Photo by Soren Egeberg/Stocksy. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel.
Instagram has more than 400 million monthly active users — and they post more than 80 million photos every day. That’s a lot of artsy shoe pics, overhead food shots, and peace-sign selfies. So how do you get your own photographic gems to be seen by more than just a small circle of friends?
We asked the experts: our Yahoo Travel Explorers, a network of global nomads whose Instagram feeds are not only integral to their storytelling efforts, but also to their livelihoods as travel bloggers. So you know they’ve thought about how to build their followings.
Below, they reveal 20 secrets for taking great photos, sharing them to a wide Instagram audience, and getting that audience to follow you consistently. Follow these tips and you’ll be Instagramming like a pro travel photographer in no time.
“Frame your photos – framing your image with something in the foreground adds interesting details and fills up dull negative space. Using a natural frame is an easy way to turn an average snapshot into a much more visually appealing image. Also, try to create a specific project or theme with your photos that could lead to a unique hashtag that you create. Consistency with a focused theme will lead to excitement and anticipation of your next post from your followers. Mine is the #pastpresentproject.” —Christian Carollo, Past Present Project, @sayhellotoamerica
“Choose a niche subject, whether it is landscapes, portraits, architecture, or in my case food. People like to know what to expect and choose accounts that consistent. I rarely post a non-food photo because I know it’s why someone followed me.” —Ayngelina Brogan, Bacon is Magic, @ayngelina
Find your photographic niche, whether it’s food, landscapes, or architecture. (Photo: Ayngelina Brogan/Bacon is Magic)
“Have a killer photo gallery. This is by far the most important thing in terms of conversion. People may discover you because of a single photo, but they will follow you based on your body of work. This means you have to constantly have high-quality images. If you post something which dramatically underperforms in terms of engagement, you are better off deleting it than leaving it in your gallery. When I suggest that people delete photos, they are often shocked at the suggestion, but it’s true. Curate what people see when they arrive to your account so you are showing your best work. More tips here.” —Gary Arndt, Everything Everywhere, @everythingeverywhere
“Have a killer gallery,” says Gary Arndt, two-time Travel Photographer of the Year with more than 138K followers. (Photo: Gary Arndt/Everything Everywhere)
“Try to tell a story with your photos. Don’t neglect your followers who not only want to look at pretty pictures, but also want to learn something as well. If you post a photo of an ancient mausoleum in Uzbekistan, add a few lines of historical information to go along with it. If it’s a picture of a landscape, where exactly is it and are there any defining features that make that place different to anywhere else? No need to write a novel, but teach as well as show.” —Jarryd Salem, Nomadasaurus, @NOMADasaurus
“The time of day that you post can also be very important. For me personally (with a largely North American audience) posting around noon to mid-afternoon and early evening EST work best and seems to be when my photos get the most interaction, likes, and comments. Test it out and try out a few different times and then try to stick with posting only during the times that work best for you. I also recommend trying to stay consistent and posting every day but no more than a couple a day. If you do post more than one a day space them out at least 4 to 5 hours apart, so each image can stand out on its own and you aren’t bombarding your followers.” —Cailin O'Neil, Travel Yourself, @cailinoneil
“Noon and 6pm eastern US are optimal times for me—they catch people in several convenient time zones around the world. Instagram posts with appropriate hashtags receive much more visibility than posts with no hashtags. Correlative and creative hashtags reach a varied and wider audience.” —Charles McCool, McCool Travel, @charlesmccool
“Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of people are ‘instabombing’ feeds, i.e. posting several photos in a row, or as I like to call it ‘instabarfing.’ I don’t have the statistics to back it up, but my hunch (and based on chats with colleagues and friends) is that’s one sure way people WON’T engage with your photos. Save albums for Facebook or Picasa, and instead choose one photo that best illustrates the place/day/meal/moment. Or just spread out the posting time by a few hours. Your breakfast on the beach in Cabo looks great, but no one wants to see five photos of it, and the dessert, and the chef, and the napkins, and the clean plates. Choose the single best shot and move on to the next instagrammable moment later in the day.” —Lindsay Taub, Voyage Vixens, @voyagevixens
“Don’t over-use filters, or post blurry, grainy, badly lit photos — those are the marks of amateur accounts. Taking photos outdoors or with good natural lighting results in sharp, clear images for a compelling Instagram feed.”—La Carmina, @lacarmina
