What is a Photo Dump and Why Should Marketers Care?

What is a Photo Dump and Why Should Marketers Care?

Find out how to come across as authentic and fun on Instagram with the platform's trending post format — the photo dump.

It’s tough to take anything with the word “dump” in it too seriously. And when it comes to Instagram’s latest phenomenon, the photo dump, embracing your silly side is half the battle.

Among the filtered, edited, there’s-no-way-her-room-is-actually-that-clean photos we expect from the platform in 2022, the photo dump has emerged — and it is glorious. Celebrities, influencers, and everyday folks alike are rejecting perfection and sharing photos that are blurry, sometimes ugly, and seemingly totally random. For all intents and purposes, it’s quantity over quality.

That said, there is some strategy involved in posting the perfect photo dump. Sometimes, it takes an awful lot of care to look like you don’t care at all. Here’s everything you need to know.

An Instagram photo dump is a collection of images and videos casually gathered together in one carousel post. Unlike a classic carousel of carefully selected content (for example, this Met Gala post from Kylie Jenner), a photo dump post is meant to appear uncurated, unedited and unposed.

Photo dumps often have a mix of “good” pics, blurry selfies, candids, goofy shots and maybe a meme or two. Here’s a good example of a photo dump post shared by Olivia Rodrigo:

Typically, these posts will contain 4 or more individual photos or videos (the more, the better—it’s called a dump, not a sprinkle).

The photo dump is vaguely reminiscent of Facebook albums at their peak early 2010s glory. It stands in stark contrast to the heavily edited single photo posts Instagram has come to be known for. It’s a phenomenon that rejects perfection and takes the pressure off of posting (or at least, it’s supposed to—no one can tell how long you spent actually curating your photo dump).

Like many of history’s greatest accomplishments, the rise of the photo dump is led by young women. Youtube star Emma Chamberlain is known for her photo dumps, which vary from a seemingly random collection of pictures to an up-close look at what appears to be a painful eye infection.

Photo dumps aren’t pretty — and that’s the point. Instagram has been criticized as an environment full of people pretending to be more polished and put together than they actually are, which isn’t authentic. And on top of being perceived as better on a moral level, authenticity is what sells. Brands want to partner with influencers who seem like real people, not one-dimensional internet personalities.

On top of that, photo dumps — or, more broadly, carousel posts in general — are good for gaining points on Instagram’s algorithm. At Hootsuite, we found that carousel posts get 1.4 times more reach and 3.1 times more engagement than regular posts. Users spend more time looking at carousel posts, which then favors those posts in the eyes of Instagram’s algorithm.

In other words, in addition to being a more chill way to post, photo dumps appear more authentic, are favored by the algorithm and make you more likely to get brand deals.

Bella Hadid has been dumping all over the ‘gram, too. Among her goddess-like supermodel shots, there’s also blurry carousel posts of ice cream melting:

Influential celebs with millions of followers have embraced the trend, so it’s only natural that others would follow suit (though it’s worth noting that grown adults with little social media experience have been posting bad photos online for years, and they never get any credit).

Which brings up an important point, actually: photo dumps are made to look thrown together, but constructing them has become a bit of an art form. Is there a difference between Emma Chamberlain’s eye infection pics and your aunt posting every picture from her 2014 family vacation on Facebook?

Yes, yes there is.

Okay, so you’re going for something in between “supermodel photoshoot” and “aunt’s Disneyland album.” Here’s how to do it.

Breakfast is the first and most important meal of the day, and your cover photo is the first and most image in your photo dump.

The first photo you select should be engaging—it should encourage the viewer to swipe through. There’s two ways to go about this.

First, you can make the first image a drop-dead excellent picture, one that’s similar to the classic polished Instagram photo. A high-quality, eye-catching photo gets your followers to swipe, so they’ll see the rest of your collection. If you’re Conan Gray, that might include a moody typewriter, cute cat and peeled blueberry:

Second method: make the first image something so random or weird that it’s intriguing. Pick something totally different from the traditional Instagram photo—something that will make serial scrollers say, Wait a sec, what was that?

After you pick your first photo, go hard on variety. Photo dumps can include good photos, bad photos, blurry photos, candid photos, screenshots of Tweets, memes you made while you were half asleep, old school pictures, concert videos. Truly, the sky (er, and your camera roll) is the limit.

If you’re a brand that’s posting a photo dump as part of your marketing strategy, you’ll also want plenty of variety. That might include ultra-beautiful lifestyle photos of your products, but also behind-the-scenes videos, inspirational content that will resonate with your followers or even content that’s entirely made by your followers.

This photo dump from Crocs is all UGC (user-generated content). It’s not too polished but gives off a super authentic vibe.

This photo dump from Netflix has a less curated feel—there’s a mix of behind-the-scenes photos, Polaroids and selfies, but it all centers around a certain theme. The actors are holding up two fingers, supposedly to indicate that Heartstopper was renewed for two seasons.

Overall, photo dumps are an opportunity to get a little silly, and overall be less precious about your content. Time to embrace imperfection.

As Aristotle once said, “Damn, captions are hard.” Despite the who-cares attitude (real or constructed), captioning a photo dump isn’t any easier than captioning any other post. We’ve got some caption ideas later on in this blog post, but in general, you’ll want to keep it short and goofy. An emoji or two never hurt anyone.

Photo dumps usually aren’t accompanied by paragraphs of heartfelt text—that sort of goes against the spirit of the dump. Take a deep breath. Type a few words. Do it.

Tools like Hootsuite’s Planner can both help you schedule your carousel posts and tell you the best time to schedule for. You’ll want to set yourself up for success by posting your photo dump at a time that is statistically proven to be a good time to post—when your followers are awake, online, and itching to double-tap.

Learn more about how to schedule Instagram photo dumps with Hootsuite:

As we mentioned above, photo dump captions aren’t all that different from Instagram captions on non-dumps (and on that note, here’s 264 captions for any occasion).

Being concise is the key to maintaining the chill photo dump persona. And the simpler, the better — many photo dumps are captioned with just the time or place the photos took place in, a few emojis, or even instructions to swipe through. To inspire you, we’ll start with this:

Manage your Instagram presence alongside your other social channels and save time using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish carousels, edit images, and measure your success. Try it free today.

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