How an Instagram hobby became highly profitable

July 9, 2014, 4:00 PM UTC

For more read Jessi Hempel’s feature story Instagram is ready to take its shot.

I was a hobbyist at best [before Instagram]. I took photo classes in high school. I started Instagram two weeks after it launched and then [Brian DiFeo and I started] Mobile Media Lab two years after that.We were popular Instagrammers from the start and brands started reaching out to us to promote their products so they could grow awareness around their accounts. Brian and I turned the tables. We said to the brands, let us educate you on how the platform works because we know what’s going to be best for you.

Instagram posting courtesy@takinyerphoto@takinyerphoto

Fashion is one of the huge pillars of Instagram, and I developed a niche there. My work started out as just random people on the street, fashionable or not. I was capturing NYC. It slowly started to morph into fashion and that’s when brands started reaching out to me

Instagram posting courtesy@takinyerphoto@takinyerphoto

Instagram has definitely made me more aware of my surroundings. I try to keep my photos as realtime as possible and also to be honest about what it is that I’m sharing and why I’m sharing it. That gets hard because you get caught in a tidal wave of likes and comments and being this celebrity on this platform. It’s not like I signed up initially and said I’m going to be this huge influencer on Instagram.

Instagram has become a verb. I was within the first waves of people to use Instagram. Now there are the second and third waves that are reaching their peak, and a fourth wave is coming up next.

Instagram posting courtesy@takinyerphoto@takinyerphoto

We get requests every month. There are at least five or ten requests from different companies. On a personal level, as @takinyerphoto, I get two or three requests every month.

Anthony Danielle, aka@takinyerphoto Selfie of Anthony Danielle posted on Instagram, aka@takinyerphoto@takinyerphoto

We give those jobs out to other Instagrammers. We vet them carefully to make sure they have quality followings. The tell tale sign [that someone has fake followers] is if you have 20,000 followers and you’re getting 20 likes on your photo. You’ve bought fake followers. We avoid those people.

Instagram posting courtesy@takinyerphoto@takinyerphoto

I consider myself fortunate beyond any doubt. If anyone’s got any Instagram-related questions, I’m the first one to jump in. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for other people and help out other people.

More as-told-to and video profiles of successful Instagrammers:
Joel Strong: Adding Leonardo DiCaprio to every party
Ali Jardine: From stay-at-home mom, to full-time Instagrammer
Shantell Martin: An artist finds her visual voice
Dave Krugman: Bringing art outside of The Met

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