Instagram is a dying platform for photographers.
Still shocking to me, I’ve gotten a lot of followers on the Fuji X Weekly Instagram account over the last two years: over 25K right now! I topped 10K followers on May 11, 2021, and 25K on July 9, 2022—it has grown 150% in roughly 14 months. That’s amazing, and all thanks goes to you! I never thought that was possible.
When I reached 10K followers I signed up for a business account. While it certainly has its benefits, it also has one huge negative: Instagram wants me to pay them money to show you, my followers, my posts. They purposefully hide your content from your own followers—if someone seeks it out they will find it, but it won’t show up in their feed—unless you pay Instagram a fee. My engagement dropped in half the instant I signed up for the business account. You might think that engagement—likes, comments, shares, etc.—would have grown at the same rate as the followers, but not so. The average post at 25K has a similar engagement as a post at 10K prior to signing up for a business account. While my followers have increased by 150%, my engagement has only increased by 100%—back to where it was before Instagram cut it in half.
Instagram is a great place to feed your envy. There are people whose pictures suck that have 100K or more followers and are basically earning an income from Instagram. There are people who capture amazing pictures who have less than two hundred followers. I’ve seen both of those circumstances personally, and maybe you have, too. Now I’m not the world’s greatest photographer by any means. I see many, many photographers who are more talented than I who have fewer followers, and I also see the opposite, too. Nobody’s self-worth should come from Instagram, and the followers and engagement (or lack of it) don’t actually mean anything. Unfortunately, it’s more of a popularity contest than anything else; however, Instagram is a good way to connect with others across the world.
Once upon a time Instagram was the place to see wonderful photographs. You could find a lot of inspiration. It still is, but less so now. Why? Instagram (which is owned by Facebook/Meta) recently claimed that engagement in still photographs is down nearly 50% over the last two years, so that’s why they’re focusing on video. I call B.S. on this.
I know two things: Instagram will hide your content if they want to, and Instagram (Meta, actually) doesn’t like competition. Whenever a new social media app comes along that Meta perceives as a threat, they buy it; if they can’t buy it, they make their own version of it to incorporate into their own apps. Right now that competition is TikTok, and since Meta can’t buy it (I’m sure they tried at one point), they’re becoming “TikTok” in order to win—at the expense of you, the photographer.
I believe that Instagram has put into place algorithms to suppress still photography and simultaneously push video content (Reels, as they call it). Then they say that still photography is dying and video is booming, so they need to be video-centric. They’re paying people money to publish videos. I’m not a video guy myself, but by far my most popular post on Instagram is a Reel, with triple the engagement of my most popular still-photography post. Is it because you all are more interested videos, or because Instagram wants you to be more interested in video? In my opinion they’re trying to transform their app into TikTok, which means that photography needs to take a back seat.
You can still be successful on Instagram as a photographer. Since Instagram is pushing Reels so hard, you might consider using those to show your pictures (instead of a traditional post, or in addition to it). I’m personally not a fan of what Instagram is becoming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. A lot of people have discovered my Film Simulation Recipes through Instagram. I’ve made a lot of connections (I get about 50 DMs on IG each day!), and even made some friends. There are definitely still some positives.
I do think the time is ripe for an Instagram-alternative for photographers. I know that many have tried, and no one has really succeeded. I don’t know what its unique shtick should be, but there has to be something that sets it apart. Money is obviously an obstacle, because everyone wants a free app, but an app like that would be expensive to produce and maintain. I don’t have the solution, but I do know that an opportunity exists right now for someone who thinks that they might have the solution.
Now it’s your turn! Do you like or dislike how Instagram is evolving? Would you try an Instagram alternative if there was a good one? Is there a current app that you prefer to Instagram and why? Let me know in the comments!