Instagram tips for artists

Everyone knows now that Instagram is a real game-changer for emerging artists. Because it allows artists to build a large follower base, potentially collectors, cutting through the structures of the art market. As it became an obligatory step for artists we needed to work on a list of Instagram tips for artists:

  1. Instagram basic mistakes to avoid
  2. Image mistakes
  3. Photography tips
Mo Li Very Private Gallery

by Mo Li – Last updated: October 16, 2019 at 16:55 pm

Instagram Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to promoting your art on social media, the feeling is very mixed. You know it’s necessary at the same time you feel reluctant. There are 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram. Even if you are not a fan of social media, you still need to get your art out there. Today we want to help you avoid some common Instagram mistakes so you can have a kick start.

#1: Too many hats

‘Proud mother of two’, ‘Artist and Musician’, ‘Property investor’, ‘Artist and Actor’. I think it’s amazing that you have a lot going on, but you are wearing too many hats. It’s best to just say you are an artist (painter, sculptor, digital artist).

#2: Boring Bio

‘Hi, my name is Mark. I am an artist, and I have been drawing since I was ten years old.’ But you are 30 years old now and nothing has happened for the past 20 years? You are not defined by when you started painting, but how you develop as a human being. Mention something interesting such as why you want to paint, and what is the news happening in your career today.

#3: Mixing Work / Life

You want to share some amazing honeymoon moments, cool parties or first baby steps of your child? You might want to share them with your fans but I would not advise doing so. You would appear to be unprofessional, especially when you share photos of alcoholic beverage.

“The running joke of social media as the performance of identity. To me, it represents the peak of our complicity with misinformation in the digital age. We’re all in on the joke. We all know that social media represents this very curated selective representation of reality yet were perpetually fooled and we keep feeling the fire”
-Jia Jia Fei

#4: Depending on Professionals

I talked to an artist about why not updating his Instagram for a long time. He told me that he was waiting for a professional photographer to come in and shoot. Timing is everything! Between having a decent photo today and having the perfect photo tomorrow, you should choose now. Don’t wait on the professionals, learn how to take photos of yourself so you can react fast.

#5: Not Engaging

Many artists are using Instagram as free cloud storage to safe-keep their photos. They are not really doing a lot to attract social interactions. The title of the art? Untitled. The description? Oil on Canvas. Comments? No replies. This is not engaging! You are not stimulating dialogue between you and your fans.

#6: Too many hashtags

I have seen artists who are using up to 30 hashtags. Please don’t. You can put 5-6 hashtags at most, otherwise, you look desperate. It’s the opposite of ‘not engaging’. You can use some social media tools to look for the most relevant hashtags. Less is more.

#7: Paid Following

I asked once an artist: which artworks received the most likes on your social media? He said: ‘The ones I spent most promoting.’

#8: Instagram as Website

We did a survey on our Instagram and out of 400 artists, 60% did not have a website. They used social media like Instagram as their online portfolio. This is very risky! You can lose your social media account and you have no way to get it back. You should have your own website instead. You can rank high on SEO, you can make an online store, you can join all the social media together, and your ownership to your website is protected by law as your private property.

Instagram image mistakes

Now I will show you how to take better Instagram photos apart from basic photography mistakes, such as underexposed photos, image noise, blurs and low resolution. There are plenty of other mistakes artists make without knowing (this chapter can be viewed on our YouTube channel). Let’s see some examples:

#1: Partial

Either it can be cropped wrong, or the photo was taken like this. Sometimes the missing part is so small, you might not even notice when you take the picture. Show the whole thing and only then you can share details.

#2: Messy composition

Showing your dirty laundry or random items on the background can be distracting. Don’t include anything that does not help you transmit your message. Don’t rely excessively on photo editing tools to take care of the mess. It’s always better to get it right at the beginning. (would you wanna be born pretty or through plastic surgery?)

#3: Glare

Take your art out of the frame so you can avoid reflections from the glass surface.

“So if anything I’m more confident as a woman now. The most beautiful thing to me is confidence. Female or male, I really relate to people best when they’re honest and genuine. The most important thing is to love yourself. I love myself so much. It’s allowed me to create the best version of myself. I enjoy being confident and powerful.”

