Tips for Photographers on Making the Most of an Instagram Takeover
Instagram accounts for media outlets have become platforms not only to show, but to debut photographic projects. For an Instagram takeover, outlets invite a photographer—emerging or established—to take the reins of their Instagram feed, logging in to the account and posting two to three imagers per day plus text, usually for a week.
Instagram takeovers rarely pay as much as a assignment work for publications, but they do give photographers an opportunity to take editorial control of their stories and put their work in front of a new audience. For students, this could be a great opportunity to get exposure for their work, develop relationships with editors and also gain experience working under deadline.
Our parent publication PDN recently explored the benefits and challenges of Instagram Takeovers in an article called “Instagram Takeovers, and How They Work.” Here are a few tips we learned:
Use the takeover experience as an opportunity to build relationships.
At Smithsonian magazine, chief photography editor Molly Roberts and associate photography editor Jeff Campagna sometimes use the magazine’s Instagram account as “a way for photographers to start working with us: We can see what you do and it’s a way to start building relationships,” says Roberts. The platform also provides a place for photographers who have done an assignment for the magazine to share images and text that didn’t make it into print. “This is their chance to show their edits,” Roberts explains.
Look for outlets that will republish Instagram takeovers in other channels.
New Republic pays $300 for a takeover that lasts a week, and adjusts the rate if the time period is longer or shorter. Photo director Stephanie Heimann also publishes images from about half of the magazine’s takeovers on the final page of the magazine in a column called “Backstory.” Photographers whose work appears on both platforms are paid a space rate on top of the Instagram fee.
When pitching a media outlet, showcase work that suits its style or mission.
Editors PDN spoke with say that they don’t choose photographers based on the size of their social media followings. Projects with a news hook are nice, but not critical. “The Instagram account is not supposed to be a newspaper,” says Max Campbell, photo coordinator at The New Yorker. Instead, they tend to look for photographers whose work matches the magazine’s personality, and who can handle multiple daily posts of new work.
You’re a journalist: Remember that captions are important.
Maggie Soladay, the photo editor at the human rights organization Open Society Foundations (OSF) says that the projects they run often depict sensitive topics like sex work, drug use or trans rights. She says she’ll often work closely with the photographers to check the terminology they use in captions and cautions that a project “could be killed because of the angle of the conversation.”
Campbell says of The New Yorker, “In terms of what we’re looking for, it’s not just someone who can shoot, but someone who is engaged with the context, able to talk about it, has that serious situational awareness and can translate that into something that works online.”
Have something prepared before starting a takeover.
Soladay sees the OSF Instagram account as providing “a place for photographers to share a chapter of a long-term project that aligns with our work,” she says. “Usually it’s a good idea to have something in the can before starting a takeover because your driver, your fixer, you, or your family could get ill,” Soladay explains. “A week-long takeover is a big deal and it’s hard to consistently tell a story seven days in a row.”
To learn more about how photo editors assign photographers for Instagram takeovers, and how photographers made the most of the exposure, see “Instagram Takeovers, and How They Work” from PDN‘s June issue.
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