Professional photographers using Instagram can make up to £18k per post!

(Image credit: Future)

Instagram is one of the largest platforms for professional photographers to showcase their work, and can arguably be more beneficial to the income of a photography business than having a website and regular clientele. Social media is becoming crucial to how we represent ourselves and our brand online. 

As photographers, we should really be taking note of how Instagram can be used as a tool to push us forwards. While social media isn't for everyone which is completely understandable, are you missing out by not having an Instagram portfolio

• Read more: Best cameras for Instagram

Luckily, Giggster has conducted research on who could earn more money from social media than traditional sales, and crunched the numbers so we don't have to. The full research reveals the highest earning and most followed photographers on the app, and discloses their average earning per sponsored post compared with print sales. (Though it should be noted that we don't know how precise some of these figures are, or how many are guesstimates, so a pinch of salt may well be required!)

The latest research has revealed that the highest earning and most followed photographer overall on Instagram is Nature photographer Paul Nicklen, earning over £18,000 ($21,951 / AU$31,430 approximately) per post. Nicklen can in addition earn the most for selling his prints, with the highest priced print of his for sale at £59,955 ($73,113 / AU$104,708 approximately).

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Top 10 highest earning photographers on Instagram
RankPhotographerInstagram HandleIndustryFollower CountNumber of postsEngagement RateEstimated earnings per post (£)
1Paul Nicklen@paulnicklenNature7.2M2.9K0.81%£18,951.00
2Mario Testino@mariotestinoFashion4.9M2.2K0.36%£13,067.00
3Chris Burkard@chrisburkardNature3.7M4.1K0.35%£9,737.00
4Jimmy Chin@jimmychinNature3.0M1.9K1.35%£7,924.00
5Keith Ladzinski@ladzinskiNature1.7M4.6K0.61%£4,566.00
6Joel Sartore@joelsartoreNature1.5M2.1K0.74%£4,138.00
7Jack Harries@jackharriesDocumentary1.3M1.2K0.72%£3,634.00
8Ami Vitale@ amivitaleNature1.3M1.8K0.39%£3,443.00
9Dylan Furst@furstyNature1.1M1.6K0.86%£3,028.00
10Petra Collins@petrafcollinsFashion1.0M2.2K6.15%£2,818.00

The research from Giggster and the table above demonstrates that Nature photography is a very popular genre to follow on the platform, along with Fashion, and that a photographer's number of posts could potentially play a part in their engagement rate, number of followers and earning potential per sponsored post. 

American nature photographer and Instagrammer Chris Burkard sells images on his online store, with the highest price being $4,524 for a large wall print. With 3.7 million followers, the Influencer Marketing Hub estimated Burkard could be earning as much as $23,881 for a sponsored Instagram post, a difference of $7,743 more in profit from using Instagram than print sales.

Top photographers' earnings from Instagram, according to the Giggster report (Image credit: Giggster)

Jack Harries is a documentary photographer, perhaps better known as ‘JacksGap’ when he initially began as a YouTuber co-owning a channel with his twin brother. Now a documentary filmmaker and photographer with 1.3 million Instagram followers, Harries’ highest-value print for sale is an acrylic priced at $207. In comparison, for a sponsored Instagram post it’s suggested that Harries could make up to $4,579, a difference of $4,371 in profit. 

(Image credit: Giggster)

On the flip side, it's certainly possible for photographers to have under one million followers on the social platform and still make incredible figures. David LaChapelle is a conceptual photographer best known for surrealist and subversive photography, with famous clients such as Eminem and Travis Scott. 

LaChapelle has 676K followers on Instagram with an estimate of making $3,364 per sponsored post. Though this is virtually nothing in comparison to the highest priced print available from LaChapelle, priced at $75,000. 

(Image credit: Giggster)

(Image credit: Giggster)

So how exactly do Instagram posts make photographers money? It could be argued that the most priceless benefit of using Instagram is exposure and reach. While these things alone won't pay the bills for you, they can put you in connection with potential buyers, clients, brands and employers who found you using the platform leading to commissions and sales of your work.

"Photographers, both traditional and contemporary can use Instagram to their benefit, boost their reach, and even increase their earnings, as the research suggests," says Tyler Quiel, Giggster CEO.

"Whilst Instagram is its own selling and art platform, it can work hand in hand with more traditional art forms to help artists. It can not only inspire artists, but it allows fans to get involved, and can create connections with vendors, collaborators, locations and more".

The company also investigated various elements of Instagram’s community of most-followed photographers to discover which genres of photography achieved the most engagement, and even which camera is most frequently used by these popular photographers, with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Sony A7R IV and Leica M claiming the top spots.

Most popular cameras used by photographers on instagram  (Image credit: Giggster)

The concluded findings of Giggster's research revealed that the highest earning photographer overall on Instagram is Nature photographer Paul Nicklen, earning over $23,000 per sponsored post. Nicklen was also the top pricer from print sales, with his highest piece in the US going for $81,000. 

The most engaging photographer on the platform was revealed to be music photographer, Gunner Stahl. The highest earning genre of photography is supposedly Nature with six nature photographers making the top ten highest earnings at over $5,000 per post. 

They say money can't buy happiness, but can Instagram followers award us money? Quiel shares that. "Instagram is often about grabbing attention, but you move on very quickly. Images that require time to interpret will often not do as well on Instagram… In comes the art of print. These narrative images often deserve spaces on magazine covers, on people's walls and in galleries, places where time can be spent to appreciate".

Read more:

Best Leica M lenses
Best Sony A7R IV deals
Best professional cameras
Sony A7R IV vs A7R III vs A7R II 

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.