What does it take to get your name in lights? Or at least … your photos noticed on Instagram?

We sought out some of Manitoba’s top Instagrammers (as chosen by you, our CBC audience) to get the answers to these questions:

  • What was your first Instagram post?
  • What’s your favourite Instagram photo?
  • What’s an Instagram pet peeve of yours?
  • What’s your biggest Instagram inspiration?
  • And finally, what’s your No. 1 Instagram tip?

Here’s what they had to say about making the most of the photo-sharing social media app.


Liz Tran

On Instagram since: 2011

Liz Tran has been on Instagram since 2011. ‘Photograph what you are truly passionate about,’ she says. (Submitted by Liz Tran)

First Instagram post:

My first public Instagram post was a photo of me and a polar bear at the grand opening of the Assiniboine Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit.

After I moved away for university, I felt out of touch with my roots in Winnipeg, so when I moved back home, I made an effort to reconnect and explore more of Winnipeg and Manitoba. 

The more I explored, the more I became enamoured with how much we have to offer and I felt inspired to share these experiences with my friends and the general public. I quickly realized how many unique experiences and beautiful sights we have to offer that people don’t know about.

Since that first post, I am always looking for hidden gems to share.

Fave photo:

My favourite photo is this one [of the aurora borealis].

Liz Tran waited months to capture her favourite photo. (Liz Tran)

What makes this photo/cinemagraph special to me is that it was my white whale, last summer.

I got the idea in April of last year, and began planning out exactly where and how I wanted to shoot it. I drove up to the lake every time there was a chance of visible auroras in the forecast, in hopes of turning my idea into a reality.

By September, after striking out several times, I was ready to give up on the idea entirely.

One night, the sky finally opened up and I was met with the best light show I’ve ever experienced.

As an added bonus, I was able to share this magical moment with a few good friends and we spent the entire night watching the auroras from the beach.

Every time I see this photo, I am reminded of my feelings of elation from finally being able to capture my dream photo, and I feel incredibly grateful to live in a place where beautiful sights like that are so accessible.

Insta pet peeve:

My Insta-pet peeve is how much of a focus there is on the superficial things such as the number of followers, likes, or features one has.

Through Instagram, I have met and became good friends with some incredibly talented people who still continue to inspire today; however, the digital space is shifting to a more competitive one.

As social media becomes more saturated with photographers and creators, it can seem like the real estate for your work to be featured and promoted is becoming less accessible and that we are all in direct competition with one another.

People might then start to fixate on and compare engagement scores, and this creates a toxic environment. My hope is that we can go back to making Instagram a positive and supportive community that celebrates art and artists!

Insta inspiration:

One of my Insta inspirations is travel photographer and Instagrammer Tiffany Nguyen (@tiffpenguin).

Not only is she incredibly talented and creative, she is also a dentist and very accomplished in the travel photography industry. Representation in traditional and modern media has always been very important to me and something I advocate for.

So I love seeing women, especially women of colour, succeeding in this male-dominated industry whether it is in front of the camera, behind it, or better yet, both!

Top Insta tip:

My No. 1 tip would be that it is important to photograph what you are truly passionate about. Whether it is travel, wildlife, wedding, or portrait photography, pursue whatever will keep you motivated on a daily basis. Like any skill, photography requires a lot of practice in order to improve.

So I encourage everyone looking to get better to study your craft and keep honing your skills. Just work on incremental improvements every day and you will notice a difference in no time!

Dennis Burnett

On Instagram since: 2011

Winnipeg Instagrammer Dennis Burnett. Don’t ‘put the app on a pedestal,’ he warns. (@suspect23/Instagram)

First Instagram post:

My first Instagram post was a reluctant one because it was an app that I wasn’t interested in getting at the time.

Back in 2012, Instagram was mostly just images of food, and I wasn’t even into photography yet.

My first post was a graffiti piece done by Peatr Thomas (@thunderbird431) on a large armoire I had in my apartment.

Fave photo:

I have a lot of favourite photos. I have a new favourite photo every time I go out shooting (ha ha).

One of my favourites of all time is of a man named Finn. Finn was begging for change on Maryland at Broadway during a cold spell in January 2018. I was actually on my way home after a lousy day of shooting when he caught my eye.

Dennis Burnett struck up a conversation and friendship with Finn, before taking photos of him for Instagram. (Dennis Burnett)

He was walking with his “anything helps” sign in between the rows of cars while they were stopped at the red light. I admired his hustle. He wasn’t just laying down and dying despite his misfortune, he was doing something about it.

I stopped and hung out with him and his service dog, Ripley, while Finn waited to meet a few more friends.

I got a few photos I really love that day, and I always say hi to Finn when I see him out and about.

Insta pet peeve:

A big pet peeve of mine on Instagram is the use of bots and ads.

Normal, everyday people who aren’t using Instagram to market a business are using automated bots to get fake likes and fake followers to look popular, for absolutely no reason other than to compete in an imaginary popularity contest.

I think it’s a waste of their money. I don’t like the clutter in my feed. In the direction Instagram is going, it’s getting harder for me to see what I want to see in what is supposed to be a curated feed.

Insta inspiration:

My biggest inspiration on Instagram is @yoshigrams [Josh Lavallee].

When I first found Josh, I noticed that we came from a similar place in that he was a skater and I was a BMXer, both on the verge of retiring and picking up cameras.

