap and so much snow falling these past two weeks.

HMU if interested
(that's younger generation talk for "hit me up")

Deleted Account's picture

Removed and placed in main thread.

Robert Nurse's picture

This was a handy tip! Thanks Alex!

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

The problem with that method is IG bans hashtags with no reason or rhyme (based off their idiotic 'algorithm'), so one day you could find one of your preset hashtags been banned which may then ban your entire post. For instance, even #workflow and #overnight are banned as of today. That's how freakin' stupid IG is.

With that said, as much as I can't stand IG because the app doesn't rotate for horizontal images :), I prefer it than models' or photgraphers' websites. IG gives me a gist of what the models actually look like; or what the photographers' work typically looks like.

John Perhach's picture

Well yeah, Of course they are actively banning hashtags because it will force everyone into paying for reach and also further fuck with peoples heads.
It isn’t hard to see that they will eventually have it so you will go nowhere on there unless you pay for reach on ever post.

Deleted Account's picture

OK, a couple of the things I think about in this space (the following list is not even remotely close to exhaustive):

- In social media, the consumer is the product. Large companies, whose only motivation is profit maximisation, constantly conduct experiments upon the user base (over 2 billion people for FB) to modify behaviour and to increase profits.

- Individuals project idealised versions of themselves; consequently, everyone thinks they have to project an idealised version of themself. We have a situation where society is increasingly aspirationally framed, around money and material things, and we are becoming increasingly disconnected as a society.

- There is a corresponding increase in psychological disorders resulting from the above. Of peripheral relevance to photography, is the increase in eating disorders in both genders.

- Included within psychological disorders, is the rampant addiction to electronic devices (it is an addiction); social media is engineered to keep you coming back - they work to maximise neurochemical response. A reasonable argument is being made that our phones are first generation cybernetic devices; they're not biomechanical/bioelectronic devices, but they are always with us, and we are always plugged into them.

- Neurolinguists have made reasonable arguments that our brains are being re-wired, in the same way our brains were re-wired when our species moved from oral histories to written histories.

- Contrary to what many people think, there has been a convergence of thought as we become increasingly connected; dissenting opinion and difference is punished, often to the point people commit suicide (see also: Overton window).

- Paradoxically (compared to my previous), society is becoming more politically polarised and disaggregated - this is a broader conversation, but is still pertinent (see also: echo chamber; and confirmation bias).

I'm sorry, I just don't really think about photography when I'm considering the impacts social media has upon society and its constituent members.

Tom Reichner's picture

I don't contest that all, or at least most, of what you have said here about social media is true.

But on an individual basis, it doesn't have to be true. Each user can determine for themselves how they will use social media platforms and what influence it will have on them.

I use social media to find people in other places who are interested in the same thing I am - wildlife and wildlife photography. I connect with those people and communicate with them about our shared interests.

When I started to get interested in photographing reptiles and amphibians, I turned to Instagram for information. I found some really expert reptile photographers, as well as some herpetologists. I targeted those who are in Arizona, because that is where I decided to take a month-long photo trip for snakes and lizards.

I reached out to a good number of these Arizona herpetologists and herp photographers on Instagram. I "liked" their posts, left questions in the comment area of their posts, and got many insightful answers to my questions there. I also "bookmarked" some of these posts to a special collection of images, viewable only to me, as a way of saving those that contained especially helpful information.

Eventually I sent direct messages to several of these Arizona folks and received lots of helpful info and encouragement. The guy who I considered to be the very best, most prolific reptile and amphibian photographer offered to guide me personally, and he not only took several days of his time to accompany me to many of his favorite snake and lizard spots, but also spent hours teaching me about the lifecycle of each of the critters that we found. It was like spending a week out in nature with a human herpetological encyclopedia!

Another of the folks I found on Instagram serves as the Vice President of the Tucson Herpetological Society. I never met him in person, but we had many phone conversations about where I could find various species of reptiles in southern Arizona. He helped me schedule and plan my trip while I was still at home here in Washington, and then when I got to Arizona he called a few times to ask how I was doing, and to offer more specific location recommendations.

There are several other herp experts that I found on Instagram who helped me in Arizona, but I won't mention each one because I have already written so much. But I still keep in touch with all of them regularly, and I am planning to guide one of them on a waterfowl photo trip this spring, and another of those AZ guys is going to accompany me on my annual Deer photography trip next November.

THIS is what social media is all about, to me. A lot of information gained and a lot of meaningful friendships made. Friendships that will continue for years and years.

William, what you have written about social media is vastly different than what I have written about social media. I think the differences occur because of the different objectives that we have when using social media. If people use social media to impress others, and to get lots of followers, and to try to somehow get more money due to their social media "presence", well that is kind of a whacked and selfish way of thinking, and such people deserve what they get.

But if one is using social media as an ultra-efficient research tool, and as a way to get to know others who love the same things they love, then they will find a bounty of long-lasting benefits that come from their social media use.

Deleted Account's picture

I'm not at all certain what your hoping to acheive by repeating your previous objections, Tom.

Like all such things, people sit within a Bell Curve, and statistical outliers are a thing.

To your objection about efficiency of research. As a society, we have adopted efficiency, quantity, wealth, and intelligence as being synonymous with "good"; they are not, they're attributes.

Tom Reichner's picture

What I am hoping to achieve?

That's easy!

I want to show everyone the way that Instagram and other social media can be used for meaningful things, and not just to amass popularity or likes or whatever. I want people to realize that the best way to use Instagram is to use it to build real-life friendships, and for education, as an information-gathering tool.

Many people don't know this. They are on Instagram, and post to it, but they don't realize that it can be used primarily as a way to get to know others, and to get close to others. Nor do they realize that it can be used as a research tool, like an encyclopedia would be used.

The comments I am making here are written so that others can learn how social media should be used. Just because most people use something a certain way, doesn't mean that that is the way they should be using it.

People can vastly improve their social media usage if they read what I have suggested and start doing it themselves. If they don't, then many will fall into the social media pitfalls that you have detailed so well in your comments.

Daniel Medley's picture

I view Instagram as an extension of local word of mouth. I don't care about getting a gazillion followers. I'd say well over 90 percent of work generated for me comes from Instagram and people within a hundred miles of me. What good would a bunch of followers hundreds if not thousands of miles from me do?

Oh, don't get me wrong, I do use hashtags, but I certainly don't spend time trying to "figure out the system." I just use what seems relevant.

Mike McNelly's picture

Very helpful and well written Alex, thank you!

Alex Armitage's picture

Thanks Mike!

Kristian Brynie Hollund's picture

Hashtags gets me new likes, but not new followers. I honestly think it's easier to cheat or pay, and that's what they want you to do (latter). Not that it's a big focus for me, I work first and foremost on photography to please myself.

Catherine Bowlene's picture

IG bans on hashtags are very real that's why I stopped using them altogether. It's not like I was an avid hashtag user before, I would just put something like 'my_city photography' or the name of software I used to do the paticular edit, like 'Photoglory before and after' etc, but the ban thing has me quitting using them.