How to Design Your Instagram Feed for Maximum Exposure

Instagram Layout
Example of an Instagram grid layout designed in Photoshop.

If you're into photography, chances are Instagram is one of your primary social media channels. As such, it is important that you know how to effectively plan, design, and layout your grid to give you better visibility and engagement. You've probably seen those Instagram accounts that just suck you in – you may not be able to put your finger on exactly why, but if you start looking a little deeper, and with a fresh set of eyes, you will see some patterns developing that you can use to make your Instagram feed pop, too. In this article, I will dive into a few tips you should consider when you're designing your Instagram feed, as well as identify a couple of tools that may help you get it done more efficiently. If you're just posting here and there when you feel like it, and don't have much of a game plan, it is definitely time to step it up!

Instagram can be a great tool for marketing your business, but only if you have people who follow you and are engaged with the information you are sharing. In my article, 13 Sure Fire Tips for Marketing Senior Portrait Photography, I talk about the importance of knowing who your ideal client is, as well as the importance of streamlining your marketing to appeal to that client. Your Instagram feed should be designed around those same principles. Once you know who your ideal client is, it will be easier to implement design tips on your feed to effectively attract and engage them.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”? While we often think of this in terms of face to face interactions, the same holds true for other mediums as well, and Instagram is no different. With Instagram’s grid layout design, the first 9 to 12 photos in your feed are your first impression to your potential followers and clients. Approaching your feed with intentionality and consistency will help you make the best impression possible.  The elements below are important to consider when designing your feed for success.

The Look

The first impression people have when they look at your feed is the look and feel of the first 9 to 12 photos. For this reason, it is important to go with a look that speaks to you and the brand you represent. For some people, this means sticking with a particular color palette, using a consistent amount of white and negative space in their posts, or shooting from a particular point of view.

The Story

As photographers, our images often tell stories without words. But using words to tell the story of the people or the circumstances surrounding the image will have an even greater and lasting impact. Whether it’s a story of a newly married couple’s road to the altar, or a young woman battling cancer, we can feel the powerful impact of the story, and it helps us connect. Never underestimate the power of story in your posts.

The Subject

The subject of your Instagram feed will vary depending on the type of photography you do, but from a marketing standpoint, it is wise to show the type of work that will appeal to your ideal client. That doesn’t mean every post needs to be an image of that particular type of photography, but your posts should have content that appeals to and engages that client. Some days it may be an image of a recent shoot, others it may be content related to that type of shoot, or an introduction to the photographer. Introduction posts are important because they allow you to infuse a little bit of yourself into your feed so your followers get a sense of who you are. When people they feel like they know you and your story, it helps them connect with you and your business even more.

The Images

This probably goes without saying, but make sure you are posting your best images. If you want to attract potential clients, your photos need to be beautiful and compelling. While a beautiful photo alone may not engage your followers, it is definitely a key component when photography is your business.

The Edit

Choose a consistent editing style for your Instagram feed. Ideally, this is a style that is representative of the type of work you do for clients. If your feed shows one style, but you prefer another for your client work, your feed will not attract your ideal clients. Show the type of work you want to do. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t ever change up your edits and showcase something a little different, but when you do, make sure you plan it out and lay out your posts in groups of 3, 6, 9, or 12. Again, when someone comes to your account, those first 9 photos will be their first impression of your brand, so maintaining consistency and posting what you want to attract is critical.

The Timing

Whether you post daily, multiple times daily, or some other frequency, just make sure you do it consistently. This is another thing that will help your followers and potential clients get a sense for who you and your brand are. You will also find that people look forward to your posts, and will engage more often if you are consistent.

So there you have it, a few elements that will help you design your Instagram feed for success. Did you pick up on the common theme running through each of them? CONSISTENCY. Consistency in Look, Story, Subject, Images, Editing, and Timing. Once you determine how you want to design your Instagram feed, be consistent and intentional with your posts. People do business with those they know, like, and trust, so being consistent and intentional with your Instagram feed will help your clients know, like, and trust you, and engage more quickly with your brand.


Knowing how you want to have your Instagram feed look and feel is a very critical first step in the process, but once you’ve made those decisions, you may be wondering how to go about actually making it happen. If you’re currently creating one Instagram post at a time, it may be hard for you to envision the greater picture, and visualize those 9 to 12 images people see when they visit your feed.

But, there are online tools available that can help you design and lay out your feed, and even schedule your posts in advance. Instagram won’t allow these programs to automatically post content for you, however you can prepare all of the content ahead of time, and then essentially just hit publish on the day of the scheduled post. The only time this method won’t work is if you’re off the grid with no access to the internet.

I have been using Hootsuite to publish to social media for quite some time, but they don’t currently offer an option to design and layout my Instagram feed. I can schedule and publish my posts to Instagram very easily with it, but I don’t have the flexibility of seeing my feed in the grid format and making changes prior to posting. For this reason, I am looking closer at Later and Planoly to help with my Instagram posting. They both offer the ability to visually view your Instagram grid before you hit publish. Planoly is all about Instagram, but Later allows you to publish to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all from the same dashboard. This is one of the main reasons I have chosen to use Hootsuite in the past. It allows me to publish to all of my social media accounts via one tool, which is a major timesaver for me. Depending on the social media platforms you use, I would recommend that you do a little research on the features of each, and choose the tool that best meets your needs. They all three offer a free option, as well as paid plans for additional features.

One other option for designing your Instagram feed that we haven’t discussed is Photoshop. As photographers, most of us are already using Photoshop as part of our normal workflow, so using it to design our Instagram feed may be fairly intuitive.

To create the grid template in Photoshop you’ll want to:

Photoshop Grid Layout
Photoshop template for Instagram Grid design
  • Create a new document that is 18 inches wide by 36 inches high at 300 dpi.
  • Create a guide layout
  • Choose View, then New Guide Layout
    • 3 Columns, 6 inches side
    • 6 Columns, 6 inches high
  • Lock the guides so they can’t be moved (Choose View, then Lock Guides)
  • Use your creativity to create your design layout from the bottom right to left and on up.
  • You can use the rectangle tool to add photo boxes to each square in the grid, or get even more creative in your design. If you stay with a simple photo box, just add your photos to the document and then create a clipping mask to format the photo in each square.
  • Once you’ve created your design, you can flatten, crop, and save each image in the order that it should be posted.


  • Instagram Grid Layout
    Photoshop template for designing an Instagram feed

Designing the layout in Photoshop may be more time consuming, however, because you will still need to schedule the post once you’ve designed the layout. But if you want to design a more creative grid, Photoshop will allow you to do that. Once you have each image ready to go, you can still choose to use a scheduling program to automate the posting process.

Regardless of the method you use to actually publish your content, being intentional about the content you post, and being mindful of how it will attract and engage your ideal client is the most important factor in designing and laying out your Instagram feed.

I would love to hear your ideas on Instagram feed design. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Please leave your comments below.

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