Monday, 14 November 2016

My Instagram process - five things I do every day

There are now over 600 daily images on Instagram @paulcliffordartist. I use it to keep me motivated to produce artwork, and help me think about my photography, how it represents me and what it might mean to other people.

Talking to a few photographers lately, especially during my recent London Instagram show, I've been surprised at the range of opinions about the platform, and all the different ways it's used and viewed. So I thought I'd run through my own process here - you can see what you think.

Before we go on, I should let you know that I keep myself pretty ignorant about hashtags and their effects, and how Instagram chooses to share my work or create my news feed - and I know it's not straighforward. I just do my process and leave it at that. Any more, and I can see it falling behind or not being fun any more.

Once a day, every day
600 daily images
It's important to me that I post an image every day, with a title and instructive and relevant hashtags. For a while, before I started on Instagram, days or even a week would go by without me indulging my art photography. With my commercial photography keeping me busy, sometimes thinking about art photography as well could be a struggle.

Now, with my daily posts, which I've kept up since March 2015, I know I'll be thinking about creative work for a few minutes every day, at least. Very important.

I don't take a picture every day, I tend to take a bunch and then ration them out over the next few days. That means I end up with a pool of images. The ones I like best tend to go on first, and as some get older and haven't been put on, it's time to admit that maybe those ones aren't so good and can be forgotten about.

I usually either post first thing in the morning or at lunch time (UK time). If I'm away it can depend on when I can get online at all - but I haven't missed a day yet!

Titles and hashtags

Sometimes a challenge and sometimes easy. Titles that come to me straight away, sometimes even while taking the photograph, tend to be the ones I like best. They might give a clue as to why I shot that image, they might be a line from a song, or they might tell you something about the subject of the image.

Along with the title I add 7 hashtags. These elaborate a bit on the picture, to add another level of interpretation to the visual image. I started with 7 because a friend who works in social media once told me that was the optimal number. Since then, I've found it a good way to briefly add context, so I've stuck with it.

Lately, I've started adding a further 15-20 hashtags as a comment. These may be in the same vein as the 7 'headline' tags, or they may be relevant feeds and keywords to try and extend the reach of my image. They're always appropriate to the image, not just irrelevant bait to get the image seen.

Designing the feed

The promo image for my show framed nicely a few weeks ago
Some of the Instagram photographers I admire are really good at managing and planning their feed, so that when it's seen as a whole it looks great. Now and again I'll choose and post 3 images that go well together so they make a nice row of 3 across the screen.

Posting daily means that kind of thing will only line up every 3 days anyway, so I'm not too fussed. I have had some images working nicely around each other by chance, and I do enjoy that!

There are also occasional noticable 'phases', such as a set of mountainside and nature pictures from Wales a month ago. I kept these discrete from the rest of my pictures, rather than mix rural and urban too disjointedly.

Checking new likes and followers

Keeping up...
I keep an eye on my notifications, and I look at the profile of everyone who has commented, liked a picture or followed me. I have a quick scroll down their feed and like any pictures I like, and if I find myself liking a lot, I'll follow them.

Like everyone, I get a lot of brands and shops liking and following me, plus the odd 'get more followers' junk, but in the main they are fellow photographers. Some are up my street, some not.

I think I feel a responsibility to those who have responded, a bit like replying to every fan letter maybe (I appreciate that finger tapping a heart is nothing at all like writing a letter by the way!).

Viewing my own personally curated collection 

Every time I follow an account, their pictures flow into my news feed.

I've spoken to Instagrammers who will tactically follow accounts, and I get plenty of 'follow me and I'll follow you' comments, but personally I only follow people whose pictures I want to see in my image feed, simple as that.

That creates a unique set of flowing images every day that brings me a lot of pleasure. I feel an affinity with these photographers - like me, they're not headline names, but they do what they like to do and are kind enough to share it.

There are a handful of photographers I communicate with regularly, and I even met some at the events at my print show. Conversely, others post in foreign languages and characters that mean nothing to me, so their images literally speak for themselves.

I follow over 200 accounts - keeping up with all the pictures can be time consuming, especially as Instagram doesn't remember where you left off, so I have to scroll down to find the last one I saw. But I love to see all these very different and unique images from around the world.


