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3 Simple Ways To Grow Your Instagram Audience

19 min read

ShootProof is lucky to know a lot of great people in a plethora of incredible fields! This week we tapped Atlanta-based social media strategist Lena Kotler-Wallace of to share her top three tips for making Instagram WORK for you!

Instagram-Tips-ShootProofPhotos of Lena Kotler-Wallace by
Anne Simone

1. Remember Why People Use Instagram

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush to put content out there, but a million posts won’t do you any good if it isn’t content that users are going to respond to. Instagram is an “aspirational” platform – it connects your audience to what they aspire to be, do, or have. Users are on Instagram to discover a lifestyle they wish they had for themselves.

Because of this, remember…

    • Instagram is NOT the place to use photos that look like traditional ads.
    • Avoid images with more than 20% text on them.
  • The best content will evoke an emotional reaction, give a sense of being “behind the scenes,” or inspire your fans in some way.


2. Use Hashtags Wisely

There’s a debate about whether or not there is such a thing as “too many hashtags,” but it’s important to use these strategically. It’s a little known fact that Instagram now uses an algorithm very similar to Facebook’s – i.e., the proper use of hashtags can help users discover you. When plotting out your content calendar (you’re using one of those, right?), take a few minutes to search Instagram for the hashtags you’re thinking about using.

Then, ask yourself…

  • Are there a lot of other posts under that hashtag? It’s important to strike a balance between tags with too much competition and tags that are so obscure no one else is going to find them.
  • Are the other pictures with that tag in-line with your brand’s voice? If you don’t know the answer to that one, it may be time to take a step back and figure out your branding.


3. Use Your Bio!

The biggest obstacle in using Instagram to turn passive fans into paying clients has always been the inability to post clickable links in your captions. The good news is that there’s a simple workaround! Use your bio to your advantage here.

Instead of leaving your website’s home page as the link in your Instagram bio, this is a prime place to direct traffic to…

  • your most recent blog post
  • a special booking page
  • whatever page is the most pressing for your brand at that moment!

Simply add the text “Click link in bio!” to your caption. With many national brands using this trick, Instagram users are trained to expect it. This is one place where you can get around the typical user’s “click lazy” mentality.


Additional Tips On Managing Instagram for Professional Photographers

Now that you’ve seen Lena’s top three tips on growing a professional photographer’s Instagram audience, here are more ways to help boost your online presence. 

Craft Your Captions Well

Being a professional photographer means you are also a visual storyteller. Some followers are more likely to engage with your work because of your captions. More often than not, words can prompt a genuine interaction.  

Make sure the way you explain your pictures matches your brand’s voice and tone. If you are a wedding photographer, focus your message in that direction. If you have an upbeat vibe for portrait photography, craft captions that reflect that. 

Captions can create a personal connection that evokes an emotional response from viewers. If you have an engaging caption, viewers are more likely to read it and click the “more” button, comment, and spend time interacting with the post. Here are a few considerations when writing captions: 

  • Experiment with long captions that are several short paragraphs to see if readers engage more.
  • Place essential keywords at the start of the caption for attention. 
  • Ask open-ended questions that urge viewers to contribute to the comments section.
  • Add compelling facts and informative details. 
  • Direct people to your bio for specific links.
  • Share insightful tips and hacks.
  • Share your experience when posting behind-the-scenes shots.
  • Add compelling quotes.
  • Use appropriate emojis.

Find the Right Filters and Effects 

Using Instagram filters is a simple and instant way to edit photos; however, the effects may not be in line with your style or aesthetic. Instagram is an extension of your professional photography brand, so consider how you want your Instagram feed to represent you. If you are sharing images from a session, it’s simple to upload those photos to Instagram after you’ve edited them in Lightroom or Photoshop. 

If you are sharing a photo from your phone (such as a BTS image), you can use apps like Lightroom mobile to apply your preset to phone images. This helps keep your images aligned with your brand!

Upload Stories

Instagram Stories is an interesting new feature. There’s potential, if you already have a solid following, to do something fun with your fans.

You can also organize Stories into Highlights, so that you can categorize content depending on photography niche, location, or event. Stories give you the chance to encourage people to follow you even after a few seconds of seeing your content. 

As with Snapchat, you’re creating content in real time, so this is strictly for behind-the-scenes content. This can be a fun way to connect more deeply with users. However,  just like with Snapchat…

  • The content is most easily discoverable for people who are already following you; it’s possible (but not probable) for others to find it.
  • The content disappears after 24 hours.
  • If you share a story you think you might want to use again later, make sure to use the “download” function to capture it!

