With a constantly changing Instagram algorithm, it can feel challenging if not impossible to grow on the world’s second most engaged platform only after Facebook.
However, at over 1,000,000,000 monthly active users, it’s definitely an incredible potential means of exposure for those who are willing to put in the additional effort!
How do you get seen on Instagram?
In the world of social media, hashtags are comparable to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and having a killer hashtag strategy will get you part way there.
When it comes to how you appear in the search results on Instagram versus Google though, it’s actually quite different.
Where as your Google Ranking and CTR (Click-Through Rate) are highly impacted by your Titles and Meta-Descriptions, in the world of Instagram, this equates to strong visual content and captions.
Impressions are just that.
They’re simply not valuable unless they actually convert!
You want to get profile visits, saves, and clicks on your website link because that’s what counts. And I’ll give you one guess as to how we are going to achieve that…
Take amazing photos for Instagram!
By implementing the following changes to my Instagram account, I made the upgrade from posting for product to posting product for payment!
It’s a crazy world, right? But it’s also an incredible world.
One that’s allowed me to fulfill my dream come true of becoming a work at home mom so I can watch my children grow up.
Making the jump to Instagram Influencer is something anyone is capable of with the right tools. Contrary to what others may think, I’m going to tell you that you don’t need to be someone special.
You just need to setup yourself up for success. In terms of captioning your content, this means:
- Using trending hashtags for the day and/or otherwise
- Learning to write great captions
- Including call-to-actions in your captions
- Using line breaks to create paragraphs in your Instagram captions
For more details on how to create an Instagram post that performs, you can follow this complete 7 step Instagram post checklist.
And in terms of visual content? Keep reading to learn more!
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I could earn a commission from qualifying purchases. This comes at no additional cost to you should you decide to purchase an item after clicking the link provided.
1. Upgrade Your Equipment
When I first started my new Instagram account, I was a very pregnant, soon-to-be mom. And I shot a lot of flat lays with my iPhone 6s!
However, after admiring many of the larger mom accounts, I noticed they all had one thing in common.
Their image quality was out of this world!
If I ever wanted to get my account past the 1,000 followers mark, I’d have to make an equipment upgrade too.
Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR
I purchased a Sony a6500 as an upgrade from the Canon T3i DSLR I’d been using for years.
I purchased a mirrorless camera over a DSLR for a few reasons:
- Compact size
- Lightning fast shooting speed – perfect for toddlers on the go!
- Silent shutter
- Lightweight (about 1.75 pounds with the kit lens attached)
- Superior video quality
However, mirrorless cameras do have their drawbacks as well, the most commonly complained about being battery life.
For me personally, this is a non-issue as my photo shoots aren’t very long and take place at home – I get about 300 shots per battery charge with the a6500 (about an hour of continuous shooting).
I’ve even shot content for a local market with the Sony a6500 – I finished with about 280 photos in 3.5 hours on single battery charge.
For what I do as a mom, blogger, and social media content creator, this camera is absolutely perfect and I always highly recommend it to parents and digital entrepreneurs as the best camera for beginners.
At the time, it was a big investment at the time but 100% worth it!
Since then, I’ve made over $5,000 from shooting and posting sponsored content on Instagram alone!
While you can still land sponsored posts exclusively rocking your phone camera, building a name for yourself in a saturated market is much easier with a creative flare and specialty equipment.
Plus, the higher the image quality from the start, the less quality loss you’ll experience as a result of photo editing, cropping, and compression later on.
Pro Tip: Always shoot in RAW!
The RAW file format captures all of the image data recorded by your camera’s sensor at the time the photo was taken. A RAW file can store up to 4.3 trillion shades of colour while the universally used JPG format (interchangeable with JPEG) tops out at about 16 million.
For those of you who dig numbers like I do, that means JPG files store only about 0.00037% of the data that RAW files do! Talk about a colossal difference!
When shooting in the JPG format, every edit and save results in some image quality loss. However, when you edit a file in RAW, adjusting everything from exposure, highlights, and white balance will have a more minimal effect since you started with 99.99963% more data than before.
By default, cell phone cameras shoot in JPG, although its possible to switch to RAW on Android within your camera app settings and by downloading a third-party app for iPhone like Manual.
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2. Shoot Content During Optimal Hours
Shooting at a consistent time of day is a must is you want to create better images and a more cohesive feed for Instagram.
