Instagram boasts over 500 million total users with over 300 million users active every day. With so many active users on a platform designed with photography in mind, Instagram is a natural match for up-and-coming commercial photographers.

Are you wondering how to use Instagram as a commercial photographer? Building your social media strategy takes some planning, but it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming or take away from the actual creative parts of your business. Keep reading to learn the best ways to use Instagram for advertising your photographer services to expand your business. 


Importance of Social Media for Professional Photographers

Social media packs a strong punch in the business world. Social media marketing performs 11 times better than banner ads for businesses that tap into the power of online influencers. Social media also keeps you connected and gets your name out to more people than you could ever reach in person. The use of Instagram for professional photographers in particular can benefit your business in many ways, which leads to greater profitability for your creative endeavor.

Some of the best ways to use social media for photography business growth include:

  • Reaching clients: Posting your work on Instagram gives your potential clients a way to see your skills and find you. The sheer size of the platform is enough reason to use it as a tool to reach clients.

  • Connecting with other photographers: Instagram is a great way to find other photographers in your specialty or in a similar place in building their photography businesses. This is the perfect chance to collaborate and network with your fellow photographers.

  • Finding inspiration: Social media lets photographers upload images instantly. You can quickly see which images are popular with the masses. You may find inspiration for your own photography business or learn more about the current trends in photography. All of this inspiration helps you advance your own photography business.

  • Testing ideas: Social media gives you instant feedback from your followers and clients. If you want to know how a particular idea, photography effect or service might go over, post it on Instagram or other social media outlet to see how your audience receives those ideas. Testing ideas before fully implementing them can save you time and money by improving products to maximize profitability before launching them.

  • Sharing special deals: Instagram is a great way to advertise an upcoming special to your followers. Post images that highlight the details of those specials.


Impact of Instagram on Photography

The Instagram effect on photography ups the stakes for professional and aspiring photographers. Instagram takes photographic techniques that have been around for years and makes them accessible to the everyday person. Suddenly, anyone could apply a filter to a photo snapped on a phone, even without special editing software or photography experience.

That accessibility led to a shift in professional marketing photography from highly staged photos to more natural, organic images. That doesn’t mean those images go unedited, though. Most brands still focus heavily on editing or hiring photographers to shoot professional-quality images that look like random snapshots, but Instagram does allow for a less-than-perfect style that better reflects the real clients and consumers.

The popularity of the platform also pushes the quality of images higher. With so many photographers flooding Instagram, many bring with them a creative, cutting-edge style that embraces new techniques. What does that mean for you? It means you need to produce your best work to stand out in a sea of highly styled images.


Setting up Your Instagram Account

Before you ever post a photo on Instagram, spend time building an effective profile that helps you gain business. This profile sets the tone for your account and helps visitors decide whether or not to follow you. It’s also the only place you can provide a hyperlink to your photography website. This gives visitors a chance to connect with you further. Don’t miss this opportunity to hook potential clients and build your fan base.

Create a simple, specific bio that tells exactly what type of photography you do, and make it easy for potential clients to get in touch with you through your Instagram bio. The bio is also your chance to show off your creativity and your personality. Do you dazzle clients with your outgoing personality? Do you know how to make anyone laugh to get natural joyful expressions? Are you quirky? Let these characteristics show in your Instagram profile and posts. This helps you attract the type of client you want to work with and who will connect to your personal approach to photography.

Make your Instagram profile public as well. This allows anyone to find you. If your account is set to private, you miss out on many opportunities to get your work out to more people. Most people won’t go through the hassle of requesting access to your account.


Separating Personal and Professional Content

Commercial photography and Instagram are a natural match, but don’t confuse your audience by mixing personal and professional. That perfect shot of your adorable puppy, photos of your daughter’s first birthday, your new furniture — they’re all great, we’re sure, but posting too many personal photos on your business Instagram page confuses followers and may cause them to lose interest. Put most of those personal photos on your separate personal Instagram account, not on your business account. 

Photography clients don’t mind a small peek behind the curtain, but if you post too many personal photos, they may lose interest. When you share something from your personal life, make sure it is something your target audience cares about and wants to see. Keep the presentation professional, somehow linking it back to your photography business. You might post a photo of sightseeing you did while shooting a photography session in another city, for example.