I think that's pretty much what I do on a daily basis - what do you do that's different?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Small Selection at the Clerkenwell Gallery, October 2016

My new London exhibition is opening on Tuesday next week - 

Rooftop Collective Edition 5
25th - 30th October 2016
Clerkenwell Gallery, 20 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DP

Full details, with all the events, times etc. are on a lovely PDF linked here.

As part of a group show, I'm showing a series under the title 'Small Selection'. These are all pictures taken on my phone and drawn from my Instagram feed @paulcliffordartist. This is certainly a departure for me - in the past I may have thought it impossible to show images from a phone. But, by shooting carefully and choosing a phone at my last upgrade pretty much solely based on camera quality, I am able to get pictures I'm not only happy with, but very proud of.

This is the first time those pictures will be off the screen and on the gallery wall. They'll be sitting amongst some powerful imagery from analogue and experimental photographers, and I think the combination of the 7 photographers will benefit all the images and make for a great show.

Although it's the 5th annual exhibition I've had with this group of photographers from the Rooftop Collective, it's the first one where the hang has been handed over to an independent curator, Amy Caiger of Caiger Contemporary. Whilst the selection of my work has been left to me, how it interacts over the 2 floors with the other 6 photographers will be left to Amy. That's very exciting as I'll be experiencing the show for the first time the same as everyone else.

So, as I'm now approaching my 600th daily image on Instagram, how did I make the selection for the show? In some ways I had a head start on this, as I had created a one-off book of thirty favourite images to mark my 500th image post. However, that was a personal selection, and I wanted the sense of community and interaction with the circle of photographers that have sprung up around my Instagram gallery to feed into the show.

I made a shortlist of 25 images - some of those personal favourites mixed in with some of the most popular images, based on 'likes' with my followers on Instagram. I then took that selection to my Facebook friends - which includes all kinds of people who are by no means 'arty'. I asked them to 'vote' on their own favourites, and had a great response. I also printed them out and showed them to friends and family for more opinions.

Combining all these reactions and votes with my own feelings I came up with the final 8 you'll see if you come to the show. It's always painful deciding what to leave out, and whilst the 8 were by no means the most 'popular' in the process, the votes did give me a bit of guidance about which ones could be dropped most easily.

I've written elsewhere on the blog about how Instagram has revitalised my photography, so it's great to have this show to validate that, and kind of put a line under my first 18 months or so on the platform. I'm really excited to see how these new pieces mix with the group, and I hope some of you are too.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Do you like it?

Since I started using a camera about 30 years ago, I've always taken pictures to please myself. I love putting things together in a composition within the frame, creating an image that I can take away and look at whenever I want.

And it still pleases me to look at my pictures - I'm not saying this because I think I'm a brilliant photographer, it's more that I like the pictures I take, or perhaps more precisely, I like the things I take pictures of, and the way I take pictures of them.

Showing in galleries lets me get an idea of whether people new to my work like the pictures. Or at least, find out what they think about them, and what they make them think about. That's one of the great pleasures of a private view for me, being able to talk about my work in a non self-conscious way. Here are people who have come to look at my work, and even if they don't like it, or have no interest in it, they might tell me why not.

In that kind of situation, with an audience of one or many that haven't seen my work before, I'm always a bit self aware and maybe defensive too. My pictures aren't necessarily 'normal', they're not flowers or fun images of my children, generally they're of things that are nothing special at all. Consequently, a few people just don't get it, I can tell they think it's all a bit of a waste of time.

Those people aren't wrong of course, art and taste is all completely subjective. I've been teaching photography in schools over the last couple of years, and one thing I try and get across is pleasing yourself, then no one can tell you their image is better or worse than anyone else's. I sometimes show them some of the most hailed, 'great' photographs that mean nothing to me.

Now I'm posting daily on Instagram, I have the immediate feedback of comments and likes on each and every picture. It can be interesting to see which images take off with Likes, and which ones you might call 'duds' in that context. And it's also interesting when people I know personally or photographers I follow like my pictures, as I can try to imagine why they liked that particular one.

