What is Instagram?

Instagram is an app which runs on your phone. It allows you to share photos and videos. (You can access and view Instagram from a computer, but you can't post to Instagram.)

Why Artists Need Instagram?

Our art is visual and Instagram is a visual platform so marketing our art on Instagram is a perfect match. Through Instagram we have the opportunity to potentially reach over 1 billion people. (Yes, that's billion with a b!) Obviously on a practical level, the chance of all 1 billion people seeing your artwork is zero. With so many people using Instagram, it is however very possible for you to reach thousands of potential buyers. In order to sell an artwork you actually only really need to reach one person - the buyer. What makes Instagram powerful for us as artists is the sharing nature of the platform. If people like what they see they can like, save and share your post. Likes, saves and shares all get you more exposure for your artworks from people outside of your circle of influence. This in turn grows your circle of influence making it easier and easier to sell your artworks.

How to Set Up Your Instagram Account

Let's take a look at how to set yourself up with an Instagram account. 1) Install the app

Depending on what device you have, you can follow one of these links to go and download the app:

Once downloaded follow the instructions to install. 2) Creating your account You now need to create yourself an account. Note: Instagram is constantly tweaking the look of the app, so the steps below may look slightly different on your device, but the process remains the same.
create an account on Instagram

Click the sign up button.

choose to use phone or email on instagram

Choose phone or email - this links your Instagram account to your phone number or your email address. I suggest using the email option as it is more universal than your phone number.

add your instagram name and password

Add your name and password.

change your instagram username
Your Instagram account is then created using a computer generated username. Normally this username is terrible so :

Click the Change Username option to choose your own username.

When choosing a username think carefully before you decide. It is possible to change your username later but that also changes the link to your profile page. You don't want to spend time promoting your Instagram account only to change it later as this renders all your previous marketing efforts useless.

What username to choose

When choosing your username you should consider these factors:
  •  Choose a username that is first and foremost relevant to what you are selling. If you are selling custom hand made teddy bears, nobody is going to look for you under the username: thelemontreeIn this example these usernames would however make sense: customteddies, cuddlyteddies, teddytime, teddybears.These are the kinds of names people will associate with your product, which makes it easier for them to remember the name. If your username is easy to remember, you become easy to find and share.
  • A large part of ensuring your username is easy to remember is keeping your username as short as possible. It is easy to remember: customteddies. On the other hand remembering: handmadeteddybearsbymonique is not.A long username is also a pain to type. It takes ages to type and it is easy to make a mistake as you do. As a result many people simply won't bother.
  • Don't use periods or underscores in your username if possible. People tend to forget to add the dots or underscores in your username. They then don't find you and simply assume you have stopped using Instagram.If you do have to use a period or underscore, choose the period as it tends to be on the same screen as characters when typing on a phone so it is username easy to get to get into the underscores how is required easy to get to. Getting to the underscores however usually requires several key strokes.
  • Never use numbers in your username unless it is part of your brand name. People have difficulty remembering numbers so a username like teddy416 becomes difficult to remember.

    Even when using the number can dramatically shorten the username, like 1teddy4u, I would still not recommend doing so as you will find yourself having to keep clarifying that it is a number 1 and not the letters o n e, etc.

    This then creates confusion making you difficult to find as people keep typing the numbers in your username the wrong way round.

  • If possible keep your username consistent with your other brand identities. For example if your website address is customteddies.com, it makes sense to try and secure customteddies as your Instagram username as well.Keeping your branding consistent makes it easier for people to remember and find you. It also portrays a more professional image.
link your other social networks to instagram

Linking Your Networks

Now that you have chosen yourself a fantastic username, it is time to connect to your existing networks.

You will be asked to link your Facebook account. By linking the two accounts, Instagram will check to see which of your Facebook friends are also on Instagram.

folow your friends on instagram

Follow Your Friends

Now that you have chosen yourself a fantastic username, it is time to connect to your existing networks. You will be asked to link your Facebook account. By linking the two accounts, Instagram will check to see which of your Facebook friends are also on Instagram. You will then be able to follow your friends. Instagram will also recommend to your friends that they follow you. This will give your new Instagram account a quick boost in followers. You are also able to connect other contacts like the ones programmed into your phone. If you let Instagram search your contacts, it will go through all the contacts you have saved on your phone and see which of them are also using Instagram.

