I don't follow you

Instagram again. I'm going to talk about those I don't / won't follow. Probably because it's cathartic to make a vague swipe at the misuse, self-indulgence and poor behaviour on the platform.

A little background: for me, IG is mostly a place for all my 'singles', images which I take outside of work and which don't belong in a portfolio. Usually patterns, shapes and abstracts, that sort of thing (here). I also put the odd 'proper' image in there to mix it up, with half an eye on the (potential) professional/portfolio aspect.

I spend between 5-20 minutes a day on IG, and have 1,453 followers (today), and follow 604.

So, accounts I tend to follow include: quality photography and art; picture editors and related; potential and existing clients; odd, interesting and similar accounts, and some friends.

Regrettably, like many, I also follow accounts upon which I border on indifference, but I'm whittling these down over time. And some accounts whose origins I can't remember. The rest are the remnants of the few days last year when I used a bot. I remove these as and when. 


Anyway, here's who I don't follow:

  • People who list their kit. I just don't understand why anyone would do this. Nobody cares.
  • Anyone who uses more than one or two emojis in their profile.
  • Anyone following more than 500 people (I'm aware of the hypocrisy, but I'm trying). Seriously, though, some people follow a couple of thousand accounts. This is silly. They only care about themselves - they're not interested in you, or me, or anyone. Someone following over 10k people followed me the other day. Do the maths. Them spending, say, two seconds looking at one image per person per day equals... 5.5 hours per day on IG. So, do they want to see my work? No. It's clickbait, in order for me to follow back. Sometimes these people then unfollow. The cheek of it.
  • #catsofinstagram - I'd never get any work done. It's the pinnacle of human achievement.
  • People who post more than a couple of inspirational quotes. Just please stop.
  • Anyone with a disproportionately high following in relation to their number of posts. This is suspicious. Do your time and upload some content, don't use a bot.
  • Professional photographers whose target audience is those who they know personally, and worse, just those they know very well. Typically, you can spot them because their posts are insider-ish (to the exclusion of others) eg friends, BTS shots, holidays, in-jokes, family. You're not posting for me. That's fine - equally I'm not interested in you, I'm here to see your work.
  • People who describe themselves as an "influencer", "dreamer", "disrupter" or "thought leader". Or use hashtags like #lifegoals. It's not that I don't get it - I do. We're just very different people and we wouldn't be friends in the real world.
  • People who have too many selfies. 1 per 20 uploads is probably fine. More if you're a model, I guess.
  • Friends who didn't follow me back. Why do you hate me?

Finally, there are posts which raise an eyebrow, but aren't necessarily dealbreakers. The absolute worst are portraits taken of celebrities who've just died, sometimes within minutes of the news breaking. The caption talks about the time (six years previously) when they photographed them, how nice they were, how sad it is etc. followed by a sea of these hashtags: #death #sorrow #tragedy #death #celebrity #overdose #portraitphotographer #londonphotographer #rip #sad #commission #suicide. You are horrible people. But I like your style. 

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that actually I'll follow anyone, and am guilty of most of the offences listed.

Best of Instagram

My IG feed - @alexrumford - is diluted with my regular work and archive material. If you're anything like me, you tend not to view more than the most recent couple of dozen pictures on someone's feed, and early posts soon get buried in an ever-growing pile.

Secondly, I like to see posts from everyone, but following nearly 800 people would mean an hour a day just keeping up.  

With no way of filtering the 'best' images ('likes' are often largely irrelevant, at best a rough indication of quality) IG is then more about getting a sense of someone's work and interests rather than seeing their portfolio. Which is fine, but since my "out and about" shots - mostly minimalist and abstracts - are a world away from my commissioned work, I wanted to some of my favourites to date:

Take your parents to work

I had the great privilege of running my own photography/Instagram stall at Facebook's first "Take your parents to work" day. I gave visitors pointers on photography, helped them understand the IG app, and edited a few pictures.

Questions ranged from, "What is Instagram?" to "Why don't I look nice in photos?" - as well as the ubiquitous, "How can I get more followers?" (which was my question). It was a lot of fun!  


I've been running occasional classes for Instagram/Facebook over the past year. These are informal sessions where I teach their clients everything I know about photography (!) before letting them loose in Camden, King's Cross or Southbank. They have then 30-40 minutes' shooting before we regroup, critique, and decide on the winner(s).

The lesson itself lasts an hour. We cover some theory, a few practical tips and techniques, and then look at using the app to edit images. Nothing technical. Among others, clients have included Heineken and Starbucks, and there's one in the pipeline for Apple.

They're given a variety of themes to work towards - it's important to have limitations - but they're not obliged to keep to them. These are usually Reflections, Shapes & lines, Signs and symbols, Colour, and Close-ups.

Judging the winner is always difficult as many are equally good, but for different reasons.  

While I could have shown plenty of descriptive images, lovely detail shots and neat observations, this selection I've made of their work either reflects some of the points we cover, or tends towards fresh and quirky (often abstract and arty shots) which are right up my street. That is, I'd be very happy to have any of these in my own feed (@alexrumford)! Although I should point out that the best pictures on the day are just that - they have nothing do with my own taste or preferences.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did: