Photo: Liz Eswein
As advertisers stumble into the world of Instagram, they have found out that the best way to gain credibility is to reach out to respected and influential Instagrammers. What began as a creative outlet that unleashes the inner photographer in everyday smartphone owners has transformed into a lucrative opportunity for emerging and established artists.In this slideshow, we have collected the most influential Instagrammers that brands are lusting over.
Skip directly to a gallery of their work >
Although the upper echelon of Instagram users are either brands (Starbucks) or celebrities (especially with names ending in Kardashian), there is also corps of individual Instagrammers who have accumulated significant followings for their niche and artistically complex photography. And brands want them on board.
“Brands are just dipping their toes into the Instagram world,” Jonathan Nafarrete, a Los Angeles-based Instagrammer, told us. “So while it’s hard for them to get budgets for reaching out to celebrities, they’re discovering how utilising normal users can help.”
A popular Instagram user wouldn’t have more than 100,000 fans if he or she didn’t provide a quality product. Thus, brands reaching out to influential Instagrammers not only secure a new and voluminous fan-base, but they also get a beautiful and provocative product.
So brands have begun hiring emerging and established Instagram photographers to photograph events or take over their feeds. A select few Instagrammers have even been flown around the world on the corporate dime.
As this practice becomes more commonplace, issues have started to emerge: Should Instagrammers disclose whether they’re getting perks for pictures? And how should they be compensated for their work?
“They don’t understand the value of a shoot,” Sam Horine, a freelance photographer in New York and influential Instagram user, told BI. “One [brand] wanted to go as far as to pick treatments and direct a whole shoot—it felt very corporate and controlling and would have cost $20,000 in the real ad world. Their proposed rate was laughable.” Horine passed.
While there are still kinks to be worked out, many Instagram users have been pleasantly surprised to get swag, swank event invitations, and even extravagant trips to Abu Dhabi in exchange for account takeovers and potential hashtags.
Location: West Village, New York
Followers: 119K plus
Instagram Story: DiFeo got Instagram around his birthday on October 22, 2010--weeks after Instagram launched to the public. He started out just chronicling his life, but then reached out to the Newport Folk Festival in July of 2011, offering taking over its account (and contributing his then 5 to 10K followers) in exchange for free backstage passes. The rest is history.
Brand Story: After discovering that reaching out to brands for cool perks worked, DiFeo's life changed. He has done everything from shooting fashion shows (which pays him an hourly rate, like any other working photog) to the more lavish and extreme.
Earlier this year, Puma contacted DiFeo and a handful of other powerful bloggers and sent him on an all-expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi to photograph Volvo's Ocean Race. (He has also shot Rangers games and has been sent to other exotic locales to shoot events).
He has created a collective for NY Instagrammers so that they can connect with brands to get their work out there and has curated an Instagram gallery show at the W Hotel in Times Square.
But he typically chronicles his journey through New York City. Here's a picture of the High Line, which has hosted numerous Instawalks.
Location: Chichester, U.K.
Day Job: Freelance web/graphic designer (you can see his work here)
Followers: 243K plus ('I'm not sure why,' Kus admitted to BI.)
Instagram Story: Kus joined Instagram the day that it launched to the public. His stream primarily captures his day-to-day life in Bath, making the minutiae beautiful.
Brand Story: Burberry hired Kus to take over its account during London Fashion Week to create a real-time stream of the unfolding events. He has also done work for Ted Barker and will be shooting for some other (non-fashion related) companies in the upcoming months. 'I don't have a problem with Instagram users working for advertisers,' Kus said. 'I think it's important that you're honest about it if you are doing so.'
One thing he does check is how many pictures the brand wants him to post on his stream. 'I think it's important to strike a balance and take on projects that are appropriate for your stream.'
Location: New York City
Day Job: Eswein just finished her bachelor's degree at NYU, in media, culture and communication, and was named partner at The Mobile Media Lab upon graduating.
Followers: 282K plus. 'I think I'm one of the most-followed non-celebrities,' Eswein told BI. Her screen handle certainly hasn't hurt her numbers, and it shows the advantages of getting in early.
Instagram Story: Her handle says it all, Eswein's aim is to give people glimpses into life in the the city that never sleeps.
Brand Story: Eswein has worked with everyone from Nike to T-Mobile to Lucky Magazine. Delta paid the Instagramer to shoot the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (the airline was sponsoring the game), and was also asked to shoot the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic and the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards.
Liz took this picture of acclaimed New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham when asked to shoot the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards.
