Ahhh Instagram, do you remember the time when it was all just about posting phone snaps of your lunch and cute pictures of your pets? That feels like a different universe now. Chances are high that if you are running a photography business in 2021 that you are spending a significant amount of time on Instagram. But are you just getting distracted by all the shiny things on there and losing sight of what is best for your business?

I’m not going to be discussing how to get more followers, more likes or trick any algorithms – I want to help you to focus on what will help you to get more work from having a presence on Instagram and what is likely to be sustainable for you.

In my mentoring program for wedding photographers, month two is Visibility Month. We focus on how they are capturing customers and where that can be improved. For many, they put a lot of effort into Instagram. It’s easy to see why as primarily it is an image driven platform and it currently has almost 30 million users in the UK. 

Let’s look at a couple of case studies from my Program. On one side we have Photographer A with just 100 followers. She said there isn’t much point in bothering with Instagram as only her friends and family followed her. At the other end of the scale is Photographer B who has around 7k followers – so a bit more than me but was getting incredible engagement 500-1200 likes on the grid and regularly getting 60-80 comments. I thought I would like to learn techniques for engagement from her but when we started working together she said that she never books weddings through her Instagram. That wonderful engagement is all from other photographers.

Again, that’s fine if they are booking you for their weddings and I know some photographers where that works but not fine if they are not. In fact those other photographers are getting in the way of the couples that would potentially book her. Both accounts needed realigning and a strategy that works for them.

SET YOUR GOALS

So from where you are now with Instagram, let’s draw a line and start fresh. The first thing I suggest is to set out what your aims are and set yourself a few goals and targets. They might look something like this..

  • Book 10 Weddings For This Year Via Instagram
  • Book 15 Weddings For Next Year Via Instagram
  • Clearly Portray My Brand on Instagram
  • Find More Of My Ideal Couples
  • Network With Other Wedding Professionals
  • Book More Ideal Weddings For Me

DEFINE WHO YOU ARE TARGETING

Let’s refine what that last goal looks like – BOOK MORE IDEAL WEDDINGS FOR ME. This will be different for everyone. What might your absolute ideal wedding look like, where is it, who are the couples, what’s important to them and importantly, how are they using Instagram in the context of their wedding? Like most things in business, it’s easier to start at the end goal and then reverse engineer a route to get there, than to sit feeling overwhelmed with all the possible ways that you could start.

INSTAGRAM IS A SEARCH ENGINE

Just like a couple might type something that they want to find into Google, they can now just as easily type it into Instagram. The app will then filter results for them – now that we know this, we can take an SEO approach to reaching our potential customers on Instagram.

Start By Rewriting Your Bio. Think of this as your Meta Title and Description – so just as you would set these up to be found on search engines for your preferred key phrase, now also set them on your Insta Bio. So instead of my name, mine says Brighton Wedding Photography. I repeat these words in my description. 

If you search Brighton Wedding Photographer on the app, I rank high. Think about what your kind of couple might use as a term to search for a photographer within your geographical location and try using that as your name. This is not the same as your account name, mine is still @devlinphotos. 

Your captions and of course hashtags are also searchable so get into the habit of putting relevant ones with your images. For instance my caption might be “I loved doing the photography at this wedding in Brighton” #brightonwedding #brightonweddingphotographer.

INSTAGRAM GUIDES

Think about what your couples might need from you via Instagram. It’s highly possible that they don’t need you to be non stop showing off. Instead of putting your own wants front and center of your content, think about putting their wants or needs in the middle of what you output. You could be a valuable asset to them in the journey of planning their wedding. You have a lot of knowledge in this area and one very easy way of getting this across is through Instagram Guides. 

If you’ve never heard of these, just have a look at my Instagram page. Above the main grid you will see tiny avatars for My Grid, Instagram Reels, IGTV and Guides – it looks like a small leaflet. You can create Guides from any existing posts saved into a folder. They might be from your own account or others. (Hold down the ribbon next to any photo to save it into a specific folder.) 

For instance, I have a guide that helps couples find micro wedding venues in Brighton. It gives them my insider knowledge on some of the obvious and less obvious venues in my city. When I was thinking of my ideal weddings for now and what the couples that I want to attract might need, the guide seemed to be a good idea. Not only is it useful for couples but Guides also notify all accounts whose posts you have used so it’s great for relationship building with other wedding companies around you. 

You could create a guide about almost anything and they can be edited at any time, so they can evolve and be easily updated. You can also share them on your grid and stories. Chances are high that the accounts that you have included might also share them. This starts to increase your reach and creates the Instagram equivalent of backlinks for you.

Ideas for Guides could be

  • Unusual Wedding Venues
  • Outdoor Wedding Venues
  • Winter Wedding Photo Ideas
  • Alternatives to Confetti
  • My Favourite Local Suppliers

KEEP IT POSITIVE

My final advice is to show up as yourself on your Instagram; Show your face on your grid, speak to the camera in stories. People connect with people and they are not looking for utter perfection. In fact that can be off putting. They want to get to know you and see behind the scenes of your business. But stay positive, this isn’t the place to moan about your woes – how hard it’s been in the pandemic, or how much work editing is. Use Facebook groups full of other photographers for that kind of chat. Remember what you are on Instagram for – Public Relations and Booking Work!

There’s a deep dive and further resources on this topic, and our other Barn Lives, available to replay to members of The Barn.

Images by Devlin Photos shot for Rock n Roll Bride Magazine
Concept & Art Direction: Kat Williams
Styling: The Bijou Bride
Flowers: Bettie Rose Flowers
Hair: Rebel Rock Hair & Makeup
Make-Up: Shani Mushington
Video: Loved Up Films
Assistant: Rebecca Carpenter
Model: Octavia Jacob via BAME
Venue: Clapton Country Club, London