Photojournalists Explore Instagram for Professional, Personal Use

The NPPA Instagram account features the work of photojournalists, including Brendon Hoffman's photos from Haiti.

By Katelyn Umholtz

Instagram announced a milestone last week that the photo-sharing app has more than half a billion users, with 300 million of them posting to their accounts everyday.

A new account is the NPPA Instagram page, which was started last March in order to recognize its members in a more public way.

“The idea is to consistently promote NPPA members, past or present,” said Brad Smith, an NPPA board member who manages the Instagram account. “It's to show what we do as a group. It’s to show what the photographers do individually.”

With almost 3,500 followers, one can scroll through the feed and find pictures of protests and even a confrontation between a defensive lineman and referee. The photos are all from members, which Smith said are always mentioned in the caption. In doing this, he said members’ work and names are put out there, potentially to clients and employers.

“This is the picture you want representing you today,” Smith said. “It's an invaluable tool, and frankly I can't understand why someone who's a professional photographer wouldn't want to take advantage of that opportunity to spread the word about their work.”

NPPA members have found this to be true and frequently use their Instagram accounts for professional and personal purposes.

Lance Murphey: freelance photojournalist, Denver

Posting his first picture just two years ago, Lance Murphey (@lance.murphey) said he’s still learning the tricks of Instagram.

“I only really started posting regularly about a year ago,” Murphey said. “It's just an outlet for those of us who aren't working regularly at newspapers anymore.”

He said he comes from a generation where gonzo journalism was not allowed, but Murphey is coming out of his shell by posting pictures he simply enjoys.

By not making it entirely about his photojournalism, Murphey said an artistic side of him is able to show more publicly now, one that wasn’t always allowed to show it at work.

“When you get away from the newspaper world, you start to realize there are more sides to your photography,” Murphey said. “I've always had that, but I've been able to fully embrace it. It doesn't just have to be a photojournalism display. It can be art.”

But what’s even more enticing about Instagram, Murphey said, is that you can see everyone else’s posted work.

“I get a lot out of looking [at pictures],” Murphey said. “For me, it's a more useful tool to see what everyone else is doing. I look at people's work that I've never even heard of. It's a great discovery and educational tool for me. It's a visual person's Facebook.”

Ann Arbor Miller: freelance photojournalist, Fargo, ND

Ann Arbor Miller (@annarbormiller) is no newbie to Instagram. Aside from running the Instagram account for her former job at Minnesota Public Radio, she has had her personal account since 2012 with more than 500 posts so far.

Miller’s personal account has served her as a space for self-expression in an informal setting. She doesn’t claim to have a niche and her recent photos feature scenery from her travels and the walks she takes with her cat.

“It's just a little snapshot of what I'm up to or what I'm seeing or how I'm seeing things,” Miller said. “I know there are people who strategically use Instagram as a marketing tool or are attempting to do that. For me, it's just much more informal than that.”

Though her profile is not currently made up of just phone photos, Miller said she could certainly see herself moving in that direction. She has grown accustomed to using her phone’s camera for her Instagram account, like when she’s on an assignment and wants to share those pictures with her followers.

“Increasingly, it's with my phone because it's just easier,” Miller said. “You use the phone to shoot the photo, make a crop or whatever you need to do and just upload it versus having to add another layer in the transition process.”

Stanley Leary: photography teacher, Atlanta

An NPPA member since 2012, Stanley Leary believes in keeping his account professional.

“I've had one for a few years now, but really in the last few months, I've started to figure it out a little better,” Leary said. “It's pretty much professional. It may look like it's personal at times, but actually that's just me trying to connect.”

Keeping an Instagram page professional-looking, there are certain rules, Leary said.

One of those rules is having a niche. Viewers will certainly find said that on Leary’s profile, which he said is mostly made up of humanitarian photos and all things Chick-fil-A, where he also is a consultant. Because the chicken restaurant is so beloved in Atlanta, he said those photos often get the most reaction.

Leary said the great thing about Instagram, when using it professionally, is that it’s a convenient way to show clients portfolios. And it’s less expensive.

This is why hashtags, just like Twitter, are crucial on Instagram, Leary said.

“Without hashtags or tagging an account name, nobody sees your stuff,” Leary said.