I like to take my photos between 10am until about 4pm for ideal levels of natural light.
This 6 hour window provides me with gorgeous lighting and minimal shadows when I’m in the Eastern facing part of our home. Bonus, my toddler’s nap time also takes place within it so, I can work while she rests.
When shooting too early in the morning, I’ve found that my photos appear too blue and in the evening, they can appear very orange with the setting sun. Shadows can also cause major headaches at theses times of the day.
However, there are affordable photography tools that can help enhance your shots during these optimal hours as well as giving you the added ability to shoot at practically any time of day.
The most affordable options being Reflectors and Diffusers.
Reflector: as the name states, this tool is used to reflect or bounce light back onto the subject of your photo by eliminating shadows.
Reflectors are usually available in white, silver, and gold – I often rely on a white reflector when need be as it usually produces enough light to give me the image I want.
Silver however, produces more light than white but will also result in more highlights and contrast. Gold reflectors will result in a slightly warmer tone.
Diffuser: used to scatter, reflect, and soften light for reduced glare and harsh shadows.
A diffuser reduces the light an individual shines through it while eliminate drastic contrast and providing enhanced colour saturation.
If you do plenty of outdoor photography, a diffuser is an especially great investment!
3. Invest In Quality Lighting
Sometimes natural light just isn’t enough! It sounds crazy, but it’s true!
Our home is a rectangle and only has lights on two opposing sides which means that I need to photograph very close to my windows if at all possible. Something that’s difficult to do if, for instance, I need to photograph my dishwasher which is more near the centre of our space.
Using two standing studio lights is enough to brighten up most areas and creates the perfect blend of artificial and natural light. In conjunction with a couple of reflectors, you can also turn any room into a studio/work space!
I have a 600W Studio Day Light Kit as part of my setup. They’re super affordable and it’s an excellent bundle for the price point! The heavy duty carrying bag even lets me use them on the go when, for example, I’m shooting content at a friend or relative’s home (as in the case of. this Gillette post below).
If you are looking to pickup your own studio lights, starting with two large umbrella lights is more than enough.
I use my studio light kit for:
- shooting flat lays like the one below
- photographing others’ homes or when working away from home
- creating content after my optimal natural light hours
As a busy work at home mom of a toddler, sometimes it can be tricky to coordinate your little one’s sleeping schedule with work!
We used to struggle with my little one waking up frequently throughout the night and skipping her naps during the day (it comes in stages and waves, right?) so, having a studio light setup was that much more valuable to me with constant deadlines to be met for sponsored posts.
Landing a sponsored post is as easy as submitting a strong media kit but creating content in time for each unique deadline requires a considerable amount of organization.
Of course, this can be a struggle when you have other obligations including a full-time job, children, or both!
At this price, a studio light kit is worth having just in case of emergency! So, why jeopardize your feed’s aesthetic with unappealing grainy photos that were shot after hours?
4. Choose The Best Editing Software
When I first started using Instagram, I shot with my iPhone 6s and relied primarily on the social media network’s own Clarendon and Gingham filters.
However, after spending hours researching top IG influencers in various niche categories, I discovered that intermediate photo editing skills also play a vital role in an Instagram account’s success.
If you want to get serious about Instagram, invest in quality editing software from the beginning.
As shown above, my editing style includes the following steps:
- increase exposure
- decrease highlights
- decrease shadows
- desaturate whites, blacks, and greys
- increase the saturation of colours to make them pop
When you use Adobe Lightroom, you can even create your own presets – filters based on adjustments you’ve made for a photo that can be used on future photos.
After I apply my custom made Instagram profile preset, I then make further adjustments if need be and apply additional Selective edits to my photos in order to maintain the continuity of my Instagram feed.
Learning how to edit photos is actually fairly easy. After experimenting with settings on just a few images, you’ll be amazed at your overall understanding of the process.
By purchasing Lightroom as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan for US $9.99/mo, you’ll have receive 20GB of cloud storage plus access to Desktop and Mobile apps including:
- Adobe Spark
The Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan is perfect for personal and business use and can even be used for your other creative projects including blog, etsy, eBay store, or otherwise.
5. Experiment With Different Styles Of Photography
If you want to make it as an Instagram Influencer or social media content creator, blogger or photographer, you have to be authentic to your own style while taking some risks.