Choosing Relevant Content

The photos you publish on Instagram carry weight in establishing your reputation as a photographer. That doesn’t mean you should only post your very best portfolio-worthy images, but posting a consistent, general type of photography helps build brand awareness and gets you noticed.

Here are some tips for choosing the type of images that go on your Instagram account:

  • Highlight your best work: Choose photos that represent your talent as a photographer. Instagram is a bit like an informal portfolio for your photography work. Treat it as such by highlighting your creativity and talent.

  • Edit before posting: Instagram has many integrated filter options, but those features don’t compare to your own editing processes. Do your own professional editing to your Instagram photos to show your followers your skills as a creative photographer. Upload the edited version in its final form.

  • Mix planned and spontaneous photos: While your photography business Instagram account should maintain a professional vibe, giving followers a “behind the scenes” look at your business can help you form organic relationships. That variety keeps your followers interested.

  • Use consistent editing: When you use a consistent editing style, you create photos with your distinct signature, and that makes them easy to identify as yours. This gives the photos a unifying quality, even if the subject matter varies.

  • Complement your website: Don’t treat your Instagram page as a duplicate of your website or professional portfolio. Give your followers something extra. Think of Instagram as a supplement to your photography business website. It should be obvious that both belong to you, but you need to offer something a little different to drive traffic to both places. Don’t forget to link to your Instagram from your website, and vice versa.

  • Think about what your audience wants to see: When posting, consider your target audience. Who are you marketing your photography services to? What type of photos does that demographic want to see? Getting in the mind of that target audience helps you customize your posts to hook your followers and leave them wanting more.


Planning out your content creates a consistent presentation that makes your Instagram page undeniably yours. Still not sure what to post? Consider these ideas:

  • Sneak peeks at your latest projects

  • Beautiful images from your day if your target audience will also find them beautiful

  • Shots of your workspace in a behind-the-scenes type post

  • Images from shoots that show your setup or the creative parts of the shoot

  • Photos highlighting your packages or services

  • Images of your business cards, logos and other branding items

  • Pictures of printed photos or other products ready for delivery

  • Images that will appeal to your target audience, such as wedding-related images if you are a wedding photographer with a following of brides-to-be

  • Professional selfies so potential clients feel connected to you

Preparing Your Photos for Instagram

Part of editing and preparing your photos for Instagram is addressing the format of the platform. Instagram is often used on mobile devices, which changes the ideal image qualities to provide the best viewing experience. Maximize your Instagram impact with the following tips:

  • Crop images: The small image size on a mobile device means a wide view loses its impact. Your followers won’t see the details in those images. Instead, crop the photos for a closer view that allows mobile users to see the detail in your image.

  • Highlight the details: Since the fine details aren’t as noticeable, take advantage of the editing process to bring those details to the forefront. Make use of contrast, sharpened details and saturation to emphasize the parts of the image you want as the focal point.


  • Resize images before uploading: Instagram compresses high-resolution images to make them better suited for mobile devices without eating up space and processing power. Preserve the quality of your images by resizing the photos yourself before adding them to your Instagram account.

Protecting Your Photography

Using Instagram is a great way to gain exposure for your photos, but putting your work out before the public also opens you up to the effects of people with no sense of ethics. To protect your photos from being used by others without getting the credit you deserve, always add watermarks to your work. Your photography business name and website work well as the watermark.  


Using Hashtags and Tagging Effectively

Hashtags help others find your photos on Instagram. Think of it as SEO for your photos. Adding hashtags to your photos makes them show up when someone searches for those particular words or phrases.

Instagram lets you add up to 30 tags on one photo. To add the tag, simply use the hashtag symbol followed immediately by the word or phrase with no spaces, such as #chicagophotographer. Your photo then shows up on the hashtag page associated with that word or phrase, helping you reach beyond people who already follow you on Instagram.

Keep these tips in mind when using tags on Instagram:

  • Be specific: Keep your tags short and specific to make your photo easier to find.

  • Think about potential searches: If you’re not sure what type of hashtags to use, consider what your potential clients might search. Examples include the location of a photo shoot, your hometown, the type of photography you do, camera types or specific details in your photos, such as #weddingveil or #babybooties.

  • Include your brand name: Make your photography business name more recognizable by hashtagging it on all of your photos.

