A while a go, one of my pictures from Lofoten made its way to the limelight thanks to the massive Instagram account Beautiful Destinations, making it my most liked picture on Instagram to date, pushing this one down a peg. The account is known as the largest and most influential travel photography account on Instagram with 8.3 million followers and growing. The story on how my picture ended up in their feed is the epiphany of serendipity and proves that there is no definite way to go about to get you images published by them. Well, here is what happened in my case.
When I uploaded the shot on my Instagram, I did the regular thing and tagged it with a hashtag that is used by @MittNordnorge, a Norwegian Instagram account that features images from northern Norway. I got lucky and they picked up my image. They did however get my name wrong in the credits, so immediately I reached out to them to point this out. In order to make up for their mistake, the founder who also runs @MittNorge (MN), an even larger account with around 190 000 followers, featured it there. From thereon it didn’t take long until Beautiful Destinations picked it up and ran it on their page. Within a few days, my picture of Reine at three in the morning had been seen by millions of people and “liked” 132 000 times. These numbers are monstrous compared to my average of around 180 likes a pop.
With this particular experience in mind, I can only assume that the curators of @BeautifulDestinations (BD) would follow other respectable accounts and look for images that fit their brand, that they in return can feature. MN probably being one of them, as their account was referenced to when my picture was featured by BD. You’re still with me? Good. What I am trying to say is that I’m guessing that it’s too much of a hassle trying to isolate good pictures from the massive daily stream of uploaded pictures labeled with a “BeautifulDestinations” hashtag. It just wouldn’t be efficient. It is better if someone else already did the initial curating, from where the BD-team can take over at a later stage. This someone else could in this case be the curator behind MN. It is in other words much easier for the BD-team to browse the feed of other respected curators and re-feature those images that stand out to them. Now, with this theory at hand, not much of the BD-material would be unique and unseen if this was their only way of operation, and it would certainly not be fruitful for photographers that wanted to be featured by BD to waste a hashtag on them. It would instead be wiser to try to get the attention from smaller, yet BD-approved accounts and hope they do the work for you in terms of visibility.
On the other hand, a lot of the currently featured photographs on BD are taken by their in-house content creators such as @Sam_kolder, @Jacob and of course the Jauncy brothers themselves, Jeremy & Tom. This seems to be the route BD is going for more often now, which not only allows them to present unique content, but it’s also strengthening the BD brand. This is of course speculations, yet exactly what happened in my case, so I have to assume my theory has some relevance after all.
To return to where this post first started, you probably wonder what impact the BD-feature had on my Instagram following? The short answer is not much at all. Of course I got a few extra likes than I normally get on my posts, but nothing extraordinary. I estimate that I got 37% more likes than average on my own feed and my following increased with about 30 people. How many of those that are still with me today, I have no idea. Am I ungrateful? Not the slightest. I am thrilled every time someone features my pictures, no matter the size of their account. Because even if the curators’ motives might not be ulterior, it still means that they like the content I am producing and want more people to see it.
With some reflection and analyzing, I have thought of two reasons for why the BD-feature didn’t generate more followers and likes on my account:
- A majority of the people that follow BD (and other major accounts that makes a living out of re-featuring content creators) are not genuinely interested in knowing more about the featured photographers work as a whole. They only want to get a quick fix of beautiful photography. This only leads to BD getting the likes and followers, because the BD-followers simply don’t engage with the referenced featured photographers.
- The overall content I am presenting on my Instagram feed isn’t appealing to the general masses that follows BD, hence a natural lack of interaction from the community. My photography style is in other words not interesting for the BD-crowd.
So what kind of conclusion can I draw from this as a whole? Well, I would suggest you support the curators that best matches your personal image style by giving them a part of your limited hashtag quota, no matter their account size. Try not to mimic the characteristic BD-style with the hopes of getting their special attention, unless you can stand behind it to a 100%. We all have our subjective ideas on beauty and sometimes those ideas don’t match with others, or even the majority of people. What is important is that you are proud of the content you present, even if it doesn’t get you any features. Remember, Instagram started out as a platform for ones art, or self-expression in general, source of inspiration, or an informal journal of life events, – not a competition of who could get the most likes. The “liking” part was merely an incentive, or an encouragement to keep using their platform. With that said, I fully understand the importance of getting your shots featured and seen by as many as possible for the sake of marketing or business. I am fully aware that some people completely rely on their Instagram as a livelihood, where your monthly income is directly related to the amount of followers and likes. After all, getting featured by a big account could be equal to getting featured by a major magazine or newspaper. Yet, I still believe there is an important distinction to do when you decide your path along the winding photography route. Is your main objective to earn money from your Instagram account? Then do what it takes to do that. Is your idea of this platform to get your name and pictures out to the masses? Then apply the necessary tactics to do so, partially by identifying the hashtags and featuring accounts that fits your niche. There are tons of them, so there is really no right or wrong here. But for the many ones of you out there that simply like to share your pictures, keep having fun with it! There is room for all of you on this platform, no matter your motive or interest. Who knows, maybe Beautiful Destinations will stumble upon your picture one day?
The picture was taken with a Fuji X-E1 and the lovely Fujifilm XF35mm f/1.4. Raw Converted with Capture One Pro 7 and Processed with Macphun Aurora HDR Pro.