Making Money with Instagram

Photography: Anthony Danielle

Instagram made Anthony Danielle a professional photographer. The 25-year-old New Yorker and entrepreneur went pro within eighteen months of opening an Instagram account. He now has more than 180,000 followers on the mobile photography platform and wins commissions from corporations as large as airlines to shoot events and put images of their brand in front of his massive online audience.

The work comes in through Mobile Media Lab, a creative agency founded in April of this year by Danielle, together with fellow New York Instagramers Brian DiFeo (@bridif) and Liz Eswein (@newyorkcity).

The company offers a range of different marketing services, including custom website design and “interactive experience” but it’s the photography and Instagram marketing campaigns that really stand out.

“We see Instagram as another outlet for brands to use that we can help them with,” says Danielle.

So far the firm has covered about five brand events that have included the Volvo Ocean Race, a sailing event held over six days in Miami, the launch for the new Costello Tagliapietra line at Barneys New York, and a campaign to promote Warby Parker’s new range of sunglasses. Danielle’s favorite job came when he was asked to cover a New York Rangers playoff game against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden. The company was hired by Delta, sponsors of the New York Rangers.

“We were given access to parts of Madison Square Garden that are off limits to the average fan,” says Danielle. “It was a cool experience for us and our followers.”

Balancing Branding with Integrity

Not all the shots of that event were captured by Danielle and his two partners. The company used a team of six Instagramers to photograph and publicize the match, giving the airline a potential audience of more than half a million.

When Mobile Media Lab receives an enquiry, the firm first turns to its network of New York City Instagramers to see whose photographic style best fits the brand.  They then make sure that the photographers they use are comfortable shooting a number of images that “they feel is right for their Instagram feed.” A fashion event held at W Hotels NYC, for example, generated just ten images for the client. The six days that two of Mobile Media Labs’ photographers spent in Miami  shooting the Volvo Ocean Race, produced 53 images. Those ten fashion photos though generated 270 comments and 7,446 likes while the shots of the ocean race picked up nearly 60,000 likes and more than a thousand notes on Tumblr.

Shooting for companies while maintaining a relationship with followers may well be the biggest challenge in commercial Instagram use. Few social media platforms are forgiving when adverts start to intrude on users’ streams, and few serious users of any social media platform would want to be seen as a shil for a company, a reputation that would quickly cost them followers — an asset that’s at least as important as their photographic talent. Mobile Media Lab tries to balance the client’s demand for exposure and positive coverage with the Instagramer’s desire to entertain and inform his or her followers by demanding as much freedom as possible for the photographer.

“We don’t take shot-lists and [we] don’t have the brand review the shots as that tends to impede on the Instagramer’s view, which is what their followers are following them for anyway,” says Danielle. “We trust the people we work with, and believe in their vision as photographers will do what’s right for the brand we’re working with as well as their own personal brand.”

More Ways to Make Money with Instagram


A print-on-canvas service for Instagramers with more than 40,000 galleries in 30 countries.

According to CEO Matt Munson, the company is generating “thousands of dollars a day” and most images are bought by admirers rather than the photographers themselves.


An Instagram-based stock service. Photographers set their own prices and the site takes a relatively low commission of around 25 percent. The site is still new, sales are rare and without a tagging and search function will remain limited. But it could grow to rival Flickr as a source for off-beat images.

Win Your Own Instagram Branding Work

Winning work from Mobile Media Lab will involve being known on its network, having a large following and shooting in a style that matches a client’s brand. But there’s no reason to depend on someone else’s firm to channel work your way. Mobile Media Lab was founded after brands sought out Danielle and his partners, hoping to cash in on the size of their following and the ease of spreading images across the Web. Build up a large following on Instagram and you might well find that brands are approaching you too.

The principles for creating that audience on Instagram are the same as those on any other social media platform. You have to create content — photos — that people will want to see and share, and you have to take the time to comment, discuss and interact with other Instagramers.

“I find the key to being popular on Instagram is providing good content and being interactive within the community,” says Danielle “I’m a firm believer of you get back what you put in.”

Once you’ve built up a following, ideally one in six figures, you might find that brands approach you directly. If they don’t, put up a website to show that you’re available and make sure that your community interaction on Instagram includes marketing firms and art directors as well as photographers. Let them know that you — and your followers — you’re available to be used as part of a campaign.

Instagram has been around for less than two years, during which it’s managed to pick up more than 30 million accounts and overtake Flickr as the photographer’s most important image-sharing site. Its acquisition by Facebook means that its future — and its audience — are secure. Not all Instagramers who use the service will be able to go pro, but those who can combine attractive imagery with online sociability and entrepreneurialism might just find that the service will pay for their photos.

3 comments for this post.

  1. Dallas Photo Said:

    I tried to open an account with PlusGram but the screen has a mandatory drop-down menu asking for a 'City', after entering my country and state...but no cities are listed and there is no way to enter one, it must be selected from a list. In the 'State' menu there are many locations listed that are not U.S. state, such as Micronesia. When I see things like this it makes me worried about the overall quality of the site...I'll try to open an account again in a year or so.

  2. Richard Gray Said:

    Instagram could end up getting a reputation as a place full of ads if more people do this. Especially if they don't tell their followers and if the photos are of no real interest (apart for photographers' bank accounts).

  3. Magnus Westerlund Said:

    Instagram Advertising is offering a new way of earning money with Instagram, where you don't have to sell pictures, uploading them can be enough! 🙂

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