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How Instagram Helped Fund My Masters

Andrew Clarey Study

I only really got into photography beyond pointing my camera at something and clicking around 4/5 years ago. I really had no idea how use a camera and a I’m still not brilliant, but I’ve always had a pretty good eye (and Photoshop skills).

After moving back to the North East, I became really interested in its historical architecture and landscapes, so I started documenting them through photography. Eventually I upgraded to a camera that had more than 2 buttons and started teaching myself how to actually use the thing.

I’d been on Instagram for a while, but all my posts usually compromised of me being in a pub, but I realised that it would be a good place to actually display some of my more professional photographs, so castles, landscapes and big old country houses started to push out the drunk photos and the selfies.

It was always just a bit of fun, then one day my followers suddenly doubled and I had no idea why. Over the next few days my following count went up by around 6000….so I thought I’d actually ask somebody why they had followed me. Apparently, an Australian travel magazine had done a feature on North East England and they had recommended a couple of Instagram accounts to follow for images of the region and I was one of them. They had forgotten to mention it to me….

Once I'd frantically gone through my account deleting all the photos of myself looking like an idiot, I thought this may be an opportunity to showcase my work. I’d never thought about myself as a photographer but suddenly people were interested.

I set up a professional website and provided a link to it on my Instagram profile. Within a few days somebody enquired about buying some photographs. I put a price list on my website and couldn’t believe it when somebody actually paid for them.

I needed to up my game. I'd created a bit of a niche, with a focus on historic architecture, in particular big old houses that people really seem to be interested in, so I thought I’d build on this. I started going out with my camera more often taking loads more photographs, all within a similar theme of historic landscapes and architecture and before I knew it my following was growing and my website was getting a few hundred hits a week….and people were buying my photographs.

I’m now pretty careful what I post, and to some extent I curate my Instagram to so that there is a consistent theme. I occasionally post a selfie when I’m feeling a bit needy as everyone is allowed to be a radgie once in a while. I think I'd hit on a bit of a niche though, so it stands out from other profiles which are perhaps less curated.

I had to give up work to undertake my MA full time, and I can honestly say that the money I have made from Instagram has made a big contribution to my uni fees. I’m not a brilliant photographer, but I think the key was finding a theme that people were interested in and sticking with it, then providing a link to a more professional website where people could buy images. It was all just a bit of good luck and I feel like a bit of a fraud, but it shows that’s social media can actually work for you in a positive way. I could never make enough to live off, but when you are a poor student, every little help.

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