Put yourself out there and try new things!
Try researching ideas for your upcoming posts and see what works with your creative vision for your personal or business brand.
A couple of great ways to conduct Instagram photo inspiration research might include:
- Saving photos you admire from other Instagram accounts within the Instagram app itself
- Searching Pinterest for photo inspiration – I have a Pinterest board solely dedicated to Instagram photo ideas.
- Creating a physical vision board with photography ideas – flip through magazines, print off your favourite shots, and more!
Think of your Instagram like a Portfolio for potential clients!
Would you showcase the same style of photo over and over again during an interview or on your resume? A number of grainy selfies? Or something that has been done repetitively by other influencers in your niche? Probably not!
When you attend a job interview, employers are often looking for a specific skill set in addition to getting a glimpse of your personality. However, range and versatility are also considerably important when it comes to landing that new position.
As an Instagram Influencer, you’ll often be competing with other influencers for sponsored content jobs – generally a brand or marketing agency will send all potential candidates an email with an offer to apply for that specific campaign.
Applications will then close on a specific day and the company will take some time to select a final group of individuals for the job.
This final selection can range between 200 to just 1 successful applicant and thus, the importance of distinguishing your personal brand from others becomes a vital role in the decision making process!
The number of followers a content creator has is a minor factor whereas creativity and engagement can win a brand over and even get you a second opportunity to post during round two of that campaign.
Some fun ideas for your next Instagram photo could include:
- Top down
- Flat lay
- Behind the scenes
- Close up
- Nature or landscape
- Hand written quote
6. Think About Your Feed While You’re Creating Content
When you create new content for Instagram, it’s essential to consider how these new photos will look amidst the already existing ones on your Instagram feed.
Consider things like:
- Composition – depth of field, contrast, negative space, etc.
- Atmosphere – Is it tidy? Does it match your feed’s aesthetic?
- The colours of featured objects and backgrounds
- Your target audience vs. how it compares to your actual followers
- How similar posts have performed in the past (i.e. post insights)
Be sure to also include yourself in photos from time to time – Instagram users like getting to know the creator behind the account!
Preview allows users to log in to their Instagram accounts and then upload upcoming content into the app for a comparison of how it will look against a user’s current feed.
From there, the Instagram user can then shuffle future photo posts into their ideal order and create a cohesive Instagram feed to reflect their personal style.
7. Use White Or Minimal Backgrounds
Choose clean white walls (interior and exterior), sheets, foam board, and/or poster board for your photo backgrounds.
Investing in photography props and background items can help you create a more cohesive feed in no time. Plus, it makes it easy to shoot new upcoming content.
Rather than having clutter and/or unevenly coloured backgrounds for your shots, consciously shooting in front of the same or similarly coloured white backdrops is the easiest path to cohesion in your feed.
If the colour does differ slightly, tone it using the Brightness and Saturation settings in your photo editing software.
And if you’re using Lightroom, apply your go-to preset and presto, instant flow! Instant Insta-goodness!
Featuring clean white space and minimal backgrounds has the ability to give your images a professional appearance from the start.
Pro Tip: when shooting, always be sure to photograph your subject(s) using different zoom settings.
Depending on how much editing and cropping you do afterwards, you may actually find that a different zoom level better suits your feed than the one you had in mind.
There is also nothing worse than taking the perfect shot only to realize it was shot too close to crop the image as a square!
Modern technology is a wonderful thing though and Recrop could save the day for you here.
Recrop (formerly known as Anti Crop) is a reframing app that essentially copies the excess space on the edge of your photo frame and builds your ideal image shape to give photos a second chance.
So, next time you have a photo emergency and are looking to repair that perfect shot, give Recrop a try and build your winning image!
Today’s lesson on creating engaging content for Instagram was a big one and included tips and ideas for planning, shooting, and adjusting your content post-production.
In summary, highly engaged Instagram accounts:
- use quality cameras to take gorgeous images for their feeds
- shoot content during optimal hours of the day
- rely on quality lighting and other photography equipment
- use professional editing software like Lightroom to enhance photos
- embrace new styles and angles of photography
- plan their Instagram feed during the creation process
- use white or minimal backgrounds to keep images clean
What are your favourite methods for shooting content for Instagram? What are your favourite tools for editing and planning ahead? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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