With genres spanning from wildlife to landscape to still lifes and travel, here are seven photographers we’ve had our eyes on lately.
From pops of color to the return of the flash, Instagram has helped usher in some of the biggest photography trends of the year. And, as we face new challenges worldwide, it’s also served as a kind of global mood board. This March, live streaming on Instagram saw a seventy percent increase in views over one month, while some projections anticipate that Instagram will see the greatest gains due to our increased time on social media.
As many of us have coped with staying home, photographers and artists of all genres have pushed themselves creatively and inspired us in the process. Here are just seven photographers we’ve had our eyes on lately, with genres ranging from wildlife and landscapes to still lifes and travel, and everything in-between.
Court Whelan: The Wildlife Photographer
Beyond his work behind the lens, this Boulder, Colorado-based photographer also holds a Ph.D. in ecotourism and entomology, serving as an Expedition Guide at Natural Habitat Adventures, a World Wildlife Fund travel partner, and exploring all seven continents with an eye towards sustainability.
His Instagram feed includes stunning encounters with the planet’s most extraordinary creatures, from the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, the elephants of Namibia, and the hippos of Uganda to the sun bears, orangutans, and western tarsiers of Borneo, a species he spent nearly two decades pursuing.
“I am an ardent conservation biologist, and one of the things I find most valuable about photography is giving attention to little-known or little-seen things on our planet,” Whelan tells us. “The more exposure my wildlife photography gets, the more I feel like we’re doing to save the species in question.’
“As the author and ecologist Aldo Leopold said, ‘You cannot save what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.’ Photography introduces people to animals, and hopefully encourages us to fall in love, which hopefully inspires us to help save our wild world.”
For this photographer, Instagram has been the perfect place to share some of the stories behind his images. “This platform allows the photographer to add some personality and charisma into his or her photos via captions and little stories,” he says. “It allows for more connections than ever when it comes to showing people the world through your eyes.”
Plus, he’s gotten some unexpected opportunities through his Instagram following. “One of the coolest was a dance company in NYC that contacted me to use some of my photos as a digital background (via projector) behind their ballet about conservation and sustainability,” he remembers. “As my photos rotated behind the dancers, their choreographed ballet would change. Just imagine, one second an orangutan and next a swan.”
Pro Tip: “I think it’s key for emerging photographers to heavily curate what they share, but also realize that Instagram is a great place to experiment with different photos. Images you may not even have put as your album highlights from a particular project could be the most popular photos in the set. It’s also about consistency — plan things out so that you’re delivering high-quality photos as often as you can.”
Marianna Jamadi: The Travel Photographer
At her core, this photographer and writer is a storyteller, and her curious spirit and unquenchable thirst for adventure has led her to some of the most magical places on Earth. She left New York City in 2013 to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime backpacking trip around the world.
Her Instagram feed takes us off the beaten path and into the colorful streets of Baja California, the temples of Angkor Wat, the shores of the Peruvian Amazon, the sands of the Gobi Desert, the moonlit cabins of Colorado, and the sun-drenched landscape of Joshua Tree National Park.
“My Instagram feed represents a collection of memories I want to share and also personally document,” Jamadi tells us. “Professionally, it can be a quick glance of the type of work I do and a kind of working portfolio for potential new clients, but I enjoy sharing my work, mostly because it can bring the world to anyone, anywhere. Especially now, when traveling has changed globally, we can digitally travel to other parts of the world via Instagram.”
For a photographer who’s in constant motion, still images serve as an anchor for her memories, a reminder to slow down, and an escape into the unknown. To this day, many of the places she’s visited remain, in her own words, “imprinted into my bones.” She says, “My favorite snapshots are ones that include adventure and that inspire travel and movement.”
Pro Tip: “I like to view my grid before posting because I think of Instagram as a collection of images versus singular posts. Usually, when people land on your profile, they see the most recent nine to twelve posts. If this looks sloppy, there is less of a chance of people wanting to follow you. Think about it as a sort of first impression.’
“I use UNUM, which is free to play around with, to see how the grid looks before posting. I also use borders via the VSCO app, just because I think it frames the images nicely. I also love the app Unfold for story layouts, which can give a more editorial look and feel to your stories.”
