Over the course of 40 days, I’ve made over 40 posts. The majority of images were taken as RAW files on a Nikon DSLR camera, although for some I used a Samsung Galaxy phone. I took all of the images during the course of normal play. In other words, I never went out to a golf course specifically to take pictures. I never used a tripod or had much choice in the light or time of day.

All the pictures were taken while my son was playing, so I was limited in where I could stand. For example, I couldn’t walk out on the course during play just to get a better angle for a shot. Unless it was a practice round, I was mostly limited to cart paths, tee boxes, or hanging out near the green. I would have loved to bring along a tripod and a variety of lenses. Unfortunately, I was never able to do that.

Editing the Pictures

I edited the pictures in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. They were cropped, almost always to 16×9 format, and had the contrast, exposure, and color adjusted. If the images had extraneous objects in frame, such as a golf cart or spectators, I would clone those items out. I tried to edit the photographs so they would all have a similar look. I spent anywhere from ten minutes to several hours editing each image. Photographs that I really liked I would spend extra time editing, with the goal being to print ten 16” x 9” images to frame and hang in my office. That’s the reason I took these pictures in the first place. The Instagram experiment just ended up being a side project.

Erin Hill Golf Course
Erin Hills Golf Course, Hole #5, Par 4, 505 yds.

I uploaded all Instagram posts by hand, either on my computer via the web or directly on my phone using the Instagram app. I didn’t use any software to schedule and make the posts automatically. After a quick search, it didn’t seem that there was any free and worthwhile tool to handle this task as I needed.

Usually, I would select the image and write the caption immediately before I would make the post to Instagram. Sometimes I would select the pictures and write the captions early so they would be ready to post quickly. I did this for a week’s worth of images when I travelled to Cape Cod to watch my son and the Tufts University Golf Team play in the New England Championship. I knew when travelling I wouldn’t have time to curate pictures and write captions, so I did it before I left. That way all I had to do was copy and paste the caption and upload the image directly from my phone and onto Instagram.

The Results

What happened over the course of 40 days? Well first, I almost doubled my follower count. Granted, starting with only 107 followers, that’s not actually growing the account by leaps and bounds. Still, if I can manage to double my follower count every 60 days, that means in a year I would have over 3200 followers. I can live with that kind of progress. Slow and steady growth is always better than growth built on a viral post that can’t easily be replicated.

Instagram Follower Chart
Weekly Instagram follower increase.

The increase in followers never seemed out of place in any week. That kind of progress can be maintained and even improved. As my followers grow, presumably my posts will be seen by more and more people, and my follower count will increase proportionally. That remains to be seen. Still, at this point I have no reason to doubt that won’t be the case if I keep posting regularly.

Besides posting every day, I’ve also spent more time on Instagram myself. Granted, not nearly as much as I’d planned at the start of this experiment, but time nonetheless. I typically spend at least ten minutes each morning going through posts with golf related hashtags. If I see a post that makes me laugh, or smile, or one where I like the image, I’ll give it a like. I’ll also follow golf related accounts that seem worth following. So far, I’ve followed about 50 golf accounts since the experiment started.

Sometimes I’ll also comment on a post. Usually that happens if I really like the image or if the post features a golf course that I know or have played. I try to comment on at least a few posts a day although that doesn’t always happen. How many images I like and how much I comment generally depends on how I feel. Sometimes I’m busy and in a rush to get things done, while other days I have more time to scroll through Instagram and scan posts.

Likes, Comments & Direct Messages

As far as general user engagement with my posts, which includes likes, comments, and direct messages, it’s hard to make any generalizations.

Most of the comments I’ve gotten to this point have been spam, so there is no reason to tabulate those. There have been some comments but those have been few and far between. Most have been just a quick note complimenting the picture. There have been a few comments where people have engaged and asked questions, which is always more than welcome.

When it comes to direct messages, most of those have been spam, usually by “women” that follow my account, only to unfollow soon thereafter. These messages confound me. I just delete them as soon as they arrive.

Instagram Direct Message Spam
Typical Spam message.

As far as likes, there seems to be no real pattern or reason as to which posts receive the most attention. The trend (charted below) seems to be random at best. I’m not sure what this tells me. What’s strange to me is that the number of likes hasn’t increased much even though my follower count has doubled.

Instagram Enagement Table
Average likes per follower.

I wouldn’t have necessarily expected the like count to double along with the follower count, but I would have suspected there would have been an at least an obvious upward trend in the number of likes. I guess not. I’m curious to see how this trend continues.

Instagram Likes Chart
Instagram Likes per post.

What do I think now that I’ve posted regularly on Instagram for over a month? One thing for sure is that I don’t plan to stop. I want to keep posting and continue to build my account. I know it will be a long and uphill battle but that’s kind of the point. To me it’s about the journey, not actually getting there.

Instagram Inspiration

I will say posting and getting feedback has inspired me to create new and better content. Over the past month, I’ve been learning, reading, watching, and most importantly, doing. I like to think in the last six months I’ve made huge strides in my photography, especially in the last month or so. I’ve been more inspired than ever and part of the credit for that has to go to Instagram.

Still, I want to make sure my work doesn’t become all about Instagram. I don’t want to create just for social media. That’s not the point, or at least not my point anyway. I want to keep creating, getting better, and seeing things in a new and different light. My goal is to find my own sense of satisfaction through my photography. If I end up with thousands of Instagram followers, well that’s okay, but if not, then so be it. I’ll still have the work and the satisfaction of creating.

Wildcat Golf Club
Wildcat Golf Club, Hole #7 Par 4, 421 yds.

So now that the initial experiment is over and the results have been tabulated, what exactly did I learn from it all? That’s for Part 3.