Instagram… Explained

instagram-original-classic-old-logoOkay so recently I have gotten an immense amount of emails asking me many questions about my Instagram. Many common questions have me repeating myself frequently when I reply back to emails and so I decided to make this blog so I can just link everyone to the commonly asked questions.

How did Instagram start for you?

Well I get asked how it all started often, so that’s where I will start with you. Before I became a hiker I was a steady committed runner. I would be inspired daily by beautiful running photos in beautiful landscapes. So I guess you could say I started there with my running partner and an iPhone. We would spend early mornings at sunrise taking beautiful trail running photos just because we were out running anyway. I dare you to scroll down my feed and see the difference in the photos I used to post. I guess this was the start but I still had less than 500 followers at this point. I then discovered mountains. Thats where it really took off. One of my running friends took me out for my first summit. I was hooked and documented it all and used Instagram as a journal to keep track of my hikes. I started noticing how many people were interested in my landscapes of the mountains and it fuelled my passion to take better photos. I would say I started getting serious in September 2014, where I stopped posting so many selfies and started posting more adventure styled photos. I hit 10K followers in December of 2014, it was fast. I was friends with some top instagrammers that posted photos with me tagged in them, and at that time instagram was running hot and I would get a lot of followers from my friends featuring me. I never asked anyone to feature me, I didn’t pay for likes, followers or anything. I was just having fun working hard at creating beautiful photos with some amazing friends. Instagram became a way of sharing my adventure. I honestly think my favourite part of the whole experience was inspiring people with the use of words and visuals. Trying to place the person in that spot, make things relatable to people and to share my stories with everyone. I think that the moment you start taking instagram too seriously is the moment you won’t make it on the app, it should never feel stressful it should be a fun way of sharing your art and message (as a photographer).

Let go of your Ego, it’s holding you back.

Seriously, you are not better than anyone else because you have a large following on Instagram. Even if you are just starting out remember this point and stay true to it ALWAYS! I have met a couple arrogant photographers through this journey and I’ll tell you I have no time for them. Photographers that won’t give me the time of day because they are “to good” or I have nothing to offer them so why bother. I respect photographers who treat me like they would want to be treated. So if you do end up becoming instafamous, remember people will have a greater respect for you if you stay humble, be thankful and include everyone you can. Majority of the people I know thankfully are humble, helpful and share a sense of community so I am very grateful for that. Instagram is for making life long friends so when Instagram dies your friendships won’t.

3. Can you make a living off Instagram?

I think that is the wrong question, because I don’t think you can. I think the right question is can you make a living off photography and the answer is yes! If you have amazing photos and a strong portfolio, a high instagram following is a very good platform to convince companies that you have something to offer, but I don’t think it is necessary. If you shoot excellent photos you can find jobs. I make enough money off instagram to support myself right now but it is bare minimum and I usually live very poorly (but rich in life). Living out of a car, camping and eating dirt cheap foods help keep this life accessible. People think it is always 5 star living and to tell you the truth I have done some 5 star living and it’s so boring, predictable and safe. I would much rather suffer a little bit. So if you think that instagram will bring you to riches you better rethink what people are telling you. It definitely opens a lot of doors but it’s still work and it isn’t instant riches. Regardless though I am thankful for the connections I have made through the app, and I can’t tell you how long this stage of my life will last. That is the beauty of it.

4. Are you travelling for a living?

Right now, yes. Tomorrow? I am not sure. I don’t think I am the kind of person that was built to do one single thing for the rest of my life. I want to be so much more. I want to do whatever my heart wants at that time. Right now my heart wants to wander everywhere. It will change however. It always does, and I won’t settle but I will find something else to catch my passion. Everyone needs a purpose in life and I think my purpose is to always adapt to the next thing, help when I can and inspire in others. I honestly live my life with 6 months ahead of me, and even that is a stretch, plans are always changing but I am always following my heart.