Create an IGTV Series 

Since its inception, IGTV has been a great complement to the classic Instagram one-minute videos by letting users upload longer videos. 

Being a professional photographer doesn’t mean you have to stick to uploading pictures only. With IGTV, you can showcase your craft while entertaining the audience and boosting account visibility. Additionally, you can generate more opportunities for engagement that will turn viewers into followers as they tune in for new videos. 

Be Consistent With Your Posts

When people follow you because of your current content, it’s because they are expecting to see more of it in the future. Use your feed to showcase pictures that revolve around a central theme. This may be a photography niche such as travel and architecture or a particular style like film and minimalist.

Think of your bio and the last nine posts as your first impression on the platform. Determine if they communicate some degree of consistency through themes, colors, layout, and filters. 

Managing a consistent theme, where you post at a consistent pace, can help grow your audience. Such patterns can entice new followers, and by maintaining what they see, you can also keep them engaged. 

Share Your Expertise and Skills

Showing that you are a subject matter expert or a thought leader in a brand category is one of the most effective ways to build an audience on the platform. 

While you can offer your services through classes or speaking engagements, sharing your knowledge through posts can highlight your years of experience. This may be in the form of quick how-to guides, identifying camera settings, or sharing new equipment.  

By sticking to your strengths and talents, you can create high-quality content that will benefit your followers, and in turn, make them want to check your profile from time to time.  

Switch to a Business Account 

There’s debate as to whether you should have a personal account or a business Instagram account. One of the perks of a business account is you also get an Instagram Insights dashboard that offers valuable data for free. This feature allows you to see:

  • The number of people checking out your profile.
  • The number of times people tapped links on your profile. 
  • Your most engaging posts. 
  • How many people your posts have reached. 
  • The location of most of your followers.

Look for patterns in the posts that were the most engaging and try to replicate that in your future content.

Post at the Right Times

One of the first things photographers must do is to consider the timing of publishing. Your engagement level can change dramatically depending on what day of the week you post. 

Getting information from Instagram Insights is an easy way to determine the best time to upload. This feature helps you learn more about your followers and the users interacting with your account. By gathering details on reach, impressions, and organic activity, you can pinpoint the best times and days to post content. 

Likewise, you may utilize a social media scheduling tool to plan and automatically publish posts for when your audience is most engaged. Some of these platforms include: 

  • Planoly
  • Loomly
  • Iconosquare
  • SocialOomph
  • Buffer
  • Later
  • Hootsuite
  • Tailwind

Engage with Other Users 

Natural engagement is a great way for professional photographers to earn authentic followers on the app. You can be the best photographer and share amazing Instagram photographs, but if you don’t interact with others, you won’t grow a sizable

 audience. There are four simple ways to engage: 

  1. Follow Other Users: When you follow other users, there’s a chance they will take a look at your account, engage with the content, and even follow you back. 
  2. Like Other Posts: Use the app as a normal person would do. ‘Like’ the images of people you follow, your followers, and other photographers. 
  3. Comment on Photos: Respond to comments or questions as much as possible. Positive social interaction leaves an impression on followers, and this could lead to bookings and business deals in the future.  
  4. Tag Clients, People, or Businesses: Tagging other profiles will send a notification, which can direct users to the post. Besides, tagged posts will appear in another account’s tagged library.
  5. Engage through Stories: When someone posts a poll, asks a question, or says something you resonate with through Stories, interact with it!  

Use Geotags for Local Discoverability

When managing Instagram, you also have to work on targeting your desired location or service area. Make your posts and Stories discoverable by tagging a location, either the city you’re in or the venue where you took the photo.  

In effect, your posts will show up in location tags, and get the chance to engage with prospective customers who are physically in the area (or even people who are searching that geotag because they want to do a shoot there).

Be Aware of Photography Trends, Challenges, and Occasions 

Being a photographer also means adjusting to trends and creating content that the audience wants. When there’s a photography challenge that’s making followers engage, try to align your content while still maintaining a touch of your style and personality.  

For instance, if you know Mother’s Day is coming up, as an event photographer, you likely have lots of pictures of mothers from weddings, family sessions, and other kinds of occasions. You can compile those photographs, write a relevant caption, and even tag the people in the posts.

