Check out The Photographer’s Guide to Instagram Hashtags from PhotoShelter and Feature Shoot. An interesting survey with good tips.
I copied some of their conclusions here. You can download the full guide at photoshelter.com
We’ve seen that editors do use
hashtags to find new work, and regularly seek
new emerging talents via popular and niche
Instagram feature pages. Many photographers have been
hired, sent on assignments or sold prints due to Instagram
publicity, and there are many images which have the
potential to get this kind of attention if promoted well.
Across the board it seems that feature page curators, inundated
with new submissions every day, often judge images
based on the thumbnail—so this must be striking. A
combination of both submittable and searchable hashtags
does help you get more exposure, as both have their audiences.
Feature page curators also appreciate hashtags that
provide extra information about an image, for instance
those which communicate the camera used, the format,
the location. Many also explicitly ask for geolocation.
Below are a few further reflections on how to continue to
promote your photography using hashtags on Instagram.
How many hashtags should I use and
where should I put them?
While Instagram sets a 30-hashtag limit, most photographers
don’t adhere to this. Too many hashtags
can overwhelm users and discourage them from
checking out the rest of your profile. For this reason,
photographers who have already established large followers
tend not to use any. But you will want to use
hashtags if you’re still growing an audience and want
to draw interest beyond your existing followers. Some
photographers opt to include hashtags at the end of
the caption, is there is one, and sometimes these can
be divided by a “//“ for clarity. For aesthetic preferences, others put this information below the image as a
first comment. Either way, it will help your photograph
reach new people.
Hashtags to avoid
It is advisable to steer clear of spammy hashtags such as
#follow4follow which might get you followers, though
are likely to deter photo editors, fellow photographers
and photography enthusiasts.
Larger vs smaller submittable feature pages
This is really your call. Feature pages with larger followings
will without a doubt get you more exposure
should your photograph be selected, though these are
also more competitive due to the high number of submissions.
Smaller feature pages with a niche interest are
less competitive and may be worth applying to if they
have a particular aesthetic which you like, or if there
are editors or writers among their followers. To increase
your chances of gaining exposure, it pays to use hashtags
from a variety of feature pages, big or small.
How to find new Instagram hashtags
With time, some submittable hashtags become too
competitive, cease activity or have a change in artistic
direction. Fortunately it is always possible to find new
hashtags. Scouring the profiles of Instagram influencers,
photographers whose profiles are increasingly popular
or seeing who editors are following can help you discover
new feature pages. There are new ones cropping up all
the time. Some searchable hashtags become too overloaded
with spam and so sometimes it is worth playing with words to find new hashtags which still appeal to
people working within the medium and/or genre.
A note on the future of hashtags
That last point brings us onto another question; if
some searchable hashtags are becoming saturated with
spam or unrelated photographs, what is the future of
hashtags? It can be frustrating to search for what you
want via Instagram only to find images that are completely
irrelevant. More and more, editors and writers
are turning to submittable feature pages to get a curated
selection of photographs that have been qualitychecked.
Whether the hashtag method of submission
is sustainable, or more feature pages turn to email submission
is at this point unclear.
Beyond your use of hashtags, it is important to have
a consistent, quality feed, post regularly, and have an
interesting profile to keep your followers interested.
Architect and architectural photographer Jeroen van
Dam has been featured by big hubs, though has found
that what is most important for him is interacting
with other people on Instagram. “In that way they
are more likely to comment back and start following
you” he emphasizes. People who like your style and
are interested in the stories you have to tell will keep
checking up on you. Instagram is at times a reciprocal
platform—new followers are more likely to find your
page if you regularly engage with others, be it by liking
or commenting on their images.
Once you’re satisfied with the number of followers or
interest you can always opt to drop hashtags to get the
cleaner look that Instagram influencers usually go for.
Instagram is fun, and can also be a powerful tool for
promoting your photography.