He shot skateboarding photos but more than that, he shot photos of the city like no one before him had. He was a Winnipegger who didn’t love Winnipeg and would have been anywhere else if he could have, but found a way to make his city something he loved.

He showed us Winnipeg in a new light, and that’s something I strive for too.

Top Insta tip: 

One piece of advice that I would give to anyone starting on Instagram right now would be to not put the app on a pedestal.

You don’t need to be Insta-famous, so don’t sweat the numbers.

It’s only one app and it’s great for showing people what you’re currently up to, but if you’re a business and you’re trying to get your name out there, it’s getting harder to do it without spending money one way or another.

Instagram should be used as a tool in addition to your website and your other media that you’re using to get your name out there. Instagram will not always be on top, and eventually everyone will get tired of it and move on to something different, so don’t let it be your only focus.

April Carandang

On Instagram since: 2015

Winnipeg Instagrammer April Carandang. ‘When you post something, try to complement it with a short story,’ she says. (Submitted by April Carandang)

First Instagram post:

I honestly can’t remember, so I went back on my account and checked. It’s a photo of beach sunset with a sailboat in the horizon. I uploaded it in February of 2015 and got 37 likes from my family and friends.

Fave photo:

2018 Canada Day celebrations at The Forks!

It’s my favourite photo amongst everything I’ve uploaded in Instagram. It shows the Canada Day crowd watching the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with Mise en Scene on stage, the Winnipeg sign all lit up, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in the background.

April Carandang loves this Canada Day photo she snapped and posted on Instagram. (April Carandang)

I like taking photos of monumental events and this photo got so popular that it won a few photo contests and got printed on a couple of magazines. That was really cool.

Insta pet peeve:

Too much “dark/moody” filter (+100 clarity +100 sharpening does not sit well with me).

Insta inspiration: 

Josh Lavallee (@yoshigrams) is my No. 1 “Insta-inspiration.”

The first time I saw his Instagram account, I was blown away. His photos motivated me to try and improve my photography skills. I met him a few times and realized that not only is he talented, but he’s also cool and down to earth.

Top Insta tip:

I think interesting content is the key. When you post something, try to complement it with a short story.

Posting a photo of a cup of coffee? Caption it with how you stumbled upon this quirky coffee shop. Posting a photo of this nice view from a hike? Tell the audience about how you slipped and fell on your butt before getting to it.

Everyone likes a good story.

Paul Epp

On Instagram since: 2013

Manitoba Instagrammer Paul Epp (and daughter). ‘Whenever you go out on an adventure of some kind, have your camera ready to snap a photo at all times,’ says Paul. (Submtited by Paul Epp)

First instagram post:

My first IG post was of a massive buck that I saw along Bishop Grandin driving home from work one day.

I actually saw the antlers above the long grass (as it was sitting). I went home, grabbed my camera, and drove back to the spot I saw it. It wasn’t there, and I was so sad!

As I sadly started driving away, I spotted it a little ways ahead, standing so majestically, with a doe in the far background up on a hill.

It is a photo that looks like it is in the middle of nowhere prairies, but was taken on the shoulder of a busy city street through the car window.

Fave photo:

This is tough to choose one, but I have to go with the photo I took in the Whiteshell Provincial Park a few springs ago.

Driving home at the end of a great day from our church’s annual fishing day, we spotted a thin fox jogging along the shoulder of the opposite lane. As we drove past it we saw a big bush rabbit dangling from its mouth.

I drove up a ways, and pulled over. Then we waited for the fox to hopefully continue its path.

It did, and I was able to snap a photo as it stopped for a moment, before it continued on down a side road and into the woods. I’m sure it was bringing supper home to its kits.

Paul Epp captured this shot on his way home from Whiteshell Provincial Park. (Paul Epp)

What I always hope for when we go out is to be lucky enough to witness a unique nature moment. I love trying to capture those moments, especially moments caught with different species interacting with each other, or with an animal interacting with its environment.

Insta pet peeve: 

Generally, I’d say negativity.

Whether its folks who use their IG platform at times to publicly expose someone who has wronged them, or assume the worst about the context of a photo. That kind of stuff always makes me sad.

I just wish IG could be a safer artistic space where positive encouragement and building each other up reigns. Love > Hate. #loveyouronlineneighbour.

Insta inspiration:

There are so many — most of them come from Manitoba! 

My wife and I have made an effort to connect with some IG friends outside the screen, and it’s been amazing what friendships have started.

One friend we have had the chance to get to know this year I would highlight is @jillianabrownphotography [Jillian Brown]. 

She inspires me due to her intentionality on IG to be a strong humble encourager of others, especially younger women! I’m excited for our two daughters to grow up and follow Jill’s journeys.  

She is also a Canadian paddling legend, doing so many epic canoe/kayak trips and capturing some incredible wildlife and outdoor adventure lifestyle stories and photos that make my jaw drop. 

The adventures that I go on, I go on because of the adventure. I just bring my camera along and try to capture moments of that adventure, rather than to go have the adventure simply for the photos you can get. 

She seems to have that same stye, which I love. There is a uniqueness/realness to that style and it’s more appealing to me.

Top Insta tip:

Whenever you go out on an adventure of some kind, have your camera ready to snap a photo at all times. Sometimes you only have a few seconds before the moment is gone, especially with wildlife.

Assume your National Geographic moment will present itself, so if it comes you’re ready to capture it!  Set your settings, take the lens cap off, keep your eyes open, be ready!



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