Jimmy Mcintyre is a travel photographer, educator, and 500px ISO contributor. His photos have been published in local and national magazines, including the BBC. His online courses on digital blending and post-processing can be found on his official website.

We all post our images to the Internet for different reasons. Some do it for personal pleasure. Some do it in order to share their images with like-minded photographers. Others post their work online because they may be running, or plan on running, an online photography business.

Although developing an online following may not be the goal of many, for some it is a dream to be able to publish their work for thousands, or even millions, to see. In this article I elaborate on ten of the most important methods of gaining exposure and developing a personal following that I’ve found over the past few years.

1. Quality Photos

Most certainly the biggest single factor in ensuring we increase our follower base is to constantly look to improve our imagery. From traveling to more exotic or exciting locations, to learning more about compositional factors, to improving our post-processing, there are many ways that we can improve our final image.

It is important, however, that we evolve our style and image quality based on our own tastes, and not pander to what we believe other people wish to see. The goal is for our imagery to be branded with our unique style, which will stand out from the crowd. Ultimately, we hope people will come across our imagery and think ‘Wow! I need to follow this person.’

As I’m sure you already know, this is easier said than done. But with determination, clear goals, a large investment of time, and with the right courses/workshops, there is nothing stopping us from taking our photos to very exciting levels.

2. Give Away Something Exciting

Let me begin with some numbers: my photography newsletter grew from 1,000 in January to more than 42,000 at this moment (December), with dozens, sometimes hundreds of new subscribers being added per day.


Graphic Used For The PowerPack Actions

This huge increase can be traced back to one simple change: I offered people something of value for free, that can help improve their imagery. Over the years I’ve developed and honed a set of actions that I use in my workflows. These include Luminosity Masks, Detail Enhancement, Sharpeners, Orton Effect, and more. Knowing that some photographers charge for actions like this, I decided to offer my actions for free to anyone who wanted them.

And as a promise, for anyone who signed up for the free actions, I would add them to my photography community that I email once a week with links to free tutorials from around the Internet. The result is a win-win. I developed a larger audience, while my subscribers get regular support for their photography and free actions.

If you’d like to download my actions, and join our photography community, please follow this link: PowerPack Actions Download

So the question you may be asking yourself is, “What is unique to my style of imagery that I can offer for free?” It could be actions, an E-book, presets, or even video tutorials — the more creative, the better!

3. Create A Newsletter

While many rely on Facebook as the main platform for developing followers, newsletters are far more effective. Statistics this year have shown that, on average, only 6.15% of followers to your photography page will see your posts. And for larger pages, only 1-2% of followers are allowed to see your content. If you want more followers to see your posts, you have to pay for it.

Newsletters that deliver quality content, on the other hand, obtain far more impressive statistics. On average 60% of my newsletter subscribers will engage with my emails within 5 days of them being sent. So 60% either open and read the email, or click on the links to tutorials included inside.

Mathematically speaking, if I had 10,000 Facebook fans, and 10,000 email subscribers, only about 615 Facebook followers would see my post, whereas around 6,000 email subscribers would engage with my email. While other sites like Google+ and Twitter are not quite as restricting as Facebook, they too have their own algorithms which limit how many people see our content. Newsletters are tried and tested, and remain the ultimate method by which we can connect to our followers.

An important point: If you choose to develop a newsletter, you must do so with utmost integrity, as you would in any other aspect of life. Guard your subscribers’ emails with your life, for they are given to you in confidence. And always include an ‘Unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of any email you send out, so that they may opt-out of the newsletter at any time.


4. Write Guest Articles

Writing articles on websites and blogs other than your own is a fantastic way to access a new audience. If you have a particular technique you’d love to write about and show others, then why not pitch your potential tutorial to some of the biggest photography sites in the world?

In fact, 500px has a contact page where you can pitch your idea and possibly publish your article on their blog, to be seen by thousands of talented, like-minded photographers. You can find out more here.

5. Go The Extra Mile In Your Image Descriptions

When you publish your image on the Internet, rather than leaving a simplistic description of the photo, why not go into detail about how you arrived at the final image? On my blog, I include all EXIF data on each photo, but I also try to go beyond that by writing about the shooting and post-processing involved in each shot, so that my readers can take something extra from the post. I also add a very handy before/after slider for each photo, so people can see the full effect of whatever post-processing was done.

This little touch adds an extra dimension to the content I create, and has consistently received an excellent response from my readers. Readers are more likely to return if they expect to gain something from the images you produce. To see an example of this, feel free to check out the write-up on my blog for the image below, which is composed of 8 exposures shot over the course of an hour.

6. Put a Like (or Follow) Button On All Your Website Pages

If you have a website, place a Follow/Like/Circle button on every page of your site. I have links to all of my social media accounts — including Facebook, 500px, YouTube, Twitter, and Google+ — at the top of my blog. No matter where readers are on my site, they will very easily be able to follow me on whichever platform they enjoy the most.

Sometimes I come across a website where the only links to social media are on the site’s About page. We shouldn’t be making it a challenge for people to follow us. We should be making it as easy as a single click. That is the path of least resistance!

7. Exchange Shares With Other Photographers

A quick way of gaining more followers in a short time is by asking a photographer to share your work with his/her followers, and you will do the same for them. There are a number of important points to remember before doing this.

First, only approach photographers whose work you truly enjoy, and whose work you think your followers will appreciate. Second, only approach photographers who you are very familiar with, and who you’ve communicated with many times in the past. Emailing a stranger will not likely elicit a positive response. Finally, approach someone who has a similar number of followers as you. It is probably not ideal to ask someone who has a million followers to share your work if you have far fewer.

8. Post Images To Groups And Pages But Don’t Over Do It

Most of us are aware that there are various groups in which we can share our images and gain extra exposure. It’s important to remember that when you share images to groups on Facebook or Google+, they often show up on your friends’ news feed. In other words, if you share to a lot of groups, your friends may get inundated with the same photo from you. This can sometimes come across as quite spammy.

I would recommend just sharing your images with a few active groups, and interacting with other members of those groups to establish a rapport and good reputation. For convenience, I’ve listed a few great groups below that you can freely share your images on.

500px Groups

Facebook Groups & Pages

Google+ Communities

9. Make An Easy-To-Find Portfolio

As photographers, we can make an immediate and powerful impact on first-time viewers if we show them our best images first. This is why it is vital that we have a portfolio of select images available for easy access throughout our social media and blog.

Nice, big images will have the greatest impact, and may leave the viewer wanting more, and eager to press that Follow button.

I’m slowly making the transition from my Flickr portfolio to my new portfolio on 500px, where the images look a lot better and new features are added regularly. You can find out more about 500px portfolios here.


10. Business Cards & Email Signature

These points seem quite obvious but it’s surprising how few of us use them. Having a business card with your Facebook page, 500px address and blog address can help spread the word when you meet other photographers out in the field. And adding a line in your email signature may also bring in unexpected new followers.

Bonus Tip — Do Not Pay For Likes On Facebook

Finally, this last one isn’t a tip on how to get more followers; this is a hugely important point on how to avoid wasting money while simultaneously killing the Facebook page you’ve worked so hard to build. Anyone who has considered paying Facebook in advertising to boost their likes, I urge you to watch this video.

Thank you very much for reading. I hope you found some useful points that will help you develop the following you’re hoping for.

I’m always happy to connect with other photographers! You can visit me through the links below:
My website
My Facebook page
My photography newsletter Including Free Actions—sign up now!