Leah O'Connell

for photographers, personal

Do I need Instagram for my photography business?

I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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Last week, my privacy was violated. I got a disturbing text to my personal phone from an unidentified number saying they got it from Instagram (and other creepy things). That text coupled with a few unwelcome phone calls AND a hacking scare really shook me about the open online world. It got me thinking – do I need instragram for my photography business?

I know I’m not alone because almost every photographer I talk to about business has a similar distaste.

marketing a family photography business without instagram

The problem with social media

The truth is, though, I don’t hate instagram. I actually really enjoy it. I like supporting my long-distance friends and fellow photographers, interacting with quick information, learning about new things, and getting inspired.

I like keeping in touch with clients and cheering them on through life.

There’s lots of funny, relatable, and moving stuff out there that sometimes makes parenting and business more bearable. But with the evolution of sponsored posts and reels, it feels like a big commercial vs staying in touch with the people and accounts I actually care about.

Business owners have little to no control over who sees what or when with social media. There’s also the reality that it is a trend controlled by another company and any strategy or following could be wiped away in an instant. Using it personally is one thing, but it’s a whole different beast to use it as a business owner.

The tipping point

Like most things, there’s a tipping point. It’s the place where the pain overshadows the benefits.

When I talk to other photographers about using instagram for their photography business, the pervading sentiment is comparison, overwhelm, and distraction. I feel that, too. Not always, but enough that it’s disrupting.

I don’t want these are qualities to define my days and I’m guessing you don’t either.

But without intentional goals, boundaries, and strategy, we slip back into the instagram hole every time.

do I need instagram for my photography business

How to create boundaries and market successfully without Instagram

1. Determine the goal (and the non-negotiables)

I want to connect with families and make heartwarming photos of them.

I want to work with other photographers to grow sustainable, heart-led businesses and also make heartwarming photos for families.

I do not want to sacrifice my family’s safety to do it.

Or be stuck in my phone when the world and people who inspire me are desperate to look up, too.

I believe instagram is simply one of many tools available to photographers. Even though it seems easy, if it’s not working or jeopardizing my work and stealing my joy, then it’s actually not easy at all.

Consider asking yourself – what am I using Instagram for? Is it actually bringing me business? More importantly, the kind of business I want? Or is it just making me spin my wheels and lose focus on what matters?

Is it fueling my vision, creation, and service?

Using it personally for fun is a different story – but if we’re getting frustrated because we think we have to use it for business, that’s a limiting belief that needs to change.

how to grow a family photography business without instagram

2. Get clear on the boundary lines

It feels extreme to say we either need to go ALL IN or be completely ALL OUT – there’s always a middle ground. After determining the goal, the next step is to decide the boundaries around using instagram for my photography business.

There are boundaries around the when:

  • Can I engage and post 3 days a week then delete the app for the rest?
  • Could I engage consistently for one week then delete the app for the next – one week on, one week off?
  • Could I set “business hours” or time limits for app use.

And boundaries around things like who, what, and how:

  • Will I share photos of my family?
  • Will I share personal work or only business? If personal, too, what parts are off limits?
  • Will I utilize stories, lives, reels, posts… ?
  • Do I want to treat this as a standing portfolio or vessel for regular engagement?
  • (again) WHAT’S THE POINT?

Really drilling down and answering these questions gives clarity and intention to the tool.

Consider making a social media manifesto to write these answers down and review for accountability on a regular basis.

Also, maybe most importantly, ask the question – is this helpful or hurtful?

If the answer is clear towards one or the other, then the all in vs all out option is totally on the table.

Tools are ineffective if they are hurtful to the user.

There’s always another way.

marketing for lifestyle family photography business without social media

3. Build for the future

I always coach photographers to build for the business they want in 5 or 10 years and this instagram violaton was a huge wake-up call to practice what I preach.

In 5 years, I know I want to be teaching and engaging and photographing with others all around the country in real life.

I want to be present with my family life and honoring of my kids privacy.

Spending a ton of time on instagram now feels distracting and misaligned towards those goals, but I do need an entry point for growing my reach within my market and industry. So I’m going to start getting more creative around how to minimize and ultimately eliminate the use instagram for my photography business.

It means I’m doing some deep work around those middle ground boundaries and crafting an in-between strategy that feels more healthy, safe, and true to the deeper connections I want to foster.

The answer might be different for you, and that’s okay. As long as it’s on purpose.

ideas for how to grow a family photography business without using instagram

Innovation doesn’t come without effort.

I believe if you want things to be different, you have to do things differently.

As I roll up my sleeves to learn about marketing with tools outside of instagram, I plan to share what I’m learning and trying along the way.

I’m going to try things that don’t work and use technology that’s new to me. It may look a little messy.

But it’s important to prove there are other ways. And as a mentor for family photographers, it’s important to demonstrate what it looks like to build a business on your terms.

I started and grew the first 5 years of my business entirely without instagram and I’m confident I can continue to do so, even though todays’ world is vastly different.

If you’d like to come along on the journey and engage with the deeper, quality content and lessons I’ll be sharing, here’s a few ways to do that:

how to grow your photography business without using instagram

1. The Firefly Letters

My weekly newsletter goes out every Wednesday night for anyone interested in creativity, motherhood, and simple joys. Its where I pour my best thoughts and stories that bridge my personal life with business and art.

You can also expect first dibs on new offers, session availability, and announcements sprinkled in.

2. The Behind the Scenes Facebook group for family photographers

My private Facebook group for family photographers is still technically still social media, but it’s private. It’s also free and curated to only lifestyle family photographers. I do regular free portfolio and website audits + gallery walkthroughs, live chats, and more to support family photographers with a focus around in-home family photography.

Join the group here.

3. 1:1 mentoring

I have virtual and in-person options available to support and guide the growth of lifestyle family photographers who want to up-level their art and business. We can work through these marketing questions and create your own growth plan together.

Check out the details and reach out and we’ll set up a no-strings-attached 30-minute call to grab coffee together. I’d love to learn about you, your business, and your goals to determine if I can help!

4. Book a session

Let’s make photos together! Learn more about working with me and reach out for photos that go deep and wide in reflecting the deepest love you’ve ever known.

You may also like:

Interview on the Art and Soul Podcast

Planning for maternity leave as a family photographer

How to photograph families in any home

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.