It’s been almost a year since Instagram introduced their Stories feature. From the get-go, we saw photographers embrace the add-on, using it to share behind the scenes on set, snapshots of their workflow, photos from their travels, and food…lots of food.
If you’re not looped in, Instagram Stories offers Snapchat-like features and can be a great way to give followers a sense of your personality. You can post videos, photos, and Boomerangs; overlay text and emojis; share you location and the current temperature; tag others; and more. Your story will stay live for only 24 hours, and your followers can see what you share by tapping on your profile photo or locating you in the top bar of their feed. Check out this guide to using Instagram Stories for a deeper walkthrough.
If you haven’t tinkered with Stories yet or are hesitant to start, we connected with a few well known photographers — Chris Burkard, Helena Price, Katie Orlinsky, and Evan Sung — who are using the feature all the time. We wanted to know what they like about it, how it’s helping their photo business, and what tips they have for photographers who want to get started.
What do you like most about Instagram Stories? Anything you don’t like so much?
Chris Burkard: “I love the ability to give people a more in-depth look at my life and a realistic perspective of who I am and what goes into my work. I find it’s simple and less of a commitment than posting a photo on my feed. I also feel like it gives me more freedom to be funny and show the not-so-perfect moments throughout my day.”
Helena Price: “I’ve been saving mundane moments my entire life. It all started with shooting my day-to-day on Walmart disposable cameras when I was six years old. It was always unpolished and casual and focused on saving memories. Instagram Stories give me a similar satisfaction. It’s also nice to see a trend online toward things and experiences that are a little more genuine, unpolished, and human again. I think a feature like Instagram Stories has helped push people in that direction.”
Evan Sung: “I like that with Stories I can document a series of moments and not worry so much about curating permanent images on my feed. So as I’m traveling, while I will try to post an image or two, any little moments of beauty, inspiration, silliness, or amazingness can just be tossed together to make a great Story.
“I curate it somewhat, of course, but it’s liberating to add photos and videos as you please, knowing it will only be up for a day. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t particularly like about the feature because it’s a relatively pressure-free format. No downsides.”
Katie Orlinsky: “Sometimes I just want to share fun and silly things without much thought about the visuals or if it’s appropriately professional. Before, I didn’t really have an outlet for that, so when Stories came out I jumped on the bandwagon right away. And I think it’s been received really well by my followers. People are curious about what goes on behind-the-scenes in the field, and I also get to show that I’m a real person. My work is serious, and I’m serious about it, and I take pride in being a professional, but I’m also pretty goofy. It’s nice to express some lightness and silliness sometimes.”
As a photographer, how do you think the feature helps your business and brand?
Helena Price: “I think it’s a great way for people to get to know the photographer behind the work. You can show the world what goes on behind the scenes in your life, whether that’s a day on set, a Photoshop session, or just hanging with friends. After so many years of Instagram feeling overly curated, Stories can now help people perceive you as approachable and human. And in my experience, that is always good for business. That said, I should probably warn people that my Stories are maybe 10% photo sets and Photoshop, and 90% dogs.”
Chris Burkard: “There’s no question that people’s appetite for content is growing. So I believe the way photographers can find success on places like Instagram is to share and give people a real insight to who you are. Instagram Stories gives photographers the ability to do just that in a way that’s personal and realistic. Brands and potential clients want to see your personality and what you stand for.”
Katie Orlinsky: “I think it’s very helpful for commercial work. It’s also a great way to share where I am geographically. I’m a photojournalist, so it’s important to keep photo editors informed of my whereabouts and what I’m working on.”
Evan Sung: “I think Stories helps by giving followers a look inside my life and my world. As a photographer, it’s always nice to hear from people when they see something I’ve posted they like or something that resonates with them. It also helps me to paint a fuller picture of my days and work, and that can be interesting to see for some.”
Do you have any advice for photographers who want to use Instagram Stories to engage and grow their audience?
Helena Price: “Honestly, don’t take it so seriously. Be yourself and have a sense of humor. Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing. Share what you’re learning and working on, and also be sure to save everything so you’ll have a giant video diary to look at in 50 years.”
Chris Burkard: “Just start! Posting doesn’t have to be super planned or overly involved. You’ll find it becomes easier and easier over time. Sharing your process and how you do what you do is a great place to begin.”
Evan Sung: “I think it comes down to being loose and personal with what you share. Just have fun, but let your own personality, interests, and idiosyncrasies shine through. I’m not entirely sure how it helps to grow audience necessarily, but I do think of it as a real way to expand the connection with the audience you already have.”
If you’ve yet to post your first Instagram Story, it might be time to get on board. Plus with Stories only lasting a day, testing the waters is low-stakes. As a photographer, potential clients really want a sense of who you are, so use Stories to give your followers a look at your day, funny moments, or behind the scenes on set. You may be surprised at how engaged your audience become.