  • Don’t go overboard: Just because you can add 30 hashtags doesn’t mean you should. Finding a happy medium often produces the best results. Pick five to 10 targeted hashtag phrases to maximize the results without coming across as spammy or overdone.

  • Use popular hashtags effectively: Many hashtags are very popular on Instagram. While using those phrases can greatly increase your exposure, the hashtags should actually be relevant to your photo to get the right kind of traffic and following for your account.

  • Use geotags: Tagging the location of the photo helps you attract a local audience. This helps you build your area exposure by letting locals know you are in business.

You also have the option to tag people in your Instagram posts. To tag a person, type @ followed immediately by the person’s profile name with no space. This draws the person’s attention to the photo, which may result in the person sharing, liking or otherwise interacting with the photo, ultimately helping your brand.


People you might tag include:

  • Clients featured in the photo shoot

  • Other vendors who worked at a particular event

  • A photographer who inspired a new technique you tried

  • A person who is interested in the topic you’re posting about

  • Someone who has an upcoming session scheduled, and you want to share an idea with the person


Creating a Posting Schedule

Consistency is key in growing your Instagram following and keeping engagement high. If you post 10 photos in one day and then don’t post for two weeks, your followers won’t know what to expect and won’t care much about your account.

Decide on the frequency and number of photos you want to post on Instagram. Aim for at least one weekly post. If you plan to post daily, stick to one or two photos. Posting too many photos in one day can turn off some followers and make you seem spammy. People may start tuning out when they see posts from you, which reduces interactions with your photos.


Timing can also impact how much attention your photo receives. Mornings tend to generate the greatest number of interactions with Instagram photos. Many people head straight to social media platforms when they wake to see what’s new. Wake up early yourself to catch your target audience first thing in the morning.

Do your own market research by posting at various times during the day and noting which get the most responses. You may find your specific audience responds better at a different time or on a particular day of the week.

Growing Your Following

When learning how to use Instagram for advertising, one important element is building your number of followers. You can post amazing photos, but they won’t grow your business if no one finds them. Organically growing your follower count increases brand awareness and connects you with potential clients.

Try these methods for gaining Instagram followers who are truly interested in your business:

  • Participate: Instagram is ultimately a community. You can’t expect others to interact with your photos if you don’t do the same. Like and comment on other users’ photos and respond to comments on your own photos.

  • Follow other people: Don’t wait for your fans to come to you in droves. Go out and follow others. You may get a follow in return. When choosing people to follow, look for users who post images that actually interest you or are in a related business, such as other photographers. If you work in wedding photography, follow other wedding-related vendors, such as florists, venue managers, wedding gown shop owners and wedding planners. These are the types of people who are more likely to follow you and continue following.

  • Share useful posts: Followers should feel like they get something from your posts. This might be something as simple as a mood boost after seeing a beautiful image or inspiration to be creative. You can also position yourself as an expert by sharing useful photography tips. If someone new stumbles across your Instagram profile, that person may decide your useful posts are something they want to see on a regular basis.

Building Relationships Through Instagram

A large number of followers gets your work in front of many people, but you also want those followers to interact with your photos and become engaged fans. In some cases, having fewer followers who actively participate on your Instagram profile is more profitable for your business than having more followers who never interact with posts.

Posting photos isn’t enough to make Instagram an effective marketing technique for your business. Connecting with followers and convincing them to take a vested interest in you as a photographer is much more effective. Being responsive and actively participating in the community creates a solid foundation in building those relationships.

Another key strategy is to incorporate storytelling in your photo captions. Share the story behind the photo to cause an emotional response to anyone who sees it. Sentimental stories, such as a touching moment captured at a wedding shoot, are often well-received, but other emotions also work. You might share a funny story about a child not cooperating during a family shoot, which resulted in a funny or creative photo. This encourages your followers to share their own related stories. You instantly start a conversation and create an engaged Instagram following.

Asking a question also encourages your followers to comment on your photos. A simple way to do this is to share your reaction to a particular photo and ask if others have the same reaction. Another option is to ask followers to share memories or thoughts they have when they see a particular image. Again, this gets people talking and engaged.

Understanding how photographers use social media for their brands gives you a leg up on the competition. Instagram is a natural way to showcase your photography skills to gain new clients and position yourself as an expert in the local photography scene. And be sure to follow Mark DeLong on Instagram!