5. How did you gain that many followers on Instagram and how do I do the same?

Everyone seems to think I have a magical equation that allowed me to break into the less than 1% of the Instagram community with over 100K followers. I’m sorry but there is no magic equation I used but I have some tips or guidelines that helped me along the way. This is all related to Landscape and Adventure Photography which is my main focus.

People like beautiful photos, so I find it pretty mandatory to post only my best photos. If it’s a photo I don’t like or that I don’t think is truly amazing I let go of it and not post it. That being said, to have people find you on Instagram you should be posting a photo daily and hash tagging it appropriately so make your photos available on the search engines. This is where hard work comes into play, because to have enough content to post a good photo everyday you need to be able to go to some amazing places often to get material. Even when you go to beautiful destinations you can still come away with nothing if the weather is bad or the light is poor or other factors. I try not to repost old good photos but sometimes it is all you are left with because it is a better option than not posting or posting a poor photo. Now reading this back to myself I think it sounds pretty silly… not because it doesn’t work, because it does but I have never really taken Instagram as seriously as I make it sound here. This is just a guideline I follow, doesn’t mean I go out on trips for the sole purpose of getting material for Instagram. In fact I don’t really care if I don’t get any shots as long as I enjoy myself out in the wild and share the time with important people. These guidelines run in the back of my head but by no means should you let this mentality rule your life. Remember something important: Everyplace has something beautiful to offer, just like every person you meet has something beautiful to offer as well.

I will sum it up in this little paragraph though for all those photographers starting out and want some solid advice:

Just do what you love, follow the passion. If you are doing this because it’s an easy living you need to stop. It’s only easy if you love nature and photography, not attention. Work hard. It is not easy work, it’s long days and often very physical to find the best spots and the most beautiful places. Take a break and do a hike without your camera or without the expectation that you need to get photos from a place. Creativity happens best when it’s not forced. It takes research and motivation. If you truly want to inspire others through pictures, go hard and don’t stop. If it feels right and you can share a story your passion will shine though in your work and people will gravitate to that. They can feel it through your photos. Just remember always be true to your work and if you want it badly enough it will come. Face your fears head on and defy what society will tell you about failure. It’s only failure if you don’t listen to your true self.

Hope this helps a tad. Sorry for typos if there are any… I’ve been on a plane for what feels like three days. I understand that there are many Instagram users with larger followings with me and their experience with the app might be completely different. This is just a personal insight on my experience with Instagram.

6 thoughts on “Instagram… Explained

  1. Excellent article and advice! So many people see all the pretty photos and say, “I’d love to do what you do”, “You’re on an endless vacation” but there is soooo much work, so many uncomfortable nights in random places, and way too much “dirt cheap food”, it’s anything but a typical vacation.

    When people say they want to do what I do, I always suggest they go out and sleep in their car for a few days and see if they really want to do what I do.

    On the road for up to 14 months at a time, it’s exhausting, the food often sucks, the sleeping arrangements are anything from tents to hostels to Walmart parking lots but it’s all worth it when you wake up in some jaw dropping new area of the world and do it on a shoestring.

    Enjoy the ride!


    1. Yes! Exactly Adam. It really has to be a passion. There is a lot of pressure to being a photographer. It can be stressful and very hard to find work, but it is really rewarding when you love it.


  2. Great post Katie! I look forward to your posts every day and it’s so inspiring to read how you got started. Love your passion and how you’ve remained humble though all the instafame. Keep doing what you are doing!


  3. Thank you so much for this! As I was reading it, I knew that the question that has been in the back of my mind needs to come to surface. I just got back from a 4 month long road trip across the U.S. and a week in mexico and I’m ready to try and make that my life. I was afraid for fear that my work isn’t good enough.. after all, I’m only using my camera phone. But my heart is fully in it and after reading your words, I am inspired to not be afraid. To do what I feel is right. To travel, take photos of all the beauty I see and to share that with other people and inspire them. Much love.


    1. Wow Courtney,
      Sounds pretty amazing, much love! Send me a link to your work I’d love to check it out and keep following your passions, they will take you to the right place.


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