Instagram Engagement and how to gain it

If you enjoy photography and share your pictures to instagram, you are doing it for one main reason, you want other people to enjoy and like your pictures.

You have taken the time and effort to capture the image and you are pleased and satisfied with the result, though what do you do next – you share it so your friends and family can enjoy your fine work too.

There are a few ways on instagram to gain feedback for your efforts, gaining a like for your picture, or better still a comment when someone personally praises your efforts and maybe even says something positive about your image. If your account is not a private account, you may even gain a follower who likes your content, and wants to see more.

On Instagram having a follower is key, and you may use a hashtag to make your content searchable, but there is no doubt having a follower is the best way to get your work liked. Someone who is following your account will have a much higher chance of seeing and enjoying your photo, than a random person who searches for a hashtag or a location would.

The more followers you have the more chance you will have accounts enjoying and liking your work. You often hear people say “I don’t post to Instagram for followers”, or “I’m not interested in gaining likes for my pictures”, though the truth is that these people are only kidding themselves. because if they are not bothered if people like their pictures, they might as well leave them on their phone or computer hard-drive and not share them with the rest of the world.

My account has slowly increased its follower base over the last 18 months and in this post I would like to share with you some of the things that I have done which I believe has helped my account. These points are not from a guru or another web page, but things I have learned that I think may help you.


It is obvious that if you have great quality images then people will like them. If your account is full of poor snaps then your viewer will quickly move off your account and go to the next picture. You want the viewer to linger on your pictures long enough to like them.

The best way to do that is post the best pictures you possibly can. Before you post a picture, say to yourself, is this picture good enough to print and hang on the wall, if so, it’s good enough to post on instagram?

Knowing what a good picture looks like is a difficult question to answer, though you can ask, is the composition right, is my subject on a third, are the colors natural and is there anything in the picture that does not need to be there. Has the image got a leading line that moves the eye through the picture, and many other things.

The truth is if you really like it, then it is good enough.


Hashtags provide a searchable way for people to find your content. Without hashtags your picture may not be found by anyone who is looking for the type of image you have recently posted.

You can use up to 30 hashtags, and in truth you must always post your images using 30 tags. Each tag will give your potential viewer another word or phrase in which to use to find your image.

Many people are lazy or just fall into the trap of posting the most popular tags like #bluesky. This hashtag has 36 million pictures using it, and if your picture has this hashtag it has possibly got a 1 in 36 million chance of being found, it’s worse odds than the lottery.

The best hashtags to use are between 500k and 1 million, these tags provide your picture with a much greater chance of being found. You can use even smaller tags, though you are then running the risk that the term is so small it is not being searched for.

Instagram Hashtag Generator - Instavast Free Tools

You can use a website to help to choose your hashtags, and I use Instavast, in which you can sign up for their free tools. You can upload your image or choose a keyword, and the website will list a series of hashtags to choose from. You can put them in size order and paste them onto you post.

Posting Frequency and timing

When starting your account you are often tempted with posting several pictures per day with the expectation that the more pictures you post the higher the engagement you will get, and while you will get more likes for more pictures overall you will end up with much less engagement. Many people will like your first image, though skip past any subsequent images.

The best option is to post no more than one image per day, and possibly post one image every other day.

By posting more than one image you are generally posting lower quality images or the same type of image from your photo shoot, and remember you must only post your best images.

It is also important to post your images at the right time, normally when your target audience is active on instagram. That is often during lunch, at the end of the working day, (at home time), or during mid-evening.

I post my images at 5:00pm UK, mainly because it is evening in Europe, end of the work day in the UK and lunch time in the US.

Over time you will work out what your best posting time is.

Automate your posting

It is virtually impossible to build your account to high degree of engagement if you post your pictures, as and when you take them. You need to be consistent, not only with your quality, but also when you post your images.

By using an automation service you are able to schedule your pictures to be posted at the same time each day, leaving you free from worrying about when you post, and giving you the option of posting regularly when your target audience are more likely to be online.

I use the free account of Hootsuite, though there are a number of websites or apps that offer this service. Hootsuite enables you to schedule up to 30 pictures at a time.

To use a scheduling service such as Hootsuite, you need to change your account from personal to business, which is quite easy to do.

