Lately, Instagram has become one of my go-to platform for sharing photographs. The Naina.co blog remains the number one place to see everything I do and write about – like this post – but Instagram is one of those dedicated social platforms that I enjoy posting to and I also enjoy looking at the work of other international photographers. Since my usage of Instagram has increased, the instances of misuse that I spot have also increased. If you are using the platform, there is no excuse to not know how to use the platform. There are hundreds of articles online detailing Instagram Etiquette and mostly everyone has access to Google if they have access to Instagram. “Oh I didn’t know!” is no excuse. Find out. When in doubt, ask.
Credit & Re-Post
If you see something you like on another Instagrammer’s account, there are many tools available to re-post smartly. I use the Re-Post app on my Android.
a. Always include the original text of what the original poster had included with their photo.
b. Ideally add something before the re-posted text to maybe mention why you’re re-posting.
c. Writing things like “Photo by X” or “Re-Posted from X” in the comments is not acceptable, especially when the photo caption is now editable. If you truly liked what you are re-posting, the least you can do is re-post with proper credit. Once the photo has been re-posted without credit, your adding credit in the comments is pointless and foolish. As a photographer, I do not allow any re-sharing of images from my blog without written permission. But on Instagram, I am more than happy to see my photographs being re-posted by people from all over the world because that means additional exposure and I am grateful for that. But if you are re-posting photos without proper credit and me or my lawyer spot the misuse, expect to be called out ( at minimum ) after we’ve saved screenshots.
d. Taking screenshots and re-posting without credit is illegal under copyright law. Not knowing the law is not a good enough reason to expect to be let off for committing a crime. Yes. This is serious business.
If I’m a fashion photographer and you are a model and you are in a photo that I’ve shot and posted on my Instagram, don’t write something like this in the comments, “Hey can you send me this photo?” Firstly, just because I’ve photographed you doesn’t mean we’re friends. You could introduce yourself, say Hello!, and ask me what the correct protocol for this exchange is if you don’t already know. Secondly, no, I will not “Send” any photo to anyone. You are welcome to purchase the photo. Even if it has you in it yes. I’m not using the photo for any commercial purposes so I don’t need a model release. Please read up on how photography works even if you’re not a photographer because you might be in a career that avails massive benefits of being photographed well. For example, if you’re a model or a fashion designer or a runway set-designer, or a fashion stylist or an architect and so on.
When in doubt, ask.
Find your style and then stick to it : only travel photos? Only quotable quotes? Only fashion photos? Or if it is a personal account, photos of everything. Whatever it is, make it yours, own it. Selfies? Sure why not! Do not apologize for what is very much your own Instagram account. If you are a professional blogger / Instagrammer, find a balance between brand updates and personal updates. We want to know the real you as well as the branded you.
You don’t necessarily have to respond to each “Nice!” comment. Because sometimes you just can’t. Instagram should bring in a feature where “Like” notifications are separate from “Comment” notifications. I’m about to hit 10,000 subscribers and I’m starting to lose track of the kind people who take the time to leave a comment. There are some regulars that I enjoy interacting with and I hate it that I miss their comments sometimes. I even have people who have conversations with each other commenting on my photo updates!
Ideally, do not post too many photos in one go unless you are live-posting something or if you regularly post a lot of photos in one go, in which case most of your subscribers / followers will “get it”. ( I really like the fact that there is no way to figure out when someone’s unfollowed me on Instagram – if there is, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. It hurts. ) Any deviation from the expected norm will create some upheaval in subscriber numbers in the short run.
Including the #FollowForFollow hashtag does nothing except maybe get you a bunch of people who only want more followers and are not interested in what you post. Engaged users, even if fewer in number, are much more valuable than those who only follow you because you follow them.
Buying Instagram follower numbers is a business reality. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good business decision. Maybe one out of a hundred such followers is going to convert into an engaged subscriber. Engaged subscribers are invaluable. They connect with who you are instead of just following you because they got paid to do so.
Only tag people in photos when those people are there in those photos. Even if you want to tag the photographer who shot the photo that you’re re-sharing, tag them in the caption, not in the photo – they are not present in that photo. Brands that tag users in photos of their products are likely to be blocked permanently after I leave them a public comment asking them not to do so. Really. If I am not there in the photo, don’t tag me.
Linking your Instagram and Twitter handles is ideal. Especially if you share your Instagram posts to Twitter. If the handles are not linked, your Instagram handle shows up as an unlinked name/handle on the Twitter stream. When someone else posts about you like this, you lose out on an opportunity to reach that person’s audience because now there’s an additional step involved for people to figure out your Twitter / Instagram handle and I don’t know too many people who are going to make that effort.
A handful of reasonable hashtags is understandable. One hundred hashtags in each of your Instagram updates are probably not getting you as much traction as you spend in maintaining the list of these hashtags and then doing the copy/paste routine each time.
I’ve read in many articles that posting DSLR photos on Instagram is like “cheating” and I absolutely disagree. Each person uses each social network based on what they’re comfortable with and what they like. At the end of the day, each subscriber / follower knows exactly what is being posted and are free to unfollow / continue to follow. I know my audience is intelligent enough to tell the difference between my DSLR photos and phone photos. My phone photos don’t have watermarks. My social networks are a reflection of my life and my life includes professional photography.
Of course Instagram as a platform could add more much-requested features like being able to share clickable URLs in posts and comments and the ability to schedule posts but the latter is also one of the reasons Instagram is probably the only social network when if you see a post from someone, you know they got online to post it.
I’m @naina.co on Instagram. I signed on to the platform only when it was released for Android mobile devices. I thought it was too late but as the last couple of years have shown, good content receives appreciation and engagement regardless of how “late” one starts on the program!