The art of Instagram: how to grow your following

A few days ago I hit 300K followers on my Instagram page vladamua and it inspired me to write a blog about how I grew my following. All of the information I have right now is merely my own knowledge based on trial and error. I will be writing about my experience of managing a makeup page of original content and what works for this specific area. It may also work for other fields, so if you are interested to know what I’ve learned, please keep reading.

1. Specialize your page

It has to be obvious what your page is about from the first glance. Makeup, lifestyle, baking, painting… whatever you decide to post about, make it easy for people to identify in the first few seconds of their visit. Don’t post any irrelevant photos, most people who want to follow a makeup page will not be interested in what you’ve had for lunch today. You can start a separate personal page for your friends and family for this kind of stuff.

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2. Create unique and beautiful content

In my opinion, this is the most important thing about running a successful Instagram page. It doesn’t matter how many “shout outs” you get. If your content isn’t good, people won’t follow you. Figure out your strong suits and develop your skill.

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You can purchase this 300K Anniversary limited edition print here


3. Be consistent with your posts

Posting every day or even a few times a day is ideal. You will hit a larger audience if you post frequently. On my page vladamua I use product shots as my “fillers” for the page, they help me post often to maintain engagement on my page, they don’t require a lot of retouching and are less time consuming. Plus, they give me a chance to get featured on brands’ pages as well.


4. Work with brands

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 Both images were shot for Pat McGrath Labs

Big brands usually have a massive following, and they often share the looks that were created using their product. It’s a win win relationship: the brands get beautiful photos to advertise their products with and you get exposure to their following! Maintaining great relationships with brands is very important, these are your sponsors, supporters and potential clients.


5. Collaborate with other artists

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Photos and retouching by Julia Kuzmenko 

Models: Porsche Thomas and Laura Gude, makeup by Vlada Haggerty

Doing collaborations with photographers, painters, jewelry designers and even with other makeup artists can be very beneficial in several ways:

a) it can inspire you to create something new and out of your comfort zone;

b) it will help you grow as an artist;

c) it will expose your work to their following and vice versa;

d) it can create new job opportunities.

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Here is a wonderful example of how collaborating with another artist can result in something unique and beautiful. Check out Yoaila’s amazing creations here: Yoaila Jewelry


6. Watermark your photos

I can’t stress enough how important it is to watermark your work. When I think of all the times my work was shared without any credit and all the opportunities I’ve lost because of that, I want to say it over and over again. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s so much easier to prevent the image theft than to deal with the consequences. Ever since I started watermarking my photos, I noticed that my following started growing much faster. People can actually find me now!


7. Use a color theme on your page

The recent Instagram page trend is to color coordinate the photos on your page either by rainbow colors or just by having smooth color transitions between the photos. It looks very attractive and makes people stop for a moment and scroll through your feed. That’s essentially what you want: for your potential followers to stop and look at your work. Curiosity is what will make them follow you. They will want to see more of your work in the future! It can be a little tricky if you only post original content and requires a lot of planning and thinking ahead, but the result is worth it. Another option is to incorporate other people’s work into your color theme, but please be mindful and respectful and credit the photo you’re using.

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8. Keep growing as an artist

If you want to have loyal followers, you will need to keep it interesting for them. I often unfollow pages that post the same makeup looks and don’t develop as artists. Practice your skill, upgrade your gear, learn new techniques and stay on top of the trends. If you keep people inspired, they will never unfollow you.

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Shot on Juanuary 8th, 2015  

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Shot on May 30th, 2016


I really hope that this post can help you grow your following and expand your audience. After all, the amount of exposure your art gets is most important when you start to establish yourself as an artist. I wish you the best of luck in this amazing adventure!

Giving credit where credit is due. Why is it so important to credit the artist?

I work in the beauty industry and mainly use Instagram to promote my work, so I run into this problem a lot. This blog post has two goals: explaining why it’s so important to give credit when reposting other people’s work and advice on how to protect your art. I hope that you find some useful information in this post.


Have you ever seen a beautiful photo on Instagram and thought: “Oh, this is cool, I’m gonna repost it”? You didn’t tag the photographer, makeup artist or the model in your reposted photo and think that it’s no big deal, it’s just a photo. You’re right, it is just a photo to YOU. But for a working professional, someone who makes their living and pays their bills by freelancing, it’s not JUST a photo. It’s hours of hard physical and intellectual work and it’s their personal ad.