So if you see me at my upcoming exhibition in London (Clerkenwell Gallery, 25-30 October 2016 - for full details click here), remember the answer to the question 'do you like it?' is one that has no wrong answer. Whatever you say, I'm interested to hear it!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Another proto-Instagram feed - markets and more

Last time I wrote about my photo books and how they came about, and ended up comparing them to an analogue version of my Instagram feed.

It's a fair comparison, but one of the most fun and insightful parts of my Instagram experience is watching the Likes and comments come in, finding out which images are chiming with my followers and the Instagram community at large. While the books look very nice sitting on a shelf here at home, they're definitely not putting images out there for viewing around the world 24/7. However, there is another experience I had in the years before I started on Instagram that does compare nicely with those Likes.

Once I started showing again in 2011, I had some great exhibition opportunities and gallery shows. All these came with private views, which offer a fleeting chance to discuss your photography with art lovers who have never met you or your work before. It's an exciting and interesting experience, but it is fleeting, and only limited to what's on the wall. I've always been fairly prolific as a photographer and found it somewhat frustrating to only be able to show a small amount of images each time. 

Of course, my Instagram account @paulcliffordartist has helped me to solve that problem of late, but back then I wanted to free more of my images from those books, get them seen by the outside world. I wanted to sell them too, not to make money (although that is nice) or get the self-validation that comes from someone else enjoying your work (nice too). What was most exciting to me when I sold from a gallery show was that the image was leaving me to go and have an existence somewhere else, hopefully to be loved and looked at by lots of new eyes.

The cost and process of producing larger prints, plus the nice frames I felt they needed to go in, plus gallery commission, meant the prices for my work were prohibitively high for some. I knew from talking to people at the shows that if the work was more affordable they would love to take one home.

So I got to thinking how I could resolve this. An opportunity arose at the London Photomonth Photofair, where I had some framed gallery prints on show, but I also brought over 100 different images for sale as postcard sized prints in small white frames, racked in boxes and arrayed on the tabletop. I wrote a blog post about it at the time - here.

At an exhibition I had early the next year, I was able to leave a box of the small framed images, and over the next few years I took them to various photographic fairs and art and craft markets. Sales of these little affordable items went well, getting hundreds of my images out into the world, and I kept a note of which ones sold each time. And that's where the Likes came from back then.

So, by that standard, to finish with a picture, here is the best Liked image from all those stalls, fairs and markets combined - from Venice in 2009 - my best seller!

3183 - Venice, Italy, 2009

Sunday, 25 September 2016

My first proto-Instagram feed - the books

Let me take you back to 1996. I was finishing up my art degree and putting on the end of year show. The main part of this was a self contained documentary photo project, but throughout my course I'd been taking photos of things that interested me, like I always had done in the years before. I wanted to include these too, so I made a book and showed it as 'supporting work'. 

There was a company called Tripleprint back then, you'd send them your films in the post, and they'd come back as one large print and two smaller ones.

I would slice out one of these smaller ones, about business card sized, and glue it into an off the shelf hardback sketchbook, together with a catalogue number, location, date and the film it was from.

As well as showing the images; it's clear that this book was also for my own future reference, so I could find the negative for that image again, and also recall where and when it was taken. The book was never intended as a piece of work in itself, just as an index and to show the examiners what else I'd been up to over those 3 years. I certainly didn't imagine it would be first in a line of books over 20 years chronicling thousands of images.

Off the back of that degree show there followed a handful of exhibitions, and after that I stopped showing for a while. But I continued the books. Glue, paper, a nice pen, locations noted on scraps of paper in a box. Somewhere along the way I moved over to digital, making it much easier to produce and control my own tiny prints for the books - I was still chopping them up and putting them in. 

I did find it immensely pleasing to collate the work in this way, and whilst I was under no illusions that every picture was a world-beater, it was good to have this complete index of when and where the picture was shot, and which film or folder it could be found in.

But it took time. Cutting up the prints, gluing them carefully in and writing the details is quite a process, and one that seems far removed from the freedom of the loose, creative mindset that I'm in when I take the pictures. The process started to fall behind a few years ago, probably around the time I started a family and other things became more important. Besides, all the pictures that hadn't entered the books were still there, I still had notes on where they were taken - I could catch up whenever I found the time.

