How Wedding & Portrait Photographers Are Using IG Stories

November 30, 2016

By Libby Peterson

As the most popular photo-focused app in the social media sphere, Instagram made a bold move in broadening its horizons this year with Instagram Stories, effectively expanding the app’s sense of chronological permanence to encompass fleeting motion. Users can upload a series of consecutive clips and stills presented in slideshow-like format, which then disappear from profiles after 24 hours.

It’s an entirely new form of storytelling—for Instagram, anyway. The feature set is eerily similar to Snapchat, an app that for many was a breath of fresh air; goofier and more unpolished, it was completely different from the composed feel of social media. Instagram has, however, made some user-friendly improvements with this addition, and, coupled with the app’s stronger sense of community and innate connectivity lacking in Snapchat, wedding and portrait photographers are tapping into Stories to tell theirs.

“My main goal in using it is to show who I am,“ says Maciej Suwalowski, a wedding photographer based in Warsaw, Poland. “I want my personality to literally pour out from the screen of people’s phones when they watch my story, because I love to work with people who are like me, who feel my vibe 100 percent.“ This has been working for Suwalowski on a professional level. “Brides who have been watching me on a daily basis have felt much more comfortable in front of my camera on their wedding day.“

While keeping his Stories light and entertaining, Suwalowski shows behind-the-scenes looks at weddings and sessions, too. One of his more recent Stories, for example, followed him as he flew into Queenstown, New Zealand, to meet Jim Pollard (an Rf 30 Rising Star in 2015), where the two flew by helicopter with a couple to a mountaintop for portraits.

Hope Taylor, a senior portrait and wedding photographer based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, creates Stories that relate directly to her business, too, but she doesn’t shy away from using them for personal use. “I’ve learned that most of my followers and potential clients can’t relate to the fact that I’m a photographer and business owner, because they usually are neither of those things,“ she says. “I share parts of my life that are separate from that so that I can create connections with all of my followers. My Instagram Stories help my followers see me as a person instead of just as a business.“ Photographers who do follow her, though, interact most with her Stories, Taylor finds. “Because I am an educator and offer mentoring sessions and workshops, that is very beneficial to that portion of my business.“

Taylor’s observed a growth in Stories, she says, and while there are Instagram devotees, she’s also seen photographers with existing Snapchat accounts that create clips in one and upload to another, hitting both channels at once without compromising either audience. Take Suwalowski; while Instagram does allow writing and drawing on top of clips, it hasn’t yet rivaled Snapchat’s amusing filters, he says, so he creates clips in Snapchat, downloads them and then uploads to Instagram. As an early Snapchatter who already built a following there, he doesn’t sweat the extra step.

For someone who had never built a robust Snapchat audience, however, the Stories feature is almost a two-for-one win; as Taylor says, her following was “already built in on Instagram,“ and because the clips appear automatically at the top of a user’s feed, getting eyes on Stories is practically effortless.

“You cannot say no to the numbers of viewers that can reach your content immediately,“ Suwalowski says, and for that reason, one can only imagine seeing more people diving into Stories. “In our world, where you have to be active on social media, numbers really matter,“ he says, “because you can be the best in what you do, but it doesn’t matter if nobody can see that.”

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