The Unwritten Rules Of Instagram: Do's and Don'ts

Do's and Don'ts of Instagram. Includes a FREE Instagram Checklist

Do's and Don'ts of Instagram. Includes a FREE Instagram Checklist


 Updated: 2019

Instagram is meant to be fun and entertaining, but it's important to remember, if you are growing your brand or business, there are some guidelines to keep in mind.  The first "DON'T" that I'm going to mention is, DON'T get too wrapped up or overwhelmed with this list. Just take 3-5 ideas that work for you and implement them into your business/brand plan, then come back later and try some more.

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Post Vertically!! When shooting for Instagram and posting on Instagram, vertical is always better (shoot horizontally and vertically if you are selling prints and want variety). Instagram is a vertical platform and vertical photos take up more room on the mobile screen and show off that beautiful work of yours!

Be consistent - be consistent in your style, theme, editing, colors, subject matter

Edit your photos before posting - In high school, one of my photo mentors told me, "NOTHING goes out to the public without at least a quick edit." I recommend editing in Lightroom, Photoshop or a phone app other than Instagram.

Be mindful of posting times - It's important to post 2-3 times a day when growing your Instagram.  Post in the morning between 8:30 am and 10 am and in the evening between 7:30 pm and 10 pm. Experiment with these times and see what brings the most engagement.

Use Analytics - If you are using a business account, you can check the analytics on every post. There are also apps for this.  See what times are bringing the most likes, which posts do better, and continue to experiment with these until you hit on something that works!

Quality over quantity - If you don't have anything to post, sometimes it's better to wait instead of posting just for the sake of posting.

Get creative and even a little weird - experiment and play with your style to figure out what you like. Have fun with it and experience those happy mistakes!

Ask questions in your comments - engage with your audience. Asking questions encourages people to comment and talk to you instead of just scrolling past.

Be funny, get people thinking, get people to genuinely care - a caption that resonates with your audience can sometimes bring more likes than the actual photo!

Use your story - Instagram stories are an excellent way to tell your audience that you posted a new photo, share a quick announcement, show your personal side, and have fun with your account. Tag people. add hashtags, stickers, filters, etc and have fun with it

Use Highlights - Highlights are a great way to categorize your stories into “folders”. Be sure to add a cover photo to stay on brand

Use account management apps - use apps when you need to speed up the process, schedule posts, track analytics, etc.

Stick with a theme and color scheme - again! I cannot stress this enough!

Be an authority - consistency and quality photos leads to recognition which leads to authority in the field

Try to get featured - tag photo hubs and larger accounts to get featured.

Engage with people - comment back, reach out to other pages that you admire, comment and like photos, follow pages that you enjoy, anything that you can do to connect with your audience.

Attend Meetups - Check out some Instagram meet-ups in your area. These are an excellent way to meet other photographers, make new friends, and connect with models for future shoots.

Collaborate - work with others as much as possible. This is a great way to expand your audience, make friends, and even find new clients and customers. It doesn’t hurt to DM someone and ask if they are interested in a collaboration. Just have something in mind that you can pitch to them before reaching out.

Become a moderator for a hub - Usually, you have to get invited to be a moderator. If you do get invited and have extra time to look for photos and post photos on their page, then say yes! It's a great opportunity to be a part of a smaller community within Instagram.

Think about your target audience and research often - even after you are established on Instagram, continue researching new hashtags, check out what others are doing, stay up on the trends (to and extent), and don't stop researching!

Find Inspiration - stuck for an idea? Check out Pinterest, Google image search, Behance, Flickr, take a walk and look around, talk to a friend and bounce ideas, check out the Explore page, inspiration is everywhere.

Use a quick way to schedule Instagram posts and preview the overall look of your page before you post. This is a perfect way to stay on brand with your color scheme and theme posts!

Add a Location - a proven way to get more engagement

Consider filing official Copyright - People will steal your photos and it will suck BIG TIME! Some photographers don't seem to mind. It drives me insane, so I filed an official copyright with  If you see your work on someone else's page, tell them to give you credit or take it down. If you see your work on a company page or website, send a cease and desist letter.

Keep at it and don't give up - this is huge! It can be discouraging in the beginning when your page is growing at a snail's pace.  This happened to me and it was tempting to stop caring but I continued (and continue to push every single day) and now am running a business from Instagram!  If you enjoy Instagram and it doesn't feel like a chore, then KEEP GOING! Keep taking photos, keep posting, keep engaging and do not give up! Or hire someone to do it for you!!


Don't set account to private - I know a lot of people do this for security purposes, but if you are growing your Instagram and want people to see your work, then don't set your account as private!

Don't abuse hashtags - make sure you are using targeted and popular hashtags and not hashtagging what is obviously in the photo

Don't post low-quality Photos - again, quality over quantity. Think about what you are posting. Avoid blurry photos and anything that isn’t your best work!

Don't Feel like you have to use a DSLR - While I recommend shooting on a DSLR, it's not necessary. There are some very successful phone only or point and shoot accounts.

Don't use borders! Keep it clean - There are some exceptions to this rule — I've seen a few account that use all horizontal photos with a white border where it actually works really well but if it’s not deliberate, it looks messy. Especially when the photos change sizes and orientation.  And please don't add patterned borders around your photos! It looks extremely amateur.

Don't overuse filters! - Just don't do it!

Don't pay for followers or likes - it can seem tempting in the beginning to get that follower and like count up, but it will only hurt your account.  Not only does Instagram shut down accounts that do this but you'll also end up with ghost/bot followers. Ghost followers are fake accounts that won't ever engage with your work resulting in an uneven ratio of followers to likes. It's always obvious when someone has thousands of followers and only gets 50 likes on a photo.

Don't Spam or be spammy! - Please don't go around commenting on other photographers accounts asking for them to follow you. It seems desperate and unauthentic. It's one thing to genuinely interact with other accounts but it's just spam when you comment asking for followers.

Don't DM everyone - use DM with discretion and don’t add an auto-DM feature for everyone who follows you! If I get a message from someone that says, “Thanks for following me, here’s a link to buy from me (or whatever)” I immediately unfollow them!

Don't DM an account asking for a feature - and don't DM an admin either!!!!  Just don't do it.  Quality photos will get you the features that you deserve.

Don't post a bunch of photos in a row - unless you are building your foundation, don't post a bunch of photos in a row!

Don't forget to try, test, experiment - see what works on your account. I'm always trying new things and posting something out of the normal. Sometimes it really works and sometimes it doesn't go over so well but the only way to know is to try.

And one last thing!

Perform an Instagram "check up" now and then to make sure that you are still on track towards your goals.

Check for consistency, performance, engagement, and overall check that your page it looking its absolute best!