The Money Shot: How You Can Make It Big On Instagram, With Help From A Pro

Do you love taking pictures with your smartphone and uploading to Instagram?

Have people told you that you take really beautiful photos? Now, there’s a way to make money off your social media habit.

Mike Gutkin, a research scientist and talented photographer based in NYC, has been incredibly successful at selling his smartphone pictures.

His Instagram account, comprised 100 percent of iPhone photos, has garnered thousands of followers and earned him special freelance contracts with notable companies like Dos Equis and Harry’s.

Mike went from shooting for his pleasure to shooting for the big bucks. And here’s how:

Be candid

Using your smartphone as your main camera helps capture authentic shots.

Mike suggests his iPhone pictures are popular on Instagram "because they are real-time memories and followers can connect much better with those candid real-time photos of that snow day that got them trapped on the Upper East Side for a day and half, or that epic sunset that was watched with friends over a drink on the Hudson River.”

And don’t get hung up if your photos feel unoriginal.

Being unique in your mobile photography is tough. I stick to myself and be true to what I am.

Know what sells

Just like any other traditional money-making business, you have to provide something people want. According to Mike Gutkin, landscapes, cityscapes and sunset or sunrise photos are the most popular on his Instagram page.

Be discerning when it comes to portraits, though, as those are very specific and personal. Mike says, Portraits can be popular depending on the subject and the client.

Download the right apps

“Mobile photography has simply made it easier for photographers to sell their work,” Mike says.

Mike Gutkin first gained a substantial following as an Instagram Suggested User for his original photography and community engagement.

After that, he discovered Twenty20 (formerly Instacanvas), a platform that allows users to post and push sales of individual photography.

The best thing about it is that anyone who posts photos to Instagram can post their photos for sale via Twenty20 and other photo sales apps such as UPLO app as well.

Using these downloads, Mike receives a share from any sales that he makes.

Engagement is key

It’s important to not only promote your work, but to also interact with your followers. Sometimes Mike will receive emails from customers who have seen his photos and would like to purchase his shots. He says,

A key to these type of photography sales is that all of the photo-sharing apps available in social media today are very community driven. Interaction and positive feedback plays a huge role on what I post.

Apps like Twenty20 also hold photo contests and feature the most popular shots, which in turn, increase your exposure.

The contests are engaging and force you to explore different types of photography as well.

Make it appealing

Mike edits all of his iPhone photos with Google's Snapseed and VSCO Cam apps -- but don’t go HAM with all the fancy filters.

“Different photos and different editing techniques appeal to different crowds,” offers Mike. “I try to stick towards more natural colors and use the VSCO Cam presets to give my photos different moods and feels.”

Sepia tones and black and white film, for example, capture a great sense of nostalgia.

Make sure people really “like” your photos

According to Mike, “Likes are important to the success of a photo.”

Instagram’s newly designed algorithm that determines which photos make it to the Explorer page has now transformed the tab into a highly curated platform based on photos you and the people you follow have collectively liked.

This update has benefitted Mike and his constituents in two ways. He says,

It has practically promoted my photos to the Explore pages of other users that have not seen my work before. It also has given me the opportunity to find new and awesome talent across the Instagram community.

So, what are you doing sitting here and staring at your computer screen? Get out there, see things and share them with your community.

Interested in Mike Gutkin? Check out more of his work on Instagram, Tumblr, Twenty20 and UPLO.