My Instagram Journey

Like a lot of entrepreneurs out there, I have many different passions that drive what I do in the world. I work with some nonprofits and religious organizations and I do some motivational speaking with them.

I love the idea of helping others live out the best version of themselves. As a part of that, I also do a lot of creative work producing branding materials and content. So many people have an incredible message that they want to get out to the world but have trouble finding the right way to deliver it.

That’s what led me to Instagram. It started out as a way for me to capture my three kids growing up and put them online for friends and family to stay in touch. Once I started putting up my family photos, my account and love of the platform began to take off. Through that process, I learned a ton about social media and how much more is possible than with traditional media approaches.

Jumping onto the platform can feel overwhelming to start. I wasn’t sure who to follow or how to grow my account. In the beginning, I was looking for accounts that were inspiring to me. Not necessarily big motivational speakers just people who took amazing breathtaking photos from their everyday lives. I’d follow these people and study their work. Seeing how they used color and perspective gave me ideas on how I could improve my own images.

As I began following these accounts I started to compliment them on the photos that moved me the most. I wouldn’t just give out standard compliments like “cool!” or “nice photo.” That’s flattery and it doesn’t mean anything. What I’d do was give them very specific compliments about what I liked. 2-3 sentences that go into detail. I don’t care who you are, you might be a multi-million dollar company but thoughtful comments still can make a difference for you.

So very organically, I began reaching out to the accounts I was digging and letting them know they rocked. My messages then led to more conversations about their techniques and we built up a relationship. As a bonus, some of these large accounts followed me back.

Leveraging Tools

When I first started out I didn’t realize that a lot of the big photography accounts didn’t just rely on the standard Instagram filters. They were actually using other tools to boost their photo quality. There are affordable photo editing apps for your phone that you can download for less than $2.99.

Some examples of these Instagram tools are Mextures, Snapseed, Afterlite, and Vistocam. Using these tools gives you even more control of your images and bring out a unique feel.

If you were to scroll back to the beginning of my feed my photos look totally amateur, but as you go forward to the present you can see my evolution as I gained tools and tips. It was a gradual process and I’m absolutely still learning!

If you have the desire to make it big on Instagram it’s totally possible. If I can do it, anyone can.


Action Steps

  1. Follow accounts that you personally find inspiring.
  2. Comment on the images that move you the most, and give a specific compliment.
  3. Ask questions to larger accounts on photographic techniques.
  4. Use a photo editing app to improve the quality of your work.


Result You Will Achieve

Better photos and greater account growth by being authentic in your interactions and leveraging 3rd party editing tools.

Mentor: Adam Smith

Speaker, Storyteller, Creative at South Hills Norco, named one of the best iPhone portrait photographers in the world (2013). Adam Smith built his 60,000+ Instagram following, not as a business platform, but as a dad trying to create a cloud-based time capsule of his 3 kids growing up.

This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.