I love Instagram. But I worry that it’s driving my fellow photographers crazy. I’ve seen so many photographers do so many wacky things in search of Instafame that I’ve given the madness a name. I call it… Instagram Derangement Syndrome.
Instagram Derangement Syndrome is graded on a spectrum of 0% to 100%. The higher the percentage, the more deranged you are. To determine where you are on this spectrum, I’ve put together a convenient little quiz for you.
Now, let’s go over the 6 most common symptoms. They’re in no particular order, though #1 is most important:
1. You Treat Instagram Like It’s the Center of the Universe
A strong Instagram presence is a great asset for a photographer. Instagram gets your work out into the world. Virtually every person that hires photographers is on Instagram. Plus, a big follower count gets attention and opens doors.
But I’ve noticed more and more photographers putting all their eggs in the Instagram basket — as if Instagram is the center of the universe.
In the past few months, I’ve heard photographers say things like “you don’t need a website anymore” and “I’m spending 2 hours a day on Instagram.” Meanwhile, they’re ignoring tried and true marketing channels like physical mailers, phone calls, and my personal favorite, email.
Now, let me be completely honest: growing my Instagram presence is one of my top goals this year. I’m just not throwing everything else out the window. In fact, I’m working on a new website right now because I don’t want to rely on a platform I don’t own.
Let me tell you something you should already know: Instagram is built to sell advertising, not to help you achieve your photography goals.
2. You Think Instagram Is a Photography App
If Instagram was actually about photography, the best photographers in the world would have more followers.
For example, one of my heroes, the great Vincent Peters, has 209K followers — about as much as a typical contestant on The Bachelor.
The Richard Avedon Foundation has 78K followers.
Hell, the only photographer in Instagram’s top 20 users is, um, Kendall Jenner:
Let’s talk reality. Instagram is not a photography app. It’s an app featuring photography. Actually, scratch that. Instagram is a game featuring photography. Non-photographers score points by bragging about their fabulous lifestyles, showing their brunch, and by being beautiful.
Photographers can win by following tried-and-true current trends like the Transformers look… or by posting pictures of good-looking men and women.
Building an Instagram presence through anything else can be an uphill battle. If you can’t accept that, you are doomed to frustration.
3. You Get Angry at Influencers and Think They Have No Talent
There’s a certain class of people that can selfie their way to 5+ million followers and a lucrative career promoting diet pills and coconut water. So many photographers bellyache about supposedly untalented people (these folks seem quite talented at playing the game) hitting it big based on looks alone.
Complaining that influencers are popular based on their looks is like complaining about gravity. It’s pointless. You may hate it but it’s just reality. In every facet of life, certain people are always going to have natural advantages over you. Getting bitter will only do you harm.
Instead, focus on what you can control, like the quality of your work, the consistency of your posting, and your marketing.
I also recommend unfollowing or otherwise ignoring people that make you angry. Just the other day, I unfollowed another photographer. Why? Because I was jealous of her. And there’s no point in getting annoyed every time her photos popped up in my feed.
4. You Value Your Work Based on Likes and Followers
I love getting likes and new followers. And I get pissed when a new photo gets no love. This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t let something as silly as likes control my emotions. But sometimes it does.
I know I’m not alone because I see so many photographers freaking out over the algorithm every time there’s any hint of a drop in engagement.
Here’s the reality: you are fighting a mathematical tidal wave.
As more people join Instagram and more photos get posted, the odds of your pictures being seen gets smaller and smaller. It doesn’t matter if the feed is chronological or algorithm-based. More pictures are competing for attention.
And as your account gets bigger, you attract more fake accounts. So your engagement almost has to go down over time. So you simply can’t value your work or your skill based on these silly numbers.
Peter McKinnon seems to be a rare exception. He gets massive engagement, even with nearly 2 million followers.
5. You Like Pictures You Hate
Ever ‘Like’ a picture on Instagram you don’t actually like? Ever comment “great photo” on a picture that sucks? I know I have. And I think we all do — at least to be nice and support our friends. But if you do these things specifically to get engagement back and build your following… I think you have a problem.
Here’s the thing: I believe that fake engagement is a sign of desperation. And when you’re desperate, people can smell it on you. And they will be repelled. Don’t deceive your way to a bigger follower count.
6. You Are Tempted to Buy Followers and Likes
Please don’t try to buy your way to Instafame. I got this message just the other day:
Once you go down this road, you may self-identify as a cheater, and you may even feel guilty about what you’re doing. Plus, if you couldn’t get your following going organically in the first place, you’ll just have to keep paying cash to keep the momentum going. You don’t want to end up with 10,000+ followers and zero engagement. It just screams ‘scam account.’
Instead, create new work that gets attention and stand proudly by it. And when something doesn’t work, try something else. Or just accept that not everything and everyone is Instagram-friendly.
Do you have Instagram Derangement Syndrome? Take this quiz to find out for sure. Remember, your first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Have a wonderful day! And remember… don’t take Instagram too seriously!
About the author: Michael Comeau is the Editor of OnPortraits.com, an all-new online community dedicated to simple, classic portrait photography. Click here for more information. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. This article was also published here.