When it comes to learning and understanding how to use Instagram, pretty much most people fail at it. In fact, pretty much most people fail at social media because everyone and their mother (literally) are (literally) all about themselves. Broadcasting things about yourself as a photographer is important on social media, but also developing content that people will actually care about is too. Further, so is the actual interaction part. You’ll need to build connections.
But more importantly, you’ll need to figure out that hacking the platform isn’t totally just about creating or capturing images. It’s also about curating them.
The Unlimited Power of Sharing on the Web
The crazy thing about Instagram is they have lines in their Terms of Service that basically say you agree to state you are indeed sharing something that is your’s (as in, you own the Copyright) but it also means you surrender your right to its use on the platform, its ability to be embedded by websites, etc. That’s where things get very tricky.
You, as a photographer, want to be better known. You want your work shared and noticed by everyone. Maybe that’s why complete products of incest sneak into dangerously tall skyscrapers just to take semi-selfies for all the Instagram likes in the world. That’s not me being an old man or an editor speaking, it’s me candidly stating that no amount of Instagram likes in the world are worth your life or your future. But it’s proof of what people will go through for likes and followers on their channel.
So to that end, you also surrender your copyright and allow someone else to post or regram your image.
Not necessarily cool, right? At least it sort of isn’t according to their TOS. In fact, I have a strict contract with models on the Phoblographer’s payroll that they can only share what I approve because of this. When images of mine that I don’t necessarily want being featured online are posted it doesn’t really allow me to have control over what’s being said about the type of product I can produce.
But for most people, you’ll surrender it if it means you get more followers. And that’s where the curator’s power is.
Creator vs Curator
If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably a creator. You, as a creator, produce original content to share on Instagram for the purpose of self promotion. To make your feed more involved in certain conversations, you’ll hashtag the hell out of your post. This post will then be found by curators–whose “job” is to go out there on Instagram and find stuff to make part of their feed. That way more people come to their feed and they’re more important.
Crazy, right? A photo of mine was recently added to a Polaroids hashtag, and I’m kind of not okay with it but I’m willing to let it go because the curator is so incredibly small.
PS: Just pay me the reasonable amount of money and I’ll explain all of this to you in a little over three hours and give you worksheets too.
The cool thing about Instagram is that everyone can be both a creator and a curator. The problem is that not everyone should be a creator or a curator with commercial intent. Why?
To again be very frank, the majority of people that would do this will fail. If it isn’t because of their feed, it’s because they don’t understand what it takes to run a business. But this is something that has come from Tumblr and continues on through Instagram.
So what’s a photographer to do about this? The best thing to do is actually network with some of the more influential, responsible curators. You’ll need to go out there and find them for yourself–I’ve stopped curating on the Phoblographer Instagram feed because everyone does it. It provides no value when everyone is doing the same thing. But each genre has a number, and so you may think to yourself that you’ll direct message them.
As the EIC of a large photo blog, I implore you to never do that. It’s annoying when we’ve got a million direct messages to go through. Instead, try something more formal like an email. Additionally, don’t underestimate what snail mail can do for you either.