Hi friends! I’m so excited to share this post with you because quite honestly, it’s long overdue. There are several questions I receive on the regular but the most popular has to be “how do you edit your photos?” Those who have already asked this via text, DM, email, or coffee chats know I’m an open book when it comes to pretty much anything blog or social media related. In fact, I really wish more bloggers would share their “secrets” too — because whenever I do run across a few talented influencers who divulge the ins and outs of blogging, I’m instantly a huge fan. We’re all in this together and if my advice can help just one of you produce content that makes you really really happy, then mission accomplished.
So in the spirit of sharing, I’ll be posting a few different “Blog 101” posts over the next few months. A sample of what you can expect to see includes everything from how to set rates for sponsored posts to how to craft a simple media kit, to the best apps every blogger should use.
Okay, now on to what you’re all here for… how to take really pretty Instagram photos. You know, the kind of posts that stand out on the Explore page or that get re-grammed by other brands, community pages, or publications. Now, I’m no expert, but after working in social media marketing for 6 years and blogging for (nearly) two years, I can at least share a few things that have worked for me.
Choose Your Aesthetic
This is simultaneously the most fun and most challenging part of becoming a content creator. There are so many different styles of photography and filters you can apply so that your Instagram elicits a certain “vibe.”
Some accounts, like @Tezzamb, use the same filter (or preset) on every image for a very consistent feel
While others, like @WhatShePictures, only post the same type of content each time allowing them to “own” that particular space
And some, like @TaraMilkTea, make the location the star with each image filled with the tiniest of details
It can take a long time to uncover what aesthetic best matches your personality and whatever topics you cover. Some lucky individuals know right away while others, like myself, have slowly started to adopt a style over time. I always knew that I gravitated toward influencers and photography accounts that were more colorful and/or clean. I want people to feel super happy and joyful when they come to my account… which is why I go for pops of color on pretty neutral backgrounds.
I would suggest browsing various Instagram accounts and see which ones you gravitate towards. If you discover a pattern, that may be the style that is best for you to try! But of course put your own spin on it because no one likes a copycat. 😉
Pick The Right Tool
One of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve heard from other bloggers/’gramers is that you need to have a DSLR camera in order to create beautiful content. I call bull**** on that. Sure, I can most definitely tell the difference when a pro camera is used, but unless you’re shooting for an editorial magazine there are many other more affordable options that will suffice for IG. In fact, there are so many incredible accounts I follow that solely use an iPhone for all their content!
When I shoot content myself I go back and forth between an iPhone and my Sony Alpha a6000. This mirrorless digital camera is powerful yet portable. It fits comfortably in all of my handbags and also offers up options to change the lens (which is key). Right now I primarily use the 35mm lens but will be purchasing a wide angle lens soon since the 35 is a bit limiting. I am also fortunate enough to work with some awesome photographers, especially for brand collabs, and they of course have the best equipment that really make an impact.
Honestly though, if the lighting, composition, styling and editing are right, it doesn’t necessarily matter which tool you pick. For example:
Shot on an iPhone X
Shot on a Sony Alpha a6000
Good Lighting Is Your Best Friend
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how great your camera is, if you shoot in a really dark room you most likely won’t end up with the photos you’re looking for. Unless of course dark, shadowy shots are your personal aesthetic, because in that case go for it!
If you’re shooting outside aim for really early morning (just after sunrise) or golden hour (an hour before sunset). You of course can shoot in the middle of the day but it may create some weird shadows on your face/body or cause certain parts of the photograph to be overexposed. On that note, overcast days are typically better for photos than super sunny days. This is because the clouds act as a beautiful filter and will result in more even lighting.
Note that each of these will result in a slightly different mood. For example, each of the below were shot at the same location with the same camera but at a different time of day.
If you’re shooting indoors without studio lighting equipment find a spot next to a window. You don’t have to live in a huge house to accomplish this. Like most New Yorkers, I live in a pretty small apartment. The good thing is I do happen to have a big window in my living room and bedroom that I leverage for ALL of my home shots.
Take The Time To Edit Your Photos
I can NOT stress this enough. It is not simple enough to download apps like Facetune and Vsco (which are the two I use for every photo) without actually knowing how to use them. Look up YouTube tutorials, read books on photo editing, invest in some better filters or Lightroom presets. This is your craft and your Instagram page is the first thing brands and new fans will see when they discover you. Here’s a sample of one of my favorite images to give you an idea:
Before / After
What I did:
iPhone editing tools:
Removed dirt and smoothed Nina’s jacket
Brought out details in clothing, hair and hat
Applied A5 filter (level 4.5)
I will on occasion photoshop or add overlays to some images to give it a little something “extra.” Like THIS rainbow on my matcha latte or the lens flare in THIS yoga image. Sorry guys — just another reason to never believe what you see on Instagram. Some people may consider this taboo, but I don’t find it any different than slapping that silly dog face filter on your Instagram Story. To me Instagram is your own medium of artistic expression, so make it as magical as you want it to be.
(And if you’re wondering I use PicsArt or Picmonkey for overlays.)
If I could offer up one last piece of advice, it’s to always post what you love. When it comes to being a good content creator you need to know what you like and share more of that. To be a GREAT content creator, you also need to know what your fans love and make sure you’re delivering. Easier said than done and admittedly, I’m still working on the latter.
I hope you all find this post to be helpful as you continue refining your Instagram and blogging journey! Can’t wait to share more with you soon!
Disclaimer: There are SO many great content creators that don’t necessarily curate their feeds. I follow them because I really love their captions, their “realness”, or I’ve met them in person and they’re just really lovely individuals. So please take everything I mentioned with a grain of salt! Having pretty pictures does not necessarily guarantee more followers, collaborations or engagement. It’s just one piece of a larger puzzle!