What if there was a way to tap into your creative side, compose photos that help you develop and transform as an artist or brand, and get a ton of attention for it?
Joining an Instagram photo challenge is one of the best ways to enliven your feed and jump into a brand new community (or several). You’ll consider new photography subjects you’d never think of on your own. You’ll break out of your content routine as well as your hashtag rut. Best of all, you’ll improve both your short- and long-term reach.
We’re here to explain everything you need to know about Instagram photo projects, starting with the incredibly popular #WHP.
What is the #WHP?
Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP) suggests specific themes and hashtags each week, offering participants the chance to be featured by Instagram on their social media accounts and blog.
Weekly announcements about upcoming projects, along with instructions and suggestions, are posted each Friday to their Instagram account.
The following Monday, the winner will be featured.
Why should I participate in a #WHP?
Instagram is one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, and their #WHP promotes users and their images for free. If you’re featured, you’ll be showcased on their Instagram account, which has 234 million followers; their Facebook page, which has 55 million likes; and their Twitter account, with over 39 million followers.
P.S. Instagram doesn’t only choose popular accounts to feature photos from – you can be featured regardless of how many or how few followers you have, so long as the work is great.
What if you don’t get featured, though? First of all, don’t worry about it – there are a lot of #WHP participants, and it’s not necessarily a reflection of your talent. Secondly, you’ll still get exposure simply by participating and using the designated hashtag.
Here are a few more benefits to joining the #WHP or another photography project:
By knowing you have to create content this weekend for the #WHP, you’ll challenge yourself to take photos (and possibly develop a new, positive habit).
Thanks to subjects and settings you’ve never thought to post before, your feed will be diversified, and you may find a new photography subject or style you love. This is especially helpful if your feed’s on the dull side or if you need to get out of a photography rut.
Take note of how your audience reacts to decide if this is a photography subject you should showcase more often. Photo challenges could help you build your brand identity.
You’ll interact with the photography and Instagram community, and maybe fall into a new niche community you didn’t know existed. Brands will also have a better chance to be noticed by influencers and potential customers.
Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t chronologically list photos in user feeds anymore, so your image has to be popular in order to be seen. Photo challenge hashtags will get you noticed by other participants, and the more engagement your image gets, the more prominently it will be displayed.
Plus, the account that created the photo project may include you in a curated selection of their favorite entries, even if you didn’t win.
Joining a photography project or challenge gets you into the habit of posting regularly. Brands that want to make the most impact should post at least one time per day. Regular weekend posts are a good start, and you may end up capturing content you can use later on, too.
As you scroll through other participating photos, you’ll get inspired. Jot down ideas you have for different types of layouts, lighting, settings and styling. Over time, you’ll notice that your photography and editing skills improve, and that your images show off more of your creative side.
Are there any rules to follow?
Yes, a few. Only participating photos and videos that actually meet the requirements are eligible for a feature. A few things to remember:
• You must be following @instagram.
• You can only submit your own visuals.
• The content you submit must be taken during the weekend of the project.
• You have to use the designated #WHP hashtag. It’ll be something like #WHPlandscape or #WHPtwinning.
• If you put music in your videos, make sure you have the rights to use the music, and credit the musician as needed.
Certain projects may have their own rules to follow, too. For example, the #WHPunderoverpass project said you had to take a photo of the underside of an overpass. Read the instructions carefully.
Are there any other guidelines to follow?
Yes, a big one, and while it’s not officially a rule, you’ll definitely want to heed this advice.
Don’t use a #WHP hashtag on a photo that doesn’t actually have to do with the project. Some people do this just to gain exposure for their account or business, but it’s frowned upon by Instagram and other users. You won’t get featured by Instagram, and you’ll also lose the trust of other participants as well as your own followers.
Your content should always match the #WHP theme and the description and hashtags you include with your post. Otherwise, people will realize it’s a blatant and cheap attempt at more exposure.
Can I do anything to increase the chance of being featured?
You want to use only your best images, and there are plenty of ways to compose your shots and post your content that raise your chances of being featured in a photo challenge. Plus, even if you’re not chosen for a feature, these tips will help you get noticed by the rest of the community.
