Curating and Posting to Instagram from Lightroom
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Instagram. I go through periods of wanting to put the effort into it and then wondering if its worth the effort. On the one hand, it’s the platform of choice at the moment for photographers, whether you like that or not. On the other hand, ever since Facebook took over and started integrating its algorithm, I now only see a fraction of the posts from the people I follow, which is infuriating. However, I’ve decided to give it one more push before I give up. With that in mind, I was researching various techniques and tips for growing the platform, and I’ve come across some interesting ideas.
Curating your Feed
I saw a really interesting video from one of the people that I follow and admire on YouTube, Peter McKinnon. In in the video discussed how he grew his Instagram account, and one of the main points he made was that it is important to curate your Instagram feed. You basically need to treat it as any other portfolio and manage how your images appear. The first 9 photos, the 3 X 3 grid on your Instagram profile should be treated like a gallery, and you need to post to it as such.
He recommended that you put only the shots you want to showcase on Instagram. In other words only your best shots. You should also keep to a theme, and try to put shots beside each other that look good together. This isn’t for people just browsing Instagram normally, its so that people, potential clients and so on, who check out your profile get a good first impression.
This got me thinking. How can I create a good profile page, while still planning and posting regularly? I wanted to come up with a way to see what that grid would look like in advance so I could plan the order that I post in. This gave me the idea of using Lightroom’s print module as a way to mock up the feed.
Using Lightroom to Curate
I tried a couple of different things before I settled on using the print module. At first, I wasn’t going to use it at all because there’s no easy way to order the shots. You can’t just drop images onto a grid on the print module. You can do this in the book module, but that gets really complicated. In the end, I went back to using the print module, as I figured out how to arrange the order of photos (it’s actually pretty obvious)
The first step is to create a collection for this purpose. I called it “Instagram Staging Area”. I then added the images to this that I was planning to post to Instagram.
The next step is to create a dedicated layout in the print module.To do this I started with a contact sheet layout and set it to three wide, and 4 deep.
Once I created this, the next step was to populate it. This is straightforward. You just select the collection that you want to use, and then in the option below the viewer, set it to all film strip images, and it will automatically fill the grid with your photos. To change the order, you just rearrange the images in the film strip. It’s not as flexible as dragging and dropping when you have a lot of photos, but it's still pretty easy. With this setup, you can now order the images in the way you want them to appear on Instagram, and then you just have to post them in that order.
Posting directly from Lightroom
My old method of getting images from Lightroom into Instagram was a bit convoluted. I exported a medium resolution version to a folder, which I have set to import into Photos using Hazel. This then gets synchronised to my phone, and I would then manually post it to Instagram. It was bit convoluted but it worked.
Then I found an easier way. A much easier way.
It turns out that there’s a plugin for Lightroom that lets you publish directly to Instagram. It works as a publishing service, and it works great. You can even post to multiple Instagram accounts.
The plugin is shareware, it’s called LR Instagram and you can download it from the developer's website here.
Once installed it gives you a new publishing service, and you need to sign into your account to activate it. There are a number of options, but it’s all fairly straightforward. The one thing that I changed was the way it handles hashtags. The plugin creates a dedicated hashtag field in your metadata, but I wanted it to take it from the keywords instead. To do this, I just changed the setup in the options box to this:
This takes the caption from Lightroom’s caption field and the hashtags from the keyword field. It even adds the actual hashtag.
Now, to post, I just add an image to this published collection and hit publish and the software posts it on Instagram. It couldn’t really be easier.
My new Instagram workflow
So my new Instagram workflow is basically as follows:
- Add images to my “Instagram staging area”, and order them in the way I want them to appear on Instagram.
- When I want to post, I drag the last image that hasn’t been posted from this collection to the publishing service.
- I use Lightroom’s metadata to enter a description into the caption field, and I’ll add anything i want to use as hashtags as keywords (but without the actual “#”)
- I hit publish
- I then go back to my staging area collection and mark the image that I just posted with a red label, so that I know it’s already been posted.
That’s pretty much it. Will I be successful? I’m sceptical, but it’s worth the try. I’m just not sure how you’re supposed to break out on the platform and beat the algorithm. It doesn’t seem to matter how many followers you have if Instagram is only showing your content to a few of those. But, I’m all for giving it another try, and os for the next few months, I’m going to try and post constantly and curate the posts so that they look good together. Whether it works or not, remains to be seen, but I’ll keep you informed of updates as I go.
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