Instagram Tips To Grow Your Following and Your Brand

March 21, 2016

By Jose Villa

Four years ago, wedding photographer Jose Villa was introduced to Instagram as a way to apply filters to images. “‘Take a crappy phone pic and apply a filter’ was the mentality for me back in the beginning,” he says with a laugh. “I had 2,500 followers on Instagram and now I have almost 300,000” [and counting]. Now he obsesses over what images to post, though it can be tedious at times. But, he’s quick to add, “I’ve gotten jobs, hired employees and made friends off of it.” His page has become even more lucrative now that people are buying prints based on what they see on his feed.

When it comes to engaging users and racking up relevant followers, Jose Villa advises on keeping the following in mind:

What You Are Showing

 “Just because you shot it doesn’t mean you should post it,” he says. “Show only your best work and ask yourself: Does it fit in with the aesthetic of my overall brand? I view my Instagram page as my portfolio, so I always keep in mind how it is displayed, what images work best next to each other and on the page as a whole.”

What You Are Saying 

Keep it simple and don’t forget who was involved. For instance, a recent image of a stunning table setting, hillside, is accompanied by the following: 

@josevilla: It’s starting to look a lot like Spring around here. I could roll in these hills all day long. Shoot with @joyproctor floral @kellykaufmandesign #homesweethome #fuji400h

“By tagging the people who made it happen,” he says, “I create a following because they, in turn, tag me in their posts.”

When it comes to verbiage: 
• Keep the self-awesomeness to a minimum.
• Try not to get too personal if this is a professional feed.
• Maintain neutrality. “I post a photo and text as if I am talking in front of a crowd,” Villa says. “I talk mainly about the photo and what’s happening in it. I let my followers make the judgement about me or my image after that.”

Who You Are Tagging 

Create the following you want by “giving credit where credit is due,” Villa stresses. “Tag everyone involved in your shoot. We are wedding photographers. We don’t do it all on our own! Plus, the more people you tag, the more followers you can potentially get.”

When You are Posting 

Set a schedule and stick to it. “If you are posting once a day, continue with that time frame. I prefer early morning, and sometimes when I am still in bed,” Villa admits, “but that works for me and it’s when I am at my most creative—right when I wake up.”

Why You Are Posting and How

“Think row by row and think aesthetics,” Villa says. “Give yourself an assignment to post a new palette or topic that you want acknowledged.” For example, over the Christmas holiday, Villa wanted to spotlight a series of 12 “softer” images all in the same hue—gray and beige—from different weddings. “It really took off and people really loved the palette. I had countless inquiries of how they could purchase them, as well as inquiries from brides wanting to book weddings. I’m always self assessing what I post and I am always evolving my look and brand.”

Jose Villa is a fine-art wedding photographer based in Solvang, CA. He has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Grace Ormonde, The Knot, BRIDES and countless others.