Why (and How to) Set Up Your Own Instagram-Like Photo Stream

Last week, I talked about self-hosting apps on your own domain. Many of you, undoubtedly, switched off into Nerd Retaliation Mode, where you say things like, “I don’t know anything about this!” or “This is too much to remember!” And that’s cool – it’s a slightly nerdy topic.

But within those layers of nerdity is a useful tool. As I learned more and more about this, I figured out how to find a photo sharing setup that I’m pleased with, and today I’m going to show you how to do it.

Before we look at the how, I want to talk to you about the why: what’s the point of going through all these steps if you can just grab Instagram and share your photos that way?

I’ve got a few reasons…

Control

Instagram, like most apps, is closed. It’s a system that is shut off from the world. So if you don’t like something about it, tough noogies.

I’m a huge advocate for control over the apps and services that you use. That’s why I went into self-hosting apps in the first place: they offer me more control over what I’m doing.

I’ve considered switching to a Windows computer, or even a Mac, but those are ecosystems that are designed to keep me from digging in and making it work the way I want it to work. We all have things we don’t like about our computers – but only Linux (and in my case, Ubuntu) gives me the opportunity to figure out how to fix it and make it work even better.

You don’t like the interface on Instagram? Lump it. You don’t want Instagram to use your photos in advertisements? Hey, if they want to, they will. Sure, they changed the terms of service back again, but what’s going to stop them from doing it again? They’ll find a way – clearly it’s on their minds.

Since I’ve rolled my own photo stream, I have control over how it looks, how it acts, where the photos go, and who can see them. I can close off the whole thing if I want, or I can open it up for the world to see. But because it’s on my website that I pay for, I own those pictures 100%. I like that.

Do you really NEED another social network?

I’ll admit that I liked Instagram’s social network. Pure photo goodness in one stream? Crazy-awesome!

But once I took a step back, I realized something: what do I need this for? I’m on Twitter. I’m on Facebook. Pretty much everyone who is on Instagram that you might be interested in is already automatically sharing their photos on these social networks. I don’t need to “heart” or comment on a picture on Instagram. I can “like” it. I can retweet it. I can comment or @reply elsewhere.

It sounds like Crotchety Old Man talking, but seriously – what’s the point of THREE social networks? I use Twitter mainly for connecting with fellow entrepreneurial folks and you wonderful, wonderful readers, but that’s it. I use Facebook to mainly connect with friends and family that might be farther away, and that’s it. I used Instagram for… well, kind of a mashup of the other two.

If you can’t summarize in one sentence why you’re on Instagram, then maybe you don’t really need it.

How to set up your own photo stream

So let’s lay it out, step-by-step…

  1. Get a domain and hosting. I use HostGator, and if I ever have a problem, I can email them for help. They have a great FAQ section to guide me throughout the process, even if I don’t know anything about it. Remember: a domain is the “www.whatever.com” name that you buy, and hosting makes it available. Total cost will probably be around $100 for a year. Don’t have $100? HostGator will let you pay monthly for a few bucks. Seriously, it’s worth having your name on a .com.
  2. Already have a domain? Set up a sub-domain. Sub-domains have been covered in my last article on domains. I’ll show you what I used for mine in a minute.
  3. Install WordPress (*Note: holy cow, this will be easy.*). If you use a big-time hosting company like HostGator (or one of many others), there is virtually a 100% chance you’ll find a section called “One-Click Installs”. Find WordPress in the list, click “Install” and set it to whatever domain or subdomain you want. It will literally take 30 seconds. Then you’ll get an email with how to log in to your new WordPress site.
  4. Set up a pretty theme if you want. Here’s where it gets fun. You can mess around with the WordPress settings all you want – and you should – but go to “Appearance” – > “Themes” to search for a new theme to install. Easy tip: search for “photoblog”. That’ll give you plenty of pretty, free themes that will make your site look like a professional stream of photos. Again, one-click install and activate.
  5. Set up IFTTT. Go to IFTTT, create an account, and activate the following channels: Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. You’ll have to punch in your login details across the board. Then, create a recipe that says if a new post on WordPress is tagged with the word “photo”, then it will automatically post with the image on Twitter. Set up a second recipe with Facebook. (*Note: This will set up the photos to automatically share with both networks. If you want to pick and choose, you can set up different tags for each recipe.*)
  6. Install the WordPress app on your phone. Enter the information and login to attach your new site to your phone.
  7. Use it! Now, you can either take a picture on your phone and edit it in your phone’s photo app, then open your WordPress app and click the “camera” icon in a new post to add the photo to your stream, or you can just start in the WordPress app, click the same icon, and click “Take a new photo”. Either one will work. Pop the picture in the post, add a comment underneath it, tag it “Photo” and select the post type to “Image”. If you set up a shortcut on your home screen to create a new WordPress post with one click, then it takes much longer to explain this than actually do it.

All done!

You’re all set up. Like I said, it sounds much more complicated than it is. I find that the WordPress app moves much faster than any other sharing app I’ve used, including Instagram and Flickr. I’m really happy with how this turned out.

Want to see the finished product? You can see my Twitter stream to check out how the pictures are added to my Twitter stream, but you can click over here to see my homemade photo stream site. Pretty slick, hey?

Any questions? Tips? Adjustments? Opinions? Let’s hear them…

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