Tips for Growing Your Instagram Account and Getting Featured

As an account owner and admin of a small sized Instagram community page, I thought I would share some tips as both a photographer and an Instagram page admin on how I pick photos to be featured, and what photos tend to do well.

A lot of photographers and pages may do things differently, and that is completely okay—there is no correct approach to something as flexible as social media. This is just what I personally find does well, and how I run my page.

What Photos Do Well

  1. Separate private and photography account. If you are serious about growing your account as a photographer and if you are potentially looking for more opportunities, don’t post your personal photos on your account. Just don’t.
  2. Try to stick to one editing style or theme. Find your style – if you like urban photos where things look bleak, really crush those shadows. If you shoot portraiture, keep that as your theme.
  3. Always edit your photos. It may seem cool that you can hashtag “nofilter” but to be honest, photography is as much photo editing as it is planning and shooting. Just like how in the process of showering, you dry yourself after you shower, so too should you edit your photos after you shoot.
  4. Have a good workflow. Have some sort of system where you can find your photos easily and edit easily without having hundreds of photos on your desktop. A good software to use is lightroom, where you can create a new collection for every shoot you do and you can then sort those by year.
  5. Be smart with hashtags. I see a lot of people do the #likeforlike thing, and ehh, it might work a little, but in reality, you get 4-5 extra likes per photo and people rarely click into your account. You’re not growing your account. Look at some photographers whose style you are trying to imitate and see what hashtags they use. Tip: Big photography pages all have hashtags they track. If you get picked, you can receive serious exposure (ie. @moodygrams has 737k followers, they track #MoodyGrams.)

Getting Featured

Which, brings me to the next part of this post: getting featured on these pages.

  1. Go for smaller accounts first. What are the chances of you getting featured on a 700k page vs. getting featured on a 10k page? Obviously, you have a much better chance of being featured on the 10K account, and you’ll receive some good exposure regardless, so keep an eye out for smaller accounts.
  2. Look for what they want. If the account is black and white themed and you submit a colorful photo, no matter how beautiful it is and regardless if it can sell for a million dollars at an auction, they will not feature it!
  3. Don’t watermark your photos. Granted, it looks kinda cool that you have your own watermark, but in all seriousness, do people actually steal pictures on Instagram? And if they do, how much protection does a corner-watermark actually provide? Pages like to keep their feed pretty just as much as photographers do, and they have hundreds and thousands of photos to go through daily.
    They don’t have time to DM you and ask for a copy of the photo without watermarks. I’ve had to let go of many good photos just because of this.
  4. “@” Mentioning us in your comments don’t work. I run an 8K-follower page and even I get so many @ comments that many get lost. Imagine what would happen with a 700k account like @MoodyGrams? Your best bet is to go with # tags and image tags. Note: I’m not affiliated with @MoodyGrams, they’re just a popular example.

Of course, growing an account isn’t something you can do overnight, and definitely isn’t something that just happens automatically without any effort. Engagement is very important—if someone comments, reply to their comment, with something that’s not just “thanks” or “you too,” and make conversation.

Also, network with local photographers and join them on shoots, even if you are a casual photographer! Being part of a community can seriously benefit you.


The “stick to one style” advice I gave is pretty controversial. Although it is true that this is difficult (and some call it boring) I think it is still extremely important.

Hear me out.

When someone clicks into your portfolio, the first thing they will see is an overview of your account in grid view. Your overall presentation is an art in and of itself that is just as important as your individual photos. The main difference is that it takes time to develop a good feed and effort to maintain it.

It’s worth it in the end.

Another controversial topic is the issue of watermarking photos, and I completely understand the frustrations people have raised. I think it is important to set one thing straight: yes, from a professional point of view, protecting your photos and copyrighting your photos is the right way to go to prevent photo theft. But with Instagram, this is definitely not a professional community of photographers, it is social media.

A large portion of the members on Instagram are not professional photographers. They are regular users of social media, and the truth is, watermarks do not add to the aesthetics of a photograph, they deduct from it.

As an Instagram page admin who cares about my page, I will have to pass on photos that might introduce inconsistency into my feed. I know this is not perfect, but from a selfish point of view, our community may consist of photos submitted by individual photographers, but the community itself is a piece of work too. We page admins take pride in that work.

About the author: Johnnie Yu is a Chinese American student and third culture kid who is passionate about photography, filmmaking, and traveling. The opinions in this post are solely those of its author. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following his pages on Facebook and Instagram. A shorter version of this post was published on Reddit.

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