If I know anything in this big world of ours, it’s how to take an Instagram photo. I know that’s silly and seemingly shallow but I love Instagram because it feels like an escape during the day. Although I hate the culture it creates of having to constantly live a beautiful and perfect life (more on that in my post about my struggles with blogging and Instagram here), I love seeing how creative people can get in a tiny square frame.
I get a lot of emails and questions about my Instagram so I thought I’d put together some of the tricks that I use to take great photos, post at the right times, and create a micro-blog on my favorite social media platform.
Let’s start with taking a great photo, shall we?
1. What’s in the frame?
This photo is a good example. I probably took 15 versions of it before I got it right. One had the right side of the flowers cut off, another version showed the shadow of a candlestick on my table (which I moved as soon as I noticed it). Take your photos carefully and deliberately, nit picking every section of it before you choose a final image to post. Some things to take into account: How much white space do you have? Is there clutter in the background? Is there too much or too little going on? Everyone has a different esthetic but I find that in my lifestyle shots like this one, I like to have 3 objects with some white space so that the photo looks clean but still interesting.
I’m lucky that my husband is a great photographer. We use his DSLR camera for all of the photos you see here on Lemon Stripes and I often use his more professional images on Instagram as well. I know that’s not always realistic, but that’s ok because you can still take great pictures on a phone! You can try different apps like VSCO Cam or, like me, just use the regular ole’ iPhone camera.
When using my phone, I always make sure there is enough light in the space. If it’s too dark, the photo comes out looking grainy and yellow. No matter how great the photo is though, there’s always something that you can improve, which brings me to…
3. Photo Editing:
There are a ton of great apps out there for editing photos on your phone. I love Snapseed and use it for almost all of the images I post. It takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes to edit each photo, it’s always a bit of a test to see how it turns out! The features I use most often on Snapseed are:
– Brightness: 100% of the time I brighten my photos
– Warmth: I usually lower the warmth so that the images don’t have any yellow hue to them. Yellowness is a big pet-peeve of mine
– Selective Adjust: I use the selective adjust tool to focus on specific areas of the photo to saturate certain colors, brighten dark shadows, and make blacks blacker when necessary.
I suggest downloading the app (it’s free) and playing around with it to learn what works for you.
Now that you know how to take and edit a great photo, it’s important to understand when to post it. After quality, timing plays the biggest role in my Instagram engagement. I could post the same photo on a Sunday night at 9:30pm and get double the likes (or more!) than if I posted the same image on a Friday at 2pm. I spent a long time keeping track of when I posted photos and how many likes I got. It was time consuming and frustrating.
Then I discovered Iconosquare which does that work for me. It’s a free app that gives you all kinds of insights into your Instagram. I love this chart that shows my engagement.
As you can see from my chart, Sundays and Mondays are best for me, especially between 8 and 10pm. Good to know! Now I always try to post during those times.
As a blogger, there are times when I’m creating sponsored content for brands and times when I’m just posting whatever I feel in the moment. I try to make the distinction as invisible as possible, meaning that everything I post feels very authentic to me. I turn down many jobs and projects that I don’t relate to (and I knew my followers wouldn’t either). It’s definitely hard to say no to a paycheck, but I believe strongly in authenticity!
For non-bloggers, this still applies. My advice is to post what feels right to you, writing captions that are in your own voice. Don’t try to be like anyone else, don’t try to sound like anyone else. People follow you for you so own that 100%!
I’m actually not big on hashtags but now that they’re showing hashtags by “top posts” and “most recent”, if you know you’ll get a lot of likes on a photo to get into the “top posts” section, it might be worth it for new people discovering you. I like using hashtags for organizing my images. I use #lsworkattire to show the outfits I wear to work. My coworker takes the photos from more or less the same angle every time so when you go to the hashtag, it’s consistent (see above). I use #losonthego for travel so that if I’m posting on a trip, my followers can go back and see more of the trip or past trips that I’ve been on.
I try to post 1-2 times every day. If that’s too much, try posting at least every other day so you stay top of mind. Every time someone “likes” a photo of yours, more people are more likely to see it in the “explore posts” section of the search tab. I also try to do a mix of outfits, home, and landscape so that my “grid” looks nice as a whole (Check out the image at the top of this post to see what I mean).
No time for such shenanigans? Hootsuite just created an Instagram scheduling service in the free version of their app that lets you preschedule your Instas like a boss. It makes it much easier to plan ahead!
And if all else fails…
Pick up one of the following bouquets: pink roses, pink peonies, pink tulips. Take a photo and post it. For some reason, everyone loves that shit. Go figure…