#4: Instagram filters

It’s cool to take portraits with filter, but not your art. You need to show your art as it is. The main reason is that if someone buys it, he will need to get what he saw.

#5: Co-Starring

Showing your art among other things, or showing too many pieces of art at once can also give this confusion like ‘where should my eyes land?’ Make sure your art is the star, not the co-stars competing against each other for attention. Publish the other artists’ artwork you shoot  or repost on a different account.

#6: Watermarks

Don’t put big ugly watermarks! If someone steals your work but you communicate it well, it will be easy to find you via reverse image search. So this is a free advertisement.

#7: Awkward angles

Try to avoid shooting your main image with awkward angles (actually any angle at all). It doesn’t faithfully render your art. Especially if you have a dark frame, it shows very well how unnatural it looks. Take your main photo square on like a passport photo. It might not be the most creative way to show your work, but it’s the safest way.

Instagram tips for artists (photography)

‘My 570 posts on Instagram only got me 520 followers. What have I done wrong? Can you give me some advice on my photos?’

This kind of question pushed me to write these tips: I’m going to share some good practices and give you… (Instead of reading you can see this topic on our YouTube channel)

9 tips on how to take better photos of your art on Instagram

#1: Aspect Ratio

When you frame your shot, think about aspect ratio. You can take 1:1 or 4:5 (slightly longer photos, 1080px by 1350px) depending on your art. If your artwork is slightly longer, it’s even better because it occupies more areas of the screen. However, if your artwork is horizontal, don’t publish like that. Among other square photos, it looks like a banner. Make a ‘passepartout’ white space around it, and upload as a square photo.

#2: Show multiples

You can upload up to 10 photos in the same post. It allows you to show some details, such as close-ups of your painting, as one of these multiple photos. However, make sure your main image is the ‘passport photo’ of your painting.

#3: Use props

Use items to tell your story alongside your painting. It is ok to include some fine art supplies, plants or anything really. For example, you can use seashells to decorate a painting of the sea. Use color or light contrast for example, and make the image pop, and play with the composition. Just don’t overdo it. If the props are too attention-seeking, your views can be distracted.


“I believe that the desire to create must be instilled very deeply inside you. It’s this desire that encourages and supports me when the realities of freelance life – the hustle, the invoices, the deadlines, the demands – begin to seem like too much.(…) Talent doesn’t separate successful people from unsuccessful people, but lack of tenacity can.”
-Meera Lee Patel

#4: Include yourself

After seeing your art, people would like to know you. It’s great to show yourself making art in the photo, either in front, behind, next to it, holding it… Try to find a stylish way to present yourself. Imagine this is the ‘behind the scene’ photo of your art creation. If you are a bit shy, put it as the second photo in a series of multiples. You will get used to showing yourself later!

#5: Background texture

It’s ok to have textured background like wood, sand, concrete or fabric as long as it helps to reflect the work.

#6: Use a Frame

Frames can make your work look more expensive. Include a frame especially if you give the option for the collectors to buy framed art. Also, it helps you to convert a horizontal image into a square one, in an elegant way. Just make sure you take out the glasses

#7: Use Grids

Use 9 photos to showcase a large canvas. Make sure your original photo is at least 3240 pixels on each side. You can do it in Photoshop, also there are some Apps for mobile. Most of these apps come with a watermark. There is a free one called 9 Square is free, on Android.

#8: Steal like an artist

Look at the top ones in your niche and see what they do.

#9: Create your style

Research, experiment and find your style. It can be a certain theme, look, or vibe. Once you find your visual identity, be e consistent. Imagine your account is like an art collection, you are the artist and the curation of this collection. You want to show your progress but stay within the same line of work. You can achieve this by customized presets in Photoshop, so you can achieve the consistency by just a click of a button.

# Bonus tip

Send your work to an influencer (that you know) with a handwritten note. Or just get a local influencer to stand in for a shoot so you can tag them and get their followers.


Instagram Tips for Artists
Article Name
Instagram Tips for Artists
9 Instagram tips for artists: Good practices, 9 tips on how to take better photos of your art on Instagram. And the mistakes to avoid.
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Very Private Gallery
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