You can then follow them and they will be able to follow you back.

add your instagram profile picture
Add your profile picture You will add a profile picture to your account which becomes the avatar you see next to each of your posts. Currently Instagram crops your profile picture so that it fits into a circle. Bear this in mind when selecting your profile picture. Instagram will allow you to crop your photo into a square shape which does give you some control over what the final avatar will look like. You can select any picture that is on your phone as a profile picture. It does not have to be a photo of your face. You could use one of your artworks or even a copyright free image downloaded off the internet. You could even upload a photo from your computer to your phone and then use that as your profile picture. Note: To use a picture from a website or from your computer, you first need to save it to your phone before trying to change your profile picture in Instagram as Instagram does not have an upload feature. You will need to decide what type of profile picture will work best for your branding efforts. If your face is well known, then use a nice portrait photo. Many artists use one of their artworks as their profile picture. If you do this ensure that the artwork you choose is representative of the majority of the artworks you create. For example, if you create mostly acrylic pour paintings and every now and again paint a landscape, it would make more sense to use one of your acrylic pour paintings as your profile picture. If you have a logo that looks good in square format, then you could use that too. What ever you use, make sure that it instantly explains, or at least hints at, what your artworks are all about. Also consider that your avatar can be shown quite small at times so try to choose one that looks good big or small.
use your facebook or twitter profile picture on instagram as well

Tip: If you use Facebook or Twitter, you do have the option to import that profile photo. If you already have one you like on Facebook or Twitter, then it would make sence to use the same one on Instagram. (When it comes to branding, consistency is key.)

There are still two more things you need to set up to complete your profile but let's have a look around the Instagram interface first before we complete these two items.

Exploring the Instagram interface

instagram interface layout
The screen consists of four sections: Top bar, recommendations, newsfeed, bottom bar. The top and bottom bar contain icons which you tap in order to do various things. In the recommendations area Instagram will show you different things, like a search box which you can use to search for things and people. It may recommend certain actions, like connecting your other social media properties to your profile. It may suggest people it thinks you might enjoy following, stories you might like to look at and so on. In the newsfeed area you will find the posts that your followers have posted. Instagram will show you various icons in the top and bottom bars depending on what screen you are on and what options are available at that time. Let's drill down and look at what some of the main icons do.
Instagram camera icon
The camera icon is what you use to add a new story to your newsfeed. We will look at what a story is shortly.
Instagram reload icon
Reload icon : Checks for new stories to show in your newsfeed.
Instagram discover icon
Discover icon : Use this to find new people to follow.
Instagram home icon

Home icon : Use this to return to your main newsfeed.

Instagram share icon

Share icon: Use this to share somebody else's post with your followers.

Share icon: Use this to share somebody else's post with your followers.

Instagram search icon

Search icon: Takes you to the search screen. Here you can search for people and topics. You can type in keywords, hashtags and usernames in order to find what you are looking for.

Instagram add post icon

Add Post icon : Tap this to add a new post. You can add a photo from your phone's gallery, video from your phone's gallery, take a new photo or video.

Instagram heart icon

Heart icon : Shows you any latest activity that affects you. For example, you can see who followed you lately, suggestions of people to follow and recent activity by those you are following.

Instagram profile icon

Profile icon : Use this icon to go to your profile.

Now that you know what the main icons are used for you can tap the profile icon so that you can go and complete your bio.
add your instagram bio info
Now that you know what the main icons are used for you can tap the profile icon so that you can go and complete your bio.

Instagram Content Types

Instagram is still growing so they are constantly adding new features and ways to share your message. This is a basic tutorial, we will only look at the two most popular ways to add a photo or video to Instagram.

Posts vs Stories

A post is a photo or video which you have posted to your timeline. Think of posts as messages which you are adding publicly and permanently to your timeline. Anybody can see these posts unless you have set your entire profile to private. In that case only your followers will be able to see your posts. Stories on the other hand are only available to your followers and you even have the option to hide stories from individual followers. Another way a story differs from a post is that a story is only available for 24 hours. I like to think of stories as a short-term timeline. When selecting a photo from your gallery, you can only select from images that were taken in the last 24 hours. After 24 hours has passed the photo or video is automatically removed from your stories timeline.

When to Use a Post and When to Use a Story

As posts do not automatically expire, you will use them for your everyday posts. People can then scroll through your post timeline to look at your current and past artworks and news. On the other hand you can use stories to drum up excitement for events, like an exhibition opening. You can then post some time sensitive sneak peeks of the exhibition. These sneak peaks then disappear the next day as they are no longer relevant. In other words use posts as a brochure for your artworks and to create a record of your progress. Use stories to build excitement and share exclusive sneak peeks.

How to Add a Post to Instagram

Instagram add post icon
Adding a photo or video is very easy, click the add icon. The most recent photos and videos in your phone's library will show up. If you want to take a new photo or video, then click the photo or video menu item at the bottom of the page. Once you have selected your photo or video, you can edit it by applying filters and cropping it.


