My Instagram Journey & Some Tips

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Instagram’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve felt stuck in a rut, not happy with my content and unsure of my direction…

Obviously for those not that into Instagram (find me here @stylonylon)  this may sound a bit over the top. But for those as equally obsessed engaged I think you’ll know what I mean. Some days your pictures and captions just feel right, like you nailed it (the likes and comments come in thick & fast), other days it feels scratchy and forced and you feel like you’ve come across all wrong. But I guess that’s like any creative endeavour. It’s just that feedback is not always quite so immediate and realtime. But (so I keep telling myself) surely getting so caught up in response rate should really be disengaged from the project you’re pursuing. But it’s hard, innit?

Looking back…

A year ago, I started looking at my gallery as a whole. To make my pictures look more cohesive and pulled together when displayed next to each other, I started desaturating and editing with just 2-3 different filters. I also focussed on bright, light backgrounds. I saw quite a fast reaction, as I think my feed had become more visually digestable. Within a couple of weeks I was getting 60 new followers a day. This lasted for nearly eight months which saw a fantastic boost to my followers. Within this time I tried to improve my content constantly, the pull towards trying to make my page stricter and more curated. But…

Cohesive colour

A strict colour palette is something I’ve always struggled with. The world is full of too many exciting colours and things and I like to photograph what catches my interest. But as you can probably see, I do limit myself. However, many feeds make a mix of vibrant, crazy colours their personal aesthetic. You just have to figure out what’s yours, what you are drawn to, what gives you that little fillip of sparkjoy.
Topdown cup and hand shot...
Topdown cup and hand shot… experimenting with hand shapes is the key here!

Content curating

Being strict about content (another Insta practice that seems to reap results) is something I find equally hard. I love clothes, but life and photography to me is so much more that just clothes – it’s nature, food, cities, landscapes, books, going out, people. Yet a curated story is something that people respond to. Choosing just 4-5 themes or types of shots is something that works well for successful Instagrammers. Food for thought…

Unified aesthetic

There’s a lot of light and bright in the blogger world and while I love this style and have mainly created images in this vein, I’ve often find myself drawn to more somber, moodier, darker accounts. I also find the photography more interesting to look at. A new camera with whizzy settings  is letting me experiment with this in camera, rather than in post-editing and it’s a really interesting process. The goal is to create an aesthetic that unifies your pictures in their gallery.
Detail shot showing you, but not all of you!
Detail shot showing you, but not all of you!

Showing yourself

Even Sophie Ellis-Bextor in her recent Kim Kardashian Instagram experiment (she had to copy Kim’s photos for a week!) found that her  followers liked seeing more of her. And someone I met recently said she’s loved getting to know me better since I’ve posted more of myself in recent times. The rub is good pictures of yourself really need to be taken by someone else, so suddenly the photography is no longer yours which is weird. Tripod & self portraits are, of course, the answer if you don’t have an Insta husband or wife but trust me, can be pretty time consuming. However, at least you have full control of the image. I find the processes two very separate things, and I don’t think I’ll truly find peace with it all until I can reconcile pictures of the other and of myself under the same umbrella. But the problem is I can’t see myself in a picture or as a picture the way I see other things. (Amend: I can see parts of myself in a photo though, like the shot above.) I thought it interesting to read from Laetetia recently that she plans to spend more time behind than in front of the camera from now on, the thought of which is very enticing to me. But then, if you’re into clothes and style how else best to share style than on yourself? And I do love all the interaction that comes with it – thankyou for all the lovely chat on Instagram! I think this will continue to be unresolved for me. I’m not a blogger model type – I find posing hard and I find getting shots of myself a struggle – plus I am the principle photographer for this site, so uh, hmmm… Might have to come back to you on this.
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The drops of water made this shot feel more alive to me…

Hashtags

I used to poo-poo these and not bother. But recently I’ve noticed accounts seeming to have great success with these. Made easier by the related hashtags that run across the top of the page when you click through on one. The goal is to make it into the selected top 9 to gain traction. A mystical Instagram algorithm is behind this, something to do with speed of likes within certain times, not just number of likes, though it does often seem to be the really big accounts who feature. Anyway, I’m testing this out.
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Loved the movement of the gulls in this, the rain was lashing down and I had to shoot fast…

Quick fix tips

| Post at busy times. I used to think this was just lunchtime and after work. But first thing, between 7-8.30am and late evening at 10.30pm have been working really well for me. Friday all afternoon too! Also despite the so-called weekend abyss, I find weekends work just fine.
| Post a nice combination of pictures, mixing up detailed, negative space, busy and not busy shots for a nice balance.
| Look at the first and third picture when deciding whether your next picture will work as these will be adjacent to your latest post.
| Browse and delete to make your gallery work better. I often do delete – if a colour is jarring, or composition doesn’t balance well – to make my top nine ‘quilt’ look as best as it can.
| Do think about your caption. Try and give it more than just face value. A little humour goes down a treat. As does sharing something about your day.
| When shooting top down, make sure your phone/camera lens is angled really flat to get the best looking shot.

Going forward

So to get out of my rut, I’m trying out a new style of photography (darker and moodier, less soft and bright), being harder on myself and trying to post only those shots I know are absolutely right. Plus working harder on my captions. Theme wise, I still find the idea of limiting themes constraining but I will to keep the focus on clothes, home, cafes, coffee and city.

So…

How are you feeling about Instagram these days? What’s your approach?

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3 Comments

  1. Interesting post, I always love reading about Instagram – it’s the BEST!

    I always hated hashtags but experimented with them a few weeks ago (using the maximum of 30 on basically every post) and my follower count is growing so much quicker. I guess they really do help people find content they like, even if they can look a bit desperate(?).
    Becky :: accooohtrements.wordpress.com recently posted…A long weekend in Paris, pt. 2My Profile

    1. Yes, absolutely! It’s such a fine balance, haha! 🙂 glad you enjoyed the post, always fun to write about to! 🙂

  2. Lovely post, Julia. I thought you might also enjoy fellow PEN-F user, Anthony Bogdan’s insta feed, and his wife Caroline. Beautiful muted pics in Copenhagen. (And they have a Frenchie too, which helps!) X