You are probably sitting there like, “Seriously, another post about Instagram? These are so played out!”

But what if I were to tell you that I got 158 wedding leads and made $191,211 in 2018 from Instagram alone with very minimum ad spend.

It’s Not About You

We use a very straightforward method that isn’t used by many. It has nothing to do with the amount followers you have or how cohesive and colorful your feed is. Honestly, it really has nothing to do with YOU. I’m a strong believer that no one really cares about the things you like or your top five favorite things to cycle through; they actually care about how those things make them feel.

Team Growth

Now, as we go through this, I will share this past year’s numbers so you can see how this works. Up until October of 2018, it was just my wife and I. To keep up with the demand, we hired six photographers, two videographers, an admin, and an editor. Before we grew our team, our customer inquiries broke down like this:

  • 40% did not book because we were too expensive
  • 30% did not book because we were unavailable
  • 10% did not respond and were likely price shopping
  • 20% booked us

Now that we have photographers and videographers at different price points, I honestly think these numbers will grow exponentially. We’ve already booked 8 weddings within our first month of trying it! You can see all of this represented In the graph and table below! A lot of the December weddings will most likely book; we’re just waiting for meetings and payments.

Success Without Fame

Here’s the kicker. This isn’t because we have a bunch of followers or are well known; actually, no one really knows who we are! We aren’t celebrity photographers with a bunch of followers and we don’t speak at many conferences or win a bunch of awards. We started our business six years ago and went full time four years ago!

I don’t have the stats for before July 2017, but if we only had 7K followers in July 2017, I would assume we just had 3-4K followers in April 2016 when we were still generating leads and $50-$70K a year from Instagram.

So to say that it has a significant impact on our business is an understatement. It’s responsible for 40% of our revenue over the past 12 months! The fantastic thing about that is that it’s mostly organic! We have only spent a total of $1027 on Instagram ads since January, and over $500 of that was on our shop, not for booking clients. That’s over an 18,000% return on our investment in 2018 and 99% profit margin. Those are odds I’d be willing to invest in every year!


Profitability over popularity

Now, the information I’ve just shared begs a number of questions:

  • If it’s not because of how many followers we have or how popular we are, well then how are we getting so many inquiries with only 4-12K followers?
  • How are we running these ads?
  • How do I grow my following and engagement through Instagram?

Let me answer all of those questions as simply as I can: It’s all about profitability over popularity.

Max Follows

If you have ever looked at our Instagram, we are CONSTANTLY maxing out the number of people we follow. For some of you that don’t know, the maximum amount of people you can follow is 7500 people. We do this because Instagram is incredibly powerful for finding the exact client you want to engage. Where so many people make a mistake is that they expect people to engage them and they think that their photos have some magic pixie dust for creating engagement. That’s only the case if you are Fer Juaristi or Benj Haisch, haha! But for the rest of us mortal photographers, it just doesn’t happen, so we have to create it!

How do we do that?

Go and find your target audience! It’s hard for us to unfollow a lot of people because 90% of the people we follow are potential brides that we have engaged in one way or another! If you want more information on this and how we find them, it’s a lot to type out. Check out our podcast episode on finding the right audience where we specifically break this down! Over the past year, this has been our pattern for the number of people we follow! It’s all extremely strategic and has been incredibly beneficial!

Instagram Ads

Let’s talk Instagram ads! People are afraid of these because they have no idea how to use them! I published a podcast about utilizing Instagram ads for your business so make sure you check it out on iTunes or the podcast website!

When it comes to Instagram ads, there are two ways of running them: 1) Extremely specific ads created in the Facebook manager, and 2) boosted posts. Facebook ads manager is extremely powerful and is terrific for reaching the exact bride/demographic that you want! I occasionally do these. Now, I know some people say “NEVER BOOST A POST!” I think this rings very true when referring to Facebook, but not Instagram. Instagram is a different beast.

With Instagram boosted posts, I’m going for brand awareness. Studies show that someone needs to see your brand seven times before they begin to recognize it! I want to put my brand in front as many people as I can as often I can so that I’m the first person they think of whenever they get engaged! I want to be like that annoying person who sales Rodan & Fields or Tupperware or ItWorks, except without the annoying part. Come on, you all thought of someone when I said one of those products. That’s how I want to be! Boosting my post allows me to do that especially during times where everyone is getting engaged and also specific booking seasons. I talk more about it on our podcast on episode 26!

If you REALLY want the best bang for your buck, Instagram ads are insanely cheap. You can see in the ROI image above that there sometimes where I am paying 11 cents per click. That is INSANE! Take advantage of that while you can!