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Day Job: Commercial pilot and director of photography
Followers: 100K plus
Instagram Story: When asked what he primarily photographs, Senatori (who joined Instagram in early 2011), kept it simple: 'Strictly aerial shots.'
Brand Story: Senatori won a General Electric sponsored Instagram competition last December and since then has continued to do work for its corporate account. 'I flew to London and Wales to shoot Instagrams at GE Aviation,' Senatori told BI. 'I'll be returning to the UK on a paid assignment to shoot again for GE in July.'
What's on his wish list? 'I'm really trying to shoot Instagrams for other aerospace and aviation companies like American Airlines and Boeing, but no takers so far,' he said. 'Hopefully someday.'
Location: Recently left San Francisco for New York
Day Job: Freelance photographer
Followers: 154K plus
Instagram Story: Bex got into Instagram in December 2010, months after it launched, and made herself known for her hashtag #fromwhereistand, which allows users to chronicle their lives from the perspective of looking down out their shoes. The hashtag has become immensely popular and now has over 130K subscribers.
Brand Story: Working as a freelance photographer--'but not really the commercial type, which sucks because it means I'm not making a ton of money'--Finch's Instagram stream has landed her some editorial jobs in San Francisco. Since her work looks at the world through the perspective of her feet, the shoe industry is a perfect niche market. Finch is currently in talks with Keds about shooting their Fall 2013 campaign. 'I am a loyal Keds wearer,' Finch told BI. 'It's a great, American, awesome shoe and since I wear them all the time, it would make sense.'
But the pictures are pretty incredible without shoes, too. Bex's favourite photo is of her with comedian Reggie Watts.
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Instagram Story: While Nafarrete has a modest Instagram following (at least when compared to the other Instagram heavy hitters), he told Business Insider that he gained traction after posting photos on his Twitter, which has 88K followers.
Brand Story: While some Instagramers stumbled into doing work for brands, surprised by the initial query emails, 'I just kind of put all of my resources and time into it,' Nafarrete told BI. 'It was just a matter of time.' It started with taking photos for a T-Mobile event in April in which his Instagram pics got projected onto big screen throughout the party, and then all of the dominoes began to fall. Since then, Nafarrete has done work for RadioShack.
But the coolest job: Audi has flown Nafarrete to Le Mans, France to photograph a race. 'For the Audi think I'm not getting paid, they're just sending me there,' Nafarrete said. 'But I was paid for other initiatives as being a photographer.'
Location: From Hawaii, lives in Los Angeles
Day Job: Shoots weddings and does photography full-time
Followers: 131K plus
Instagram Story: Peterson first joined Instagram in October 2010, mainly to document her personal life. 'I like to focus on a lot of things: colours, people I love, strangers, abandoned spaces, landscapes, and moments that evoke feeling,' she told BI.
Brand Story: Although Peterson's following began to grow in mid-2011, after she was featured on Instagram's suggested user list, brands didn't begin approaching her until a few months ago. 'I've been approached by advertising agencies to do work for specific brands, but have yet to work with any companies to date,' she said. 'I've been particularly careful to keep my photos consistent and true to who I am. If I do work with anyone in the future, I just want to make sure it's something I believe in. '
While Peterson couldn't reveal who she would be working for in the upcoming months until the details are finalised, she has been talking to large creative and digital shops in Los Angeles and New York.
Location: Long Island, N.Y.
Day Job: Works for a music publisher dealing with royalties and copyrights
Followers: 181K plus
Instagram Story: Danielle also joined Instagram shortly after its October 2010 launch and slowly grew his following for eight months before he was featured as a suggested user. While known for taking candid photos of fashion-conscious New Yorkers, Danielle told BI, 'I don't try to keep myself in that box--if I find a great piece of street art or an expansive view of NYC, I'll take and share that too.'
Brand Story: Brands began approaching Danielle in late December 2011 when Puma also flew him to Abu Dhabi to shoot the Volvo Ocean Race. Since then, he has done work for other companies. 'I was a part of a team sharing photos for Delta at Game 5 of the New York Rangers playoff game against the Ottawa Senators,' he said. 'As a fan of the Rangers and hockey, it was great to visit spots all over Madison Square Garden that not everybody gets a chance to see, let alone photograph.'
He also works with DiFeo at The Media Lab.
Game 5 of the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup playoff game against the Ottawa Senators—as seen from the nosebleeds.
If you think that we left an important Instagrammer off the list, let us know.
Email [email protected] businessinsider.com for any interesting information on what brands and influential Instagrammers are up to.
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