Filmstagram is a really cool place. Over the last 5 years, film has grown increasingly popular and has exploded across Instagram. Some of the top hashtags in the film world have well over 10,000,000 posts, growing at a rate similar to the top hashtags in the world, like #art and #nature.
But luckily, since most of the people posting film hashtags don’t know that much about film, many of the best hashtags are in that sweet spot between 50,000 and 750,000 posts. This is a region that makes it easier to be found with hashtags, instead of immediately getting buried.
In this article, I’m going to go over some of my favorite hashtags, and how I use them to be found on Instagram.
My hashtag strategy
Using hashtags on Instagram the right way does take a little bit of thought. So I recommend that everyone makes a Google Doc or notes that separate the hashtags into different categories. That way I do it is to separate the hashtags into a few key categories.
- Film stock (color or B&W)
- General Analog Photography
- Film sharing account hashtags
Having the right combination of these four categories and tagging the relevant accounts will help you to stand out. Photographers can get a boost of followers by getting featured on a film photography sharing account like Restore From Backup, or even The Darkroom Lab (although, you’ll have a better chance of getting featured if you get a roll developed there).
Usually I rely the most on general analog photography hashtags and film stock hashtags. These are the two that users will actually be searching when they want to know more about film or different film stocks. Unfortunately, everyone loves tagging Portra for their “dark and moody” photos. So a good rule is to use the ISO where it’s applicable — that way real film photographers will know you know what you’re doing.
But tagging the location is also great if you’re posting photos from a popular location. These hashtags may be used by other photographers looking to get cool photos in your area, so they’re always worth adding into your repertoire.
I personally don’t focus on photo-sharing accounts all that much. I will use a couple of the hashtags in every post, but never more than 5. Getting your photos featured can get your photos in front of thousands of new eyeballs. But the chances of getting featured are fairly slim if you’re not posting in the same time zone as the account mods. If that’s your strategy, then watch for when these accounts post and try to time your posts nearer to theirs. At the end of the day, though, the popular sharing accounts are spammed with so many photos that the chances of getting a repost are slim.
Niche hashtags with less than 1 million posts
Using these hashtags will help your images get seen on Instagram, as they’re more likely to reach the top posts in a hashtag with fewer posts than they will on a hashtag that is constantly getting bombarded with new content.
Here are the general photography hashtags that I personally use. There are far more than 30 here, and all of these are under 1 million posts at the time this article is published. Save these to your list, and try them out in different orders to see if there are any that perform better than the others. This practice will take time, but the effort is worth it.
#learnfilmphotography #learnfilm #fotocamera #analogclub #negativelabpro #analogvibes #lovefilm #lovefilmclub #filmlandscape #shootfilmnotmegapixels #shootfilmbenice #shootfilmstaypoor #shootfilmnotbullets #seasonedfilm #rfb1k #grainyfilm #filmgrain #darkroom #darkroom_daydream #darkroomphotography #cantstopshootingfilm #c41magazine #back2thebase #thefilmstead #filmshooters #shootmorefilm #ilfordphoto #filmlovers #developfilm #filmshooterscollective #nograinnoglory #analogclub #drivebyfilm #filmstead #portraitsonfilm #analogpeople
There are plenty of other hashtags that I do use, but the rest of them are situational. If I’m shooting Ilford Delta 400, I’m not going to use the hashtag for Kodak Tri-X just because it’s a more popular black and white film. Doing that is disingenuous, and if you mention the film you’re using in the description, other users will notice.
The best thing you can do for the film community is to use the appropriate hashtags for your images. That way, when people search Kodak Ultramax 400 looking for some inspiration, they’re going to see images that are actually taken on Kodak Ultramax instead of films like Fuji Superia 200.
Here are a couple examples that I took out of my more recent posts.
#KodakGold #kodakfilm #pentax #cinestill #cinestill800t #cinestill50D #HP5 #colourfilm #colourfilmphotography #developfilm #colorfilm #bnwportraits #bnwportraiture #bnwzone #c41
Hashtags aren’t everything
Just because you’re using the right hashtags doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed success on Instagram. Good photos with good captions are far more important than the hashtags that are used. Instagram cares much more about the users who see your images and stick around to like them, or do other actions, like zoom in, or go to your profile.
If you’re using good hashtags, but users don’t stop to at least give the photo a double tap, then Instagram will reduce the number of users it shows that image.
That’s because Instagram knows that it only has a small window of time that users will stay active on the platform. It has to constantly push up the best content that people are more likely to engage with. Because when users get bored, Instagram loses money to other platforms such as Tik Tok or Twitter.
So, since you’re already posting a photo, the only thing you can change to make the post more engaging is to use a wittier description. Ask users to zoom in on the image to find a certain detail, tell them a joke, or teach them about how you took this photo. Posts that ask questions or get users to take an action will do much better than those that don’t.
Engage with others to build engagement on your account
The best thing you can do to get more engagement is to engage with other accounts. There are many days where Instagram just feels like a rat race of users all vying for the top. But if you don’t want to do the hard work on other people’s posts, why should they be doing the work for yours?
The most successful accounts that I follow all are great at building communities because they take the time to nurture that community. They will regularly reply to as many comments as possible, and they’ll reach out to other accounts and comment on the work that sticks out to them.
If you do this often enough — and ask good questions — those accounts will almost always return the favor, or their followers will come and find you.
Be kind, write good captions, use good hashtags, and shoot film. There’s no better combination for growing an Instagram account in 2021. Do you have any tips or hashtags that I should be using? Let me know down in the comments below! Or come follow me on Instagram to learn about film photography, as well as the latest hashtags and strategies that I’m using to grow.