Should you post your portfolio to Instagram?

Well, the short answer is no. 

I'll start by saying that I fully expect a lot of people to disagree with this sentiment, and that's okay. Let me also make the distinction that I am not saying you should never post final photos to your Instagram, I am just saying portfolio images should not be the main content on your feed. There are benefits to using Instagram as a portfolio, but I personally find those benefits to be outweighed by the negatives that come with that method. 

Let me delve deeper into this topic and discuss why I think this is true, and help give you some ideas of what you should be using Instagram for to further your business as a photographer. 

Instagram is a wonderful thing for photographers. It gives your audience a beautiful, easy to use home base to follow you and your work. It allows people to take a look into your life, your process, and who you are as an artist via the photos you post. This is the core of why I think it is detrimental to use Instagram as your portfolio. It limits you from showing your audience what they really want to see, which is you. Your Instagram profile should be used as a launching pad for your audience to see the rest of your work. By posting behind the scenes photos, location scouts, photos of your gear, lighting setups, and miscellaneous lifestyle shots, you are not only giving your audience an opportunity to see who you are as a person but also teasing them into wanting to see more and more of you. When you post nothing but portfolio images, you are essentially giving your viewers the end product, and providing no incentive to dive deeper into you and your work. 

Real life application time: I recently started a new personal work series where I cover models in wet clay before shooting them. I was doing a trial of this series and used myself as the model before I tried it on anyone else. I posted this behind the scenes photo on Instagram, and a day later posted a finished and edited photo from the shoot. 

The behind the scenes photo got considerably more interaction than the final "real" photo. It had more comments, more questions, more likes, everything. 

I believe this is because people find the process behind your images more interesting than the images themselves. People want to know HOW you do what you do. 

So my method for using Instagram, and all social media has become this: Use Instagram as a launch pad. Post interesting and even provocative content that will engage your audience and encourage them to pursue you and your work further. Provide them all the resources they need to find your portfolio online. When you post anything related to your photography, provide your website URL in the caption. This drives more hits to your real website, which will eventually rank you higher in web searches. 

Allow Instagram to paint a picture of who you are as an artist, and allow people to see all the facets of your personality that make you who you are. 

The last thing I want to talk about is the dangers of being TOO good at Instagram. Now that sounds pretty weird, but hear me out. I have a lot of friends who are so unbelievably good at iPhonography on top of being great photographers in their own right, that people sometimes think their iPhone photos ARE their portfolio images. Herein lies the importance of educating your audience. Instagram viewers have very short attention spans. Most of them want to see pretty images, double click that like button, and move on. So you have to do everything you can to very quickly and concisely discuss what is going on in your posts. In every photography related post I make, especially if I do post a portfolio image, I make sure to clearly state what's going on in the photo, and where they can find more of my work. If I post a BTS photo that could be mistaken for a portfolio image, I briefly make the distinction and link my website so they can find the real photos. 

Instagram has become more than a social media outlet for photographers. It is a full fledge business tool we can use to drive traffic to our websites, gain a larger following, and even get direct work from our followers. I book several shoots a year solely based on people who have seen my Instagram feed. So it's more important than ever to utilize this tool efficiently. 

If you'd like to get to know me better, be sure to follow me on Instagram ;) @matthewsimmonsphoto

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