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Back when magazines were a driving force of commerce and creativity, the day after an issue was shipped off to the printer was unlike the rest. While editors would head off to long, boozy lunches, photo directors would call-in portfolios to review. Dozens of oversized black carrying cases would pile up on light tables, waiting to be opened, studied, and evaluated. 

That pretty much never happens anymore. With smaller staffs and tighter deadlines, time-strapped art directors turn to Instagram to hunt for new talent. Yes, they may well visit a photographer’s site, but often only after an initial Instagram scan. So what do top photo directors look for when they look at an IG feed? What gives them confidence? What gives them pause? How do they read between the frames to decide if a photographer’s got what it takes?

This is how the best art directors use Instagram to evaluate photographers.

Take Advantage of the Bio

One of the reasons the best art directors rely on Instagram, of course, is that it allows them to see lots of pictures. That said, the first thing they often look at is not the photographer’s images, but their bio. And what they’re looking for—where a photographer lives, shoots, and travels to—frequently isn’t there. For a director on deadline who needs a photographer in a certain city the next morning, this is immensely frustrating. 

Directors are also looking for the home-court advantage: “If a photographer lives in a particular place or travels there regularly, there’s less of a learning curve,” says David Hammer, associate art director at Formative, a marketing agency that works with clients like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft. “They’re able to hit the ground running, and they’re more likely to succeed.”  

But if a director doesn’t know you regularly travel to Peru, you don’t get credit for having that insider knowledge. Finally, you don’t get many words for your bio so use them wisely. Two phrases that photo directors gloss over? “Award-winning photographer” and “visual storyteller.”

Personal v. Professional

For many photographers, Instagram serves two purposes: it’s a calling card for work, but also a social media connection to friends and family. Can the two co-exist? 

Leslie dela Vega finds the mix of business and “the pie the photographer ate last night” to be frustrating. Dela Vega, director of visuals at Ozy Media and an alumna of the New York Times and Fast Company, is looking for a photographer who can stay on message and for “a feed that’s very curated. The rest,” she says, “is a distraction.” 

Don Kinsella, deputy visual director at Hearst, sees it another way: “The personal stuff is important for me to see because it gives me a better perspective on who the photographer is and what’s important to her,” he says. “It’s something that the old portfolios didn’t offer and that you don’t see much of on sites.” 

When he was at Popular Mechanics, Kinsella often had to find photographers for one-of-a-kind assignments—shooting Alaska’s Denali Highway, for instance, which called for the photographer to climb on the back of a Snowcat for 70 miles and then sleep in a Spartan lodge. A photographer who was building a winter cabin, he says, would be more likely to get the assignment than one who spent his free time kicking it at SoHo House. “Those personal pictures,” says Kinsella, “would tell me which photographer would be able to work well within a particular environment.” 

Study the Captions

Yes, you’re there for the images. But don’t blow by the captions, which can offer context and clues into how a photographer works. “Captions tell me what the challenges were and how the photographer troubleshoots,” says dela Vega. 

By way of a case study, she points to the account of photographer Art Streiber (@aspictures), widely known for his portraiture, where captions routinely offer backstage insight into his process. Under a series of photos he made recently for Variety, Streiber writes: “Photographing 24 actors, in pairs and as singles on three sets with four different lighting looks over the course of a weekend is a thrill ride!” (Streiber, by the way, typically posts his finished portraits but also telling behind-the-scenes shots, captioning all of them.) The captions can also offer some sense of how the photographer works with assistants and stylists (are they tagged and thanked?), because a strong team can lead to strong outcomes.

Why Outtakes Matter

One thing that the best art directors agree on is the value of studying the outtakes and “behind the scenes” pictures that a photographer posts, which, they say, often reveals as much about the photographer as the published photo. “Most of the time, the photographers aren’t the ones choosing the pictures that get printed,” says Kinsella. “Outtakes are an incredible way to see the photographer’s vision and their eye.” They can also shed light on how photographers approached the concept, how thorough the shoot was, the range of options they offered, not to mention their creativity and storytelling ability—all factors that are key to assessing whether a photographer can succeed at a given assignment. 

Likewise, dela Vega studies behind-the-scenes shots closely. “They give me an indication of how a photographer works, the kind of sets they use, what kind of equipment they work with, how many people are on set, and whether they can handle larger productions,” she says. 

For Kinsella, behind-the-scenes pictures provide another window into the photographer: “Ultimately, I want to know who this person is. You’re sending people into a situation, and you want a great photo but you also want to know what kind of environment they’re comfortable with. Behind-the-scenes shots give you that insight.”

How Important is Consistency?

When hiring for a specific assignment, the best art directors may find comfort in an Instagram account’s consistency—a photographer who, time after time, nails the colorful lifestyle shot. But top photo editors also see that as a trap. “Instagram is a place to show a range of styles,” says Kinsella, “maybe a way to showcase work that they’re not getting hired to do but that they’re capable of and passionate about. I like seeing that range.” Hammer agrees: “I look for consistency in the quality of the work rather than in the subject matter.”

Reading a Slideshow  

Photo directors appreciate Instagram’s slideshow feature because it allows them to see a handful of photos quickly, but also, dela Vega says, because “it shows me whether a photographer knows how to tell a story, and it gives me a sense of their editing skills.” 

Specifically, picture directors look for images that speak to each other, whether they’re repetitive, if the sequencing makes sense, and whether the story can be told in five pictures rather than the 10 the photographer included. 

Red Flags

Of course, the best art directors are also looking for red flags, small details that can shake one’s confidence in a photographer. For some, a noticeable quality difference among the pictures in a feed gives them pause; for others, it’s an account that shows a very limited range. Hammer is turned off by photographers who seem to be courting advertisers or followers: “I want to see them pushing their craft, not their own brand,” he says. 

For dela Vega, it’s about storytelling: “A lot of pages in an Instagram Story? I’ll probably skip it. Maybe I shouldn’t,” she says. “But I do.” 

These points come down to a photographer’s ability to focus, first and foremost, on the viewer—a trait that any good photographer should have.   

Bill Shapiro (@BillShapiro) is the former editor-in-chief of LIFE magazine; he writes about photography.


Using this generator, you can edit your text and preview different font styles for Instagram. While social networks limit your styling options in profiles, posts, and comments, you can use this tool to create fancy text or pick cool fonts.

If you’ve ever seen profiles with cursive text or bold fonts and wondered how that’s possible, it’s a secret little trick using something called Unicode. While you’re not actually copying a font, Unicode allows us to create pseudo-fonts made up of special characters that look similar to our regular alphabet.

Wait, but why can’t I just copy fonts from my computer ?? Social networks don’t allow you to add styling to your text, so instead we “hack” Unicode to build a special dictionary which replaces each letter—it’s really a font changer and not actually a generator.


Instagram today announced it’s expanding its test of hidden likes to users around the world. This means that a significantly higher number of people will be logging into Instagram today and seeing their friends’ posts sans numbers.

The test was run in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand earlier this year. Now it’s been expanded to the rest of the world. So if, all of a sudden, you can’t see the number of likes on another user’s post, it’s because you’ve been included in this test. The layout is otherwise unchanged.

Starting today, we’re expanding our test of private like counts globally. If you’re in the test, you’ll no longer see the total number of likes and views on photos and videos posted to Feed unless they’re your own.

— Instagram (@instagram) November 14, 2019

The social media platform’s pivot away from the instant gratification of likes and views is an interesting experiment — how much do our fellow users respond to the number below our pictures more so than to the pictures themselves? Likes are intended to be a sign of approval from one user to another, not a reactive desire to join a crowd. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said during an interview at Wired25 that this was intended to make Instagram less of a cutthroat place: “The idea is to try to ‘depressurize’ Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.”

Still, this won’t abate the sense of validation that comes with the likes on your own posts — and it’d be well nigh impossible for Instagram to ever eliminate that. I’d be curious to see if any popular influencers notice a significant change in their like counts one way or another. Instagram has also stated it’s trying to find other ways for content creators to keep their sponsorships that can sometimes be dependent on like counts.

In addition, we understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.

— Instagram (@instagram) November 14, 2019

Some users aren’t exactly supportive of the idea: Nicki Minaj has already said she won’t post to Instagram because they’re “removing the likes” and said in a now-deleted tweetstorm that Instagram like counts help empower independent artists. Cardi B has also weighed in, saying comment likes are more harmful than likes themselves, as they allow people to reward harmful backchat to otherwise positive posts.

Still, others have come out in support of the decision. Several influencers told Buzzfeed the potential improvement to users’ mental health is most important. Kim Kardashian West, someone who’s consistently been one of Instagram’s top ten most-followed users, has said the change could be “beneficial.” And when TNW ran its own poll, the majority of answers said hiding likes was a good thing.

Instagram is hiding likes in 6 more countries, do you think that’s a good idea?

Full story:

— TNW (@thenextweb) July 18, 2019

Read next:

Google is rolling out RCS, text-messaging on steroids, in the US


Chasing like counts on social media and seeking approval from your friends are known to have a toll on your mental health and self-esteem. Instagram took it upon itself to curb such prevailing behavioral ramifications when it began hiding likes from posts for some of its users earlier this year. This change is being tested in seven countries worldwide, and the US will join the list as soon as this week.

At the WIRED25 conference last week, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri confirmed the test’s expansion to the US, where just a couple of hundred users may see the updated feed section with hidden like counts on posts. You’ll still get to see the likes on your own posts, it’s only your followers that won’t. We aren’t sure when (or if) the feature will get out of its test phase for general availability.

WATCH: Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announces that the platform will start hiding likes for US audiences starting next week. It’s the latest step in Instagram’s quest to become the safest place on the internet. #WIRED25

— WIRED (@WIRED) November 9, 2019

The US will follow markets like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, where the test has been underway since April. Even Instagram’s parent Facebook is experimenting with a similar implementation that could benefit its billions of users.

I can already hear social media influencers crying.




Instagram plans to start testing the removal of “Like” counts for U.S. users beginning as early as this week, CEO Adam Mosseri announced at a WIRED25 conference in San Francisco last week.

Like counts will be removed from posts during the test.

Why we should care

In the tests that have rolled out so far, Instagram has hidden “Like” counts from public posts in the Feed, on the desktop platform and in profiles. Only the account owner is able to view the number of likes a post gets.

The possibility that Instagram – a primary platform for influencer marketing – may potentially eliminate “Likes” could disrupt the influencer community, as the social proof metric goes private. Without an outward-facing metric such as “Likes,” influencers and their agencies will need to adapt to demonstrate value to brands, but it could prove to be a positive development, allowing both brands and influencers to shift to deeper-level engagement and outcome metrics beyond the low-hanging fruit of a “like.”

More on the news

  • The Facebook-owned platform first began experimenting with hiding “Like” counts from users earlier this year. In April, an app researcher discovered Instagram was testing removing “Like” counts on posts. At the time, an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch it was not a public test, but an internal prototype and that the company was “exploring” new ways to reduce pressure on Instagram.
  • Later in the spring, Instagram formally began testing hidden like counts in Canada, and soon expanded the test to several other countries, including Brazil, Japan and Australia.
  • In September, Facebook confirmed it was experimenting with removing “Like” counts from Facebook posts for users in Australia.

About The Author

Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.


Is popularity enough to switch nav patterns?

Instagram is one of the most popular apps in the world. It started humbly in 2010, initially as an iOS only app. The first versions of the app used skeuomorphism for visual communications and introduced photo filters which fueled a lot of it’s popularity.

Today Instagram is used by at least 1 billion people each month, with around 500 million using it every day. Is this enough to influence the entire app industry? Let’s find out.

Before we begin

Let’s get the most obvious problem out of the way — touch targets. They are not going to be the main focus here, but they’re still worth mentioning. Instagram somewhat fixed it (or at least made it slightly better) in the latest versions, but still trying to tap on user names can be cumbersome — especially in the part where it shows the most recent likes under your post. This is of course due to the fact that the text is too small and slightly too close to other elements, that can also be activated. More whitespace or a bigger font would do the trick.

While tab bars are “the way to go” with mobile apps the way Instagram handles it is far from ideal. This is mostly due to the fact that depending on where you are and what you did, the tab can contain different information. It means that if you go deeper into the flow of each tab, the tab itself stores the current page information all the time.

This is how a typical mobile app would handle tabs.

The main understandable pattern would assume all of the main tabs have the bottom menu. However the next step you take (deeper) removes the menu in favour of the back button. That makes the navigation more linear, and possible a little bit slower, but at least it’s logical.

This is how Instagram does it.

Instagram decided to take another path. The only tab that adheres to the Apple imagined good navigation practices is the camera. All the other tabs have BOTH a back button and all the tabs available.

The flow in search results can look something like this.

If you look closely, we started at search. Then clicked on a profile. On that profile we selected one post. From that post we went to likes. From those likes we proceeded to one of the profiles. And then to that persons post. We can of course go on and on, supposedly forever.

Notice how the selected tab is always the one we started with. Search.

It means we went through most of the page-types and had the same tab highlighted.

Now imagine we switch tabs.

We were in search / someone’s post — at least 5 levels down. Then we go “Home”. And then to search again.

Instead of the expected search tab we end up with that profile again. We can of course “back out” of it by using the back arrow or simply tap the search icon again to go back to front.

Again this is not what we naturally would expect from a SEARCH tab.

Who’s profile is it anyway?

Here’s another example. We go to our own profile. Then we go to a post. After that to our likes. From the likes list we select a profile of one of our friends. We look at his cool photos. Then switch tabs to home.

When we come back to our own profile — it even has our logo as the icon! — we end up on our friend’s profile instead.

This loop breaks the logic and expectancy. It may make sense on a high level of the “entire navigation”. But deep down, logically it doesn’t.

This should be OUR profile, not someone else’s.

If we didn’t have the tabs available all the time, we’d have to back away the cumbersome way (one by one) which would take forever. So looking at it from that perspective it seems they made a conscious choice here that works.

It is however still unnatural and the only thing making it natural is the sheer popularity of the platform.

Not logic. Not easy-to-understand interface. Not some “great UI navigation pattern”.

We grew to understand it or even like it because we had no choice.

If apps could talk 😉

There is no “right way” to do this kind of navigation. You’re either a bit illogical, or a bit more cumbersome but preserving logic and consistency.

So the question here is — should other apps adapt to it? Or should some use the more common “regular tab pattern” instead of “instagram tab pattern”?

Because for the sake of the experience we should probably stick with one at least until we make a major breakthrough and come up with an even better solution.

Otherwise people that are really into Instagram will have a hard time using other apps.


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to deliver an all-inclusive commerce experience that brands develop entire product plans around.

Its latest test, announced Monday, is aimed at giving brands tools to build excitement around upcoming products their fans will be able to buy on the platform. Users can opt in to get reminders to buy the products on Instagram when they’re released.

Product launch tag. A “Set Reminder” call to action is available in posts to allow users to set reminders for the launch date and time and preview product details in Instagram. Users will then get a reminder on their phones just ahead of the launch.

Product launch sticker. A new sticker is also available in Stories, as shown on the left in the example above.

Why we should care. This test is aimed at complementing Instagram’s in-app e-commerce checkout capability that launched in March. Checkout is available to a limited set of brands as well as a small group of influencers via Shopping for Creators. Adidas, Levi’s, Soul Cycle and Warby Parker are among the 20 or so brand participating in the closed checkout beta.

“We see adoption [of Checkout] improve month to month. With new features like product launch reminders, we expect to see engagement increase as we can create simple, immersive and user-obsessed experiences adidas creators love,” said adidas SVP Digital Scott Zalaznik in a statement.

About The Author

It appears like Facebook-owned Instagram is facing some serious criticism from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigators regarding the tactics the social media giant has adopted over the years to tackle competition.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Instagram influencers were asked not to share anything related to Snapchat, including the Snap handles in their bios. Snapchat lawyers were so frustrated over Facebook with this move that they straight-up named the internal document dealing with this issue “Project Voldemort”, a reference to the antagonist in the Harry Potter series (for the non-Potterheads out there).

The report also stated that if any influencers continued posting Snapchat content in their Instagram profile, they were threatened to get their “verified status”(the blue tick) removed if they don’t stop doing so. This is a major concern since the verified status has evolved to be a symbol reassuring the legitimacy of a person for his/her followers.

Videos containing Snapchat filters and the #snapchat hashtag were also hidden from Instagram’s search results and “Explore” tab where a lot of people find new content to watch or discover interesting people to follow. I did cross-check by trying to search “Snapchat” on Instagram and I noticed them stating “Recent posts from #snapchat are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines” redirecting me to a help support page.

Instagram also blocks users from adding links to Snapchat profiles in the bio. I got a notification stating “Links asking someone to add you on another service aren’t supported on Instagram”.

Clearly, Snapchat is not happy with Facebook’s actions and they do have solid reasons for their behavior. Every other new feature introduced by Snapchat gets ripped off and introduced to Instagram in a few months making people find lesser reasons to stick to Snapchat.

So, what do you think of Facebook’s approach to establish a monopoly in social media? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.


Advertisers wanting to drive more purchases on Instagram may want to focus on in-stream video ads over Story Ads, according to a recent report from Wibbitz. The online video editing platform surveyed 1,000 consumers in the U.S., UK and France to get a broad overview of user behavior on the platform. Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 73% said they were Instagram users.

In-feed Video ads versus Story Ads. Of the 73% of respondents who said they were Instagram users, 31% said they had purchased a product directly after watching a video on the platform. When digging into the types of video ads that resulted in a purchase, 27% of the respondents reported they bought something directly after watching an in-feed video ad, while only 12% said they had done the same after watching a video ad within an Instagram Story.

The survey includes a fairly small pool of Instagram users — less than 1,000 spread out across three countries — but the fact that twice as many of the survey respondents made a purchase after watching in-feed video ads versus a Story ad is notable.

Driving engagement via the Explore tab. Per Wibbitz survey, 26% of the Instagram users polled said they follow new brand accounts discovered via the Instagram Explore tab (a section on the app with curated content and branded accounts based on a user’s interests), at least, once a month. If you overlap this finding with Instagram’s own numbers — that more than half of its billion users visit the Explore tab every month — it translates into the Explore tab potentially driving a measurable amount of engagement for brands.

Also, in June, Instagram introduced Explore tab ads. At the time, the company said it was rolling out the ads “slowly and thoughtfully,” first testing them with promotions for the platform’s own IGTV and then, over the coming months, making them available to a handful of brands. These ads are available globally now. With the amount of traffic the Explore tab is getting — and the number of followers it is helping brands collect — the Explore tab ads could offer an alternative to the already saturated in-feed ad inventory on Instagram.

Organic content: What videos to post and when to post them. How-to tutorials ranked as the most popular form of video content being watched on Instagram. They were far ahead of the second most popular content type which was behind-the-scenes type footage (80% compared to 66%). Of the top six most popular video themes, which also included interviews, news coverage and creative inspiration, motivational posts ranked last.

Of the 73% of survey respondents that said they use Instagram, 69% said they spend most of their time on the platform watching videos. And, the biggest majority of the Instagram users (33%) watch the most video between 8:00 pm and 10:59 pm. In other words, brands seeking more organic engagement on Instagram should be investing in more video content and sharing later in the evening when users are more likely to be scrolling through their feed.

Why we should care. Instagram consistently ranks as the preferred social platform for younger audiences. Ninety-five percent of the Gen Z respondents surveyed by Webbitz and 85% of the Millennials use Instagram. Knowing how younger audiences engage with brands on the app — and the type of content that is most likely to drive interactions — is key insight marketers need to optimize both their ad dollars and organic posts on the social network.

About The Author