Why Instagram is So Difficult for Most Photographers

Sad fact: most of the biggest and most popular accounts on Instagram aren’t actually those of photographers who truly care about Photography. Instead they’re very characteristic of the truth involving what most people think about Photography. I want you to take a close look at what I did in those sentences–there is Photography with a big “P” and photography with a small “p”. What’s the difference? Throughout this article, it would be advantageous to your comprehension of my statements if you were to kindly keep this nomenclature in the back of your head while reading. If this is done, the statements will be significantly more effective.

The difference is with another very sad fact: it genuinely has nothing to do with you.

Chris Gampat La Noir Image MacPhun Tonality review sample Agfa APX400 (1 of 1)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 1.8

Instagram started as a platform that heavily emphasized Photography. It was about art. Then everyone and their mother got onto it and started sharing their photography. The content included snapshots from their personal lives, selfies, more selfies, self promotion, cute puppies, cute cats, food, fitness, etc. What started as a place for genuine creativity and for Photographers to spread their work evolved into a portal for everyday folks to show what they do at all times of the day. Arguably, this could be part of Instagram’s demise for Photographers. It was really over before the news feed changes and all. Yet we as photographers use it as a place to promote ourselves and our work because it’s a standard, it’s understandable to everyday folks, and people love to sit there and page/scroll through images.

What’s left of the Photography community there is something even more sad. A very convincing and strong argument can be made for the fact that there are more Photography curators and photography curators on Instagram than there are creators. Why? The platform lets people share whatever they want to get followers. So what ends up happening is that Instagrammers end up following these curatorial accounts and hopefully they’ll end up following you as a photographer. It’s the sad truth behind Instagram and the way that the community works. But it’s also just like real life–there are gatekeepers and you need to prove yourself to move up. That’s art in general.

So what’s the problem?

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC review product images (3 of 8)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

A lot of these gatekeepers genuinely aren’t affirmed in art society and possibly aren’t qualified beyond the Instagram platform. To that end, there are some who try to spread their knowledge of curating the best black and white Photographs. It’s not just with the art world though–the hilarious and ironic point about all this is that it happens even with those who only care about photography. There are loads of accounts that try to curate the photos of all those hot chicks, yoga instructors, fitness instructors, puppies, etc.

This behavior isn’t exclusive to Instagram though: it happened on Tumblr years ago. A former staffer was a photographer while his sister was a curator on Tumblr. He used to express his fury to me about how she didn’t know a thing about photography–yet the powers that be clearly saw something in her.

Crazy, huh?

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Martin Parr's Raw Food images (3 of 3)ISO 8001-160 sec at f - 2.0

So why is Instagram so difficult for us? For starters, it’s the fact that there are more curators out there than genuine creators and combine this with the fact that you need to constantly find ways to ping these folks. There are steps way beyond this, but it’s tough to figure out exactly what you have to do.

It’s one of the reasons why marketing goes hand in hand with the type of work you create. All the beautiful and seriously award worthy work you create isn’t worth anything to general society or Photography society if no one knows about it. In the same way that I’ve talked about pricing your work, this goes into the social world’s own currency: likes, followers, etc.

What you need to keep in mind though is the end goal: as a Photographer you won’t be able to pay your bills or put food on the table with likes and followers necessarily.

Editor’s Note: I get more in depth with this in my online workshop with Modern Thrive. It’s now available for purchase. Also, please support our Kickstarter.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.