Use a description and pose a question?

When you post your image it is important to add a description, and by including a description it keeps the viewer on your image, and they may not be looking at your picture but reading your text. If they are lingering on your post by reading the text, Instagram will record that and know that your post is interesting and direct more accounts to it.

Better still is to pose a question in your description. Doing this will encourage engagement and comments on your post and the more comments you receive the more instagram will think your image is engaging, and again the more accounts will see it.

Size Matters

Your images must be the right size. Your aim is to fill as much of the available space you can, to show off your images as much as possible. Instagram is mostly used on smart phones, which are held portrait, and therefore you must always post your images as portrait. I almost always post portrait images, even if I have taken a picture of a wide landscape, I crop the picture to make it portrait.

The best ratio for instagram is 4:5, 4 wide and 5 high, which uses all available space and makes your image as big as it can be.

I always resize my images to 2400 x 3000 pixels.

Location Location Location

Another important way in which accounts can search your pictures is by looking for a particular location. Many people don’t bother to locate their images, and by not doing this they are missing out on a very searchable field.

Always ensure your pictures have a location, and you can put either a country as a location or more specifically a town or village where the picture was taken, that’s your choice and I always use the closest location I can find for the picture.

Managing Comments

When you receive a comment on any of your posts, you must respond to that comment using a minimum of 3 or 4 words, and don’t just type thanks. Responding not only informs Instagram of further engagement, but doing so with more than a few words will tell the commenter how much you appreciate their engagement, and make them more likely comment on your next image.

Comments are the most important engagement you can receive on instagram and the more comments you get on your post, especially in the first few minutes, the more your image will be shown to more accounts. The higher number of accounts that see your image, the more likely you will get further likes and comments and ultimately attract new followers.

Ideally you should try to get a chain of comments from the same and try to get them to respond you your response, asking them something else about your picture etc.

Engage with others

You are now posting your best images, scheduling them using an automation site and you are selecting the best hashtags that you can, though you are still not getting many followers, and in fact the only followers you are getting are those that you follow back or spam accounts wanting to sell you Bitcoin or worse.

Most instagrammers are only focused on their own accounts and not interested in yours, and probably don’t even notice your small account. For them to notice your pictures, you have to engage with theirs.

Hit the Like Button on as many pictures in your genre as you can. Click the like button of the accounts that you want to gain a follow from. Click like on as many images as you want, if nothing else they will be happy for the attention.

Doing this sends a signal to the account that you like their content, and you should select some of their best recent images and post a positive comment about the picture, and when that account posts a new picture comment again and make sure it is positive. Most accounts will be flattered with your engagement and if they don’t follow you on the first comment, after a few comments you are more likely to get a follow – this really does work but you have to be persistent.

Make a habit of searching for accounts similar to yours and randomly commenting on 5 or 10 images of different accounts, and make sure your comments are more than four words and are positive, and don’t just leave an emoji as a comment.

Doing all the liking and commenting might seem like hard work though the more you do, the more it will pay off.

Get involved

Some accounts host instagram challenges, which might seem a bit spammy or hard work to get involved with, though if you take part and engage with the other accounts doing the challenge, you will pick-up some followers.

I host a monthly challenge and due to the high quality of my challenges and the amazing accounts taking part, you will gain a lot of very good and engaging followers. This sounds like a promotion of my challenges, though they are probably the easiest challenges to take part in, the best challenges on Instagram and all for the biggest gain.

Things you may also do

I use an app on my phone to track my followers, especially to combat those followers who gain a follow from your account only to unfollow you within days. This happens all the time and can be quite frustrating. I currently use Chief Followers on my phone to track my account.

Create your own Instagram chat group. I often set-up a random group of my followers and just use it for chat, to connect accounts together and get to know my followers better.

Things that I don’t do

I don’t post stories promoting my latest picture, it’s not something I have done and I’m not sure if it is a positive thing to do or a hindrance to my account. Let me know in the comments below if it works for you.

I don’t join engagement groups. I joined one group for about 3 days and found most of the participants welcomed the engagement from you, though were not keen to reciprocate. I don’t recommend them and I think you should use your time better with the ways described above.

I have not used a sponsored advert. I don’t know if they work and I’m not sure I want to use money to gain a follower.

