The pros and cons of an Instagram portfolio

Some thoughts I had whilst thinking about where to share my photos in the future.

I’m not a photographer but over the past couple of years my interest in prop styling/ product photography has grown and I really enjoy taking photos. I’ve thought about creating a portfolio website to share my work but then I found myself wondering if it was even necessary. The intention would be to also share on Instagram however, I started to think that perhaps just having Instagram would be enough.

Pros

Used by over 1 billion

Your work has the potential to reach so many people because Instagram is such a popular app. On the other hand your website may be much harder to find.

Create a community of fellow creatives

You’re likely to find through the use of hashtags a community of fellow creatives. Not just people that take photos but people in your city, peopke you can learn from, people you can teach and people you can grow with.

Directly interact with your audience

The people viewing, liking and commenting on your work may just be random people that think your photos are interesting. However, they could also be potential clients. But you also have the chance to interact with your audience and take them on a journey with you.

Cons

Image quality

Sometimes the images you post to your Instagram feed are of a reduced quality when compared to if they were uploaded to a site

Limited flexibility on how you can present

Compared to a website Instagram offers little flexibility. There are some things you can do to present images differently such as placing them on a white square that you post to your feed. But overall everything on Instagram is fairly uniform.

Getting distracted

Instagram comes with many distractions. As much as it allows you to interact with fellow creatives and an audience who may become potential clients, you can also end up wasting a lot of time. From getting distracted by the number of likes and followers to replying to comments and spending hours scrolling. In contrast when updating an online portfolio you won’t have notifications and messages to distract you.


I also think having a website can make a person appear more trustworthy, legitimate and professional. Anyone can have an Instagram account but taking the time to create a website isn’t something everyone would do. As someone who enjoys having their own personal space to share work online, the idea of only having an Instagram portfolio isn’t particularly appealing.

I think a website is the perfect base or foundation for your work, to share a bit about yourself, provide contact info and also what work people can pay you for. On the flipside Instagram is great for a more causal approach such as chatting with followers, sharing behind the scenes and answering questions.

In search of community

I think a key part of being creative is doing it as part of a community.

Community is really important. You don’t need to be working on a joint project you can simply work on your individual projects together. Being part of a community can help keep you motivated and accountable, give you people to bounce ideas off and act as a sounding board. Plus, you have people to share your progress and growth with. All those things you can gain are also the things you’re able to give.

There are the kind of communities that you pay for with a monthly membership fee. There is usually some sort of leader or overseer even if they don’t interact with the members directly.

But there is also community formed when a few people (sometimes total strangers) decide to come together. In this case, there is no leader or hierarchy. This is what I’m currently in search of.

I’ve been sharing my work online for close to a decade and it has always been a solitary pursuit. However, lately the idea of community has really appealed to me, both online and offline.

What would Jimi Hendrix do?

It could be Jimi Hendrix or it could be Jesus .

As much as I am a champion for being yourself and searching within to find your own way, I think having someone that inspires you can be incredibly helpful.

It can helpful when you’re just starting out and haven’t quite found your own flow yet but it can also be helpful as a reminder no matter where you are on your journey.

I think issues can arise when you’re trying to be like another person so I think it’s important to be very conscious of how you use this tool/technique.

If you’re trying to become like the other person doing the same things that they’ve done or changing your appearance to look like them, you’re not quite heading down the right path. A healthy way to do it is to identify the qualities of the person that cause you to look up to or be inspired by them and know that those qualities are also within you.

And so when you ask yourself ‘What would Jimi Hendrix do?‘ what you’re actually asking is something like ‘In this moment, how can be more creative?’.

Don’t try, just be

I think it could be said that one of the biggest things that holds us back is that we try to hard to be a specific type of way or create a certain kind of thing. Often our efforts go into emulating what we have already seen done and the way that we think or have been told that things should be.

When this occurs instead of just doing our work and creating, we put limits on ourselves.

Suddenly, the ideas you have end up being tweaked and altered because you haven’t seen things done that way and you’d rather go with what’s been seen to work.

