Telling a story with Instagram

A snapshot of the Humans of New York Instagram account.
A snapshot of the Humans of New York Instagram account.

If you’ve been using Instagram for a while, you would be aware of a very successful (and often very beautiful) account called Humans of New York. The Insta account has now grown to include a web page, Facebook page, and a book. It’s also spawned possibly thousands of storytelling sites just like it.

So can the ‘Humans of …’ idea be extended to journalism and news reporting? The Washington Post thinks so. They use Instagram as a storytelling platform and as a way to direct readers to content on their website. Here’s one example.

How do I get more Instagram followers?

Mainly by telling great stories, but there are some excellent tips here.

Soon we’ll start adventuring with interviews, so today we’re going to tell a story using a portrait of a person and a short interview with that person, in the style of Humans of New York.

If you’re really brave, you’ll try approaching a stranger (but please observe the social distancing guidelines that apply to us at the moment!)

Not sure how to front up to a complete stranger? Let HONY creator Brandon Stanton tell you how he does it.

  1. Find someone to photograph and speak to. You will need to record your question/s and your interviewee’s answers. You will also need to take a portrait of the person.
  2. Before you start, write a list of possible questions to ask. You can ask your interviewee about themselves and what they do, or you could ask about a current event or issue such as the upcoming US election.
  3. Ensure you have the full name of the person you speak with, and that their name is correctly spelled. Let your interviewee know that their portrait and short profile may be published on Instagram and/or Off Campus.
  4. Write up your interview in first-person style, as Humans of New York does (word count: minimum 300 words). You may take a little poetic licence with what they have said BUT be careful not to change the meaning of what was said.
  5. Add hashtags to the end of your doc that could be used on Instagram or Off Campus.
  6. Submit your photos to the MoPho class exercise folder with the written profiles. Save the photos as .jpg files, and the first person profiles as docs. Please include your name in each file.
  7. Publish your photo and interview on your WordPress site, using the WordPress mobile app (iPhone/Android)

TIPS: take more than one shot when photographing people. Try moving around to improve the background or the light on the person’s face. Sunglasses often diminish the power of a portrait because there can be so much feeling in a subject’s eyes – consider asking your subject to remove them if they’re wearing them 

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