My Top Instagram Photos of 2016

In Photography by Matt K4 Comments

This past year was finally the year of Instagram for me. I’d posted there once in a while before, but never really consistently over the years. I know everyone uses Instagram, but I guess I just didn’t get it for a while. But I’m on board now, so I thought it would be cool to share what everyone else thought my top Instagram photos of 2016 were.

As I wrote the other day, it’s always intrigued me a little. It’s a mobile photography sharing platform, that actually WILL NOT let you post anything from your desktop. It’s against their terms of service for developers to even develop an app that shares to IG from a desktop computer, which is why even Lightroom doesn’t have a “Share to Instagram” option (though there is a plug-in called LRInstagram but I’m pretty sure it’s against their terms of service). Yet it’s riddled with professional DSLR photos. So you actually have take a photo with your DSLR, edit it on your computer, and then get those photos on to your phone to post them.

Anyway, I figured out a good workflow in Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile (with Collections) to make it easier to get my “big boy camera” photos on to my phone to share (so I’m not emailing them to myself), and decided to jump into the IG pool (that’s cool kids speak for Instagram).

Shameless Plug: I have a free Lightroom Mobile course right here, if you’re interested in knowing how to get photos back and forth between your computer/phone 🙂

So What’s the Verdict?

Well, I’ll share the stats with you first. And then I’ll give you my personal opinion on the whole deal after I post the photos. As for stats, I started the year with just over 1000 Instagram followers. As of today, I have about 17,500. Not bad eh?

So how did I grow it? By posting photos frequently and hashtagging them. Hashtags are one of the lifelines of Instagram. It’s how people find photos. Rather than looking at a certain person’s account all the time, people tend to have favorite terms that they search for. Like “waterfalls”, or “photooftheday”. That way, even if some one isn’t following you on Instagram, if you hashtag your photo with a tag they happen to like, then it’s possible your photo could end up in front of some one who doesn’t know/follow you – and in turn, that person can end up your follower.

What Hashtags?

I was pretty consistent throughout the year in my hashtags. I typically always did #photooftheday #travelphotography #travel and then I’d throw a couple in there based on the photo itself. Like if the photo was of a waterfall I’d put #waterfall. Or if I took it in Glacier National Park I’d put #GlacierNationalPark.

While I can’t tie my growth to that particularly I think it helped. Every once in a while I spot check a name that was following me or commented and it was some one that wasn’t following me on Facebook, Twitter or my email list.

Stacking the Deck?

I’ll be the first to admit it. The deck is stacked in my favor a bit, because I have training out there through several various companies. So there is definitely some name familiarity going on there, that helped grow it faster. But I don’t think it was all that. I think it mostly came from just posting photos more often.

And I didn’t stack the deck any more in my favor. Meaning I didn’t send out emails to my email list, or posts to my Facebook or Twitter accounts and try to get those people to come follow me on IG. You’ll see a lot of people do that. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just important to know that you may not see the growth that some one else saw. Because not everyone out there has massive amounts of followers on other social channels, so their growth would never be the same as some one who does, and uses those channels to build their IG account.

So from what I can see, the follower growth came mostly from posting photos (and it didn’t hurt to start with over 1000 followers to begin with). I use to monitor my statistics, and I can tell you that when I posted a lot, my follower number grew – when I didn’t post, it didn’t grow. Kinda interesting though.

Top 10 Instagram Photos of 2017

A few things about the photos below. First, they’re not all new photos. Since Instagram was a new platform for me, I posted old photos too. Also, Instagram used to require a square crop. They actually don’t anymore, but I always find myself using it anyway. I don’t know why. I have no formal reason for this and I don’t ever crop my photos in to a square in any other app or when I print them. Yep, I’m officially weird 🙂

Anyway, here’s the photos in no particular order. The app that I use (Iconosquare) let’s me see engagement for my posts, which is how I came up with the list. It’s not just likes or views, or comments. That said, the first one below was by far the most engaged photo I posted for the year.

ig1b ig1a











So Did Anything Good Come From Being on Instagram?

So there’s the magic question right? It’s yet another platform to share to and check all the time right? So is it worth the time? I’ll start with saying Yes. I think it’s a great community and it’s just fun to share there. And more importantly, it’s inspiring. It’s a platform built totally for photography, and I found it very inspiring and motivating to look at other’s photos more than anything else.

I don’t care for it’s commenting system. It doesn’t show inline replies, so it’s not as elegant as Facebook. If you comment and you’re the 2nd one, and then 5 more people comment, the reply I make to the 2nd comment doesn’t show up until the 8th comment. You’ll of course be notified if I @yourname before it, but it’d be hard for anyone else to follow the thread if there was useful info in there.