Karolis Janulis: The Aerial Photographer
Born on the coast of the Baltic Sea and currently based in Vilnius, Lithuania, this self-taught photographer has traveled his country and the world with his drone, by hot air balloon, air glider, and more, transforming cities and forests alike into abstract aerial views. He’s always been drawn to overlooked, undiscovered places, traveling off the beaten path to reveal the beauty of the natural, man-made world from above.
Janulis was an early pioneer in drone photography, and he was also an early adopter of Instagram. “It was one of the first social networks where I started sharing my photography,” he remembers. “It was still quite a new tool at that time, but I realized that I could use it to show my art to a large, global audience.”
“Soon, it became the main place where I shared my work. I posted almost every day, added all the right hashtags, and was able to reach a community of aerial photography enthusiasts around the world. It was a great springboard for me. I still have pictures on my Instagram from my first flights, so it also serves as an archive for me, as well.”
Today, his feed is home to silky Baltic seascapes, lush greenery, scenes from the coast of Spain, and colorful urban geometries. Even after all these years on Instagram, he continues to push himself outside his comfort zone, challenging himself to explore new territory — and reach new heights.
Pro Tip: “My only tip is to be yourself and post photos that express your personal point of view. I want to see more originality! It is difficult to find truly interesting artists with a unique point of view. Let your creativity out. It’s not the tools or the gear that makes a photographer great — it’s your perspective.’
“If you showcase interesting photography consistently and keep at it for a long period of time, you will be noticed at some point by the right groups of people. I have received so many emails from people saying they found me on Instagram and they liked my feed. Your feed is part of your portfolio, so keep it professional and use it to express yourself.”
Dolphia Nandi: The Still Life Photographer
This Boston-based photographer and computer engineer has been an artist since the age of three, when she first took up painting — a lifelong influence you can still find in her rich, colorful, and exquisitely lit still lifes. On her Instagram feed, you can find an array of seasonal delights, ranging from farm-fresh cherries, handpicked raspberries, and coconut yogurt popsicles to cashew-coconut blondies, rangoli/mandala sugar cookies, and her mom’s signature rasgulla.
“I do mini-projects all year round,” she tells us. “For example, during summer, I work on iced desserts. During winter, I work on cookies and cookie box projects. During Diwali, I showcase exotic Indian dishes. Instagram truly challenges me to work and brings out the best in me. I meet new people in my niche, and it motivates me to work harder, as well as push my boundaries in my photography skills. I always try to outdo myself and constantly push myself to get somewhere better.”
Nandi shares creative inspiration on Instagram, but she also uses the platform to learn from others. “I think Instagram is a great place to get inspired,” she says. “For example, I get inspired by portrait photographers and still life artists and often use that for my food photography. I always give credit to the source, if my photograph is inspired by someone else.” Nandi’s Instagram feed reminds us of the power of food to foster community and connect us to what matters most — especially during quarantine.
Pro Tip: “I wish more photographers shared their struggles, like behind-the-scenes content showing the thought-process behind creating a shot. I want to see everything that went into creating a jaw-dropping image. Use your feed to showcase your best work, and then use Stories to show these behind-the-scenes tidbits, such as shopping, setting up, editing, etc.”
Tim Melideo: The Lifestyle Photographer
This San Diego-based editorial, fine art, and lifestyle photographer is also the creative mind behind Stay Classic, one of the first fashion blogs devoted to menswear; the Coyote House, a homestead located at the intersection of Pioneer Town and Joshua Tree; and Off the Highway, a curated shop of vintage treasures.
His Instagram feed combines his passions for photography, style, good food, and the landscapes and architecture of the desert, making it a perfect one-stop-shop for artistic inspiration. Browse his collection for modern takes on the New Topographics movement, pioneered by the likes of Stephen Shore and Robert Adams, vintage-inspired road trips through the American West, nostalgic storefronts, homemade recipes, styling tips, and more.
“I have been on Instagram since the tenth day, so I’ve seen it go through many changes,” Melideo tells us. “It started out as just another place to post random photos for friends. But, after Facebook bought it, it became much more of a tool to promote yourself and also make money with posts.’
