How to succeed on Instagram

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If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to finally join Instagram, then the news that its users have just topped 300 million means it is definitely time to join the party. Photographer Marte Marie Forsberg launched her career creating food, lifestyle and fashion campaigns for Gap, Land Rover and Cuyana with the app.

Through her enchanting, story-telling images, the Dorset-based Norwegian has now built an Instareach of 213k. “It has catapulted me at the speed of lightning,” she says. “Ninety five per cent of my work comes through Instagram. Without it, I know I wouldn’t be working with many of these brands so soon, shooting on location around the world.” So whether you're using it to make new connections for work or play, we asked Forsberg to reveal some secrets to making your pictures stick.

1. Be open

There's a fine balance between being professional and personal. When one dares to open up and be personal - not private but personal - it hits home and the engagement increases.

When I began taking pictures I was still living in America and I missed my beloved mother's Norwegian cooking, so I began recreating dishes from my childhood and photographing them, exploring how light and composition are key ingredients in telling stories with the camera.

2. Be consistent

I think it's all about finding your style, being consistent and doing your own thing. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, if your follower knows what you are about – they recognise that you do amazing food photography, amazing portraits or are consistent in the lighting and scenery – they will keep coming back to you.

3. Tell a story

Photography is all about storytelling - I try to capture the story and emotion in each photo I take, whether it be a plate of warm breakfast porridge, a mop on the stairs or candlesticks in an open window.

People say my photos are so Scandinavian, but I take pictures of whatever I find beauty in. I’ve not lived in Norway for the last 15 years. I think it’s more about the way the light hits something, where the shadows begin and capturing that little unique moment.

4. Be an original

Perhaps it’s the use of light, mixed with the stories I tell around living in an idyllic part of the English countryside in a whitewashed thatched cottage, but what I do most is I follow my heart and instincts when I photograph, and I think perhaps when you pursue your "own thing" in terms of style and work, it captivates people.

5. Enjoy it

To me Instagram is about having fun and sharing stories from my every day life that I find beautiful, inspiring or interesting. I've always been a very visual person and as I began to learn how to use a camera, this beautiful world opened up before me, where I was able to capture and create these stories.

You don't have to be a professional. I love to take a snap on my iPhone - I don’t worry about the exposure etc, I just find it a fun outlet.

6. Don't fixate on your following

I never really thought about building a following as it was simply a way to share what I saw, but being featured on different sites, magazines and Instagram accounts has definitely helped build a following that I never in a million years dreamt about.

There are websites that allow you to keep track of all the statistics and countries where your pictures are most liked, but I find that quite inhibiting. All of a sudden I’m thinking about why I might have lost all those followers and I just want to enjoy it and not worry too much about the numbers.

7. Join the conversation

I am quite selective about the hashtags I participate in. In the beginning I was trying to find my voice and I was clicking on potential brands with a similar aesthetic.

Eventually Instagram discovers you and will recommend you, that is good for a time, but it is not going to keep your followers. It is more important to create something sustainable that people are captivated by.

8. Find your voice

Find something that is unique to you and be consistent with that voice, sooner or later people will find you. People are always looking for something new and exciting.

It could be the light, or the subject or photography. It sounds optimistic but anyone can succeed on Instagram.

By Claire Brayford