Well, I'm ready to confess that time never came, and the last shot put in as I write was number 4765 from early 2012.

The good thing is that that backlog is still there, and that's exciting to me in some ways, as it's been long enough now for me to forget the images. I like to think I'll get back on it sometime and slowly get up to date, rediscovering my work along the way.

The bad thing? I think that daunting backlog might have been stopping me take new photographs. When there's already a big queue, why add to it?

There may be an argument for creating the books on screen then sending them to print, especially as I now shoot exclusively on digital. But, perversely, though I don't particularly cherish the book creation process, I do enjoy the space and time it gives me with the images, each one getting its due in my fingertips and on my eyes. After all, I am my own target audience, I only ever took pictures to please myself, to remember a bit of visual beauty and take it home to look at later.

Looking at it that way, my books are a set of coffee table photo books tailored just for me, and I love looking through them. Of course, the various destinations and even changing styles down the years also interest me on a very personal level.

The situation I find myself in now is very different to the one I was in when I inadvertently started the series. As I write, in 2016, I am now primarily a phone photographer feeding Instagram @paulcliffordartist, rather than an SLR one feeding the books. Thinking about this, it's easy see the books as my own private primitive Instagram feed in analogue form. The pictures are in a constant stream way back to 1993. They even come in sets of three! The only thing missing is the Likes.

In the years after 2010 when I was showing my pictures a lot, I did find another way to create a kind of Instagram feed in the real world - and this one did allow for Likes - it was the first time the pictures had been subjected to judgement by a large audience that could essentially 'vote' for their favourites. More about that next time!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Six more things I learnt in my first 100 days on Instagram


Last time, I wrote about the six things I'd learnt during my first month of posting an image daily to Instagram. Click here for that post. I recently posted my 100th daily image - so here's six more things I've learned, this time after 100 days (and a bit) on Instagram.

Instagrammers can follow me @paulcliffordartist , or anyone can see the image feed .

Note - I struggled last time with differentiating my DLSR camera pictures with my Instagram phone pictures. For the sake of this post, I'm going to call my DSLR work 'Gallery images', and my phone pictures 'Instagram images'. Which isn't to say I wouldn't consider a gallery show of Instagram images, or that I'm not proud of them - it's just a shorthand to save confusion.

Lesson Seven - taking pictures wherever and whenever I like can be a real creative boon

Last time, my first lesson was 'it's great to take pictures wherever and whenever I like'. Back then, I was just getting used to being able to take out a camera anywhere anytime and frame what I saw. A couple of months on I would add that this ability had led to some great pictures, and series of pictures, that I would never have considered taking if not for the ever present camera in my pocket.  

An increasing number of my Instagram pictures have been taken of the architecture of playgrounds when I've been with my children, and without a camera to hand. I have shot in playgrounds before (the 'At Play' series for example, blog post is here). I like the clash of colours and the outlandish design, all worn down by months or years of use. The top left image above works particularly well in the square format I think, and also ties in with the transient nature of my 'Falling Shadows' images - a series that now happily spans my Gallery and Instagram images. Incidentally, this is the 100th Instagram image - what better way to start this post?

The night shot above top right is part of an Instagram series called 'Against The Dark' - I've always liked the illuminated windows of houses from outside, particularly very late at night when you only see them here and there. I rarely have my camera with me on the way home after a night out, but this new camera phone regime has let me look at these patches of light and colour photographically.

Most of my pictures are taken on the street, as I am passing through from one thing to another, rather than on a determined 'photo session' outing. Phone pictures let me work on a real 'hit and run' basis. The image bottom left was taken somehow as I rushed onto a train platform and squeezed it in before my train left - there would not have been enough time to get my DSLR out. As it turned out, I passed this way again later, and I'd liked the Instagram shot so much, I went back to that spot to get a Gallery shot of it.

The last example here at bottom right was taken over the top of someone's head, on a busy London Underground train. Though I might have gotten away with this with a big DSLR, it could have made the rest of my journey very uncomfortable!

