How to start your own Everyday Project on Instagram by Chirag Wakaskar
Instagram is usually associated with selfies of celebrities or food pictures. Photography on it, particularly serious photography beyond the usual sunset & pretty images is something one wouldn’t necessarily identify Instagram with. And while by and large it still is mostly the former type, Everyday projects have brought about sort of a photographic revolution sharing images of daily lives and merging it with more socially relevant storytelling. Nothing quite captures our lives & times like a photograph does. Documentary photography is a power tool that can go on to change our opinions about the world. And it needn’t be just about despair & poverty, it could well be something that is part of our daily lives. We are photographing what will eventually be termed as history. The everyday projects have done just that have seen phenomenal success on Instagram in recent times. This has infact helped create a whole new generation of storytellers who understand the need & impact of a photograph.
What kicked the whole thing off was Peter Dicampo & Austin Merril’s brainchild @EverydayAfrica. Taking inspiration from the project led me to create @EverydayMumbai, a platform for local photographers who photograph the city beyond the usual touristy narrative. Photography in India particularly which can broadly be described as photojournalism or documentary photography isn’t something very mainstream. We actually have just a handful of photographers that do it. Instagram being a democratic platform particularly for someone like me who is an independent photographer lends a voice. @EverydayMumbai is a collective voice of hundreds of photographers.
The project has been quite popular because of fantastic photographers that have agreed for their work to be shared on it. The project has gathered wide acclaim across the world and I get approached by several photographers across the world on how to go about creating a project like this. I’m a completely self-taught photographer and it has been a steep learning curve for both photography as well as social media. Ive always looked at it as a photography project on social media rather than a social media project on photography. The intention is more than just sharing photographs about the city but also being a learning resource for anyone interested in photography or the city. Neither do I have any affiliations to any group or company that has helped me in this project, nor does it have any corporate or commercial backing. So if you have come here looking for help on your project I am In essence – “you” the regular Joe or Jane who really wants to tell a story through the camera and would like to be part of a collective or start one with the intent of sharing photography. I’m also quite happy to be a part of @everydayindia project as one of the earliest members. Started by maverick photographer / producer / man with many hats @ravimishraindia, it is the only democratic feed from India where some of the finest photographers from India post their own photos without any curator or editor in the process.
While this guide is for the ‘everyday projects’ it is something that is generic enough to apply for most photography based projects on Instagram as well as personal accounts of photographers.
1. Instagram Handle – Getting a unique handle of your city, country or concept is essential. If you find a project that has been already using the handle you have in your mind, you can innovate to find something like another name or an alias that that place can be identified with. Adding special characters like _ while possible, isnt advisable as your hashtag must be unique (and simple) so all the photographs using it can be identified with your project. The account should not be private as well because it defeats the purpose of having more people see your project. Also hashtags of private accounts do not show up.
2. Curated or Collective – Both of these have their merits & demerits. In a collective, you will have a stronger voice right from the day you start the project. Instead of looking for images through your hashtag everyday you will have photographers sharing their own work without any editor or curator’s input. You can always start a project with just another person gradually building up the team as you go. If you choose the Curatorial path you do have complete control over everything that goes on the project, however finding the right image can always be a task. If the photographs use your hashtag, you can share it as per the convention that is followed. If you are sharing photographs that dont use your project’s hashtag you must seek the photographers permission before sharing it. I also highly encourage you to ask more questions about the photo to the photographer or ask him or her to write a caption (if its missing) but also to verify that the photograph has indeed been taken by the photographer. In one sense as a collective its much easier to have the ball rolling everyday than curating a feed. Also if the account is new there will be no images using the hashtag obviously. Ideally a blend of both is something that would work the best. All the contributors can share their own photos as well as set aside a few days in a week when curated images can be shared. This helps to bring light to work of more photographers and creates a community feeling rather than just a particular group of people. Photographers not only like to see good content but also love being recognized for what they do.
3. Email address – Have a unique email address that can be identified with the project. Infact this should actually be your first step, your Instagram handle should be registered on this new email id. If you have gone ahead and changed to a business account on Instagram, one can email you with a click on a button in the app.
4. Bio, Logo & URL– The projects bio should be about what the photos are going to be about. If you are curating the account, mention your personal handle and your hashtag as well so people can use it. You can add in your website link in the URL (Facebook or Tumblr page is fine as well). A unique logo which can either identify your page is also helpful and can be used across all mediums.
5. Facebook Page – Having the same handle as your Instagram page is essential to be identified with the project. Facebook is still more widely used & seen and if your project is non-curated its essential to have a Facebook Page not just for all the eyeballs, but also because you can link your facebook page to your instagram account to have a ‘business account’ on Instagram. A business account on Instagram is free and opens you up to a whole range of statistics or insights such as impressions, likes, demographics & a lot more. Highly recommended to know a little bit more about your project on Instagram.
6. Tumblr or blogspot – Particularly useful for SEO and having a more traditional blog layout for your images. While it may seem redundant, it helps to have your images in multiple places in terms of having backups somewhere as well.
7. Twitter account – Have a twitter account for your project, preferably with the same handle as your Instagram. Being one of the most popular social media mediums particularly if your project is more newsbased Twitter does help a lot. Though I’d advise sharing just links (Instagram) to your photos on Twitter rather than adding photos. Also Twitter will be more useful to make some announcements that you may have from time to time.
8. IFTTT – You can actually use IFTTT to have your images automatically uploaded to other social networks that ive mentioned above (facebook, twitter, tumblr. blogspot) after you upload them on Instagram. Saves a lot of time. Though you do need to check on it from time to time that your accounts are signed in.
