5 Easy Ways for Photographers to Use Instagram Stories to Engage Their Audience

Most photographers understand the value of showcasing their work and engaging with their audience. Instagram is often a key (if not the primary) platform for that.

With the increasing popularity of "temporary" content through platforms like Snapchat and as people increase their use of social networks on mobile platforms, it becomes important to understand how this new type of content delivery can work best for your needs.

"What value does your story give your audience?"

I've attempted to highlight five examples of story types of differing complexity which can increase engagement and add more depth and personality to your photos.

Throughout this article I'll be using "story" to refer to an Instagram story and "post" to refer to a new image you posted on your feed on Instagram. Additionally, though I might make some claims throughout this blog post, nothing of what I said should be taken as a rule, and you'll have to adapt your story, tone and messaging to fit your personal brand or what you want to get out of Instagram.

1: The Basic New Post Alert

The basic.

The basic.

You've likely seen some variation of screenshot or static image on a photographer's story with its attempt to call attention to a new post. 

There are a few variations, some which look better than others, but ultimately it's a screenshot of the post or the photographer's feed with the new post either highlighted (others photos scribbled out) or hidden (maybe an emoji or scribbles over the new post).

I don't personally like this method. It doesn't really add much in terms of value to the viewer of the story, and it can often look a bit unprofessional, sloppy, and it just feels like the person didn't care enough about their story to put in some effort.

2: The Slightly Better New Post Alert

The slightly better.

The slightly better.

Same idea.. except with a crucial difference. This story type might be static, but it's not a screenshot, there are no app elements and no scribbling to hide things.

What you do is take your original image you posted to Instagram and put it up as your story. If you go to lightroom you can crop the image for the 1080x1920 dimensions that work for Instagram stories. This way you get more control over the crop.

These first two story types were okay (#2 is pretty decent, actually!), but because we are always interested in improving, these next few tips should give you some ideas to work with.

3: Show Them Something Slightly Different

Actually pretty good!

Actually pretty good!

You have a new post on your feed. Why post the same thing on your story? Sure, the crop might be different and because of the Instagram feed algorithms there is a chance they might miss it... but what value does your story give your audience? 

This idea of showing something different is a simple tip but is easy to do and "connects" your story to your post in an interesting way.

This photo of a bridge that I used for a story is just a bit different than the actual post it's calling attention to. By shooting between the gaps on the wall of the platform I was standing on, I could achieve a different image without much additional effort.

4: Put Things Into Motion

This is where things will take a bit more effort. It's up to you if you find this either fun or worth it for your brand and engagement. For me, it's both.

By taking a video at the same location/time of the photo I would be posting, I'm able to have dynamic story that not only engages my audience but is also able to stand on its own. 

Finally and most importantly, it connects my static feed (and the still image of the bridge) to my Instagram story. It's simple, but looks intentional and professional.

5: Motion + Perspectives

This last tip is more fun and combines some of the previous elements together.

In this story, I did a change in perspective (this time a focus shift to the foreground), combined with motion. I also threw some motion tracked-text on there (though mostly for fun).

The result is pretty cool. I think so, at least.

Let me know your thoughts! Feel free to connect with me on Instagram or one of the other platforms below.

Whole Foods' New Produce Labelling Doesn't Mean Much if it does not Examine Farm Labor

Recently, Whole Foods Market introduced a new labelling scheme that would apply to produce. Based on a "good", "better", "best" scale, Whole Foods would introduce new labels that would provide consumers information about the ecological and social aspects of their products.

However, based on information provided by Whole Foods, their new labelling scheme does little to protect the interests of farm workers, who are often seasonal migrant workers and are particularly prone to be exploited by our capitalist food system.

Along with requirements about benefiting the soil and water conservation, the "better" and "best" labels includes ideas about "Farmworker health and safety". While we can all agree that protecting the health and safety of workers should be prioritized in how we grow our foods, the fact that that is the only farmworker requirement of Whole Foods' new labelling scheme should set off some red flags if you are interested in the ethics of how our food is produced.

Migrant workers provide a lot of workforce on fruit and vegetable farms; however, because of their legal status they are often in a position to be exploited for their labor. While I'm glad that Whole Foods is ensuring their safety during their work, the fact that Whole Foods' new labelling scheme does not promote more socially-just labor relations indicates that their labelling scheme does not actually seek to provide enough meaningful information to their customers or benefit to those who grow the food they sell.

This is assuming that Whole Foods' customers care about labor relations of migrant farmworkers. Maybe they are indifferent, but the fact that Whole Foods thinks it's important to care for the well-beling of farm laborers only brings into question their lack of requirements when it comes to labor relations. Why in their "good", "better", "best" scheme do requirements of fair labor go unexamined? 

The fact is that our capitalist food system cannot succeed without the exploited labor, and often it is the labor of marginalized people. For Whole Foods to seek to rectify this would be for them to attempt to correct systems that benefit them. The fact that Whole Foods does not seek to examine labor relations is only a product of the capitalist system they operate in that maximizes profits over social justice. Even though they express a concern for the health of farm workers, their ultimate in-inclusion of farm worker wages in their labelling schemes does a disservice to those they rely on. Whole Foods is not trying to create a more sustainable or socially just food system, they are instead marketing themselves as the environmentally and socially just food retailer, even when their in-house labelling schemes fall short of actualizing their goals.

How using some emojis made me question the idea of eating meat.

By Jordan Ross

A selection of animal emojis found on most smartphones.

A selection of animal emojis found on most smartphones.

The many ways technology influences us is hard to grasp or fully understand. However, in one instance it made things crystal clear for me.

Emojis are fun symbols to add some more imagery to an online conversation or Instagram caption. Like many young people these days, I Instagram particular aspects of my life, often these moments are selective: a nice sunset, a landscape, or in this case, a picture of my food.

My family and I had gone out to dinner in Vancouver, Canada. It was the last day we would all be in the city together before they headed back to NYC. Being the meat-loving omnivore that I was at the time, I had in mind this Korean BBQ located in downtown Vancouver. The appeal of getting a plate of fresh meat and grilling it yourself still has some appeal to me, minus the whole meat aspect of things. 

So when the meat was on the grill, I whipped out my phone and snapped a picture. The social etiquette of that action aside, and the possible cringyness of it, it was during those moments spent on a caption did I connect the idea of meat to the realities of where it came from. Adding the cute looking cow, pig, and chicken emojis was when something in mind mind connected. A connection that was previously neglected because of biases and prejudices such as carnism and speciesism as well the modern reality of how we are disconnected from our food, particularly the animalized protein we consume (to take a phrase from Carol Adams in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat).

But like most strongly held biases, it took some time for things to fully sink in. The emoji revelation was a good example of how technology, and seemingly small acts, can influence and change people's perceptions to the world around them and the world they consume. But I wouldn't be honest if I said I went vegan overnight. It took a few more months until I fully realized that I needed to change in a fundamental way, and that's when I ultimately went vegetarian, only to transition to veganism a few months later.

So technology has a lot of power. From famous pig celebrities on Instagram and YouTube, to the minor act of using an Emjoi, it's clear that technology and information has the potential to change minds, even if only in small ways at first. The question is: how do we, as activists, make the most of this power?