I am currently subscribed to over 700 Instagram accounts... it's a little crazy, but I love it. I feel that, out of all of the social platforms out there, Instagram is the most personal. I've met so many wonderful people through Instagram, and it's such a great source of inspiration for me. The simple stuff in our lives is so gorgeous. It's so nice to take a moment and acknowledge that.
But when people come to your profile page, sometimes they can feel visually overwhelmed with clutter. When colors and imagery aren't cohesive, or different filters are being used, it's harder to look through for them to get to know you. Here are some well-done examples (and do ignore my 6% battery. Anyone else have issues remembering to charge their phone?!):
- The Blush Shop | A cute little boutique in Canada - their store looks amazing, and I love following along with their 'grams. Talk about having a solid vision for your brand! Check out all those sweet pastels.
- Designlovefest | LA blogger and style maven, Bri Emery has been knocking it out of the park for a long time. I attended a video workshop she hosted last January, and she is totally the coolest girl in school. Her Instagram account is legit - always bright, airy, and fun. When developing a style for your personal brand, this is a great account to reference.
- Bonnie Tsang | Bonnie is a photographer based out of LA and her images are soft, gorgeous, and moody. Also, she eats a lot, and I like that. Great reference for interesting angles.
- Amanda Marie | Amanda is a photographer based in Fort Worth (hey!!) and I think her account is a great example of having a very personal Instagram that still looks cohesive and professional. She's fun-loving, you feel like you're instantly her friend just from following her, and she's got a great eye.
I've compiled 6 simple steps that I feel are consistently true for Instagram, and when followed, really take things up a notch. Again, easy stuff! These are just some good parameters to start from - then let your life & creativity shine.
- Don't take pictures in Instagram. The camera quality when you're in the program just isn't as great as what your phone can do on it's own. You can also get crazy and take pictures with your point-and-shoot, then put those on your phone, but that's a pretty big process! Great for when you're highlighting a post you shot, but not necessary for the day-to-day stuff. Let authenticity do it's thing :)
- Use your camera's grid. Your phone has a built-in grid feature that is so helpful when trying to get a straight shot. Taking a photo from directly above or directly in front of an subject looks clean and graphic, and to do it right, the grid will come in handy. It just sets a thin grid set over the camera visual to help you line things up! To turn on this feature go to Settings > Photos & Camera > scroll down to Grid, and turn it on.
- If all else fails, over-expose. Photographer Jen Gotch is the queen of the over-expose. I love to use the app Afterlight for photo editing on my phone since the filters don't always get the me the light, airy quality I'm looking for - they're usually too yellow, or too contrasted. You can also add some light leaks and bokehs to your images in Afterlight - I'll be honest, I'm not the best at doing it authentically, so I'll leave it to people like Jen :) Overexposure happens in a camera when too much light is let in and the subject gets a little "blown out" - you lose some of the edges and contrast. It does, however, give a really dreamy, airy effect to your images. So if it's not quite right, or kinda blurry, you can try this route!
- Lighting, lighting, lighting. You may have the prettiest subject, but it just won't look as good as it could when you're under fluorescent lights. Morning light and light as the sun sets are the best - so golden and wonderful. Find spots in your home where the light is soft and pretty. Be flexible. That spot might be on the floor in your back hallway! Be willing to move stuff around - maybe you're out, and you need to move your items off of the dark table in the corner to the windowsill. Just go for it. You won't regret it!
- Watch for props. Speaking of objects in your picture, be aware of the objects around you. Is your brand bright and colorful? Maybe include a bright and colorful bottle of nail polish in your image. Next time you see a bright yellow door, get a picture of it. Is your brand soft and feminine? Maybe keep some dried baby's breath on your dresser and pull it out when you need a little texture in your picture. Get creative. When you spot colors/textures/imagery that's on-brand, consider using it in your picture. Lauren Chism is a graphic designer for Minted, and she is serious about her prop use when documenting her suites. Love that!
- Follow the basic rule of thirds. In photography class, one of the first things you will ever learn is the rule of thirds - that the most visually pleasing compositions occur when the subject is in the direct center, 1/3 to the left of the frame, or 1/3 from the right of the frame. There are some awesome photographers out there who get away with the tiniest subject peeking into a corner, and the image containing vast negative space. But you really can't go wrong with the rule of thirds! Use it. Trust it.
RESPECT THE CAMERA
You can get away with a lot on your phones now-a-days. I personally love using pictures from my phone in posts - I just think it adds such a nice touch of authenticity. However, don't forget the power of a professional camera, especially when it comes to your posts. If you have a point-and-shoot but are nervous to use it, watch some tutorials. Sign up for a class. Ask a friend to "model" for you for a few hours while you experiment with your settings. Or you may want to hire a professional! So worth it, trust me. If you have a friend who loves photography, get together. Plan out a look and feel for your shoot (share a pinboard! stretch your art directing skills) and make a day of it. You'll both end up with great portfolio content! Make sure your communication is open and honest (but still words of love, obviously) so that you're getting what you're looking for.
Does that make you nervous? 6 months ago, I totally felt the same way. I was so worried that whoever I worked with wouldn't understand my vision or if I shot it, it wouldn't turn out the way I wanted to. So I did this... I studied what it was that I liked. What is it about that photo that draws you in? What's the lighting like? Do you like moody and dark (Anna Bond, Jamie Beck)? Or bright and airy (Lara Casey, Bri Emery)? Figure out what that is! And on the shoot - get every angle! Shoot from above. Use your frame to make a different composition - you could even draw out different scenarios. Shoot through something - tall grass, a window pane. Just experiment. The more shots you have, the less of a chance you'll need to reshoot :) When I worked with Erin Woolsey, she told me that she used to carry a tiny notebook with her on shoots - when she came across a pose she loved on the internet, she would sketch it out in her notebook (even stick figures will do!) - then referenced that on shoots with her subjects. Great idea!
So, what do you think? Easy enough? It's at least worth a shot :) Study what you like, think through who you are and what that looks like, then get out there and do it! It just takes getting started. Feel free to comment with your Instagram handles! I'd love to follow you :) - and seriously, I don't judge Instagrams. I just want to get to know you!