Ep 187: How to get the most out of Instagram for photographers, and headshots for beginners

Instagram can be a very powerful tool for photographers – not only to showcase your work but also to score clients. Both Gina and Valerie have secured work as a result of what they post on Instagram. In this episode, we break down what you need to do to have an effective Instagram account, what NOT to do and essential guidelines to follow if you want to build a following. So listen up!

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Show notes

Listener Question

Emily asks:

Hello everyone! These are the first headshots I have ever taken, and my first posed indoor portraits for that matter! All I had to work with was a blank wall, a little bit of natural light coming in from a window (emphasis on the little, it was storming out), and my one flash bounced off the ceiling since I don’t have anything to modify it yet.

I would love your thoughts, and especially points for improvement!

Shot with my Canon 5D Mark III and 50mm lens at f/3.5 and 1/30th of a second.

Portrait by Emily O’Brien
Image by Emily O’Brien


Portrait by Emily O'Brien
Image by Emily O’Brien


Listen to the answer in the episode.

Instagram for photographers

Instagram is a powerful platform for:

  • Learning
  • Inspiration
  • Networking
  • Entertainment

It can also have its ugly side

  • Feelings of inadequacy by comparing your work to pros
  • Chasing likes (a bottomless pit)
  • Trying to find happiness from an external source is like


“We make ourselves miserable by first closing ourselves off from reality and then collecting this and that in an attempt to make ourselves happy by possessing happiness. But happiness is not something I have, it is something I myself want to be. Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over my body.”

–Roger J. Corless, “Vision of Buddhism: the Space Under the Tree”

Quality vs quantity
Finding organic or quality followers is a slow process but as a photographer can be more beneficial to have 1000 true followers who are engaged and interested than 1000000 bots who are:
(a) not discerning
(b) not engaged
(c) A 12-year-old girl

Buying followers – should you?
Short answer: no

Check out what Australian beauty blogger Chloe Morello says (Youtube since 2008 and has 2.3million subscribers)

“A comment pod is a group of people or influencers that want to create engagement on their page,” she said.
“It’s a WhatsApp group or something similar and it will have hundreds of influencers in the WhatsApp group.
“The idea is that you post your pictures in the WhatsApp group and everyone in that group will go and like and comment on your picture. So if there’s 200 people in that group, you know you’re getting 200 comments.
“I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times … it’s fraud.”

  • Engagement should be around 3-5%
  • Someone with 100000 followers should be getting 3000-5000 likes. Any less: ask questions.

How to grow your instagram organically

Instagram Algorithm Changes in January 2018

Algorithm / Post Exposure

  • When you post to Instagram, it may only be visible to 10% of your followers
  • Instagram is testing your post to see how it goes first. If it’s popular, gets early likes and comments the image will be shown to the remaining 90% of your followers
  • Pods or artificially creating engagement may damage your account by being shadowbanned


Banning a user from a web forum in such a way that the banned user is unaware of the ban. Usually takes the form of showing that user’s posts/profile/etc. only to that user; other users never see them


  • Instagram may be restricting exposure based off of YOUR engagement.
  • Try and respond to comments andengage authentically ( be human)
  • Comment or respond in sentences of 4 words or more
  • Avoid “love this’ HAWT “great pic” and use more thoughtful or human language so that instagram doesn’t think you are a bot ( fake)
  • Instagram stories also helps with engagement

How to use instagram stories

  • Shoot behind the scenes
  • Before and after
  • Sneak peaks
  • Success stories


Captions and hashtags
If you want to hide your hashtags in the feed put 3 dots on your feed
The hashtags so your feed looks neater

Find specific hashtags that have smaller posts or less competitive so your images get noticed

  • Find a smaller hashtag
  • Look at the 1st image on the page
  • Check the number of likes on the image
  • Eg #fiat500 789584 posts with top images getting average 7000 likes to show up
  • Scroll down to #fiat500vintange has 1318 posts with top images getting 200 likes to show up on page one
  • You can use 30 hashtags
  • Spend time researching hashtags
  • Geotag images

Mix em up. Don’t be repetitive be human

What Hashtags should you use?

Follow hashtags

How do I follow a hashtag?

You can follow hashtags on Instagram to stay connected with interests, hobbies and communities you care about.

To follow a hashtag:

  • Tap any hashtag (example: #flower) you see on Instagram.
  • Tap Follow. Once you follow a hashtag, you’ll see its photos and videos appear in places like stories, feed and in the Following section of your profile.

To unfollow a hashtag, tap the hashtag and then tap Following. Learn more about searching for hashtags and using hashtags on Instagram.

How to organically grow your instagram account

  • Don’t cheat you’ll get caught
  • Start by connecting to everyone you know ( facebook is a good start)
  • Use your link on twitter
  • Post quality
  • Develop a consistent style
  • ENGAGE LIKE COMMENT in a thoughtful manner
  • Use 30 hashtags
  • Use the right hashtags
Geotag images 79% better performance
  • Write thoughtful captions, ask questions
Include a call to action (tag a friend, answer a question)
  • Tag other accounts ( feature accounts)
Stick to 2 to 3 styles
  • Use trending topics
Post consistently at similar times each day
Post at the right time
  • Switch to a business account to access stats and analytics
  • Use Instagram stories
    -more recognition from followers
    -algorithm may give preference to story users
  • Go live + save it stories
  • Post more videos
  • Get rid of shitty photos
  • Make quality content
  • Share the love/partner/collaborate


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About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE