If you feel like you’re posting to the same seven people over and over and you can’t get your account to GROW with the right followers – it might be because you’re not posting reels OR you’re not posting the right reels.
In my experience, reels are the best way to reach new audiences. In fact, when I did my IG experiment in May (you can learn what I learned from posting 2x/day on IG in episode 149), my reels were the posts the reached new people.
So I started to think about it like this – if reels would reach new people, I would then use carousels and stories to get those people to opt in or take the next steps with me.
Recently, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, disclosed what the algorithm is looking for with reels. This means, he’s telling you exactly what to do with you reels to reach new people.
Ready for this?
The goal of reels is to ENTERTAIN, first and foremost. Are your reels entertaining? Are they something that is informational and helpful, but also entertaining?
The signal that your reel is a good reel is if the viewer finishes the reel. So if people aren’t finishing your reel, chances are, it’s a not going to reach a lot of people and it’s not going to reach its maximum potential.
Another goal for reels is to have people reshare it and/or have them visit the audio page. Resharing it looks like copying the link and sending it to a friend or resharing in their stories. They’re looking at that as a very valuable metric in reels. And I thought that visiting the audio page was interesting. They’re actually looking at that as a metric as well to know if they want to push out the reel to new people.
Reel Misconceptions from Photographers
You have to be direct to camera in your reels
Now, a lot of you aren’t making reels right now because you don’t want to be on camera – and I totally get it because that used to be me. I used to feel like my house isn’t cute enough, or I have to fix my hair, or my kids are too crazy – it feels like a lot to record a simple video sometimes, right?
But you actually don’t have to be on video to create a reel. You can share your images, share your screen, record B-rolls of you working at your computer or behind the scenes at a session. Heck – just use video of the sky or a flower blowing in the wind with text on the screen.
I think putting your face in front of your ideal client is a great way to use IG to build trust and connection, but there are other ways to use reels too without being direct to camera.
Creating reels takes a lot of time
You’d spend two hours to make this thing and it’s going to get 4 likes? This is totally me sometimes, and honestly, it does take a decent amount of time, I’m not going to lie, especially when you’re first learning how to do it, how to edit the videos and add texts, and all of that.
But I want to offer a little bit of a mental reframe here: what other way can you reach hundreds or thousands of people for free?
We can pay with our time or we can pay with our money. So if you’re in a position where you’re not willing or able to spend money on ads right now or it’s not the primary way you’re bringing in new clients, we then have to look at social media and look at what’s working on social media.
The more you create reels, the faster you’ll get at coming up with the idea, editing, and posting.
Mistake You Might Be Making When Creating Reels
Since I’ve been working with photographers since reels came onto the scene, I’ve seen incredible photographers putting themselves out there to get more views and engagement with reels and when they’re disappointed with their results it’s usually due to a few things. So here are the big mistakes you might be making with your reels.
MISTAKE #1: Taking too long to get to the hook or something interesting
If you’re starting your reels off with a long pause (the millennial pause, right?) or you’re starting your reels off with “Hey guys” or “Hey, I’m Tavia and today I’m going to…” – you’ve lost people. They’re already going to start scrolling to the next video.
People are making a decision, literally, in about one second if they’re going to watch your video or not, so it is very important to get right to the point.
It can be easy to kind of fall into almost being like clickbait, so don’t swing that far, but it’s important to get right to the point and to start the video where it starts.
WHAT TO DO: skip the introduction and get straight into what you’re talking about.
MISTAKE #2: Not including text on screen or captions for better engagement
For most of us, our ideal client is a mom, and moms don’t watch Instagram with audio. Maybe they’re hiding from their kids for a minute, they don’t want them to run over and look at what they’re looking at, or they’re feeding the baby or the baby’s sleeping and you’re watching with it muted.
A lot of moms are watching Instagram with the sound off, so when you’re reel doesn’t have text on the screen and it doesn’t have the captions, you’re likely losing a lot of people. And I want to dig into this point just a little bit more because I see photographers using captions and I’ve noticed for myself when I’m watching a reel that has captions, even sometimes the captions move too slowly for me. So what I’ve started to do is include summarizing text on the screen that’s saying what I’m talking about, so I’m giving people the option to read the caption but they’ll also know what’s going on in the reel based on the blocks of text that I’m adding.
WHAT TO DO: So for example, if I’m talking about how much birth photography costs. If you’re saying, “birth photography is so expensive and I’ve been a birth photographer for a decade and here’s what I’ve learned about what birth photographers charge in medium cost of living areas” – that might be what the caption says.
But what the actual text on screen is going to say is something very simple like, “Ever wonder how much birth photography actually costs?” It’s just summarizing what I’m saying. Pay attention to your interaction with reels and stories and see what catches your attention and what you’re swiping past.
MISTAKE #3: Long pauses between clips
Sometimes when we’re recording our reels in sections, there’s a little bit of time and it might even be as short as half a second or one second, but feels like an eternity on Instagram reels when there’s dead air dead silence.
WHAT TO DO: And so I highly encourage you to go in and edit each clip to start right when you’re speaking and to end right when you stop speaking.
In fact, sometimes I’ll edit my clips to be mid my first word. So if I’m saying, “Here’s a way to…” it will sound like, “Ears a way to…” because I’m starting the clip halfway through the word. People know what you’re saying and that’s even more going to get their attention.
MISTAKE #4: Creating reels that are too long and not engaging
Listen, people have short attention spans. That’s why the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri said that one of the key metrics to getting people to watch or to get your Instagram story pushed out to new people is for them to watch the entire story. And so when they’re watching the entire story, that’s telling Instagram that this is engaging, this is interesting.
When you’re making your reels so long that people are swiping off of them, you’re not getting the benefit of that really important metric of them watching the entire thing.
WHAT TO DO: So if you’re new to Instagram reels or if your Instagram reels aren’t getting the views that you want or hope that they would get, try making them shorter. If you’re talking direct to camera, challenge yourself to make them 15 seconds. If you’re not talking direct to camera, honestly, they should probably be more like 5-10 seconds, and see if that helps your engagement and if that helps people at least finish your video.
And then in your reels you can make them longer as you start to get more comfortable as you start to understand what’s keeping people’s attention, what’s keeping them watching your reels. You can start to make them a little bit longer. But I encourage you to challenge yourself to make your next reel at least 15 seconds as the maximum or less.
MISTAKE #5: Bad lighting/poor video quality
But don’t use this as an excuse not to do reels! You don’t have to get an iPhone or a fancy lighting equipment before you can do reels. But if you’re somebody who’s already recording reels and you’re not getting the views that you want, try to improve this as best as you can.
WHAT TO DO: We’re photographers, we understand lighting, right? So get in front of a window or get to a ring lights on your face, make sure that your camera lens on your phone doesn’t need to be cleaned off. You’ll be surprised what that can do to make your video quality even better.
If you want to get super fancy, you can use the camera usually on the back of your phone. I still use my front facing camera because I like to be able to see myself and I like to know where I’m looking and what I’m doing. But if you want to try using the back camera, that also is going to have a higher quality.
Another thing to think about when it comes to poor video quality is test taking a few steps back set your tripod up and instead of your face filling the entire frame show yourself from the waist up or show your complete body, talking. Changing up those viewpoints helps because when you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see a talking head, talking head, talking head, and they’re all basically just people’s faces it interrupts the flow and the pattern and kind of catches people’s attention if there’s something different.
So if you’re used to doing reels where your face is like filling the entire frame, try doing something different and showing a little bit more of yourself and putting the camera further back just to mix it up and see if that helps.
MISTAKE #6: No call to action
When I say call to action, you might think that I’m saying to sell something or to offer some sort of promotion. Calls to action don’t always mean that. Calls to action can be as simple as “double tap if you agree” or “share this with a friend who needs to hear this message” or “follow for more”, really as simple as those 3 words, that quick and simple reminder can be what helps your post get more reach or stops it completely dead in its tracks.
How to reach people in your area as a photographer
You might be thinking, “If my reel goes viral, how does that actually help me grow my business, especially if those views aren’t all coming from my city?”
Such a great question and there’s a few things you can do that might help: mention or tag your location in the reel and use location specific hashtags.
But still, you might not reach only people in your area and that’s okay. Think about it like a billboard. If you put up a billboard for newborn photography – is it only going to reach your ideal clients? No, but it might reach a few of them.
That’s the thought process behind using reels as a local service based business – you’ll reach a lot of people who won’t hire you but you’re casting a wide net to find those that WILL.
I do still think it’s a valuable use of your time and use those little hacks to make it location specific and also know that it might be a small percentage that are your ideal client and that’s okay, because these are people that you’re able to reach for free, which is so incredible.
So in this episode, we talked about kind of the misconceptions some photographers have about Instagram reels. We talked about what metrics Instagram reels is looking forward to push out your content to new people and I shared a lot of the mistakes that I see photographers are making with their reels and how to reach people in your area as a photographer using Instagram Reels.
If this episode was helpful to you, I would love it if you text it to your photography biz bestie who might benefit from hearing this information and if you haven’t done so I would love it if you would take a minute to leave the show a review. Each and every review helps the show reach more people, which allows me to keep doing this for free. So thank you in advance for sharing your honest opinions about the show!
And remember my friend, if you have a passion, it’s not an accident, because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is it is there for a reason. I hope that you’re going to follow that passion and make it happen.
Have a great week!