Be social, and build community: Like and comment on photos you connect with, and other people with the same interests will start to respond to yours too. (Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo)
“Instagram is a social network. So be social! Even with great photos using relevant hashtags posted at the perfect time of day, your account can easily remain a private island with few visitors. Find accounts that you love and follow them. Like their photos. Comment often. Don’t do it haphazardly and don’t use auto-commenting programs. If you’re a real person and you connect with others over shared passions, be it travel, diving, dogs on airplanes or whatever, people will add you back and comment on your photos and you’ll be a part of the community. Account growth follows quickly from there.” —Eric Stoen, Travel Babbo, @travelbabbo
“When taking photos of big spaces — mountain landscapes, empty streets, canyons, etc. — try to include a person in there to provide some perspective as to the size, the vastness. This also helps the viewer to imagine himself in that place and what it would feel like to be there. This is especially true for natural landscapes and mountains but also applies to street scenes.” —Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market, @uncornered_market
Put people in your shots to show scale and to help your followers imagine themselves in that destination. (Photo: uncornered_market)
“Use a mix of hashtags. For example, if the photo is of a destination, you can use the hashtag for the relevant tourism board who may feature your photo on their account. Besides hashtags where other accounts may feature you, use descriptive hashtags that regular people might be searching, so for a landscape photo, this could include #nature #landscapeand #sunset.” —Laurel Robbin, Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel Blog, @laurel_robbins
“I blend six to nine photographs together in colors or styles. I think it is important that each photo is amazing alone, yet they need to blend together to make your account look appealing as a whole. I then connect different genres together, so that I don’t just have one style, but many depending on where I am traveling to.”—Cacinda Maloney, Points and Travel, @pointsandtravel
“Obviously beautiful, interesting photos are priority No. 1 on Instagram, but don’t be afraid to mix it up — landscapes, macro shots, food pics, selfies. As long as it fits with your personal brand, you’re good. Aside from that, don’t be afraid to socialize like crazy — it is a social network, after all. Like new people you might not know, click around, comment sincerely. Instagram is a fascinating and fun community and you’re only getting half the benefits if you’re sitting back and waiting for others to do all the liking.” —Angie Orth, Angie Away, @angieaway
It’s Instagram so of course the most beautiful photos will do well, but don’t be afraid to mix it up with fun shots. (Angie Orth/Angie Away)
“I have the grid function enabled on my iPhone camera to compose an image using the rule of thirds. Also, take time to edit your image. Instagram has basic tools to take a photo from good to great. Make sure it’s aligned well, that it’s bright enough and that the colors are well-balanced. I rarely ever use a filter at its full capacity. If you double-tap the filter it gives you the option to adjust the filter’s intensity. Before sharing the photo I tap the image to see what it looks on a white background instead of black, which is how others will see it in their feed, and I adjust the image if needed. Now that you can post landscape and portrait images, I always try to make sure that they’ll still look good with a square framing in my gallery. Lastly, I always add a location, an appropriate hashtag and use my subject’s handle in the caption so they can comment and share the image on their own social networks.” —Nora Walsh, Patchwork Compass, @patchworkcompass
“The trick is to travel a lot and post beautiful images. Create your own style, use certain filters or none at all. If you don’t travel then start reposting others but be sure to give them full credit.” —Johnny Jet, @johnnyjet
“Use destination-specific hashtags. For instance, if I’m in Honolulu, I’ll use hashtags related to Honolulu, Oahu, and Hawaii. Then I’ll look through those hashtag feeds and like recently posted photos that have used the same hashtags. When people click through to my profile and see that I’m posting photos from the same place as them, they’re more likely to not only look through my photos but to like them as well.” —Natalie DiScala, Oh! Travelissima, @nataliediscala
Mix up your feed with action shots. (Photo: Lanee Lee/Voyage Vixens)
“I’ll be slightly controversial here and say use your best photos — which for me means the ones I take with my DSLR — not my phone. I post-process the files and then save them to Dropbox as smaller images. Then you can choose to use your images from Dropbox when you are picking your photo to use in Instagram. Finally, I always make sure I put a location on each shot so people know where it was taken because there’s nothing worse than seeing a gorgeous landscape photo and then wondering where it was taken.”—Sherry Ott, Ott’s World, @ottsworld