Lesson Eight - Instagram and DSLR images each offer their own strengths

Lesson Two after one month was 'phone images are real photographs'. I think at that stage I was honestly still a little bit on the fence about this, but trying hard to embrace the phone camera. I would say now I have absolutely taken the plunge, and somewhat surprisingly for me, the phone camera has actually replaced my DSLR in many ways. I'm taking less and less pictures now on my DSLR - I realise I have an archive now of 1000s of images dating back 20 years, and maybe taking a little break and not adding to that for a while may be a good thing. 

Richard Wentworth, a photographer I very much admire, recently mentioned in a talk that he sees his addiction to taking pictures as an illness. I can somewhat identify with that, it's definitely an itch that needs to be scratched, and it seems Instagram can scratch it as well as a DSLR can.

This doesn't mean I don't take any pictures with my DSLR any more- some things are too good to pass up. Sometimes I shoot on both phone and DSLR - if the image fits.

Two examples above show how things change between the formats - the Instagram image on the left (unfiltered and unfiddled with as always), and an early draft of the DSLR image on the right. The tonal range and image details on the DSLR image is of course much better - perfect for prints (this is why I call them 'Gallery images'!), but that's not really seen on a phone or tablet screen, or necessarily appreciated by the Instagram audience.

The first shot, of the railings, also gives a good example of how a composition might need to be a little more colourful to make in an impact in amongst all the others on Instagram, and how the more traditional rectangular image shape created a different image in my mind, one that requires a bit more looking perhaps. The second shot also shows this I think - I prefer the taller Gallery image, it has more space to breathe, but the Instagram shot has more impact because it is so cropped and feels like it's pushing it's way out of the frame.

Lesson Nine - taking and sharing pictures is fun

Seems like a simple lesson - but this is something that I might have forgotten since I started showing my work publicly again in 2011. Even the most simple gallery show requires selecting images, getting prints, probably frames too, collating information, writing a press release, hanging the work, publicising the show and so much more. 

Very little of this has anything to do with what I enjoy most - creating a picture within a set frame, of something I have seen and enjoyed, and wanted to take away as an image. Even that can be frustrating with a DSLR. With the phone camera, it's fairly easy to see if it's going to work as an Instagram picture or not, and if it doesn't I am able to move on or just delete it.

Like many photographers, my most important audience to please is myself. How does that fit with the 'sharing' nature of Instagram? Well, I've always felt I'd like my pictures to be seen by other people, hopefully to pass on that little bit of pleasure I got from creating the image. That's why I have gallery shows, this blog, the Facebook page, to get my pictures in front of other people.

With Instagram, I can take a picture in seconds and have it shared around the world within hours. It's so easy, I've been able to keep up one a day for more than 100 days, when - confession time - I do somewhat neglect this blog and the Facebook page.

Lesson Ten - I like following a handful of photographers in detail

Another seemingly obvious point - but for me, an important one. I love looking at other people's great photography. In the past this has meant gallery visits, art books, perhaps a few friends and the pictures they choose to share with me personally or on Facebook, and the photographers who I meet regularly as part of The Rooftop Collective in London.

Now, Instagram feeds me a set of images from the people I've chosen to follow. And most of these have been found by clicking on them when they've liked one of my pictures. This gives me a a set of kindred spirits all over the world, people whose pictures I am excited to see, and whose work I can get to know in depth as the weeks go on. And, let's not forget, this is work I would never have seen otherwise. Some examples that spring to mind

The evocative and lyrical shots of @lilia_ornelas_mata that transport me to Madeira
Clean considered lines with bags of character from Berlin's @helinbereket 
Deceptively simple street shots from @trash_nyc that are both amusing and poignant
Straightforward worship of beautiful signage from @typotravel
The fierce colours and elegant compositions of @markojefta

For now there's just a select few feeds I follow, and I fully realise for every photographer I follow there are 100 others on Instagram I might like just as much, or more, but I'm easy with that. The key to Instagram for me is to keep it simple. Too many followings and I would lose touch with the body of work and the style of each one.

