How to choose the right hashtags for Instagram

Posted on April 19, 2018 by Gemma Russo

Want to know what it takes to be featured in the top posts on an Instagram hashtag?

We’ve researched top posts using the niche of product based photography to find out what it takes to be featured. With these findings, we’ll give you insight to help drive your Instagram strategy.

Read on to find out what it takes to be featured as a top post and to see how you can use these findings to gain greater exposure on Instagram.

How to choose the right hashtags for Instagram

Why should you use hashtags on Instagram?

Instagram is a rapidly growing platform. A primary place for visual content, the social network is used successfully by thousands of businesses to promote their products and services.

By targeting specific hashtags, which can be thought of as keywords, you are increasing your chances of engagement. Engagement on Instagram can mean both brand reach within the target audience and proactive engagement from the target audience on the platform.

Depending on your target audience, you should be choosing up to 30 different hashtags based on your industry and the image you’re using.

You can add these either under the description, or in the comments section of the individual image.

Researching popular hashtags

To ensure increased brand exposure and potential engagement via the use of hashtags on Instagram, we have researched and selected over 50 hashtags within the niche of product photography that could be used within the photo description.

We further analysed the data for the selected hashtags to find out what makes a ‘top post’.

Knowing what makes a top post within a given hashtag is important to find out the best chances of your image being featured, which can in turn increase the potential traffic and effect of each post that is to be shared via Instagram.

What does it mean to be featured in the top posts?

There are two ways in which your content can be seen by others when using a hashtag.

  • The first is via the hashtag timeline. It features all current posts in a chronological order and shows you all of the images that have recently used the hashtag. Depending on the popularity of the post, this could move quickly, decreasing the chances of being found organically.
  • The second is via the ‘top posts’ grid for automatically selected posts (a total of 9 posts for each hashtag on desktop and a scrolling list on mobile) based on the recency and total engagement. Being featured as a top post effectively makes your image ‘sticky’ for a while, increasing the chances of it being found by people who are interested in that hashtag.

Top posts

Our findings: How to increase your chances of being a top post

From our data, there is a difference in the average number of likes found in the top 9 posts (without need for scrolling) of a hashtag based on the popularity of a hashtag. But this is largely influenced by the recency of a post.

Talking of recency – Instagram top posts are not always as recent as you may think.

We found an example of a top 9 image that was over 450 days old on a hashtag with near to 10k in use. This shows that although recency is taken into account for the top posts grid, if you have amazing engagement then your post could have some sticking power on the right hashtag.

For hashtags with a lower number of total posts, due to the low competition, chances are considered to be higher to feature. When the hashtag is used rarely by Instagram users, it also ensures longevity of the post in the Top Posts section.

Example: If a hashtag has only 3,500 posts in total, using the hashtag and getting enough engagement to be featured in the Top Posts section would mean that the next time someone searches this hashtag, chances are they will be able to see your photo in ‘Top Posts.’

Based on the above findings, we would suggest an Instagram hashtag strategy that implements both highly active hashtags (with higher number of posts) and hashtags with lower activity (with lower number of posts) to increase chances of being featured both in a highly active hashtag for a short period of time and in a lower active hashtag for a more long-term promotion status.

We’d also suggest maximising the chances by choosing up to 30 hashtags (which is Instagram’s limit).


The nitty gritty

Here, you can dive into the data and our industry specific findings:

Hashtags by Category

We investigated hashtags that could be relevant to product-based photography and grouped them into five categories:

  1. Flatlay Photography
  2. Photography (General)
  3. Product Photography
  4. Photography Studios, Agencies, Experts
  5. Photographers (General)

Here is a more detailed overview of each hashtag category and relevant insights and advice about the use of the selected category of hashtags.


This hashtag group is primarily used by professionals, but it also attracts some enthusiasts or people who are simply interested in flatlay.

This hashtag group has a few prominent and highly popular hashtags with above 15,000 total posts.

It is notable that this hashtag group is primarily female (89.1%) and also has some of the highest negative sentiment ratios of all groups investigated.


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The photography hashtag group are some of the most popular and widely used both by photography professionals and everyday enthusiasts.

The group contains both popular hashtags on the platform and some more obscure ones that are primarily used by photography professionals.

The demographic is rather balanced (58.3% female) and the hashtags and posts receive predominantly positive sentiment.


#Product photography

This group of hashtag is aimed to target the specific niche of product photographers and industry insiders. Even though the hashtags receive lower amounts of traffic (as noted by the lower amount of posts), we strongly believe that in contrast to ‘Flatlay’ and ‘Photography’ groups, the hashtags in this group are primarily used by experts and people within the target group of the backdrops product.#ProductPhotography

Similarly to photography, this hashtag group is balanced in demographics (59.1% on average female). However, the average sentiment tends to be predominantly neutral.



PhotoStudio is another hashtag group aimed at reaching specific industry individuals and groups within the target spectrum. The hashtags vary to reflect a bigger potential audience of people who would be interested in the product and the brand. The demographics are balanced (52.75 male), while the sentiment is positive to neutral.



The photographer hashtag group is aimed at targeting photography experts at a more individual level via the use of the right hashtags.#Photographer

Even though this group also has a traffic from enthusiasts, it is primarily used by professionals within our target audience and/or their circles. The demographics are balanced to male (62.5% male), while the sentiment is more towards neutral.

(*Note: Some popular photography-related hashtags, such as #instapic, #dailyphoto, #instaphoto and similar have been excluded from the report, due to the high ratio of enthusiasts and the high diversity in the range of photos, compared to the selected hashtags, which while do have some enthusiasts level of engagement, are far more focused and targeted in terms of audience.)


Data sources:

  • Analytics data on the sentiment and demographics provided via and reflect the use of the hashtag for a period of a week. (19-27 Feb, 2018)
  • If you’d like further information on this study, email us at

How to use these findings to drive your strategy

If your Instagram profile is largely focused on product photography, you can compare the number of likes and comments you would expect for a given post and compare directly against our findings to find the right hashtags for you.

If you’d like a more up to date look – or want to compare your figures to a different niche, we would advise checking the top posts grid of potential hashtags to manually compare all 9 posts against your average.

Also, when it comes to Instagram, it’s always worth remembering that it’s a community.

Engaging with posts within the hashtags that are important to  you is a great way of increasing exposure of your posts and getting noticed by your target audience.

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