Instagram edit photo screen
The Instagram timeline favours square images so if practical crop the photo to show the best square area of the photo as possible. If you don't want to crop your photo then leave it as is. Instagram will show a cropped version of it on the timeline, but when people tap on the photo it will enlarge and show the entire photo. If the photo needs to be rotated, you can tap the rotate icon:
Instagram image rotate icon
Once you have cropped your photo, you can apply a filter effect to it. Videos Crop the part of the video you want to show. Instagram keeps adjusting the length of videos allowed. Currently your videos can be up to 60 seconds long for posts and 15 seconds long for stories. Once you have cropped your video length, you can apply a filter effect to it. You can also select a thumbnail image from the video. (this is the static image that shows when the viewer sees your video in their newsfeed. To watch the video they click on the thumbnail.) Adding filters
Instagram add filter to photo
A filter effect is a way to change the image or video to make it look better, or different. For example, you could change the photo to black and white or Sepia. When you are happy with your photo or video tap Next. Adding a caption
Instagram add caption to photo
You can now add a short description to your post. You can use this area to say something about the image as well as add hashtags. Hashtags
Instagram add hashtags to post
A hashtag is essentially a word or key phrase somebody might use to find your post. A hashtag can contain multiple words, but no spaces. It is also prefixed with the hash / pound (#) sign. For example, if you are posting this photo of a painting containing strawberries painted in acrylic. You might add these hashtags into the description: #painting #art #artist #strawberries #acrylic #acrylicpainting #yum What hashtags you use is up to you. You can add a maximum of 30 hashtags (which is way too many). Share options If you have connected your other social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter, you can also select which of them to share this post to.

Tagging people

As with Facebook, you also have the option to tag people in your photos. The photo will then also show on their timeline.

Tip: Only tag people you have permission to tag, otherwise they may not appreciate you tagging them and get upset with you.

When you are happy tap Share. Your Instagram posts will now show on your timeline and in your followers newsfeed. Your post may also show up in search results when people search for words used in your post description, or search for the hashtags used in the description.

Adding Stories to Instagram

Adding stories happens in pretty much the same way as a post, except you tap the camera icon to add a story. When you add a photo to your story timeline, you also have the option to add text over the photo, as well as being able to draw onto the photo freehand before posting it.

Browsing Instagram

Because Instagram is not just about promoting your artworks, but also about interacting with other people, let's take a look at how to browse and use the newsfeed. To view your newsfeed, tap the home icon.
Instagram post on timeline
You can now scroll up to view all the posts from your followers. If you like something you see you can tap the heart icon to indicate that you like the post. Alternately you can double tap the image to like it. If you want to view a larger version of the photo or previous comments on the photo, tap the photo. The photo will then enlarge and the comments made on the photo will be shown. Tap the back button to return to your newsfeed. To leave your own comment on a photo or video, tap the comment icon below the post. You can then type your comment. If you tap the share icon below the post you can then share that post to your own timeline or share to Facebook / other social media. Viewing Stories
Instagram view stories
To view stories from your followers, go to the top of your newsfeed and tap on the avatar for the follower whose story you want to view. Their stories will then be displayed in the newsfeed area. With that you know the basics of using Instagram. There are lots of other little tips and tricks to using the Instagram app. A great way of learning them is to play around and use the app. If you would like to get access to a free 7 day course which takes you even further into getting the most of Instagram, then you click the banner below to follow the Instagram Authority course by Alex Tooby:

I hope you have found this tutorial helpful and that you now have your Instagram account successfully created and are starting to post your artworks as you finish them. In the next tutorial we will look at specific ways that you can use Instagram to promote your artworks.

Instagram Basics for Artists - Learn how Instagram works, how to add photos and videos to Instagram


  1. Lillian

    Thanks Nolan! I’m on Instagram but don’t know how to use it. So lots to learn.

    • Nolan

      Good luck Lillian 🙂

  2. Claire Bone

    I would like to use instagram but don’t have a mobile phone.
    I just use a laptop. no hope for me? Also I can hardly read
    posting in light grey against white. Why not use something people with vision problems can use.

    • Nolan

      You can’t officially post to Instagram via a PC, but you can use third party software to do so. A popular one is Sendible : https://hobbyintobusiness.com/go/sendible

      PS – I have modified the text colour in the comment area so it should now be okay to read – thank you for alerting me to the problem 🙂

  3. KathyKuz

    Thank you Nolan for all the good advise.

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