9. Instagram or more – Ideally, if it’s a curated account one should probably not have any other blog or page because the photographer is all likelihood has only agreed the photo reshare on Instagram. (You can still have a Facebook page because it helps to have a business account on Instagram, the page needn’t be updated)
10. Location – Add in the location whenever you share a photograph. Many people do search via locations (places) particularly when it comes to famous landmarks and it helps for the photo to be visible on it. Instagram has recently disabled the map feature but you can still tag locations.
11. Content is king – No two ways about it. A photograph along with a strong caption that describes the photograph, followed by a general overview of the event or occurrence followed by perhaps the photographers own viewpoint about it. You should consider every photograph that goes up has a global audience who may not necessarily know the background to your story. A strong caption engages the viewer particularly as the everyday projects are more about social documentary and not random street photography.
12. Time to post – The best time to share photos is usually after 7pm, with increased activity just before bedtime. People also tend to use Instagram while traveling to their work places or colleges and early mornings is also not a bad idea. If you convert your Instagram account to business account, you would see the traffic timings and can use that as a reference to determine yourself what are the best times for your audience.
13. Gap between posts – Each photograph must be given its due time for the audience to absorb it fully. Not more than 3 photos must be shared on the feed in a day, ideally 1 – 2 photos with a large gap in between them. Sharing several images in a day doesn’t do justice to the photo (and the photographer) not to mention usually people dislike scrolling through same account photos if they are in a row.
14. Hashtags – Besides the hashtag of your own project I highly encourage hashtags of city, country, location, activity or subject matter and perhaps even hashtags of other projects such as #everydayeverywhere.
Many of the projects do reshare photos much like you do & using their hashtags give your project an opportunity to be shared by them thus resulting in more visibility. Also using other projects hashtags also helps your pictures to be visible for people looking through those hashtags and also appear in the top 9 if they have enough likes thereby resulting in higher visibility. One can have a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post on Instagram. Too many hashtags in your post can be quite distracting as they are dark blue in color while the text is black and can look a little dull.
I’d usually advice one to have just the project hashtag in the main post and rest of the hashtags as a comment immediately after the post so as the hashtags are time sensitive. And your photos will still appear on the hashtag nonetheless. I’ll list down a few hashtags that I use, you can copy paste it replacing your project hashtag, country, city, location & activity
Eg. #everydaymumbai #mumbai #everydayindia #india #marinedrive #sunset #everydayeverywhere #reportagespotlight #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #magnumphotos #natgeo #featureshoot #lensculture #burndiary #burnmagazine #worldpressphoto #lensculturestreets #one__shot__ #lensculturestreets #everybodystreet #steetphotographers #streetphotographer #hikaricollective #hartcollective #spicollective #shootermag #myfeatureshoot #helloicp #tinycollective #1415mobilephotographers
Also useful to keep an eye on Instagram’s weekend hashtag project and add it in if it suits your photograph.
15. Followers – This is why you have come here, to know how your project will gets maximum eyeballs. Unfortunately there is no magic potion to this, unless you buy followers & likes. This is probably the best kept open secret. Several brands on Instagram have used this, several photography based companies / projects & photographers have also used this. There are even bots available where one can pay to create ‘engagement’. I discourage all of these things and that’s exactly why I take an effort to write this howto.Followers will happen only in due time. If the content is strong people will flock to it. If you feel satisfaction in numbers alone, nothing will ever satisfy you and you will keep on being dissatisfied till the next 0 is added in.
What I would suggest is writing a note about your project and sharing it on your personal Facebook and other personal social media outlets and asking your friends to share it as well. Probably a better idea to do it would be after the project has gathered some traction like say 100 photos or 1000 followers, be your own judge in this. Nobody wants to push out something that’s completely new unless you are a famous photographer, in which case you will have all the support anyway. If your project is active and has great content, you will find a lot of people willing to support it.
Don’t approach other collectives or projects for a ‘shout’. It seems pathetic that you are not willing to put some time in. There are no free lunches around. When you do have a strong follower base you can always cross share links to gain more followers. Patience is the key in this and a little bit of luck. Did I mention good content? Yes that helps a lot. Several projects that started off couldn’t maintain it and many either shut down completely or don’t update anymore with regularity. If you are someone who gets disappointed easily with the numbers, perhaps this isn’t for you. As I mentioned it has been a steep learning curve for me when it comes to social media. There are really no magic tricks when it comes to amassing followers. On social media people will follow you for 1) content or 2) reciprocity, much like how it is in real life actually.
16. How to share photos – If you are a collective, its as easy as sharing images on your normal account. Instagram lets you have multiple accounts on the same app, so essentially all your collective contributors share the same password to log into the account. They can switch over to their normal accounts once they have shared the photograph. If you are curating the photographs for the account there are two ways one can go – 1) the free way – several apps are available on playstore / appstore which let you download the photo for free without any watermarks on them. One then opens up any web browser navigates to the link of the photo and manually copy pastes the caption into our instagram. 2) the easier way – Repost app by redcactus – this makes life quite simple by downloading the image and copying the caption as well. One would need the paid version which is around 5USD to share photos without any watermarks on them.
‘Insta’nt insight: How the ‘Everyday’ accounts on Instagram are showing us our cities — like they haven’t been seen before
Press / Media on @EverydayMumbai Project
Published on 8th February 2017
Update 1 – 9th February 2017