Lesson Eleven - I can't stop the series

My Instagram feed was created to act as a sketchbook - each day, a new page, a new image, each independent of each other. After 100 images though, I can scroll through my feed and spot some collections of images that share some of the same elements or feel.

Sometimes this has been intentional - like the aforementioned Against the Dark series, sometimes it's a set of locations that share a similar feel - playgrounds, car parks. Sometimes it's a compositional feature like a strong diagonal or a central circle. 

These things are easier to spot on my Instagram feed rather than in amongst the morass of my Gallery images. It's another one of Instagram's little pleasures for me - and something I might do some work on at some point, perhaps collating a few little collections. This, however, would be making things complicated, and I've been enjoying keeping it simple...

Lesson Twelve - I'm bothered about Likes and Followers, but not that bothered

So far I haven't talked about Likes and Followers - a part of Instagram that is clearly very important to a lot of users. 

I always click through to have a look to see who's liked my images, sometimes this leads me to fake Instagram accounts loaded with generic pictures of boobs, bums and beaches, cocktails, cars and cats. The profile promises me lots of new Followers and Likes if I visit their website. 

Perhaps it's because I grew up in the generation before Social Media, but this chasing of artificial Likes and Followers to just bump up your numbers and compete is of no interest to me. What excites me is finding new people to follow after they Liked one of my pictures, or making interesting connections - I wrote about this last time as Lesson Six - 'it's great to be Liked, better if it's an interesting Like'. It's also nice to get a Like from a photographer whose work you respect.

Of course, with Instagram being so simple there's very little to analyse other than the figures for Likes and Followers. I use to keep track of how it's all going. At the moment I have a small number of followers, and I pick up one or two organically every week. Which is all well and good. With Likes, as always, it's interesting and surprising who Likes what, and which pictures have the most. The pictures above are my current market leaders. 

I'm certainly small fry in the world of Instagram, I'm no Social Media butterfly and I don't announce my account all over the place. I use hashtags to enhance and maybe explain the pictures, rather than in a calculated way to gain exposure. Consequently my pictures don't get seen as much as they might.

My modest Likes are fine with me, there's enough going on that I can compare reaction from one picture to the next. I've seen pictures on my news feed that are uninteresting to me, getting hundreds of likes, whilst some of my own favourites from my account sit at the bottom of my Like league table. So chasing Likes and trying to cater for my audience would make no sense for me. I'll just continue to try and make pictures I like!

After 100+ images, I'm not going to stop - I'm having a great time with it! Apart from the occasional Facebook share, I'm not showing these pictures anywhere else. So if you're on Instagram, please do join me @paulcliffordartist . If you're not, you can still see all the pictures at .

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Six things I learnt in my first month on Instagram

Just over a month ago I started posting images on Instagram under the name @paulcliffordartist. Instagram isn't something I ever thought I would do, but it had gotten to the point that so many people were telling me I'd enjoy it and it would be a great fit for my pictures, I thought I'd give it a try.

I usually work with my pictures fairly slowly, carefully
shooting on my DSLR cameras in RAW format and high resolution, then finishing off on screen and filing them at a later date. I take my time to get everything right. In contrast, all my Instagram pictures have been taken on my phone and posted to Instagram with no adjustments at all.

So after a month of taking photos on my phone and posting one a day to Instagram I've learnt a few things, some of them completely unexpected...

Lesson One - it's great to take pictures wherever and whenever I like

Whether I am in the mood to be taking pictures or not, I'm always looking - constantly framing bits of the world in my head. Sometimes I have my camera with me, sometimes I don't. Generally though, I will have my phone. So, some images I've shot in the last month for Instagram have been in unusual places, at unusual times. 

That could be on the way home after a night out, whilst watching my daughter's swimming lesson, on a shopping trip or in the toilets at the park. That's the four pictures above. It's taken me this month to stop thinking 'I wish I had my camera with me' when I see these things, and to get my alternate process equipment out!

Lesson Two - phone images are real photographs

The main reason I haven't previously used my phone to take 'art' pictures is the innate resistance to it I think a lot of photographers have. Having grown up with film, through early digital and now the camera phone, it's easy to see the smartphone as a 'junior' format not to be taken seriously. But, as we all know a great image is down to the photographer, not the kit. So, after a month on Instagram, I'm less scornful of people I see on the street lining up their photos on their phones, because now I've become one of them.