Get Featured on Hub Accounts

Hubs are accounts that share other users’ content. The goal is to help promote the work of photographers and other enthusiasts. It’s like an art gallery for like-minded followers, who may become potential followers and clients. 

Hubs normally have a large following because they are a great place for others to look for inspiration and ideas. Oftentimes, these hub accounts will have information in their bio about how you can potentially get your photography featured on their feed (such as using a specific hashtag or tagging them on photos). 

Host Contests, Giveaways, and Freebies

A great way to grow an audience is to run contests or giveaways that encourage your followers to engage with your posts. Make sure to pick a winner and prepare a product or service as the prize.

The mechanics usually involve following your account, asking users to tag at least one friend, liking the photo, and commenting on the actual post.

These likes and comments contribute to your post’s engagement. Every tag delivers a new audience who you could win over as a follower. 

When you run a contest, make sure that the giveaway is actually relevant to your business! This is important because you want to grow your audience with ideal clients that will still be interested in your work and services, even if they don’t win your contest.  

Collaborate With Other Content Creators

Another excellent way to widen your reach is to collaborate with others, either through sponsorships or partnerships. Find someone you want to work with, may it be clients, vendors, or even influencers. 

The goal is to partner with someone who complements your brand as a photographer. Try to pick a partner who has these qualities:

  • Similar or complementary target audience and marketing goals. 
  • Similar feed style or aesthetic to your profile. 
  • Posts that generate good engagement figures. 
  • Brand image that you like. 
  • Not a direct competition for your photography business

The most common yet effective collaboration ideas include takeovers, referrals, giveaways, joint product releases, and product shoutouts. In return, your partners must also publish posts that tag your account, directing their followers to your profile.  

Integrate With Facebook

Ever since Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, managing content between the two platforms became easier. Linking your two accounts is an excellent way of improving your brand reach and increasing follower count. 

The integration means you can share pictures directly from your feed onto your Facebook account. Similarly, you can expose your content twice to Facebook friends who are also your followers. 

It’s possible that some of your Facebook friends are still not aware of your presence on Instagram. By seeing your linked posts on Facebook, you can redirect them to your Instagram profile. 

Share Your Profile Link On Your Website

If you want to become a photographer who has a huge following, one of the most cost-effective ways to do that is by sharing your account on other platforms you have, such as your website. Cross-promoting can redirect users to Instagram to follow your profile and engage with your content. Here are some platforms you can use to direct people to your Instagram account:


Create an email newsletter for your clients, fellow vendors, leads, and other relevant businesses. Put the link of your account in your email signature. 

Website or Blog

Instagram has an easy embed feature that allows you to add single posts to any area of WordPress. You can also make use of widget generators to customize an embeddable feed on your website. 


While photographers are still debating whether or not it’s worth the time to be on yet another social platform (especially one geared for younger people), if you do choose to utilize it, you can funnel people to your Instagram account. Place your IG handle in your TikTok bio, and when you create videos, you can include your handle in the caption to encourage people to follow you on Instagram. 


As soon as you publish a new image, “Pin” it to its Pinterest Board category. This increases your exposure in feeds and keeps your social media presence relevant. 

Run Ads 

Building an audience through ads drives awareness, widens your reach, and achieves a highly engaged audience. This can be a great way for professional photographers to book clients as well! Here are some different ways to run ads:

  • Stories Ads: Complements your feed content that can connect with millions of followers. 
  • Photo Ads: Advertises your profile through a single picture. 
  • Video Ads: Optimizes the power of sight, sound, and motion for up to 120 seconds. 
  • Carousel Ads: Improves campaigns by letting users swipe to view more pictures or videos in one ad. 
  • Collection Ads: Enables users to browse multiple products from your profile without leaving the app. 
  • Ads in Explore: Optimizes a user’s engagement, search, and viewing history to show relevant content. 

Ads aim to turn content into conversions wherein people take actions on your profile, whether it’s following your account, engaging with your posts, or contacting you for a product or service

Bonus: If you’re running ads on Facebook, select Instagram delivery as well. This gives you two platforms for the price of one!


Wrapping Up

Even if Instagram is a platform for landing photography deals and securing bookings, don’t forget that it is a social media network. Have fun with your posts, like other posts, and engage with followers naturally. Treat it as a community that can promote your work while seeing a return on investment. 

Thanks, Lena, for sharing your brain with us!


We want to know: How are you using Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter? Share your ideas (or questions) in the comments below!

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