“Without Instagram, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. It’s allowed me to make a living creating content by myself for brands, as well as having a way for brands and people to reach out to me, to make work directly with them, for them. I’ve also met a bunch of great friends and business associates through it.’
“I have done several projects that are geared more towards Instagram that utilize popular hashtags in order to increase my reach. I currently have a series that I am working on with interiors of estate sales, for instance. When I post those photos, I use hashtags geared toward interior design and vintage decor, as well as the art-related hashtags I typically use for my fine art posts on Instagram.”
Pro Tip: “I always tell people to just post quality content that is true to you and that will help define your feed and let you stand out. This is true outside of Instagram, too. Also, to help get an audience on Instagram, you have got to interact with other accounts and use hashtags. You can’t be passive and expect to get a huge audience.”
Ivan Kmit: The Landscape Photographer
This photographer and travel blogger got his start while working for a local newspaper in Ukraine, first as a writer, typesetter, and designer, and ultimately, a photographer. Over the last eight years, he’s done just about every genre in the book — from portraiture to still life — but he found his calling in landscapes. These days, he can be found hiking and camping in lush, wild places throughout his country and far beyond.
A visit to Kmit’s Instagram feed will take you on a journey from the peaks of the Carpathian Mountains and the French Alps to the idyllic villages of the Faroe Islands to the black sand beaches of Iceland, and more. For this artist, no weather is bad weather. The fog and snow just pose fresh opportunities for stunning, painterly images. Although he joined Instagram relatively recently, Kmit has built a loyal following by consistently posting beautiful work and hosting giveaways of photo books and souvenirs from his adventures around the world.
“I’ve been most inspired by the feedback I receive from people, like when someone prints one of my photos and shares a picture of it hanging on the wall, or when another artist using another medium draws a picture inspired by my photo and sends it to me,” he tells us. “I was also invited to participate in a charity exhibition for sick children, and I was very moved when they sent me pictures from this exhibition.”
Kmit has always felt driven by an innate sense of wanderlust, but recently, he’s also taken to heart the importance of preserving and protecting remote places — especially those overrun by tourists with cameras. “Once mysterious and inaccessible places have been photographed so much now, and that’s a shame,” he says. “I’ve seen so many photos of the same place now. I’d like to see something new — something unexpected. I always appreciate photographers who really stand out from the mainstream and develop their own unique style.”
Pro Tip: “Be honest and open with your followers. Share your skills. Tell the stories that happened offscreen, and find new ways to bring value to your audience. My goal has never been to win as many followers as possible at any cost, which, in fact, can be seen from my numbers. My advice is simple: Make thoughtful and exclusive content, and be very mindful about the selection of photographs that you publish.”
Rachid Dahnoun: The Adventure Photographer
This California-based outdoor photographer has traveled to some of the wildest corners of the natural world, from balmy rain forests to rugged winter landscapes. A look through his Instagram feed will take you on adventures close to home — around Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountains, and far afoot to the pink beaches of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, the uninhabited islands of the Flores Sea, the solar-powered “supertrees” at Singapore’s Bay South garden, the hidden treasures of northern Morocco, and more.
For much of the year, you can find Dahnoun backpacking through rugged terrain, traversing hundreds of miles to document remote backcountry lakes and tucked-away alpine gardens. For lovers of the night sky, he has breathtaking views of the Milky Way from some of the most iconic parks throughout the American West. He’s also worked with leading conservation organizations, including the National Parks Conservation Association, The Conservation Fund, and The Trust for Public Land.
For Dahnoun, Instagram serves as a vehicle for connecting with others, and spreading awareness about the beauty of the natural world and the road less traveled. “Instagram is where you can always find my latest work,” he tells us. “When I shoot new work, both personal and assignment, that is where it usually gets released first.’
“Instagram is the place to be right now if you’re a creative. I don’t know a single editor, marketing director, or ad agency that isn’t using the platform to scout talent. A lot of times, a potential client is going to check out my Instagram well before they visit my website.”
Pro Tip: “It is really easy to get pigeonholed on Instagram with your work. Creatives, including myself, have a tendency to post content that they know will do well with their audience. I would love to see people taking more risks with content they are passionate about, even if it might not generate as many ‘likes’ in the short term.”
Cover image by Smit.
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