I would not recommend using any apps that help you gain followers. If you sign up to one of these follower gaining apps you will soon get your account banned and all of your hard work will be wasted. Do not be tempted to use them and simply do not do it.


If you have read the whole post to this point, thank you very much. Let me know what you think in the comments, did I get it all wrong or did you found the post helpful?

Also if you would like some help with your account or just some simple pointers send me a DM and I will do what I can.


19 thoughts on “Instagram Engagement and how to gain it

  1. Leo Bircham

    Thanks Dorian this has been a really interesting read. I hope to try out a few of your tips they sound very helpful. I agree that as much as I enjoy my account and want it to progress I don’t quite think it’s worth putting cash into. However with your new advice I will look forward to creating more engagement on my page.

    1. Dorian Mases

      Thanks very much and I appreciate your comment and I hope you can use some of the points in the post!

  2. Val M.

    Great article Dorian. I did read it to the end and found it very interesting. You mention that you use Chief Followers, do you know if this is approved by IG. I stopped using an app as IG kept blocking my account for a week every 3 weeks which was very frustrating

    1. Dorian Mases

      Hi Val, I have been using this app pretty much since I started my account and not had any issues. The only time I come up with any problems is if I do too many actions on my account in a short space of time, and app does make it easy to do that. Otherwise it has been ok.

  3. Yasmin Nannis

    Good tips, good reading, made it to the end. Very generous of you to engage in your followers in this way and though I might struggle with this I will try👍🏼

    1. Dorian Mases

      Thanks very for getting to the end, and hopefully some of the things I have listed you can make work for you!

  4. Lotta Fjeldså

    Hey Dorian.
    Thank you for great information. Wish you and yours a beautiful day Lotta

    1. Dorian Mases

      Thanks very much for taking the time to read it!

  5. Meenakshi S

    Thank you Dorian for the article. The content is so sorted about the honest intention of getting real followers for the instagram account.

    1. Dorian Mases

      Thanks, and the points came to me as I wrote them and it really is what I have done and how I manage my account.

  6. Lisa Valdez

    Thanks for this informative post! I had no idea about the differing apps that can be used. I am doing alot wrong 🙂 You have given me much to think about. If you have any constructive feedback would appreciate it.

    1. Dorian Mases

      Thanks Lisa, I will have a look at your account and give you some pointers.

  7. Greta Wilson

    Really great read Dorian. Thank you for the time and effort you put in to helping others on IG. I go through lots of ups and downs emotionally on IG .. from fake follow – unfollows to one post doing really well and another bombing on a grand scale with little understanding as to why. I’ve read about shadow banning, broken hashtags, liking to many posts in a row, the overuse of emoji’s etc etc and by the time I get done I tend to want to throw my hands up and throw in the towel. You offer a lot of great points here, many of which I’m already doing, some I will put into action as of today. I do promote periodically. I find if I have a 6 day promotion running even at $2 a day, I get an influx of like minded accounts follow and lots of engagement on my other posts either side of the one I’ve promoted. It kind of forms a buffer zone for me if life gets in the way and I can’t post for a day or so as well. In saying this it is a double edged sword that IG knows they have you on… as it becomes a bit of a drug.. making going cold turkey with a post that has to stand on its own really scary. I hate that part. Once again – great read and information. Thank you!

    1. Dorian Mases

      Thank you very much Greta, it is really good to read how well the paid ads are working for you. If you find you have little time, I seriously recommend using the scheduler.

  8. Hayley Beckwith

    Hi Dorian,
    This was such a helpful article. I already follow some of the practices but will definitely be tweaking some things. I have two accounts one personal, which tells my life through pictures (hayleybeck14). My new account is my photography Instagram and it has been slow to get reestablished, so your article will be helpful.
    Thank you

    1. Dorian Mases

      Hi Hayley, thanks for your comment, it’s good that you are already doing some of the things in the post, and I’m sure your account @little_wonders_fotography will develop in time!

  9. Tanja Kunz

    Hi Dorian, that is a good article. As someone, who is quiet new on instagram, it will help me. Thanks

    1. Dorian Mases

      Hi, thank you very much and I’m really pleased it is useful for you!

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