Engagement Wins

When it comes to growing your engagement. It starts with you. I’m going to shoot this STRAIGHT and keep it 100 when it comes to engagement. Sure you could post about you and what you love in life, your adorable dog, and the photos you love. You might even expect people who resonate with you to follow you, engage and then book when it’s time. But let’s be honest, we live in such a narcissistic culture that people who post, especially some of our target audiences, LOVE to be engaged but rarely engage in return. How many times have you been sitting on train or plane and seen someone scrolling through their Instagram feed, never liking and commenting on the photos they see? I see it ALL OF THE TIME!

We have to go to them.

You may be saying, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work.” And it is, but when we make $200K from Instagram, I can’t help but see that as active marketing (a.k.a. Work). It needs to be budgeted as an allotted time in your day as you work on marketing.

If you run a business, you don’t want to get sucked into the black hole called Instagram. So let’s look at what it looks like to streamline engagement efficiently.

Keyboard shortcuts

We have keyboard shortcuts for everything! It’s easy to target people who get engaged, buy a new house, celebrate an anniversary, find a venue, or wear a wedding dress, etc. Once you find them, make sure that you sound authentic. If you do, it’ll save you from spending a ton of time writing the same thing over and over.

Case in point: Below is a photo of a girl on Instagram that got engaged. Look at the difference between what we told her and how authentic it is rather than the four other wedding professionals above us.

There is a HUGE difference from what we said, and they said. I don’t know who else she reached out to, but she reached out to us and booked us! There is a lot more to go into about this, but I don’t want to bore you. If you’d like to hear more about this, it’s on that same episode of the podcast as finding the right audience. We also talk about it during a talk we gave at the Showit United Conference and that talk is also on our podcast, episode 39!

If you use an iPhone, here is the breakdown below on how to set up shortcuts. I also use these for hashtags, so for all of those that copy and paste; you are welcome.


People don’t want to feel like they are being pitched to or annoyed. They want to feel like you value them!

Instagram Stories

Oh man! This is SO key in so many ways. One of our most popular podcast episodes goes a little more in depth about the power and benefits of Instagram stories, and in one of our most recent episodes, I talk about how this is just going to become more vital as I look at Instagram trends for 2019. The fact that Instagram now has two distinctions between portfolio and personality is huge! We can keep our feed well-curated and professional while at the same time staying extremely personal with our stories.

Direct Messages

Also, PLEASE don’t be afraid to slide into the DMs. Don’t be a creep about it, but it’s a lot more inviting than you think. People post specifically to be engaged in some way or another, and if you can provide a form of affirmation, you can create a positive experience and boost your brand awareness. I have liked and commented on people’s photos for months without a peep back, but once I connect with them through a DM because of a story they posted, that engagement goes to the next level! I can’t tell you how many times I have responded to a story, gotten into a conversation, told them how I couldn’t wait to meet them, and then they tell us that they have already planned on hiring us, or they love following us or have been talking about us to their boyfriends or other friends. Seriously, don’t be afraid!

I have created POWERFUL connections through DMs while using keyboard shortcuts. When you can create a transformationally positive interaction with someone on social media, everything changes and almost ensures they book with you. Here is just one example, and this is strictly using a keyboard shortcut!


Who do you think that girl is hiring when she gets married? No question!

Highlights & IGTV

Don’t sleep on these two just because not a lot of people are emphasizing them. There was a time where we said Instagram stories wouldn’t compare to Snapchat, so don’t be surprised when the same happens with Youtube.

I know I’ve said IGTV doesn’t compare to Youtube. We like to use IGTV to put our portfolio videos or slideshows from sessions and weddings. Goodness, gracious. There is so much to go into about this, but remember one thing: The best way to benefit in the engagement area is to utilize the new features Instagram comes up with. Instagram loves rewarding good behavior. Feed the beast, and in turn, you will be rewarded with its loyalty (or a baseball signed by Babe Ruth – see the movie Sandlot).


Now, I know that was a lot, and trust me, there is A LOT more I can say and teach on this subject. I can’t tell you how to grow your Instagram from 1K to 20K or 100K, but I can tell you how actually to make money with Instagram! I have a lot of friends with 20K, 50K, and 100K Instagram followers, but they make NO money from it. All you need to know is how to leverage the attention you do have for your business!

If you want more information on these topics, check out our podcast for information! I have talked A LOT about all of these! Episode 26 & 39 are really great places to start! The culture hacks series is all about Instagram!

We also have a couple of Freebies on our educational site that you can grab and quickly step up your social game! Check those out here!