instagram stories

Is Instagram Stories a better alternative to Snapchat for Photographers?

So you may or may not have seen that Instagram has launched a new featured called Instagram Stories. So what’s the rub and is it something that photographers should be taking note of? Read on.

Instagram whatnow?

Instagram Stories allows you to post videos or photos – with added text, filters and doodles. However, rather than them appearing on your perfectly-curated timeline of images, they go in a separate Instagram ‘story’ feed that appears at the top of your followers’ regular scrolling feed.

The difference between this and your regular posts? Anything you post to your story will self-destruct after 24 hours. This makes it a much more (literally) disposable way of posting content to your followers that you want to share, but might not be worthy of your main feed. If it sounds like a familiar concept it’s because it is pretty much exactly how Snapchat works.

So why should I bother using Instagram Stories over Snapchat?

Snapchat is huge. Like, HUGE. Recent stats show that the app that was always synonymous with a predominantly teen audience is being adopted by the world at large, with reportedly more daily users than Twitter and a 400% growth in video views between May 2015 & 2016 [source].

So again, if this is just a copy of an already burgeoning platform then why invest time in Instagram Stories over Snapchat? Everyone loves a list. As such, here’s a list…

See the story and the curated content.

I know this kind of defeats the point of Snapchat, but the deposable nature of its content is one thing that I’ve always found it hard to come to terms with. I like the idea of it, and following other photographers as they give a glimpse into their lives and what’s going on behind the scenes is great, but it always felt redundant out there on its own. By combining this with your regular Instagram feed, that ‘diary’ content can work together with your regular posts to create a really interesting combination of behind the scenes and finished work.

Easier to find and be found

For all its love, Snapchat is absolute balls at audience building. There’s no search function. I want to find photographers on Snapchat? I have to Google “Photographers on Snapchat” to find a post someone has compiled and then save all those little Snapcode icon things and then add them using that. I want people to find me? I have to post my Snapcode here there and everywhere.

Existing audience for Instagram users.

Off the back of the last point, you’re not starting from scratch. You already have a base of users that follow your account. This means no spamming your other social networks with “Follow me over there too!” messages.

More mature audience

While the stats and figures and blog posts would suggest otherwise, anecdotal evidence would suggest that Snapchat is still seen as more youth-oriented. While I do know people in their 30s and 40s that use the platform regularly, whenever it comes up in conversation with those not using Snapchat (but are active on other networks like Twitter and Instagram) their immediate response is something along the lines of “Isn’t that for teens and d!ck pics?”

More artistic in nature?

A lot of what I see on Snapchat is people enjoying drinks, out at parties, at the beach… While this isn’t a bad thing, I feel that for photographers Instagram Stories is primed to become a place to share more artistic content. To show and talk about what you are doing and how you are doing it; sharing lighting setups, gear lists and general behind the scenes shenanigans. The photography community is already fantastic for its willingness to share knowledge and this could be a great place for that to continue.

It’s built into a platform centred around photography

Snapchat is all fun filters, face swaps and stickers. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s great. Because of that, some of the content on there is genuinely innovative and a whole bunch of fun. Seeing what users like Shonduras have achieved with such a simple interface is remarkable. Instagram stories is built onto a platform that is for photography. That makes sense in my head. Yes, people can have fun and add text but it’s a much more pared down box of toys compared to that of Snapchat.

Upload content from your camera roll

I’ve saved the best until last here. YOU CAN UPLOAD PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FROM YOUR CAMERA ROLL! On Snapchat, it’s in-app photos and videos only. It’s a masssive pain. For someone like me, I like to grab a quick BTS photo or video when I’m working but don’t always have the time to be uploading content right there and then. I’d say it’s the single biggest reason that I’m pretty rubbish at Snapchat. To be able to update my Instagram Story in moments of downtime is HUGE for a user like me. Instagram has cleverly engineered this feature so that it will only give you access to content added to your Camera Roll in the last 24 hours. When Instagram Stories opens up your camera just swipe down to reveal all your lovely pre-shot content.

“Nice try, Instagram. I’m already all about Snapchat”

I think the biggest hurdle for Instagram Stories is going to be that it’s a blatant attack on the Snapchat market. Hell, this entire blogpost is basically a comparison of the two. Snapchat has a pretty dedicated user-base who totally love that platform and you’d assume it’s going to be hard to get them to make the jump. It’s been the death of many social startups. “But I already do this somewhere else.” With that in mind, and for the love of lists, here’s a few things that may keep people from making the jump:

  • Stickers, text size and colour, emojis and filters.
  • No face swap.
  • User-to-user direct messages that also self-destruct
  • No face swap
  • Metrics for recording screen grabs
  • Geo-specific stamps and toys
  • No face-swap
  • Ability to set custom self-destruct time on images
  • Established Snapchat users already have a large following

So which one should I use?

It’s no secret that for businesses now, consumers buy into the ‘brand’ as much as the quality of the product; for us photographers, who we are is becoming as important as the quality of our images. With that in mind, I’m liking the prospect of Instagram Stories. It allows us to showcase both who we are and the quality of our finished work all in one place. I like that it’s built into something I already use regularly, I like that I can post content at a time which is more suitable to me with it still being relatively reactive to day-to-day life and I like that it’s not bogged down in too many toys (for now).

For people already using this exact model of content sharing over on Snapchat, I’m sure Instagram Stories is something that will be ignored and I understand why. For the rest of us, it might be the perfect opportunity to dip a toe into the water.


 Want to see my IG Story? You can follow me on Instagram right here:


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