There are lots of DSLR images on Instagram too, that look a lot 'better' than phone photographs in certain ways. As a concession to this, I've made clear on my profile page that all my images are from a fairly old phone, with no filters applied. However, I'm pretty sure only a handful of people are interested - if you like a picture, the source really doesn't matter.

Lesson Three - Instagram pictures need special consideration

One part of my experience of shooting specifically for Instagram has been finding a new way to shoot. That's not just handling the equipment and it's limitations (and there are some of course!), but also the square format and choosing the actual image content.

With my other work, often the viewer needs to invest a bit of time in just looking to get into the groove of the image. I'm under no illusions that each of my Instagram images are anything more than just one in a sea of scrolling others. So, my Instagram work is leaning towards the more pared down, pleasingly simple end of my work. Most people seeing the images will be looking at them on a small phone screen, so the pictures have to have a clarity and directness about them.

At times when I have had my DSLR at hand, I have found myself shooting two versions of the same shot. The phone picture goes public on Instagram, the DSLR image will get filed away, maybe to be seen by no-one but me. A curious situation, and one that demands a bit of thought for the future. 

Lesson Four - no filter and no edit means no hassle

I post my pictures with no filters or fiddling applied. There isn't a particular need for me to
- it's not a pompous or artistic statement. For me, it simply ties into Instagram being a bit of fun relief from the precision of my other work. Once I start into those Instagram menus, I could fiddle all day. 
With no editing, all I have to do is choose a picture each morning, put it on, title it, tag it and it's done. It's a way to ensure I keep up the pace with one image a day, no matter how busy I am.

Lesson Five - one title and seven hashtags can be hard work, but also insightful

Towards the beginning of my first Instagram month, I happened to mention my new output  to a social media type, who said that seven hashtags was thought the ideal for maximum distribution. Elsewhere I read between five and ten, so I stuck with seven. Now, I don't pretend to understand the mechanics of Instagram at all, but I do know people are seeing my pictures - they are getting Likes from around the world, from other photographers and galleries with similar work. So I guess the hashtags are working.

The discipline of thinking of the seven relevant hashtags, as well as a title, has been very useful for me in thinking about why I take pictures - an avenue of thought that remains constantly fascinating to me. I've never attached titles to my work before, only numbers. As with the no filter approach, I try and come up with something fairly quickly so I can get the picture up and move on. One title and seven hashtags has really got me looking carefully about the picture and wracking my brains with regard to what I want to tell people about it with the title and tags.

Lesson Six - it's great to be Liked, better if it's an interesting Like

I'm sure lots of people don't believe me when I say my print exhibitions are not about selling work and making money, but more about getting the work off my hard drives and in front of people. Of course, it's great when someone does buy something, both because they have chosen to take it away with them, and also as a kind of justification for the physical show.

I have run market stalls in the past with hundreds of my images to sell as small framed objects. What's been interesting about those days are which ones totally unexpectedly become the most popular. Same with the Likes on Instagram. I don't think it really influences the direction of my work, but it gives me another clue or two about where the pictures come from when people agree with what I am visually saying.

I've have had some interesting Likes along the way too. A few examples for the images above - 
On the left, @ninjasupply - a ninja supplier of course, and @glued_n_screwed - a DIY blog. 
At the top - @glitterpoledance, a professional pole dancer and fan of poles in general it seems.  
Finally, on the right, CCTV manufacturer @winnie_cctv

It's great my pictures are getting in front of these people, let alone them hitting Like on them. I've also had some other photographers Like and Follow me, whose work I am really enjoying Following on Instagram. Check out my Following list if you want to have a look for yourself.

So that's my lessons so far. I'm going to continue posting one a day for as long as it interests me, and the majority of the pictures won't be seen anywhere else. Now I've found my feet I'll be flexing a few photographic muscles I haven't used in a while - for example, you may have noticed people creeping into a few pictures, and you don't usually see them in my work...

If you're on Instagram, why not join and follow me @paulcliffordartist for my next month, who knows what we might learn together?