This post was last updated on May 19, 2020.
Ansel Adams once said, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” Had he lived in the hyperconnectivity society of our current times, this quote would continue by noting the importance of creating a dialogue between these two people. Nowadays, social networks are not just a fantastic addition to your photography website, but also an amazing opportunity to connect with your audience.
Once perceived as unapproachable artists who sell their work in galleries, photographers now have it easier than ever to build and nurture these relationships. However, it is also harder than ever to keep up with the latest technology and social media platforms. But worry not, as we have put together a simple guide for you to know exactly what you should do to connect with your audience using Instagram Stories.
What are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories are one of the platform’s most popular features. You may be familiar with them as the little circles that show up at the top of your feed. They allow users to upload photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours and do not appear as part of the main feed, making them a great support tool for your photography career’s social media strategy. On top of helping you connect with your audience, using Instagram Stories can help improve your account’s exposure, as the Instagram algorithm benefits users who engage with a variety of the platform’s features.
Just like regular posts, Instagram Stories are discoverable by location and hashtags. The content you upload can be seen by the same people who can view your feed. Instagram also lets you check who’s seen your story. In addition to classic photos, there are many other elements you can use in your Stories, including text, emojis, stickers, polls, filters, video effects, and gifs.
How to use Instagram Stories to connect with your audience
Invite your followers to tag along
Share extra content
Promote other channels
Show who’s behind the camera
Highlight your best Stories
01. Invite your followers to tag along
... figuratively speaking, of course. You probably don’t want to have hundreds of people crashing your photoshoot, no matter how much that could help you connect with your audience.
Instagram Stories offers a unique opportunity to show behind-the-scenes footage. Whether you’re traveling, in the studio, or packing up your camera accessories, sharing these moments with your followers will make them feel closer to your work.
Just like the nearly two-decade long How It’s Made show, offering your followers a peek into the effort that goes into each image will get them hooked. At the same time, you can use this content to share your expertise and rise as a source of inspiration for those hungry for knowledge. Sharing your wisdom is actually one of the biggest opportunities for photographers on social media.
02. Share extra content
Wallpapers, tutorials, uncropped versions of your feed photos, photo editing tips, gear advice… the sky’s the limit! Well, technically 15 seconds per post is the limit, but there are no barriers to the type of content you can share on Instagram Stories. They are also a great platform to empower your photography marketing efforts, as you can easily tag your business partners, advertise future events, introduce a contest, etc.
Not only can you use this space to connect with your audience, but also with other photographers. Share the work of creators you admire and tag them to boost your networking efforts and nurture meaningful relationships. This will also benefit your followers, as they’ll get to grow their feed and fuel their photography inspiration based on the advice of someone whose work they admire.
03. Spark conversation
Unlike feed posts, Stories cannot receive public comments. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to engage with your fans. The tools that this feature offers make up for the lack of comments and actually drive much more engagement than the traditional system.
For example, polls are a simple and straightforward approach that require very little time and effort for both you and your viewers. Because of this, nearly every person who’ll see your poll is likely to participate. On the other hand, users who chose to respond to the Story via private message will actually be able to have a conversation with you, without sharing the space with hundreds of other comments.
As for what to ask your audience in a poll: literally anything (as long as it’s not potentially damaging for your photography career, of course). Which destination should I travel to next? Should I start vlogging my adventures? Do you shoot with a camera or with your phone? How do you like your coffee? And the list goes on.
04. Promote other channels
Your online presence should work like a well-oiled machine, in which each platform acts as a gear perfectly connected to the rest. It’s quite well known that not linking your social media profiles on your photography website is one of the most common portfolio mistakes. However, it may not be so obvious that you should be using these platforms to direct your audience to your site.
Here’s where Instagram Stories come in. Because this content automatically disappears after 24 hours, it allows you to promote your photography business without interfering with your main content strategy. For example, you can use Stories to encourage viewers to visit your site whenever you upload new content. Or make important announcements like that you’ve decided to sell photos online or start a side project.
Accounts with over 10k followers have the option to add a swipe up feature on their Stories to automatically redirect users to the desired page. For those who have not reached that milestone yet, you can temporarily change the URL displayed on your Instagram bio.
05. Show who’s behind the camera
... not just with creative self-portrait ideas, but also by offering a peek into your everyday life. After all, the best way to connect with your audience is by letting them connect with you. To do so, you should be more than a small, round picture on their phone screens. Snap some shots of your city, your pet, your favorite coffee place. Take a video from the bus window, or as you wait at the traffic light.
If you don’t mind making a bit more of an effort, share some stories about yourself. For example, talk about the moment you decided to become a professional photographer or what your dream project is. This option is especially valuable when paired with a photography blog where you can dive deeper into the details.
06. Highlight your best Stories
Instagram Stories automatically disappear after 24 hours, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Following popular demand, Instagram decided to offer users the option to save this content with Story Highlights. After being saved, they appear in folders right below users’ bios, illustrated by a cover image and still separated from the feed.
Story Highlights are a great way to keep the kind of content you want to offer your audience on your profile, even if it does not match the style or strategy of your feed. For example, you can save full-screen images aimed to be used as wallpapers for your fans’ smartphones. Or maybe you posted some shots from your latest trip that don’t quite make the cut to your feed. If you have a photography business, creating an FAQ folder might also be an interesting idea.
07. Have fun
The first rule of Instagram Stories is: have fun! However, keep in mind that people will still associate your stories with your brand, so you might still want to keep certain content in the shadows.
Other than that, this is the place where you can joke around and get personal with your audience. Add a funny gif on that behind-the-scenes shot. Complain about how hot it is (with the mandatory temperature sticker). Share pictures of you hanging out with your friends. Simply enjoy the ride.