5 Ways Instagram Is Hurting Your Photography Business

Before you grab your pitchforks and set out to defend Instagram, and the likes, hear me out.  Have you ever heard of the term herd mentality?  Herd mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors (Wikipedia)…  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Let me spell out the five ways we all suffer from our desire for recognition and world domination through the likes of Instagram.

Notice:  This article does not apply to everyone.  Your experience may vary.

Stay tuned to PhotolisticLife for a follow-up article called 5 Ways Instagram Can Help Your Photography Business.  My ultimate goal is to encourage photographers to find their own voice on Instagram (and in life) and improve their business by breaking away from the herd.

1.) Ignorance Is Bliss

Many photographers don’t start out being amazing.  I hope that isn’t surprising.  Often, it takes years of mistakes as well as trial and error.  The process can be quick for some and infuriatingly slow for others.  You join Instagram with hopes of impressing the hell out of local art firms with your cityscape photography only to find out that there are 800 of you taking the exact same pictures.  There is no such thing as a new perspective as within hours someone else has determined exactly where the “new” perspective was and you have 50 versions of the same image.  Seems disparaging to say the least, right?

Once Instagram users realize they are fighting an uphill battle many simply give up, most fall in line, and only a few innovate and grow.  Which are you?  Do you produce images similar to those around you?  Are you creating similar images day after day to pander to your followers likes like a toy monkey crashing symbols over and over again?  Or are you still forging ahead on a path of your own?  If you fall into either of the first two examples then I’m afraid you’ve become a victim of herd mentality…  Instagram has taken a pillow to the face of your creativity.

2.) Unrealistic Expectations

Where do I even start?  Let’s talk about our desire to post something new daily.  Getting likes and followers is almost as satisfying as making money for many of us.  I’m sure if you talk to a psychologist they would tell you that gaining new likes releases endorphins or some other brain chemical that makes you feel loved.  I promise you that if you’re posting images daily, sometimes multiple images each day, you’re posting a lot of noise.  What is noise?  Noise is anything that distracts viewers from seeing what you want them to see, your best.  You’re also setting yourself up for failure.

Successful business owners know that in order to grow you must set obtainable goals to continue to stay motivated.  If your goal is to create amazing photographs day after day to keep the Instagram fires burning you’re going to end up discouraged and frustrated.  By setting these unrealistic expectations you’re more likely to compromise the quality of what you are posting, in order to continue posting day after day, than fail.

A better approach is to only post your favorite images when you create them.  Don’t feel pressured to post daily and get your “fix” someplace else.  If you’re unable to break your addiction simply start a dump account…  This is a second account where you can dump whatever photographs you want while maintaining the integrity of your serious account with your best work.

3.)  Instagram Induced Fear Of Rejection

Your best work may be dying on your hard drive.  Many people are incredibly creative and are capable of creating work that could rival some of the most famous artists in the world.  Sadly, it falls outside of the conformity of the masses on Instagram so it doesn’t get uploaded for fear of too few likes.  Or it does get uploaded but Instagram metrics determines it’s not popular enough to make it into your followers feeds so it dies a slow death in your gallery until you delete it out of fear that someone will see one of your photos with less than 100 likes.

urbanization, urban, street photography, pollution, raw

Be fearless!  In the words of the great Crazy Nastyass Honey badger YouTube sensation video; “Honey badger don’t give a shit”…  Be the Honey badger.  The great artists among us aren’t reproducing the same cityscape scene day after day, they are forging ahead and creating images that speak from within them.

4.) Instagram Spots

Instagram spots are simply popular places photographed hundreds or thousands of times because they garner lots of likes on Instagram.  Generally, these are easily accessible and visually appealing.  It takes very little skill to create images like this and even less creativity.

Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Street Photography, Fine art, muscle beach

Think of Instagram spots as those images you see in your daily feed that make you say “great, another shot of this, just what Instagram needed” with a sarcastic inner voice.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with cutting your teeth on the low hanging fruit.  However, there is no excuse if you’re a seasoned photographer who continues to post images like these because you need an ego boost on Instagram (only you know if this is you).  Remember, this article is about how Instagram is hurting your business.  A lack of diversity in your portfolio or Instagram feed does not scream “proficient photographer”, it’s more reminiscent of a stuck record.  If you’re not worried about business then continue crashing those symbols like a toy monkey.

5.) We Never Cull Our Herd

I’m guilty!  I have 475+ images in my Instagram feed and while I would love to tell you I have that many amazing images the truth is I’m hesitant to delete any in the off-chance a future client sees one that they would like.  Sound familiar?  The truth is, every day I consider weeding out all but 15 images and starting over.  What holds me back?  Fear I suppose.  The funny thing is, I know that 99.9% of the people who view my feed (and yours) only ever scroll down about 15 or 30 images before deciding whether they like your work or not.  It makes perfect sense to get rid of everything else and maintain your best 15 images at the top of your feed if you’re interested in putting your best foot forward (we should be).

The best advice I can give without sounding like a hypocrite is to start early if you can.  For every image you upload you should get rid of one.  If you’ve got 400 plus images like I do then perhaps you should get rid of 3 for every 1 you upload.  That is what I’ve started doing.

You can find me on Instagram @PhotolisticLife


I think we can all agree that art directors don’t sift through Instagram feeds saying “Ah, yes…  More of the same.  I’ll hire this photographer.  Original perspective is gross”.  I promise you they are looking for something original, something that jumps out at them.  Something they can’t do themselves.  When you look at your feed, is it original?  Does it stand out against your peers?  Be honest with yourself and you may not get as many likes but your business opportunities may increase.

Aside from “culling my herd” I avoid the other four points and have built a very successful photography business.  I use Instagram to share current work with art firms I currently work with and hope to work with in the future.  There is zero correlation with the number of likes I get on an image and it’s ability to sell.  The more original the image is usually determines how interested people are in actually purchasing it.  I can not pay my bills with Instagram likes…

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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2 replies on “5 Ways Instagram Is Hurting Your Photography Business”
  1. says: sewollef

    A conclusion I drew some time ago, which kinda follows your thread is, to ‘publish and be damned’. As in, don’t be concerned with what others think [in modern parlance, how many likes you have], but plow your own furrow.

    I you like them, then that’s a good enough reason to publish them. Do it for yourself, not for others. The word is: ‘autotelic’. It describes people who are internally driven, and as such may exhibit a sense of purpose and curiosity. This is an exclusive difference from being externally driven, where things such as money, power, or fame are the motivating force.

    I set up a website for just that purpose. To exhibit my work. I haven’t checked the stats on it since I launched it some time ago. If people like it, great. But it’s not MY motivating force.

    Seems to cover your piece, wouldn’t you say?

    1. says: John Barbiaux

      Agreed, and well said… I’ll have to check out your site. Thanks for reading.

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