I've become a huge fan of Instagram lately, and it's been incredibly fun interacting with various communities and users, taking part in the weekend hashtag projects, and getting featured by some of the hubs. I've learned a lot in the past year, so I thought it would be fun to pass on some knowledge of some of the things that have helped me up my own Instagram game.

Seagull and Sail, Star of India, San Diego
Seagull and Sail, Star of India, San Diego

1. Engage and be social

Since Instagram is a social network, logic would have it that you'd be social there. I find that commenting on photos I like goes a long way to make strong lasting connections with other like-minded IG users. I've really developed some nice friendships and camaraderie simply by commenting on a photo I liked. That led to mutual follows and a continued back and forth of commenting on each other's feeds. One thing I often see is that a user comes along and likes 25 of my photos without any comment. The speed at which they liked the photos shows that they probably didn't even get to really enjoy any individual photo.  So once again, be social and interactive, don't just "like" it. I'm not saying you can't like photos without commenting, but be thoughtful about it.

2. Caption it

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I'd wager that on Instagram a caption is just as important. I've often seen Instagram themselves have very detailed captions for their own posts and stress the importance of captions for various weekend hashtag projects. (See below for more info on that.) I've been experimenting with the use of quotes, poetry, and my creative process for image captions. I don't think you have to write a book but even a few words are nice. Also try asking a question, people seem to really like that.

3. Get featured

One thing that's been amazing for me is getting featured by various hub accounts. A hub account is an account that features the work of other users. It can take a little bit to find what hubs are a good fit for your photography but you'll find them eventually. Typically a hub has a standard hashtag they use.  When you post a new image that fits with the hub's subject matter, you can use their designated hashtag, and then have the chance to be featured. This has been great for me, and has really expanded my follower base and the people I follow. After getting featured a number of times by the same hubs, you might even get asked to become a member of those hubs. In recent months, I was asked to become a member of TV Simplicity and TV Buildings. This has been a nice honor and recognition for my work.

Symmetrical minimalist building, San Diego
Symmetrical minimalist building, San Diego

4. Join Communities 

There's some really amazing communities on Instagram, and one of my favorites is JJ Community. JJ has daily themes which can vary widely, and it's really fun to take part in these. You might even find yourself getting featured by JJ one day for recognition of your work.

JJ also recently started a Twitter theme suggestion, where once a week you can tweet a photo and daily theme idea on Twitter, and JJ picks from these for the next day's theme. Check out JJ on Twitter for more info: https://twitter.com/tagitjj

5. Take part in the Instagram's weekend hashtag projects

Instagram's weekend hashtag project has really challenged me as a photographer, and made me think visually in new and interesting ways. One such project, #WHPabstract challenged users to post abstract images.

"Focus on capturing your subject from a unique or warped perspective to see it in a new way, like from an unexpected angle, through a reflection or especially close or far away. Think about the overall impression of color, shape and mood in your image rather than capturing something identifiable. Try illustrating an intangible concept, thought or emotion through a creatively staged photograph." ~ Description from Instagram's post for #WHPabstract 

Surreal flowers and moon
Surreal flowers and moon

6. Show some gratitude

If you get comments on your posts, it's a great idea to thank people individually with an @ response in the comments. I've discovered a little gratitude on Instagram goes a long way, as people remember that and will keep coming back to your feed. If you don't interact with other users, it makes it seem as though no one is home.

7. Leverage the new formats

At the end of August, 2015, Instagram introduced true landscape and portrait modes for images and full landscape mode (uncropped) for videos. These new formats look beautiful. Be sure to update the app, but you also may need a newer device for this to work. I noticed on an iPhone 5 that portrait shows up with white bars along the side. I also discovered that portrait mode works best with a 4 x 5 image ratio.

Summary

As you can see there's a lot you can do to up your game on Instagram, the tips above have helped me immensely. Do you have any tips that have helped you? Feel free to tweet me using the link below.

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