Business

Meet the top 20 Instagram photographers (gallery)

Image Credit: Michael O'Neal
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San Francisco art director Michael O’Neal (@Moneal) is fond of saying that a photo-sharing app called Instagram changed his life.

O’Neal discovered the app after relocating from New York to San Francisco. He perused the city, took photographs with his iPhone, and shared the best stuff on Instagram. Instagram’s community manager Jessica Zollman (@JayZombie) was impressed by his talent and placed him on the list of “suggested users to follow.”


Read more about the photographers who are now making a living through Instagram here.


A few years later, O’Neal is followed by over 500,000 people on Instagram and is regularly approached by ad agencies. Top Instagrammers like O’Neal are increasingly open to mobile photography “advertorials,” meaning they will work on creative campaigns with brands and nonprofits.

In the past, brands haven’t taken Instagram all that seriously, paying photographers as little as a hundred dollars for a day’s work.

So O’Neal worked with 20 of the top Instagrammers in the world, who formed a mobile “photography collective.” It’s a talent agency of sorts, dubbed “Tinker Mobile,” which negotiates on behalf of Instagrammers to ensure they are paid a decent wage.

For one of the first campaigns, Mercedes is paying five Instagrammers to drive across the country for five days, taking photos and sharing them Instagram. Whoever gets the most “likes” can keep the car, a brand new Mercedes-Benz CLA.

Without further ado, who are these top Instagrammers?

  • Most of the Tinker Mobile team have amassed over 100,000 followers on Instagram; a few have hit the half a million mark.
  • Most are American, but one artist lives in the Netherlands.
  • Some were featured on the app’s “suggested user” list; others have experienced organic growth.
  • They have almost all worked with brands in the past, including Nike and Warby Parker. Many have also worked for free with nonprofits.
  • It’s a fairly even mix of male and female photographers, who hail from diverse backgrounds.
  • Most are photographers by trade, followed by graphic designers and teachers. One of the most popular Instagrammers delivers medical supplies for a living.
  • They all take at least one iPhone photo a day.
  • Filters are a major “no no.” The artists are purists, who typically only use 1 or 2 basic photo apps. Snapseed is a popular choice.
  • The majority of the artists are based in New York City, a city that inspired their work.

O’Neal asked the Tinker Mobile collective to share one of their favorite photos — all taken with an iPhone. These are some of the most stunning, “liked” photographs in Instagram history. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite Instagram photograph in the collection? Let us know in the comment section below.


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