Love it or hate it, we definitely live in a hashtag world. As a company who supports emerging artists, we know that most designers know that maintaining a professional website alone just isn’t quite enough these days. Building your brand or showcasing your designs on a social media platform is becoming more of a must than an option.
The beloved photo app, Instagram, is a social media favorite among designers and creative gurus. It has the strong effect of being able to bring your brand and designs to life through lifestyle shots and personable captions. (Captions that need to appeal to people other than just your mom.) We know that reaching out to potential followers who have an interest in your work can be pretty tough. It definitely starts with engaging content, relatable topics, and let’s face it, beautiful snapshots — but that’s all easier said than done. We decided to collect 12 great tips from a couple of our favorite Instagrammers, Mandi Johnson and Mark Weinberg, to help you take your Instagram content to the next level. Read on to #BecomeAnInstagramNinja.
1. Take advantage of daylight. Improve the quality of your photos by primarily taking them during daylight hours. Natural-lit photos are oftentimes the prettiest. If you’re working on amping up the beauty-factor of your stream, but still want to be an active poster in the evening, try saving up photos from earlier in the day and posting them later as a #latergram. Helpful tip: I usually turn my poorly lit snapshots into black and white photos. -Mandi
2. Frame up and wait. I am always looking. When I find a scene I want to photograph, especially in the city or when traveling, I will frame up and take a few photos, but then I’ll wait. I’ll hold the camera in the same spot and wait for a person, a taxi, a plane, or something to show up. This can add a unique and dynamic element to your photos and take them beyond the basic snapshots. –Mark
3. Remember: quality not quantity. Limit your posts by sharing an image, at most, once or twice an hour. Posting ten pictures all within ten minutes can come across as annoying as spam in an e-mail inbox. If you’re updating your shop and want to give people an enticing preview, select one or two of your best images and upload them with a bit of time in between. Spacing out your posts also gives you some time to be productive or enjoy life without always having your eyes constantly glued to your phone. -Mandi
4. Move closer vs. zooming in. Camera phone resolution is truly remarkable. But, zooming in digitally degrades the quality instantly. If you can, take a step closer instead of using the zooming option. Helpful tip: Also try to take a step back and see how it looks. Doing this forces me to move and interact with the scene and see it differently. -Mark
5. It’s okay to Instagram photos from your fancy camera. Using beautiful camera photos will not only beef up the visual appeal of your stream, but can be a good way to give a sneak peek of a photo shoot you’re editing or to showcase a nice photo that didn’t quite make it onto your website. When I do this, I’ll usually edit a photo and resize it to an 800px square on my computer and then e-mail it to myself so I can open the e-mail and save the image to my camera roll on my mobile device. Just don’t upload too many DSLR camera photos onto your stream, or you may come off as overly styling your life, which makes you appear inauthentic. Helpful tip: Instagram etiquette suggests that you should use tags that will let your followers know why your photos are bangin’ and theirs aren’t. Try using #frommycamera or #notiphone. -Mandi
6. Dabble with different angles. Phones are small and can often fit where a traditional SLR can’t. Put the phone on the ground. Hold it up over your head. Hold it out the window (very carefully). Hold it directly against the glass of a window. Trying different angles doesn’t only enhance your creativity for future posts, but it also creates a visual balance on your photo stream altogether. -Mark
7. Download an editing app. Filters are often extremely overdone on Instagram, especially when using the built-in filters that the app itself offers. You can actually edit your mobile phone photos with a more tasteful touch by using editing apps like Afterlight or VSCO Cam. Those are my two favorites because you can adjust the strength of each filter and adjust the coloring, tones, brightness, and contrast. Look at it as a light version of Photoshop, but just on your phone. -Mandi
8. Breaking the “Rule of Thirds.” I’m always on the lookout for “existing framing” or in other words, real world elements that frame an object or cut the scene in half. Just as good light is important, shadows and contrast are essential. Yes, the “rule of thirds” (where the frame is split into a grid of three vertical lines and three horizontal lines, creating 9 quadrants) is often a good rule to keep in mind when framing up. But you can also produce successful images by breaking this rule whether it’s centering your object or placing your horizon line just right above the bottom of the frame. –Mark
9. Tread lightly on hashtags. They can be a great way to engage with other users and perhaps find new followers, so I can understand their appeal, as annoying as some Instagram users might find them to be. Try limiting yourself to using hashtags as a way to gain visibility for a less broad term or to connect with a niche audience. For instance, if you’re trying to gain exposure for a holiday craft, #holidaycraft would be an appropriate hashtag, but you’ll be sure to get mega eye rolls if you also include a bunch of inane tags like, #glue #crafts #ornaments #paint #makestuff #ilovechristmas #hashtagsforever. Pick one or two hashtags that will get you the most mileage, and maybe consider creating a unique tag so your followers can cut to the chase and check out precisely what they want to see in your stream. -Mandi
10. Make use of negative space. Be willing to leave some air in the frame. It can help your viewer focus when you leave negative space around your subject. Take it to the extreme and make 90% of the frame negative space, you may be surprised with what you find. -Mark
11. Interact with your followers. Always show courtesy and respect as your following grows. Even if you only become moderately popular, don’t let the fame go to your head. It can be difficult to notice every comment on every photo when new notifications are constantly popping up, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss comments on month-old photos. But please do check out your most recent uploads to see if people have asked questions about where you got your fabulous shoes or if you’re from Cleveland too. You don’t need to respond to every compliment or friendly comment, but if people ask you questions, be decent and answer them. There’s nothing more eye-roll-worthy than a popular Instagrammer who frequently ignores his or her friendly followers who ask simple questions. -Mandi
12. Post what you like and don’t worry about what people think. It’s your Instagram account and this is reflecting who you are creatively. If there’s an everyday (or odd) object that you find to be interesting, cool, or funny — go for it! If you find yourself in a creative rut, take the time to be inspired by other Instagram accounts. Don’t force yourself to photograph a popular concept (aerial shots of meals, text on top of images) if that isn’t your style. When you find an idea you like, give it a try and add your own personal touch to it. -Mark