I love getting DMs from strangers telling me how they enjoy my Instagram feed. It makes me feel like my effort is worth it, and that’s what an aesthetically pleasing feed takes - effort!
In the midst of my personal story blog, I’d like to add more informative and helpful information on my page to give others the extra boost of inspiration that many gave to me. The tips I’m going to give throughout this post are not groundbreaking or new information. Rather, I’m picking and choosing tips I learned from other bloggers and making it into a list that has worked well for me thus far.
Being relatively new in the blogger/content creation world, I still have much to learn and far to go. But after enough DMs and Instagram poll responses, I decided to answer some frequent questions and hopefully inspire you to get out there and shoot! I will also include tips for those who just want to improve their iPhone photography!
**Honestly, I could write multiple posts on specific ways to improve your photos/feed, but this is an intro post to generally capture the important bits. If you’re curious to learn more about something I mentioned below, let me know in the comments or DM me!
Here are some key takeaways to improve your Instagram feed:
1. Stick to a Theme(s)
My bio says I focus on adventure, travel, lifestyle and love (couples). Some may argue that’s too broad, but I think it’s similar enough to go together nicely. The point is, you want to have a general idea of the type of content you want to create and the audience you want to attract. You don’t want to label yourself as a dog photographer, create and post a bunch of dog content to your Insta page, attract all the dog lovers, then start posting photos of cats. Take note of a couple photography genres that are your favorite to capture. Here’s a list to help brainstorm, along with some of my favorite inspo accounts that mirror those themes:
Travel - destination focused, featuring architecture, food, landscape and culture (@doyoutravel)
Adventure - nature/landscape focused (@reneeroaming)
Lifestyle - everyday life captured in unique ways. Often person-focused. I also put home improvement/decor under this category (@zoelaz)
Fashion - clothing focused! (@tezzamb)
Fitness - Fitness clothing, workouts, wellness tips (@carlyrowena) - Not just because I work with her!
Food - recipes, restaurants, all the noms! (@rachlmansfield)
Portrait - Photos of others (@samuelelkins)
Couples - Photos of others' love (@indiaearl) - Also our wedding/engagement photographer!
**For those that want to personalize your storytelling by being in your own photos, but don’t have a person to take them, you should master the art of the classic self-timer/tripod combo! This is what I did for years before meeting/training my husband Ryan to help take my photos ;) If you want to see this self-timer process (it's also how I take most of Ryan and I's photos together), comment and let me know and I can create a short tutorial!
2. Get Good at Editing
Editing is everything. The beauty of modern day digital photography is the ability to enhance what is already there. Every single successful photographer you follow with a high following is where they are because they mastered the art of editing in their own way. Honestly, you may be capturing awesome moments, but if your editing is lacking, your potential for growth is, too.
EDITING FOR DSLR CAMERAS:
The second most FAQ I get is what editing platform I use. The answer (and the answer you’ll get from almost every photographer) is Lightroom, and occasionally Photoshop for added post-processing if needed. The beauty of it is, nowadays, there is a wealth of information available on Youtube to get you started with the program you choose. You can quickly learn how to create your own presets (filters) if you so desire. Start with a style you like, and learn the best tweaks for capturing what you’re after! Tons and tons of photographers sell their presets, and there are also thousands of free ones, but as with anything, practice makes perfect!
This leads me to an important sub-point...
Create or Find a Preset you like, and Use it for Every Photo you Post.
The overarching takeaway to making your feed stick out is consistency. This includes using the same color scheme in your shooting as well as in editing. When I’m shooting, I stick to a neutral color palette/earth tones. So you’ll never see me post a photo in a bright pink shirt in front of a bright blue wall (though I don’t think you’ll ever see me in a bright pink shirt ever). Here’s a screenshot of my current feed. Notice the general cohesiveness with color and tones:
It’s tempting to use a different filter for each photo, but I promise your feed will be 10 times better if you use the same preset (or at least preset pack with similar tones) every time. It’s the same reason why brands maintain a consistent color scheme, logo and font!
Here’s a screenshot of my old Instagram feed when I posted whatever I felt, in no particular order, and used any desired filter. Not as appealing to the eye:
EDITING FOR IPHONE PHOTOS:
Use the VSCO app!! You can use the preexistent presets on the app or shop preset packs that download right to the app on your phone. I definitely recommend this, they’re cheap (~$5.00 for a full pack) and have more attractive filters than what’s on the Instagram app. Use the same logic as above (play around/YouTube tutorials and pick your favorite preset/stick to it) and apply it to your iPhone photos. You’ll notice a big difference.
I should note that choosing an editing style doesn’t mean it can’t change over time. But stick to it long enough to where your feed looks consistent, then experiment with different styles.
*TIP* An app that helps me immensely when planning my feed is the Preview App. You can upload photos and rearrange them to see how it would look on your grid before posting. I find that in addition to color scheme, alternating between close-ups, busy and negative space photos gives feeds a better dynamic. Your grid is more important than you’d think; it’s your first impression!
3. Better Gear, Better Photos (but it’s not as crucial as you think)
The number one question I get is what kind of camera I use. I can’t stress enough that my photography is not the way it is because of my camera. Up until very recently, I shot on a Nikon D5000 I got in 2009, which is literally selling brand new online for $200. Yes - I love my Canon 6D, and yes, the quality difference is substantial. But you’ve heard it before and I’m here to tell you again, an expensive camera will not automatically make you a photographer. Here is definitely what’s important when shooting, whether it’s with a DSLR or an iPhone:
SO IMPORTANT. I shoot with natural light always. When it’s sunny, shoot in the early morning or evening (aka when the sun is low), or find shaded areas. If it’s overcast, shooting anytime of day is great! Avoid using flash and shooting in overhead/direct sunlight. Some people make it work, but generally, these lighting situations create unwanted shadow casts.
Understanding exposure is essential when taking/reviewing a photograph. You don’t want the subject(s) to be washed our nor too dark. Some of this can be fixed in post-processing, but your editing time will be cut in half if an image is properly exposed.
** I like my photos with lots of contrast. This is just my style. I’ve seen a lot of rad feeds that have a muted contrast. It just comes down to personal preference.
Everything in your photo should be intentional and have a purpose! Framing can be made from cropping, but shoot with meaning!
It’s easy to point-and-shoot. But what really sets you apart from the rest is the manner in which you capture a person or a place. This is key when taking photos while traveling. Try different angles and zooms on the same subject. The beauty of photography is seeing something from a different perspective!
Once you understand the basics on what differentiates a “wow” photo from a “meh” photo, and you’ve had lots of practice, then it’s worth looking into better gear. If you’re a beginner and are planning on getting or already have a DSLR camera, it’s crucial to learn how to shoot on manual. This way, you have total control on your camera settings. Familiarize yourself with ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, how they all work together and how you can adjust them on your camera accordingly. Lastly, I recommend shooting in RAW format, not JPEG. They’re much bigger files, but that way you’re receiving everything your camera can give you.
4. Find Inspo and Keep Shooting
Lastly, spend some time on Pinterest and the explore page on Instagram and find your biggest inspirations. What’s their theme? Editing style? Save your favorite photos/pages and try to recreate them with your own twist.
Next, take your camera everywhere you go. Plan shoots or set out some time to let your camera lead you places. When traveling, there’s a balance between being content-focused and being in the moment. A solution to this is to dedicate a chunk of time in the morning or evening for content, and then putting your camera away to enjoy.
I love recreating moments through photography. I think it’s important to have a creative outlet of some sort, so if you think yours may be photography, get shooting! Hope this post helped you get started, and let me know what you think!