Approximately two years ago I opened my Instagram account @kathryn_dyer. I was venturing out into the beauty of nature and taking photos but life sometimes has its’ own plans and a short time later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I spent a year going through treatment including two surgeries and chemotherapy. As I was trying to process all of this and move forward I found that turning to photography and nature gave me peace. It was comparable to a new lens giving your photos a sharper look. I now had a new appreciation for life and its beauty that gave me a fresh way to look at everything around me, which I never would have had, if not for my diagnosis.
During my treatment I was physically exhausted but I continued to venture out as far as possible to photograph the beauty this life has to offer. I believe that being amongst the beauty and serenity of nature has helped me to heal and move forward. I do my best to share how these scenes make me feel through my Instagram account and have found that I’ve made some really great connections along the way. I am positive that all of this has contributed to my healing.
Sometimes, people ask me how I grew my Instagram account or how I get the amount of interactions I get on my photos. If I was to give any advice it would be to keep your interactions authentic and genuine. Photograph what’s in your heart, don’t always shoot what seems obvious, keep your posting and commenting habits consistent, and use hashtags and location tagging wisely. The following is a few helpful hints and maybe some advice that has been beneficial to me in growing my Instagram account.
No matter who you are or where in the world you are from we all appreciate genuine interactions and authenticity. This applies to the Instagram world as well. During my cancer diagnosis and the journey that followed, I shared this with my Instagram friends. I had some very meaningful responses and I’ve built real friendships on this app. Take the time to read people’s captions before you comment. Sometimes the caption starts with a description of the photo but ends with some unexpected personal struggle. You don’t want to be the person commenting, ‘awesome’, then finding out that the caption actually said a loved one was ill. Not everyone wants to share his or her personal information on Instagram and that’s okay but whatever you do share, keep it authentic to you!
Capture What Inspires You
Photographing what is in your heart was something I thought I always did but I did it a lot more after cancer because I had a deeper appreciation of things. If a certain scene makes your heart skip that will come across when you post it. The more inspired you were by your subject, the more inspired others will be as well. Instagram is a great platform for sharing those special, inspiring places and people. When I was too ill to get out I utilized Instagram just to soak up that Inspiration that others were putting out there.
Be Unique And Follow Your Eye
Be the oddball! Sometimes I find myself out with a group of photographers and they all have their cameras aimed directly at the sunset and I wander off, find a puddle and I lay on the ground to shoot the same sunset but reflected in that puddle. I find that if you experiment and look for that unusual aspect that you can include in your photograph it really makes a difference. This also includes changing up your equipment to get a unique look. When I purchased the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, it gave my photos a whole new look. I loved the ultra-wide focal length range. With this lens I could photograph the puddle relatively close and it stood out in relation to the sunset in the background. The photos are so great and I had so much fun that when I recently upgraded my camera I also purchased the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8, which is one of my new favorites!
Consistency is key! This applies to both commenting and posting. I have always found that what really makes a good Instagram follower is someone who consistently comments on the accounts they follow. Ideally you follow accounts that inspire you where the photography speaks to you. If so, you want to let those accounts know how much you appreciate their photos. For myself, I choose at least two times per day and go through all of the photos in my feed to comment and like. This way I let those photographers know that I appreciate the effort they have put in, you get out of Instagram what you put into it. That said, it is also important to be consistent with your posts. Many of the accounts I follow post at regular times each day, usually once in the morning and once in the evening. I, personally try to post once a day, either in the evening or in the morning and then go through my feed and like photos at the same time.
To hashtag or not to hashtag, that is the question. Personally, I have experimented with this over my time on Instagram. Currently I put very few hashtags in my caption. I always put the location, #FortBragg, #California. Instagram will let you put a total of thirty hashtags on your photo. So, I then go down to my comment section and I insert the other twenty-eight there so that my caption is not just a jumble of hashtags. I try to choose the other twenty-eight hashtags based on things that are related to what is in my photo. If there is a particular hub that features outdoor pictures and yours is of a tent then I would hashtag that hub and also #tent, #camp, #camping and other relevant tags. Some tags have fewer photos tagged to them so you have a better chance of trending. For instance, I tag #California but I also tag the smaller #CA and #Cali in the comments. You definitely want to use hashtags if you want more exposure for your photos. Another feature I use is the location tag. This is a helpful way for others to locate photos of a particular area and gives your photo more chances to be seen.
A Final Thought
The most important thing that I have learned is that there are no steadfast rules. You shoot what you love, and you like the photos that speak to you. Be genuine, be consistent, but most of all enjoy what you do. Don’t worry if your feed doesn’t appear cohesive or if your photos are all warm toned. If you love it, that is what makes it cohesive and that will come across to your followers. Maybe having cancer has set me free to follow my heart but I definitely shoot what I love and try not to guess if others will love it. In the end, it’s meant to be enjoyable.
Instagram is there for us to share and enjoy each other’s inspiration, if you are doing that it will show, and people will appreciate it. As for me, I continue to heal and I continue to try and push myself to be the oddball and to shoot new angles. I recently acquired the Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8 and so far I am blown away by its sharpness and cannot wait to do some night shooting!