Instagram Tips for freelance writers and photographers

Instagram Tips

As a freelance travel writer or photographer sharing the best of your travel imagery to Instagram can prove extremely valuable and effective.

Editors and publishers are now reaching out to writers via Instagram with commissions because they’ve seen great shots of a destination they need a story on or have liked a photo enough that they’ll asked for a story to go with it.

So that means we just need to take pretty pictures and post them, right?

Not quite. As a professional your Instagram feed isn’t just for fun – it’s a public portfolio of your work and a catalogue of where you’ve been and when. And we need to treat it as such.

So what five things do successful Instagrammers do that is different?

1. They don’t rely only on the camera on their phone.

Most larger Instagram accounts shoot the majority, if not all, of their images on DSLR’s or a decent Compact Mirrorless Camera and upload the best shots using the camera’s Bluetooth/wireless to their phones for posting. That’s not to say you can’t use your phone camera but you’re going to tell a better visual story with a better camera.

2. They don’t spam their followers with dozens of shots a day.

If you check some of the more successful IG accounts you’ll see they rarely post a photo the minute they shoot it, unless it’s something that is time sensitive. Instead they wait to pick their best shot of the day or the destination. One shot per day.

3. They use Instagram Stories

With 200 million users joining since its launch last August, Instagram Stories allows users to post photos and videos that can be accompanied with text to create a narrative story that vanishes after 24 hours. This gives you an opportunity to bundle a collection of experiences to tell powerful first-person stories without cluttering your feed. Instagram Stories also puts you front of mind when users log in to their Instagram and it is a really effective way of fostering a dialogue with your followers, who often engage more with stories than they do with stills.

Given these disappear, there’s not too many rules for Instagram Stories, other than keep it real and don’t overdo it. Stick with the edited highlights that best illustrate your destination and highlight your photography and video skills. Seriously, no one cares about your last cup of coffee, unless it was made from beans plucked from cat poop, or poured by a naked Chris Hemsworth.

4. They use hashtags… with intent

You can use up to 30 hashtags on Insta with each post and it is worth doing to aid the process of content discovery and optimisation. Posts with even one hashtag averages 13% more engagement than posts without any.

#But #They #Do #Not #Hashtag #Every #Single #Word

Best practise is not to include hashtags in your actual post and to put the bulk of your hashtags in the first comment on your photo. Why? Because it looks prettier and Instagram is nothing if not shallow…

When selecting hashtags remember to respect your hosts – using the preferred hashtags for your hosts and destination ( city, state and/or country).

Here are some of the most popular travel hashtags…. and the number of people who’ve used them

#travel ………………………… 201 million
#travelgram …………………. 46 million
#instatravel ………………….. 42 million
#traveling …………………….. 22 million
#Travelphotogrpahy ………. 21 million
#travelling ……………………. 33 million
#traveler ……………………….14 million

It’s worth considering if these are really going to be effective. When you think about the frequency they are used, no matter how good your shot is it is going to be buried under another 100 images within about 15 seconds of you posting. So you might be better off using hashtags for large accounts that are known for credited sharing. Here are a just a few I use occasionally;


But in my opinion, the most important people to tag and hashtag are potential employers. If you want to get noticed by the people who matter, why not tag and hashtag the outlets you write for, or want to write for. These are some Australian and International outlets who use a monitored hashtag.

#travellerau – Fairfax
#escapesnaps – News Corp
#vacationsmag – Vacations & Travel
#austtraveller – Australian Traveller
#JetstarMagazine – JetStar
#QFtravelinsider – Qantas Magazine
#whereaustralia – Where Magazine
#Signatureluxury – Signature Magazine
#holidayswithkids – Holidays With Kids
#fivestarkids – Five Star Kids
#Outandaboutwithkids – Out & About With Kids
#BoundRound – Bound Round
#getlostnow – Get Lost Magazine
#DestinAsian – DestinAsian Magazine
#holidaysforcouples – Holidays for Couples
#LP – Lonely Planet
#fodorsonthego – Fodors Travel
#TLPicks – Travel + Leisure magazine
#traveldeeper – AFAR media
#NatGeoTravel – National Geographic
#ForbesTravelGuide – Forbes
#BBCTravel – BBC Travel
#CNTraveler – Conde Nast Traveller
#GuardianTravelSnaps – Guardian

TIP – it’s worth telling a story in the caption rather than just a quick aside as your 50 word anecdote could lead to a 1000-word commission.

NOTE: If you have been hosted at your destination and are promoting it, it is now a Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) legal requirement for social media “influencers” to clearly label their sponsored and gifted content. The preferred tags are #hosted #famil or #sponsored (if it is paid content)

** And don’t forget to tag the #ASTW on all your great pics.**

5. They use filters and editing apps

I know there are purists in the audience who disagree with using filters and apps, but the majority of successful accounts post heavily edited photos. And why not? As photographers we edit our images to send to publications, so why not do the same on a visible resume like Instagram?

I suggest you forget about all about Instagram’s standard filters (though the editing tools like brightness and structure are awesome to give your images a little oomph and extra detail, if you don’t abuse them). I’m talking about third party apps that can transform your shots from meh to marvelous in seconds. But which apps are the best?

There are hundreds of excellent editing apps but these are the four I use most frequently;

1. Snapseed  – This free photo-editing app allows you to edit, crop and straighten images but its most unique feature is that it allows you to selectively retouch specific areas of a photo, and I often use this to brighten a face or highlight a feature. It’s simple but can make a huge difference!

Before Snapseed
before snapseedAfter SnapseedAfter snapseed

2. Camera + – This camera app provides manual camera controls for your smartphone but it also offers tools that help you get the best out of your photos, from fixing the basics to significantly enhancing your images with creative filters.

3. VSCO CAM – this easy-to-use app is loved by photographers, and is the ultimate when it comes to photo manipulation, whether you need to brighten, sharpen, or increase contrast. It also offers more realistic photo treatments and enhancements.

4. Touch retouch – a super simple photo editor that allows you to remove unwanted content or objects from any photo, using just your finger.

Before Touch retouchbefore touchretouch

After Touch retouchafter touchretouch

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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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