Sports photographs have a dynamism and vitality that many other photography niches find hard to match.

This alone can help your images stick out on highly competitive photo sharing websites like Instagram.

However, if you’re looking to generate a loyal following and sports photography contracts on Instagram, you’re going to need more than top quality sports photographs.

You’re also going to need to have a solid understanding of what Instagram hashtags are, and how they can be used to grow your following and generate meaningful engagement.

What are Instagram hashtags and what do they do?

You know what Instagram hashtags are, but have you ever wondered how they found their way onto Instagram in the first place?

Hashtags are basically keywords that place photos or videos on Instagram into categories. This is a smart concept, as Instagram basically uses its own users to categorize its massive image database.

These categories are essential, because without them users would find it very difficult to find content of specific interest to them or filter out irrelevant content..

At a user level, keywords are typically used to provide contextual information about an image. 

While this is not technically wrong, it will accomplish very little if you don’t take the search aspect of hashtags into account.

How Instagram hashtag searches work

When you run a search for a hashtag on Instagram, or tap on a hashtag, you are provided with two different views of the hashtag search results.

The default view is ‘top posts’, which displays the most popular posts for a hashtag, based on the amount of engagement with those posts. 

There are a limited number of images in this gallery. This means a tiny fraction of the posts of any reasonably popular hashtag will appear in this position.

‘Recent posts’ is the other view you can opt to use when viewing hashtag search results. This displays posts in reverse chronological order – most recent to least recent.

All Instagram posts appear in the recent posts section. The more popular the hashtag, the shorter the time they are going to be accessible to users before being buried by new content.

How to use sports photography Instagram hashtags

Once you’re aware that hashtags can potentially make your sports photos visible to millions of Instagram users searching for those hashtags, it can be tempting to go for gold and target the most popular hashtags.

This approach will only work if you already have a substantial following on Instagram and are getting thousands of engagements with each of your posts.

If that’s not the case, your images will be visible for the blink of an eye in the recent posts search results and will have almost no chance at all of appearing in the top posts.

You want to target hashtags that are less competitive. This achieves two things:

  1. You’ll need less engagement to get a slot in the top posts results.
  2. Your images will be visible for longer in the recent posts results.

The key to doing this is to make your hashtags more specific to the image you are posting.

If you’re posting images of someone skiing, don’t choose #sportsphotograhy with its 2,918,901 posts. Rather include the sport in the hashtag – #skiphotography has 26,225 posts.

Taking this simple step automatically makes your images much more visible in hashtag search results.

But there is another major benefit to this approach.

By using more targeted hashtags your images are going to be much more relevant to the people searching for the image. 

This can make a huge difference to how much engagement you get with your content. And more engagement means more visibility.

How many post likes do I need to appear in the top posts?

The number of post likes you need to appear in the top posts will vary depending on how popular the hashtag is.

You can divide the number of posts for a hashtag by 1,000 to get a rough idea of how many posts you need to appear in the top posts.

Using our example of #sportsphotography, you’ll need a massive 2,918 likes to secure a space in the top slots, while a much more modest 26 likes should get you a slot in the top posts for #skiphotography.

How many Instagram hashtags should I use?

Use as many hashtags as makes sense for your image, ensuring you keep your hashtags on-point.

Loading an image with hashtags looks amateurish and can make it harder for viewers to quickly understand what your image is about.

Instagram officially allows up to 30 hashtags on image. If you ever hit this limit you’re doing something wrong.

The most popular sports photography hashtags for Instagram

We’ve established that more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to sports photography hashtags on Instagram.

By combining the rule of 1,000 with a realistic understanding of how much engagement you’re likely to get on each post you can selectively target popular hashtags where it makes sense for your image.

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Connect with clients on Cherrydeck

Instagram is a great way to build an engaged following for your sports photography work and to build your brand.

And while it can result in work offers, the platform was not designed to help professional photographers connect with potential clients.

Cherrydeck recognizes the challenges that professional photographers face in the competitive digital environment and offers a platform designed to help photographers connect with potential clients.

Signing up to our busy platform is 100% free and it is quick and easy to create a profile for your sports photography business.

Once you have signed up with Cherrydeck you’ll also have access to:

  • New commissions and collaborations made available on our platform.
  • Tools to boost your Instagram reach and following.
  • Discounts on software for creative professionals via our Partner Deals program.
  • The ability to present your events to our large creative community.

Visit Cherrydeck now to find out more.

Posted by:Cherrydeck Editorial

Our mission is to enable brands to source custom visual content at scale through our global creative community. Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates @cherrydeck

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