I would like to tell you a little about how the images are created and why it’s so crucial to credit the artists.

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Here’s what goes on into creating a single image when I shoot it myself:

  1. sketching out the lip art – about 15 minutes
  2. preparing for the shoot (adjusting the studio lighting, replacing the batteries, hooking up the computer, cleaning the brushes) – around 10 minutes
  3. creating lip art – usually about an hour depending on the difficulty
  4. taking photos – 30-45 minutes
  5. uploading to computer and selecting the right image – approximately 30 minutes
  6. retouching the image – approximately 1 hour
  7. adding the watermark, putting together the caption, uploading to Instagram – 15 minutes.

So, to add up, creating of ONE single image takes about 3 hours. That’s why I deeply appreciate when people repost and credit my work properly.

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This is just when I shoot it myself.

When there is a team involved, creating one image worth sharing may take over 12 hours: preparing a mood board, contacting a model agency, booking a model, driving to the location, setting up a studio (often photographers have to pay to rent a studio just to test a free shoot to expand the portfolio), doing makeup and hair, changing outfits, shooting… Normally, a photo shoot takes about 6 hours and the retouching time is different for each photographer. All this effort is put into 3-5 final images that the team uses for the promotion of their services. This is their intellectual property, something they put their creativity, skills and hearts into.

Photo and retouching: Kateryna Chelombitko http://www.chelombitko.com, model: Anna Zaitseva, makeup and hair: Vlada Haggerty

So, after all this hard work is done, they upload the photo to social media in hopes that a potential CLIENT will notice their work and it will bring them PAID work. We don’t just upload pretty pictures because we want validation from other people. It’s an investment into our business. We don’t have job security, medical or dental, we have to push every single day to make our art support our living.

Photo and retouching: Julia Kuzmenko http://www.juliakuzmenko.com, model: Lauren Johnson of Nous Models, skin work, hair: Lupe Moreno,  makeup, nails: Vlada Haggerty

So what happens when you repost a photo with no credit?

Missed opportunities

When a photo gets reposted over and over again with no credit, it’s easy to lose track of the author. In all reality, this connection is lost after the very first repost. You are limiting the author in potential JOB opportunities.

My personal example of this would be my Rose Gold lip art incident. This lip art has been reposted so many times that there was no connection to me whatsoever. At the time I didn’t watermark my photos because I didn’t think it was necessary. I had to learn the hard way. If the people who had reposted my photo gave me credit, the big brand that used my image as an inspiration could have easily found me and I could have potentially been hired for a project. Instead, this image will always be associated with a brand that I have no connection to.  Because my art wasn’t protected, they used my art work for their promotion for free.

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Missed followers

Social Media is a whole separate world with its own currency. Do you know what it is? Followers! The more followers you have, the more respected on social media you are, the more opportunities working with brands you will get, the more exposure your work will receive. So, every time you repost a photo without giving credit, you are virtually robbing the artist of exposure and potential new followers and limiting their success.

It’s illegal

Copyright infringement is a big deal and you can potentially get sued for the misuse of an image.

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Artists. What can you do to prevent image theft?

  1. Watermark all your photos. No photos should ever leave your computer ‘naked’. I know, some photographers think it’s ‘tacky’ and ‘unprofessional’, but times have changed. We don’t rely on print work anymore, our digital art is traveling thorough the Internet with no restrictions. You wouldn’t leave your bike with no lock in the street, would you? Then why don’t you put a lock on your intellectual property? Preventing is way easier than dealing with the consequences. Trust me.

  2. Always ask to credit you if you see your image floating around, even if that account has 5 followers, you need to get credit for your work, because a 1 million account can see your photo and repost it without crediting you or even worse, credit that other account that reposted your photo. You don’t want to deal with this confusion.

  3. Report copyright infringement. If you asked them to credit you and they ignore your request, report the copyright infringement. It’s not difficult if you do it from your computer. All you have to do is fill out a form and provide the link to your original content. Instagram will take care of the rest and remove the photo, so you don’t have to ever come back to this issue again. And, hopefully, it will teach that person a lesson.

