Rachid Dahnoun, @rachidphotoBe Engaged. Most people who don't do well on social networks forget that it isn't all about you; you need to interact with other people on the network by liking, commenting and following other accounts. Building relationships with other users will really help boost your own account's engagement.
Be Consistent. Posting once a week isn't going to cut it. Nor is posting a beautiful landscape one day and a furry kitten the next. Consistency across the board is key. You want to be posting at least 5 days a week (7 is ideal). That said, you don't want to over-post either. If you overload your followers with 4 posts in an hour they are likely to dump you. For content, you want to stay true to yourself and your brand. When someone looks at your feed the work should look and feel cohesive, just like a portfolio.
Jess McGlothin, @jess_mcglothlin_mediaLook Outside Your Immediate Target Audience. I specialize in fly-fishing and outdoor adventure travel, but I’ve seen an increase in fitness and general travel followers when I tailor a post to less-technical viewers. A fun one-liner with a post about my favorite sandals for airplane rides? That’s guaranteed to land a few new followers outside my normal “dude with a beard and a fly rod” genre. Tell Stories. An image is worth a thousand words, as they say. When someone is flipping through their feed, I want the image to make them stop and look deeper. It’s a tenet of strong photography, and it’s important here too. Instagram is a great tool of escapism… enable that a bit; let people into the story. They'll respond. Let People in to Your World. Adding a ten-second video into your feed once in a while allows viewers to feel like they’re behind the scenes. In the past few months I shot iPhone videos of helicopters landing on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, people passing through the Lima airport at 1AM and a team bumping along a backcountry road in the Amazon jungle while dodging bamboo overgrowth. Video is a fantastic tool to relate to your audience… show that it’s not all fun and glory and good times! Sometimes the job is sleeping on airport floors, dealing with infected wounds and burning time on long car rides. Let’s not be afraid to talk about that!
Andrew Peacock, @footloosefotography
Be True to Yourself. It's important that I am excited about posting and it helps if I keep things fresh and post very recent work rather than spend time 'mining' my archive looking for something to post just because I feel pressure to do so! I think of my Instagram feed as a portfolio for my adventure travel photography, so I only post high quality images and I keep it 'real' in terms of any post processing, to ensure my feed is an accurate reflection of the style of work I deliver to clients.
Find Partners. I'm very lucky to be able to travel widely, so I make sure to post images across a range of subjects and locations to appeal to those looking for adventure travel inspiration on Instagram. Occasionally I'll also share my work on a feed with a larger audience. By establishing personal connections with relevant people at companies with huge Instagram followings - Lonely Planet, for instance - I've gained an avenue to share my work with a broader audience.
Paul Zizka, @paulzizkaphoto
#Trending! Posting images relevant to current natural events seems to give my post an extra boost in interaction. Whether it's season specific, ie. snowy scene during the Winter months, or an Aurora post during or after a solar storm, finding images that people can relate to as something they're experiencing or thinking about is a strategy that pays off for me.
Sean Davey, @sean_davey
Ask Questions. I post a a mix of images as they happen, along with classic surf images from my days as a magazine photographer, to keep the content interesting and different as much as I can. I try to engage my audience as much as possible. Ask them a question about the picture, or in my case, I ask them to name the photo and reward the winner with a few 8x10’s. I see that as part of my advertising budget, so to speak.
David Hanson, @davidhanson3
Share Personal Work. For over a dozen years I've collected portraits and interviews of people I meet, most complete strangers. With over 400, I turned to Instagram to post one per day for 2017. It's a fun way to stay both consistent and unpredictable. I was a writer before I was a photographer so I like digging beyond the pic. And part of me hopes to learn some secret to life from the people.
Kay Vilchis Zapata, @kayuvilchis
Join the Celebration. I like to upload photos on days that are celebrating something, like for example National Dolphin Day. I think that by celebrating something everyone talks about that topic and in the same way you can make your audience aware of conserving those important elements and taking more care of the planet.
