February 17, 2021
Brand Engine

Guide To Instagram Tags and Sharing

Whether you’re in it for dank memes, kodak moments, or digital advertising, the social platform has become both ubiquitous and unavoidable in our modern lives.

Ah, Instagram.

Instagram created an environment of sharing, and over-sharing, that sometimes seems like a no-holds barred free-for-all of content. Whether you’re in it for dank memes, kodak moments, or digital advertising, the social platform has become both ubiquitous and unavoidable in our modern lives.

But are we really living in a world of free content? (Spoiler: no no nope!) As a creative agency in the digital era, we’ve put in the time and experience to wrangle with the anarchy of the internet.

We understand that it takes a village, and we believe everyone who contributes should be fairly compensated, so what does that mean in terms of sharing images? Which content to use? Who owns it? When to share? Who to tag? Our perspective on this topic is different than your typical user, because we are a Creative Branding Agency and we are financially compensated for producing content for Instagram.  The financial exchange, and the client’s investment, change the value of the content.

Upon research, we found the rules don’t seem to exist. So what are the rules when there are no rules? It’s a wild wild virtual west, but even though there’s no official rulebook, there are some industry standards for Instagram etiquette. We decided to create our own etiquette guide, basing them in fact, copyright laws, and valuing the client’s investment.

To breakdown our typical set-up when it comes to content creation, here are the key players:


We were paid by the client for our direction, creativity, and execution.

As US copyright laws are today, the artist owns all rights to their created images and simply sell/transfer rights to their clients.  Any time this has been escalated or disputed, historically, they favor the artist.  Legally, you are renting images unless explicitly stated in your contract.


Paid the agency for the shoot.

We deliver the photos to you.  Everyone, including BE, have been financially compensated for the shoot.  These images are yours to use in the agreed-upon manner.

Creative Team

Paid by the agency or directly from the client for your services.

You received financial compensation for your contribution, time, effort, and creativity.


Paid by the agency or directly from the client for your services.

You have been financially compensated for your time, and having signed a Model Release, for the use of your image.

So, now let’s talk about tags.

Brand Engine

As the agency and creator of the images, we own them and can use them how we see fit.

However, as a Brand Engine rule of conduct, we do not share any images, even suggestive behind the scenes content, until at least 10 days after final delivery, or client use- whichever is later

When, and if, we share, we feel obliged to tag the client because they gave us the opportunity to create.


In return for payment, you can use the photos for the agreed upon manner.  Social media, website, print, whatever is outlined in your agreement.  Have at it, they’re yours to use under the agreed-upon terms.

Who do you tag?

Technically, no one.  But that also means you can tag whoever your want. You paid everyone for their time and you received a portfolio of images.

From an Agency perspective, all bases have been covered.  Client has their images, and all other parties have money in the bank.  The transaction is complete.  But then, here comes Instagram, “sharing is caring”, and free advertisement.  So let’s build out the next levels.

Creative Team & Models

Unless you have it written out in a contract, and possibly covering cost of the photography, you do not get any images.  Remember, you got paid money for your time and talent. If the client chooses to post a photo and tag you, by all means, reposting is totally cool. However, let’s set some standards:

- Don’t edit, crop, apply filters. Repost the content exactly as shared.

- Tag up, not out. If for some reason you want to write a new caption, you should tag WHO PAID YOU, not who you worked with. And you should definitely not tag anyone additional.  Tagging other creative team members is one thing, but tagging outside of those individuals is mooching and highly unprofessional.  

Example here would be if you’re part of a shoot for a retail or e-commerce store.  Tag the store and team, not the clothing brands.

Lastly, in this type of professional content creation, we believe you “tag” in the comments, not on the photo.

We all want to be noticed, however, in this type of content creation, tagging on the photo, to Brand Engine, feels like an attempt to siphon followers.  Tagging in the comments already creates the notification to the tagged individual/business, so let’s just leave it at that.  Enough is enough.

Sharing is caring (as long as what you’re sharing is rightfully yours).

Again, these are just our standards as Brand Engine.  We know people see things differently and that’s why we welcome conversation around this.  If you have insight, guidance, or a different line of thinking, please share it with us.

Brand Engine

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