  4. If you see someone else’s work being misused or not credited, speak up, tag the original artist and credit them. Together as a community, we can fight it. Help out your fellow artist friends.

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Photo by Michael Meltser http://www.4mmphoto.com, Retouching by Svetlana Ivanova, Model: Rachel Lipitz, Makeup and hair: Vlada Haggerty

Thank you so much for reading, I truly hope this was eye opening to someone and to someone it was a leap of faith. Please let me hear your thoughts on this matter.

Makeup Artist’s Ethics On Set: How To Keep A Gig

IMG_0538Have you ever wondered why some makeup artists get hired over and over again and some only get hired once? It takes much more than just being amazing with your brushes. I hope that this post helps you improve as a professional and get more work.

As soon as you start planning a photo shoot, doesn’t matter if it’s a test or a paid gig, you will be evaluated by the team members. So, it’s very important to make the best first impression possible. The photographer, the hair stylist, the wardrobe people will be watching you and every little detail can make it or break it for you. Here are some things I consider the most important in making a great first impression and secure your relationship that will guarantee future work:

1. Communication.

Even before the actual shoot date it’s very important to be easy to reach and responsive. People appreciate good communication that makes the planning go smoothly and stress free.

2. Punctuality

Appreciate everyone’s time and be on time or even 10-15 minutes early on set. If you’re running late, which is quite possible if you live in a large city like Los Angeles or New York, make sure you notify the photographer or the person who is responsible for planning the shoot, in advance.

2. Personal appearance.

As beauty professionals, we must set an example and be pleasant to work with. I’m not saying you have to wear a full face of makeup, in reality, most professional makeup artists don’t, but having a nice fresh face, manicured nails and clean styled hair will help people trust you. I would also recommend to not wear strong perfumes on set. You will be working with a team of people and you definitely don’t want to irritate anyone with an overbearing scent. One tip I learned from an amazing photographer Julia Kuzmenko (www.juliakuzmeko.com) is to wear dark clothes on set. That way your outfit’s colors won’t reflect on the model’s skin when you’re standing out of the frame and the flash goes off.

3. Keep it clean!

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I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your kit and brushes clean and sanitized. Make sure you sanitize your brushes and products throughout the shoot and it is better if your client or the model sees it. Don’t let anyone assume anything, especially if this is your first time working with the team. I always carry my favorite brush cleaner by Cinema Secrets (it dries immediately, so you can clean the brush and use it seconds later) and 99% alcohol that I keep in a spray bottle (UPDATE: it was brought to my attention that 99% alcohol evaporates too quickly and it’s better to use 70% alcohol instead). Important thing to remember that bacteria don’t just live on the brush bristles, but can also spread to the brush handle. It’s very important to sanitize the entire brush.

4. Know what’s appropriate.

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Photos and post by Julia Juzmenko (www.juliakuzmenko.com)
Model: Morgann of Nous Model Management

The best skill you can develop as a professional makeup artist is knowing what type of makeup is appropriate for a certain job. If you go too heavy on the makeup for a commercial shoot, most likely they will have you change it and chances are, they won’t call you again. There is time and place for creative makeup and that is what the test shoots are for. On a commercial shoot clean makeup is what the client usually wants, so try to master it as soon as possible. If you are not sure, ask for reference photos.

5. Put your phone down.

Don’t be on your phone when the model is in front of the camera. Makeup artist’s work doesn’t end when the makeup is done. Your best place on set is right next to the photographer at all times. It’s not easy for a photographer to take care of the lighting, framing, focus and making sure the background looks right. With all of this, they won’t necessarily see every single makeup detail that might need fixing. Trust me, a photographer will appreciate you taking the time to fix a little smudge on the lips or blotting some shine or even fixing a stray hair, because it will save them a lot of time in the post production! Don’t wait to be called to fix something, be one step ahead at all times.

5. “No amount of makeup can mask an ugly heart”- Kevyn Aucoin.

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I’m convinced that your personality and ethics are 80% responsible for getting you rehired. As much as we all care about being technical and perfect at our skill, being a nice and pleasant person to work with is just as important, if not more.

These are the areas that I personally focus on and have found to be the most important for maintaining work as a professional makeup artist. That being said, I believe that these qualities apply across the board in life.

What other things do you think are important? Let me know in the comments!