We recently sat down with Geert Weggen, nature photographer based in Sweden, to discuss his "naturally staged" tableaux of wildlife, usually focused on red squirrels. You can see more of his fantastical, yet real, work here!
Aurora Photos: You have been featured on the internet a number of times (here, here, here...you get the picture) for your wonderful captures of, "squirrel lifestyle," let's call it. We have to ask. Why squirrels?
Geert Weggen: The amazing thing about squirrels is that they can do many things similar to humans. Their front legs are like hands and they can stand on two legs, like us. Besides all that, they can do even more...they're very acrobatic! With those talents, I can capture photos where people can imagine themselves in the scenes: Driving, riding horses, cleaning, opening doors, holding umbrellas etc.
I live in nature, with the forest literally next to my house. I built an outside studio where animals can come and go. With all the wild squirrels visiting me every day they are the perfect subject to take photos of.
Au: Can you describe your process and technique?
GW: My studio is about 30 square meters and has a half open roof and 2 open sides. The rain and snow can come in, but still my equipment will stay dry. I created a 2-meter square table, which is the same height as my kitchen window from where I can shoot. The flashes are on remote and I use a big reflector. There is always back light, which is why many times only ambient light is not enough. I create scenes on my table and put food in the places where I hope squirrels will come. Sometimes I have to clone away small food buckets or wires from my photos. Sometimes I can do four scenes in one day.
Au: Was there a trick you tried to get a squirrel to do that didn't quite work?
GW: There have been shots which I worked at for 5 days, but in the end I got my result. Like I had the idea that the squirrels were skiing in the snow, and I really wanted them to hold both poles in each hand. I am not a very patient man, but when I have an idea in my head it is hard for me to walk away. Sometime, I have difficulty capturing the squirrels with flowers; most of the flowers come from my garden, and there's a short window of time where they still look fresh.
I've had issues with mischievous squirrels in the past...some love to take props in to the trees and disappear before I can even take a shot. I lost a beautiful tea pot some years ago, though I was lucky then, and was able to capture the images I wanted before it disappeared. In fact, I FOUND IT this year in the forest, after all these years!
Au: What's the one shot you'd love to set up, but haven't tried yet?
GW: For 4 years now I've been photographing the red squirrels and I have literally worked with thousands of ideas, but there are still a few I haven't tried. It would be wonderful to capture two squirrels kissing, but I have no idea how to get them into that shot. I have captured squirrels sniffing each other, but these situations are impossible to plan.
Au: It’s a common saying in the business, "don't work with kids and animals”... would you say that's true?
GW: Well...It can be frustrating. I often find myself cursing. There are many potential issues...Of course there is wind, and weather problems, etc. In the winter days, I sometimes only have 3 hours of light, and it can be so cold that in 5 minutes I cannot feel the buttons on the camera, but all that is not even the biggest challenge. The animals do exactly what they want, and I have no control. They are always on the move and very quick! Photography is not really relaxing when they are in front of my camera; I need to be alert and very quick to capture those moments! Lucky for me, there are so many squirrels that I have many chances to capture what I hope for.
Au: Do you think some of the techniques you use on squirrels would work on kids?
GW: For me, the trick is food and trust. The animals are always looking for food and looking for it in my studio with me nearby. It takes a long time before they feel safe. Similar to deer, they are alert the whole time. However, when they started to trust me they naturally became curious and dared to challenge themselves in new situations. Whenever I set up a new scene, they almost go directly towards it and act like they are familiar with their new surroundings, and behave like I am not there.
I don't photograph children, but I guess it has a lot in common with how I approach photographing wildlife. Children need to feel safe so they can behave naturally and they like a reward as motivation. When I have a good shoot, and the wildlife cooperates, I will climb out my window to give them a nut, as a reward. I assume child-photography involves rewarding the kids when they cooperate and listen, as well. However, I do think you can guide children in a different way than squirrels.Here's a few action shots and behind the scenes of Geert's studio. You can see more of his furry friends in action here!