When Instagram first came on the scene in 2010, I didn't understand how bloggers could benefit from the platform. Unlike other social networks, its main focus was on the image with text and hashtags being secondary. In fact, the only place you're allowed to have a link is in your profile.
But over the years I've become fascinated with the platform. It's carefully curated images that tell a story. The quiet peacefulness that it eludes. If you ask me, this is is where Instagram's success lies … it's visually stimulating simplicity. It allows bloggers to tell a story through a single image. And brands and businesses have taken notice.
Want to know more?
Let me introduce you to our Instagram Experts, Tory Johnson from The Stori Book, and Martine De Luna from Make it Blissful. Not only are these ladies sharing how they make money on Instagram — but they are dishing the dirt on how to create stunning Instagram images.
Tori Johnson's Story:
Number of Followers: 13.5k
Number of Photos: 2,299
Type of Smartphone: iPhone 6
Bio: Fashion + Beauty Blogger | Editorial + Commercial Stylist | San Antonio TX
How long have you been on Instagram?
2.5 years (I’m not quite positive on this and not sure how to find out when I signed up)
Number of Followers: 21.6k
Number of Photos: 2,200+
Type of Smartphone: iPhone 5S
Bio: I'm a Mrs. & mama, a writer by profession. I am also a social media manager and blogger of six years. I offer coaching services on blogging and social media.
How long have you been on Instagram?
Going on 3 years.
Do you have any rules for shooting? Or tips for when you’re taking photos?
Tori – I have very strict qualifications that a photo must meet in order to appear on my account. Specifically, in terms of the attractiveness of the photo as well as if it is “on topic” with my account. As a fashion blogger, my Instagram is a visual advertising channel for the brands that I partner with. The visual appeal of each photo is incredibly important to the overall engagement as well as the end goal of enticing a sale or awareness for a brand.
Martine – I only use natural light when shooting, since natural day light brings out the best colors and lines in a scene or a subject. I like to make use of wide, open, spacious shots, because I like involving viewers in the story of my photo. I hardly do close ups or zoom-in shots, because the nature of my Instagram feed is storytelling.
What is your favorite filter? What about editing tool?
Tori – I typically use the Gingham filter as the foundation for my photo editing but then once I apply the filter I go back in with custom edits. I prefer my feed to be bright so adding light is key as well as the use of white which you’ll see in quotes or scripture posts. Some other tools I use are WordSwag, Over, Snapseed and Pixlromatic.
Martine – I actually don't use filters much because I shoot with natural light. If ever I do use, I like S-1 filter on the VSCOCam app, which is $2.99 (a paid filter). I like it because it enhances the white levels of my photos, and really cleans up a shot. For editing tools, the Instagram editing tools are sufficient for me, and I normally just adjust Brightness, Saturation, and Sharpness. I try to go for a more bluish undertone to my photos, to give them a calming feel.
Tori – Take multiple from different angles and then select the best. Typically you want to have the camera from a higher point looking down towards your face. Also strive for natural lighting.
Martine – I don't take selfies!! But if ever I do, natural light again, and I also try to use a camera app like Photo Toaster ($3.99 for iPhone), since it has a less grainy output.
How long does it take you to stage, shoot, and edit an image?
Tori – It varies – a selfie will take a few seconds where as my staged product shots take more time as I like to work with other props such as flowers or jewelry to make a photo more visually stimulating.
Martine – Depends on how well I've taken an image. I normally take between 3-5 shots of the same subject, so that I have enough to choose from before I edit. If it's a product, I try to place it within a vignette that shows the product in context, because more eyes will be drawn to a vignette than a solo product shot. This is because people like to know the context of things, the story of things.
What has attributed to your follower success?
Tori – I’d like to think that it is because I am consistently posting high-quality photos and content. I also try to be relatable and share peeks into my life as not only a fashion blogger and stylist but also a mother.
Martine – Being friendly, commenting genuinely, and forming an Instagram community of my own through the #makeitblissful hashtag. I have also been a Featured Suggested User by Instagram, which helped send over around 10,000 unique new users my way.
How are you able to monetize your Instagram activity?
Tori – The majority of my Instagram content is monetized via RewardStyle’s LikeToKnow. It widget where my followers can shop my looks, makeup, etc.
Martine – I have a blog agency that handles my social media portfolio and this is how I get paid for some of my Instagram posts. I also advertise an Instagram Advertisemenr service in the “Work With Me” page of my blog.
Side note: Check out this post for more ways to make money with Instagram.
What is your best advice for other bloggers who want to benefit from Instagram?
Tori – I think my advice varies depending on what type of blogger you are. Overall, I’d say set a goal to post a minimum of two pictures per day, utilize hashtags, interact with others to increase engagement and, above all, focus on the quality of your photography (in the end it’s all about the photos).
Martine – Instagram is a great platform for microblogging and building friendships with those who enjoy composing meaningful, beautiful photos and captions. Find people whom you look up to as photographers and form friendships with them, ask for tips on taking photos. It all starts with friendship
Any other words of wisdom?
Tori – I am also very strategic about what photos I post and when. I usually have a queue of photos available for posting and I review those compared with what is currently posted to see which photos will look nice with my current feed as well as look to see what overall STORY is my current feed telling. When I have a large number of sponsored content lined up I will literally print out my Instagram photos, lay them next to one another, and decide on an editorial calendar of posting.
Additionally, I don’t like my feed to run too “heavy” in any particular topic. For example, if it’s starts getting fashion-heavy – I’ll throw in a beauty photo. When I feel like it’s losing a “personal edge” to it – I’ll add in a photo of my boys or something from my daily life.
Martine – Share what truly means something to you, but remember that Instagram is a visual platform that thrives on sharing images that move people, that inspire. Don't give info competition or comparison. If you look up to an Instagrammer, then be a genuine friend, humbly ask for tips, and always be kind to those who visit, like and comment on your photos.
Wow, congrats on your success ladies! Are you on Instagram? Feel free to leave your IG handle below.
If you haven't started a blog yet, here are two blog posts you'll want to check out!