My personal thoughts were that there weren’t as many “trolls” as I find on Facebook. You know, people that jump in and just say dumb things, or criticize the photo just to stir the pot. Remember, these communities are for “sharing” – if I want a critique I’ll go to some one I trust and ask them. That didn’t bother me too much though, as I’ve gotten pretty good about just ignoring that stuff. And if it was really bad I’d just delete it.

All that said, from a business perspective I didn’t see things change too much. There’s no way to put links in to your posts, so I can’t tie a post to a specific business activity of mine and see if it worked (or at least reliably). We run ads on Facebook which can automatically run them on IG as well, and we don’t see a ton of traction from the Instagram ones. Personally, I know that I don’t typically click on as many ads in Instagram when I’m there – not sure if anyone else is like that. I usually just scroll through and look at photos. When I’m on Facebook, I’m usually a little more engaged in that way. Again, it could totally be me though.

So from a business standpoint I can’t say Instagram changed much for me, which is totally fine. As I mentioned earlier, it was fun to share, and even more fun to get inspired by looking at other people’s work. And most people reading this article don’t really care for it to build a business – it’s more of a way to enjoy photography more, in which case I’d definitely recommend it.

Well that’s it for today. Continuing with the 2016 Recap, tomorrow I’ll be writing about 5 Things I Learned About Running a Business. However, as I’ve already started writing it, that 5 could easily turn in to 7 or even 87 by tomorrow 😉 Have a good one!


  1. Khürt Louis Williams

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for posting about your foray into Instagram and your “results” to date. I don’t think you should discount how much the deck is stacked in your favor. Being a “celebrity” helps more than you think.

    I’ve been on Instagram far longer, have posted on average about one new photograph per day, have actively engaged with other Instagram users, used appropriate hashtags, and I have seen very little growth over the year. Of course, the quality of my photography is nowhere close to yours.

    But I also know some very talented local photographers who can’t get their follower count out of the triple digits.

    I think success with Instagram is hit or miss and that having a strong preexisting social media following elsewhere does indeed give one a strong jump start.

    Again, thanks for sharing and continued growth in 2017.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      I won’t disagree. As I said, I also started getting more serious about it with over 1000 followers already, which helps. Numbers definitely grow exponentially in this social media world, and I think that has a lot to do with it as well. It also depends what you want from it. For me, more numbers means more customers to hopefully see my training. I need that if I’m going to succeed in business. Unless your friends want to be IG celebrities, I think quality matters more. If you’re just in it for the love of photography, then quality connections on IG speak louder. That’s why I’ll never say numbers don’t matter. They do, but it depends on what you’re looking for from it. For me, numbers matter. I need them to sustain my livelihood. For some one who just loves photography and has another job where their income comes from, I think the quality of the connection matter a bit more. Thanks again!

  2. Brian Bonnell

    Thanks Matt,

    I agree with your comments and analysis including in your response to another comment. I started on Instagram about 1.5 years ago and my goal was simply to get feedback and to interact with other photographers. I was tied up in the numbers game for a while but quickly ditched it as not important (but easily see the importance from a business sense). My followers are quite low and I don’t get a lot of likes (have only recently gone over 70 likes for an image and it certainly was not, for me, an overly interesting image…). That’s ok. I did find quite quickly that I was also not going to get the type of feedback / interaction that I had wanted (likes don’t count nor do easy to spot “fake” comments that are obviously not made by someone reflecting on the image).

    There are, though, a couple of reasons why I keep with Instagram. First, as you said, inspiration. Instagram is an amazing place for that and I believe I have learned from viewing what others do. Second, I have made a couple of good contacts with people around the world whom I expect I’ll never meet. It was great when one day one of them sent me a request looking for photographic advice. That made it worthwhile.

    Finally, I made a commitment to myself to post at least one image a day; something I have managed to do. That has caused me to take more photos, think about what I am taking, and “practice” photography more. While I started posting old work done with a DSLR, I currently post mainly images captured and edited on my iPhone. With a camera always in my pocket, I am always looking for images wherever I am (I currently take a lot of images at bus stops…) and I am experimenting more in framing, subject matter and editing. This practice has been very beneficial. I’m not out to be an Instagram celebrity and have no business needs to be. Instagram has, though, been very useful and beneficial to me in ways numbers cannot measure.

  3. frank

    I agree that Facebook is not only more interactive and easier to dialogue with others but easier to keep things organized. I use the album approach for certain types of images and single posts for other types – additionally, I don’t like the way I need to post on instagram –

Leave a Comment