Caleb Fox, photo editor at Guerrero Howe and Instagrammer with more than 2,000 followers, spoke to GH staff about why, when, and how to participate on the platform. Much of his advice is applicable across all social media and online presence. It isn’t just about lighting and filters—it’s also about knowing how to connect with your audience.

1. Create likable content

It’s hard to like a blurry image. Caleb’s first picture (back when he had zero followers) was a blurry shot of his dog. It didn’t get a lot of traction.

Caleb’s tips were simple but probably something the average phone-photographer forgets: keep your lens clean, check your lighting, adjust the focus, and think about the parallel and perpendicular lines in the image you’re capturing.

You don’t have to do it all on your own; using only your phone’s editing options; or even with Instagram. There are other apps you can use to improve your content:

SKRWT: Corrects your perspective. AKA, no crooked lines.

VSCO Cam: Offers an easy interface with advanced editing options. Use it for more than just Instagram (Twitter and Facebook will thank you).

Koredoko: Helps you choose the location to link with your image. Very helpful if you take a shot, go home to edit it, and upload later.

Instagram! (duh)

2. Know and grow your audience

You have to establish your voice on Instagram, as you do on any platform. Think about the persona you want to project: Where do you live? What is your job? What are you interested in?

For example, don’t market yourself as a fan of street art and then post nothing but cat pictures. Your bio and your content should tell fans exactly what they will get out of following you.

It isn’t enough to just know your own content. Know who your current audience is (fellow street art fans? Mom and Dad?), and know who your target audience is—who is it you want to follow you? Fellow street art fans? People you work with? People you want to work with? If you’re trying to reach more professionals in your field, start posting content that will interest them (hint: check their accounts and other social media accounts).

Look at the accounts of people who inspire you. Look at how they use locations, color, captions, and hashtags. Why do they capture your attention? Pinpoint the things that grab you, and implement them in your own work.

Instagram has “Explore” and “Following” pages. Don’t forget to look at these—they can give you ideas about new people to follow as well as show posts from the people you already follow.

Finally, as with every social media platform, you need to post frequently, or at least consistently. No one is interested in following an account that is largely inactive. Make it a habit to post on a schedule—once per week, for example. If you’re feeling ambitious, post every day (but remember to keep it within your voice!)

3. Interact with your community

It isn’t all about you; that’s why we call this media “social.” You need to like, comment, and reply to interactions other people have on your comment and on other accounts.

When you interact with people, remember that they are, you know, people. Not just accounts on the other side of a screen.

Caleb met several people on Instagram whom he eventually networked with in-person. Among other opportunities, this led him to a career at Guerrero Howe.

Caleb was able to meet and network with the following professionals by interacting with them first on Instagram: Paul Octavious (545K followers), Lucy Hewett (2.9K followers), Daniel Seung Lee (62K followers), and Ryan Pfluger (14.3K followers). Several of them offered him work, as a result, and connected him with other opportunities in photography.