Since its launch in late 2010, Instagram has made a splash in the world of digital photography. As of December 2014, the app reported more than 300 million users. As its user base continues to grow, the Instagram app is changing the game for amateur and professional photographers.
Instagram — a combination of "instant" and "telegram" — offers an unparalleled promotional opportunity for all types of photographers. Public photos on Instagram can be marked with a hashtagged word; when another user searches for that word, all the tagged photos appear. Strategic photographers can use popular and niche hashtags to bring in new viewers. With its photo-heavy layout, the Instagram app offers more instant gratification than Twitter and other social media platforms.
As Instagram's popularity grows, more photographers are taking notice. A simple Web search reveals thousands of articles designed to help individuals promote their work on the app. Top photographers can bring in tens of thousands of followers, ensuring regular exposure to the brand. Some artists use the Instagram app as their main public presence to great effect. For example, Andy C Photography — @andy.c.photography on Instagram — has more than 36,000 followers as of March 2015, and offers only an email address for contact purposes.
Wedding photographers, in particular, have taken to Instagram to expand their pool of potential clients. A search for the hashtag "#weddingphotographer" brings up more than 600,000 photos as of March 2015. Many photographers add their city or state to the hashtag to narrow down the audience.
Perhaps Instagram's greatest opportunity exists for amateur photographers, who may not have websites, portfolios and client lists. With only a smartphone and the app, anyone can be an artist. Publications such as Passion Passport and Budget Travel recognize the untapped amateur potential and regularly run Instagram contests where the prize is a feature on the publication's account. To enter, users need only tag their work with a specific hashtag, thus leveling the playing field for all Instagram app users.
The layout of the Instagram app also contributes to the equitable atmosphere. The photos are the main attraction, while the username is little more than an afterthought. Users scrolling through photos are struck first by the quality and content of the work and second by the name of the photographer. With a single well-timed and smartly tagged shot, amateur photographers can go from 50 followers to 5,000 followers in days. The app's tiled profile view also enables users to see the photographer's entire body of Instagram work with a few swipes.
As a relatively new addition to the social media world, the true potential of the Instagram app has yet to emerge. For photographers, however, the photo-sharing app has the potential to transform or make a career.
Image courtesy of PANPOTE at FreeDigitalPhotos.net