Your Instagram feed is looking incredible these days. You’ve mastered VSCO and your point of view is strong.

But now what? Ready to go from Insta to pro? We’ve got a few pointers to help you make the change.

We chatted with Jackie Barr, a New York based photographer who has gradually made the switch from Instagram-only to professional freelancer.

She shared a few tips with us for getting feedback, finding a starter camera and more.

Using Instagram

Q: How did the way you use Instagram change once you started taking photos professionally?
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A: Initially, I used Instagram very informally as a visual diary to share snippets of my life (#iphoneonly). However, my Instagram presence evolved as I began using it as a platform for sharing my work with models, agencies, and brands.

In the photo world, your Instagram is essentially a mini-resume. My first touchpoint with many people I work with is through the ‘gram so it’s important to post high quality content, regularly.

Getting Feedback

Q: We love to share photos on Instagram. Do you still share your photos there? Or is there a secret network of photographers that use a more pro site to share and get feedback?
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A: There’s no “secret network” per se, where pro-photogs are sharing their work. Some people would say Flickr or 500px, but both of those sites don’t have the same type of user base as Instagram.

One thing I have realized is that getting feedback is really tricky – but a crucial part of improving as a photographer. Users on social media very frequently give positive reinforcement, but very rarely give negative or even constructive feedback. The best way to get this feedback is offline – or at least off public social media spaces.

What I’ve found most useful is taking time to meet fellow photographers in real life (many of whom I met through Instagram). By creating a community around you of photographers and artists that you respect, you can get the right kind of feedback to help you grow.

Choosing a Camera

Q: What’s a good first camera – should a newbie buy the first DSLR they can afford or save up for something special? Tell us your tips for picking a good starter DSLR.
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A: Every photographer will give you a different answer on this one. There are tons of articles and videos showcasing one brand over another.

The biggest driving factor in selecting a camera is price. If you are someone who is thinking, “Hey, trying this photography thing could be cool to dip my toes into,” I would recommend a more conservative strategy than someone who knows they want to try to turn it into a source of income.

For entry level cameras, plan to spend around $500-$700. Canon and Nikon are very common brands, so there is a lot of user information and how-to documentation online. With an entry level DSLR, you can also spend more on a nicer lens that you can keep with you, if you decide to try to upgrade your camera body at a later point. Some fun, introductory lenses to try are the 24mm f/2.8 – affectionately termed the “Pancake Lens” for really wide angle photos and the 50mm f/1.8 for more portrait and close up photography.

The biggest jump in camera quality is getting a crop image sensor versus a full image sensor. Full frame sensors and shooting in raw (bigger file size), will allow more control in the editing process, however, are a more sizable investment (think $2,000-$5,000).

Another approach would be to strategically shop for older, used models of nicer cameras. If you want help deciding, try shopping at a local camera shop. They will likely give you a basic walkthrough and you’ll have a point of contact and place to go if something happens to your gear.

Using Filters

Q: If someone loves editing with VSCO on Instagram, what program would should they try with photos from a DSLR?
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A: The VSCO app is really focused on emulating film tones. VSCO makes a desktop version with various preset packs that can be used with Lightroom (the industry standard for photo editing) and Photoshop (used frequently for image manipulation, retouching, etc.).

Another way to enhance your editing style is to look at the preset packs of other photographers. Many photographers sell their presets for very reasonable prices on sites like Filtergrade. These can be used as a base for you to tweak further.

As you continue developing as a photographer, you will figure out what you do and don’t like when editing and create your own style.

Last Thoughts

Q: Any other pointers you have for a phoneographer making the switch to photographer?

A: As a phoneographer, you already know the basics. Don’t be discouraged if you feel that your DSLR pictures don’t look as nice as your phone images or exactly the way you want them to in the beginning.

Learning the equipment and the software can take some time, but once you get the hang of it, you will see that it can make a huge difference. The way I learned was to take pictures that I liked and try to emulate them. Then, you can Google specific things and watch tutorials to build your skill set.

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Jackie Barr is an NYC-based portrait and fashion photographer. She has worked with brands like Free People and high-profile style bloggers to create high-quality content across print, web and social channels. For more of Jackie’s work visit her Instagram Feed or Website. Her headshot was taken by Teresa Sabga.

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