I've been using Instagram for quite some time (you can find me at http://Instagram.com/jasonfournier). I really like it - it's up there with Twitter for me. I've found some amazing talent and have been fortunate enough to share my own iPhone musings.

Recently, I've been wondering how to a) discover more photographers with similar interests and b) push my boundaries and see what kinds of new photography that would pique my interest. I decided to use Instagram as one of the platforms to experiment with. It's a focused community, it's easy to use, and it's fun. Many people are also in a similar mindset: to discover.


Sorry:

- Instagram feed not found.

The approach

The following is a list of tactics that I've used in the past few months to help expand my boundaries and have more fun on Instagram.

Explore section

Explore has become better recently. It now uses your tastes and who you follow to better predict what may be of interest to you. It's not without its faults but that's ok - it has to appeal to a broad range of users. Previously it would return a pretty flat listing of photos that didn't really hit the mark. Now I find it identifies photos or users that I would like to investigate further about 15% of the time. That's quite good. Over the past couple of months I would go to the explore page once or twice a say and make a point of a) liking the photos I liked and b) checking out user feeds of photos that I really liked. As you can guess there's a reasonably high correlation between a single photo I really like and the rest of a feed.

Tags

Tags are the corner stone of collections in Instagram, much like any other social service or blog you come across. Tag your photo and the people who follow it will see it even though they don't follow you. This concept isn't new. What I have found is that people who follow the tags that apply to your photo typically a) May like your work and b) will produce images that you may like as well. Seems pretty straight forward but I think most people associate tags with likes. Nothing wrong with that but consider tagging to target an audience that you want to find out more about rather than simply getting a like for a photo. Of course, the tag should also reflect the photo you're posting. I can't say that I'm a fan of people tagging photos with keyword that aren't relevant to the photo they're posting.

Some example tags for apps:

#vsco
#vscocam
#mexturesapp
#afterlightapp
#snapseed
#picfx

Some example landscape tags:

#whpappreciateearth
#whpsilhouette
#landscapelovers
#naturelovers
#ig_nature
#ig_landscape

Some example black and white tags:

#bnw
#ig_blackandwhite
#monochrome
#insta_bw
#instabw
#bw_society

Some Ottawa-specific tags:

#ottawa
#ottcity
#myottawa
#ottcity_sky
#igersottawa

There are entire sites devoted to tags. I don't use them - I have a core set that I am testing for my purposes.

Examine your followers

Examining your followers is pretty straight forward, however,  there's the potential for a gold mine of discovery within your followers followers (stay with me).  If a particular follower of yours has piqued your interest, start by taking a look at who liked their recent photos and check out their gallery.  I'd say between 10 and 20% of the time there are commonalities in the approach, style, and subject matter.  This is already a semi-curated list of instagramers for you to discover.

Challenges and contests

There are many weekly (or otherwise) challenges on Instagram that propose a theme or topic for a specific duration.  If it's a theme or topic you gravitate towards simply take a photo and tag it accordingly.  What I find interesting here is search results for that tag and the photos you see.  I have found dozens of inspirational photographers this way.  Two of the more popular challenges are:

JJ_Forum (Josh Johnson) - found here: http://instagram.com/joshjohnson/

WHP (weekend Hashtag Project) - found here: http://blog.instagram.com/tagged/weekend-hashtag-project

Sometimes the themes won't resonate with you - that's fine.  Sometimes they will, and they'll open up a whole new world of like-minded photographers for you to explore.

The findings

I must say I've been suitably impressed with some of the folks that I've found using the methods above. There are some really talented photographers (professional or otherwise) on Instagram. Exposure to different talent, approach, composition, processing, and more helps identify places you'd like to take your work (or where you'd like to steer clear).

If you're not on Instagram I'd encourage you to try.  It's a great community of (mostly) genuine and motivated folks who appreciate creativity and visual expression.  If you are on Instagram and looking for more inspiration please give some of the tips above a go and let me know how they work out for you!

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