90% of your Instagram followers do not like your photos.

Go to your Instagram page. Take the last 20 images and average out the number of “likes”. Divide that number by the number of followers you have. That number will probably be somewhere around 0.10. That’s the average percentage of people who “like” your photos. About 10%. Doesn’t matter if you’re a famous photographer or a well known photographic organization. Doesn’t matter if you have 400 followers or 400,000.

After all that time chasing “likes” and followers, about 90% of your followers won’t “like” your photos. Now, it may be that they truly don’t like your stuff; it’s not compelling enough to even garner a simple double tap on the screen. But more than likely it’s because they didn’t even see your photograph because they too are chasing “likes” and followers. They too think more is better. They follow a ton of people in the hopes that those people will blindly follow them back. And your one in 2,000 photos on that person’s IG feed is going to get lost!

These people want to look at the number at the top of their IG page and see that it is greater than their friend’s and acquaintances because, you know… winning! They console themselves that the photo they posted earlier today has 150 “likes”, 25 more than the picture they posted yesterday. Yet the reality is the vast majority of their followers won’t “like”, won’t see their photographs.

My point in pointing this out is to give you a different way to think about social media and followers and likers and all that stuff. For me it comes down to quality over quantity. The vast majority of people I follow are people whose work or art I admire, and am genuinely interested in watching it evolve. I would hope people follow me for the same reasons. I don’t follow someone simply because they followed me. I don’t do “like-for-likes”. I appreciate it when I see someone new has decided to follow me. But I will still take the time to look at their page and see if it’s something I’m interested in before I click “follow.” And often I don’t. Sometimes those people continue to follow me and many times they take back their follow. Which is fine because they weren’t really interested in my stuff in the first place.

Yes, we all have friends and family we follow because they’re friends and family. I do like to keep up with all the nieces and nephews! But for me Instagram is mostly for the art, for the photographs. It’s my own personally curated gallery. A place where I can view interesting, powerful, and unique photography. It’s not a competition for “likes”.

What I’m getting at here is don’t waste your energy chasing those numbers. Because they really don’t mean anything. Or, I should say, they don’t quite mean what we once thought they meant. Follow who you want. “Like” what you genuinely like. Post photographs that mean something to you, that are true to your artistic spirit. The followers will come. You’ll still only see “likes” from about 10% of them, but they’ll be more meaningful.


Generation i

I once used my earbuds while on the train into the city. After making it halfway through the song I pulled them out and put the phone away. I couldn’t stand not hearing the world around me. The screech of the steel wheels on the rails. The goofy Metro voice warning the doors were closing. The giggling of high-school girls. The general hum of everyday life. I haven’t used them in public since.

The smartphone generation. Phone calls, texting, gaming, listening to music, surfing the web. Social engagement on perpetual hold.

Interesting phenomenon.












Couple with smart phones on DC metro.

Recently I’ve noticed a new “hashtag” in the Instagram universe: #nofilter.

Ironically, when you come across that hashtag and click on it, you see that a great many of the thousands of images actually do have a “filter” applied. So I’m not sure everybody is getting the point of that particular hashtag. But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to point out that there is no such thing as “no filter.” Even a straight-out-of-the-camera image from a $5,000 dSLR has a “filter” applied. Whether you own a Nikon or a Canon, a Droid or an iPhone; whether you apply one of the built in treatments within Instagram or use Photoshop CS5 or LightRoom3 or 4 or the Camera Bag app…”filters” are all over the place. Different algorithms for different cameras will render red, green and blue differently, also color saturation, contrast and white-balance. No matter the camera, the moment you depress the shutter reality is altered. A “filter” is applied.

Instagram and similar apps offer pre-made treatments making it easy for you to give your image the look you’d like. Some are subtle, some are over-the-top. And some people get unnecessarily exercised over these things. They think that everyone 20 years down the road will “regret” ever using things like Instagram or Hipstamatic. Can’t say that I agree. In fact, whether you’re a pro or a hobbyist, no matter the camera or the app, knock yourself out. Ignore the curmudgeons.

Experiment. Explore. Enjoy.