Carefully read the directions.
Instagram will give you hints about how to create stellar content for the #WHP, and simply reading them can point you in the right direction. For example, the instructions for the #WHP? said to capture real-life unicorns – people, animals or moments that stand out. They also suggested creating a Boomerang and to look for bright colors that pop.
Focus on the little things.
Smaller objects, as well as smaller life moments, lend themselves well to photography. There’s beauty in the more subtle parts of life, and focusing on these can forge a great connection between the image and the viewer. People respond to images that make them feel something, and your photos can invoke emotion.
Look for the unusual in the usual.
You don’t have to live in a vibrant city or a dramatic mountain town to capture great photos. Work with what you have – there’s something interesting in every setting and situation. How do everyday places or objects stand out? What extra element can make something normal become more original? Something as simple as a bright subject in a neutral setting or a light ray can transform a photo.
You have to fit the theme, but also make sure that the theme fits you. There’s a thin line between branching out to compose shots that stretch you creatively and posting images that are completely off-brand. Always be authentic, even if you’re evolving your style.
Don’t be afraid to be extra creative or offbeat. Safe, mundane photos don’t spark a response from viewers or invite them to take a second look. Before you finalize your shot, ask yourself if the angle’s different from the norm, if you can create a more surreal juxtaposition, or if there’s a cool pattern you should be including.
Compose like a pro.
No matter how much of an artistic eye you have, how authentically weird your photos are, there’s nothing to replace the golden rule of photography composition: lighting. Natural light is always best, and without the right lighting situation, your photos won’t be as good as they can be. Also, the rule of thirds is a huge help when setting up your shot, and it can help you view the scene more creatively.
Record your ideas.
Keep a running list of photo ideas or an inspiration board on Pinterest, then pull from it when there’s a photo challenge you want to participate in. Look at your past photos that have gotten a lot of attention – what worked for them and how can you apply that to future photos and contests? There may be a location in your home that gets great lighting, a background or texture that people or drawn to, or a concept that your audiences connects with.
Use what you’ve got.
Use a photo or photo idea you already have and tweak it to fit the challenge. This is a lot easier than trying to do something from scratch. (Note that you can’t do this for the #WHP, because those photos have to be taken during the weekend of the challenge.)
Describe your photo in the caption.
Use a description that adds to your story instead of just reiterating what people see in the photo. Combining a stellar photo with compelling copy is the best of both worlds.
Engage with other participants.
Look through the other photos in the challenge, like them and comment on them, and follow accounts if you like the rest of their feed. Connecting with other creators isn’t getting too close to the competition – it’s giving you an opportunity to reach a new audience and to find collaborators.
What are some other photo projects I can join?
Here are a few more to consider:
Emma Harris, stylist and blogger, has a monthly photo challenge called #aquietstyle that she runs from her account @_aquietstyle.
Often, the winner will get a prize, and she’ll also share her favorite images using the current hashtag.
You can interpret the theme however you’d like, but to get featured, the image should be quiet and calm, just like the rest of her branding.
The #floralfridaycompetition used to be a weekly competition run by @emilyquinton, but it grew quickly and became hard to manage. People still use the hashtag, though, which means it could draw eyes to your photos of botanicals, gardens, and florals.
The head of #mybeautifulsimplicity is @zoepower, and the challenge calls for beautiful, simple images that are calm and clutter-free (flatlays, still lifes, serene landscapes).
Run by @its_my_week, you can post as often as you like to the #myweekof using the current add-on suffix, like #myweekofsideportraits or #myweekofilovered.
Favorites are shared throughout the week, and there’s a grid recap at the end of the week.
The #sgiew (So Good in Every Way) challenge celebrates the good things in life, and featured accounts may get prizes, too. The challenge regularly changes, adding a new suffix onto #sgiew, like #sgiew_decay.
To get regular reminders of everything #WHP related, create this recipe in IFTTT:
If you want to find other photo projects, you can easily search for them online or on Instagram. They may also be called hashtag projects or hashtag challenges.
Which photo challenges bring a lot of attention to your Instagram account?