I think a reason we do this is because we don’t have enough self belief to really do things the way we want plus, we want things to work out.

When you’re someone that creates, you never want to put your heart and soul into something and it not be well received. People not taking to your work feels personal because it came from you and often we end up internalising that feeling and coming up with stories like ‘I’m not good enough…’.

The way to avoid all this is to just be, just create. The more you create, the more you find your own flow and no longer feel like you need to mimic others. The work you do will become so much more gratifying.

The more you create, the more you lower the stakes. The first time you create something that comes from you might be scary but over time once it becomes more familiar, it will get easier.

When the numbers get you down

I try not to look at the stats very often because I never want to be too attached to the numbers.

Of course it feels great when the numbers are high, when you’re getting lots of likes, comments and new followers. But when the numbers drop and you’re not seeing as many likes or views than you were getting for previous months, it can be disheartening.

One of the only ways to avoid this is to stop focusing on the numbers. Don’t allow the numbers to get you down.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re trying really hard and dedicating time but the numbers don’t reflect that. But, I feel like so often we forget or overlook one of the most important things when it comes to creating something and putting it out.

You have control over how and what you create, then putting it out for consumption. Its the customers, viewers or readers that are in control of the numbers, consuming your work and choosing to pass it on. You might be able to encourage it but ultimately it’s out of your control.

What’s missing?

I’m a big believer in creativity, in art and in making things.

That’s the thing that has always been my joy in life.

It’s not something that I do for a living or get paid for. However, I value it just as much, if not more than my day job.

It feels special to make things, to work my hands to allow something to be transformed into something else.

I don’t think I’ve been doing that enough lately. I’ve had small moments here and there but not enough consistency.

That’s what I’m missing right now, immersing myself in making, creating and using my hands.

How creatives find their flow

It’s much easier than you might think.

The creative flow or state of being inspired is often held in high regard. It’s put on a pedestal as this magical thing.

People often like to ask creatives about their process in order to understand how they are able to do what they do.

But the thing is, finding your creative flow is just like finding anything else, you have to look for it. It might not be right in front of you and you might encounter a few flows that just aren’t quite right but that shouldn’t stop you from looking.

All of a sudden you’ll find it and your work will change. The good bits will get even better and you’ll have more of those moments where it comes to you with such ease that you’ll look back and wonder if you were in a trance.

And that is all there is to it. You can’t figure out what works without encountering the stuff that doesn’t work.

The problem with planning

Despite knowing that the best laid plans often go awry, we often still find ourselves meticulously planning for the future.

However, like all things, planning is great but only in moderation.

But you have to allow yourself room to be fluid. Too much planning leads to rigidity, prevents innovation and restricts creativity.

It’s like when you have to go from A to B, you should plan your journey but if you try to plan out everything you will encounter along the way you’ll be less open to the unexpected. On the other hand not enough planning and you’ll just end up lost

It’s really just about finding the right balance.

Free promotion

Something that you may have observed in almost any field of work is that once momentum starts to pick up, the people that support you or your work will begin to promote you themselves.

However, it’s not that you no longer have to promote yourself.

But what happens is when you build up a network/group of people that believe in what you do they will eventually talk about your work with the people they know and words will spread. Essentially you end up getting free promotion without even asking.

It could be something as simple as when someone asks for a recommendation, your brand/work is what they bring up. However, over time it may go further, to the point where your work is brought up as a conversation starter rather than in response to something.

The disciplined creative

One of the things that I think is severely underestimated is the need for discipline in creative pursuits.

We’re bombarded with ideas and imagery of the wild artist. The creative that is awoken from slumber with their great idea. The writers block or creative block that results in nothing being produced for days, weeks or months. Then suddenly they’re almost possessed by the desire to create.

I think we separate the idea of being disciplined because it seems so in contrast to the idea of creativity.

But furthermore because we often look at creativity as a natural thing that just comes to you instead if being something you have to work at.

Time, dedication and discipline of a creative pursuit isn’t always appealing but it’s necessary.