South West is Best 2017 calendar out now

Calendar cover

I’m delighted that one of my photos is featured in the South West is Best 2017 Calendar. It’s beautifully produced by Bowline Communications and features a range of landscapes and landmarks from across the region.

My photo of cows in a field is the lead image for September. It was taken at dawn one beautiful morning close to the Highgrove Estate, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire:

Who are you looking at?

The founders of the popular Instagram account @swisbest asked to use it after seeing it in their image feed earlier in the summer. You can read about the story behind the calendar in the Wiltshire Times. It’s possibly the first ever calendar of images sourced from Instagram users.

The calendar is available to order online for £9.99 plus post and packing. It’s an ideal Christmas present.

Buy yours now

Top tip: use Instagram hashtags

If you use Instagram and would like your photos seen by other users, use hashtags. By including the hashtag #swisbest – for example – in the description of an outdoor image you post, your photo will appear in results when somebody searches on Instagram using this hashtag. This makes your photo more visible and makes it more likely that your photo will get likes. The chances are that people who like several of your photos will then follow your account, so they’ll see – and like – more of your photos in future.

For a chance for your photo to be featured on @swisbest, you must follow this account. Your photo must also  have been shot somewhere in the region. There are many hubs like it on Instagram; they’re a great way to help raise your profile as a photographer.

Five ways Instagram could improve

As I wrote in December, I am now on Instagram and, at the time of writing, I have posted 71 photos, gained numerous likes for my photos and won over 150 followers. For the serious photographer, it makes sense to be there because that’s where your potential customers are active. In many ways, it’s a great platform: fairly easy to learn; quick to load and addictive to use.  Yet like any other app, it could be improved. Here are my suggestions.

1. Let us upload from the desktop! In 2016 failing to be device-agnostic is ridiculous. There are several sites out there that let you do so: one uses a bank of servers that run mobile phone emulators to fool instagram’s servers;  another programme involves installing a mobile device emulator program on your computer.  So why not just provide a page on where you can log in, drag’n’drop your image and move onto a page where you can describe your image before clicking Publish. It really wouldn’t be difficult!

2. Better still, expose your upload API to third-party developers. This would unlock the ability to upload from third-party sites – the likes of hootsuite and iconosquare come to mind – and software applications. As a Lightroom user, I’d love to be able to use an Instagram export plugin, just  as I can do already for Flickr and Facebook. I want to be able to add keywords and a caption in Lightroom and have them included on export to Instagram, saving myself the trouble of doing it all again on my mobile, where typing is more difficult.

3. Separate hashtags from user descriptions using a separate input box.  It might well already be too far down the line for this but keywords – which is what hashtags are – ought to be stored separately from the description of the image.

4. Introduce a Share function. I’d like to be able to share great photos from artists I admire with people who follow me. You can do this with third party apps like Repost but making this functionality native to the app would encourage many more people to use it.

5. Improve the geo-tagging functionality.  Instagram reads GPS coordinates embedded in photos and suggests place names. In most cases, this works better than trying to drop a pin on a map – no easy task on a smartphone – but sometimes none of Instagram’s suggestions really fit and it doesn’t appear to let you type in your own location. This ought to change.

So do you use Instagram? Does it work for you as an image-sharing platform? Are there other ways you’d improve it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.