If you follow me over on Instagram you’ll notice that I am pretty much obsessed with it. I love the whole process that goes into creating your own feed; staging photos, editing them, making your grid flow smoothly. I love photography and as I never took it at school or uni I feel like Instagram is a way for me to channel my creative side. A lot of people ask me how I edit my photos and make everything look so co-ordinated, so I thought I’d take the time to put together a little guide on my process from that first snap to the final upload.
Staging The Photo
I don’t really like the phrase ‘staging’ as it implies that all of my Instagram photos are fake in a way, but what I mean by staging is simply the whole set up of a photo. Because I keep a pastel, neutral theme I take photos against light and pale backdrops to ensure that my photos all match as much as possible. This is quite limiting in terms of what I can actually post and often frustrating, but I save any colourful/bolder photos for my blog or to have printed off for photo albums. I use my iPhone 6s Plus to take all of my photos as the camera is perfectly decent if you know how to use features like auto-focus, light control and using the grid to keep the photos straight. I normally take quite a few photos at slightly different angles and focuses to see what looks the best, not deleting any of them until I have done the final upload onto the Instagram app just in case I change my mind.
Editing The Photo
I use VSCOcam for my editing process as I find it really easy to use, plus the app is free which is amazing considering how many great features it has. You have to pay for some of the filter sets, and I use A6 in all of my Instagram photos. I believe the filters are under £2 for around 8-10, all using similar colour schemes in a set. I apply my filter, take it down to about 9.5 on strength, then get to work on editing the photo. As I like my photos bright, I take them in natural light but use the Exposure tool to really lighten them- I take this up to about 3.5. I take the Temperature down slightly to -1.5 to give the photos a cooler tone, Sharpen to 1.5-2.5 depending on the subject, and sometimes turn the Saturation down to -1.5 to make the colours more neutral to blend in with my theme. I save the photo to my camera roll in its Actual Size to get the best quality possible, then upload it to PicFx if the background is slightly plain to add a little extra light effect called Bokeh which are little round circles of light. You can adjust these to make them more faded and subtle but still give the photo a little extra touch. Once I’m happy with the photo I’ll save it back to my camera roll and upload it to UNUM which is a feed planner.
Planning My Feed
I use UNUM which is a free Instagram feed planning app. You can upload photos, move them around to adjust how your feed will look and basically plan your feed before uploading it to Instagram. This is particularly helpful if you want to vary the types of photos you post so you’re not doing a load of selfies in a row etc. I try to use the same sorts of colours in my theme but not have photos that are mainly the same colour next to each other, instead spacing them out in the grid provided for you by the app. UNUM is really handy if you have a lot of potential photos you want to upload as you don’t have to keep them sitting in your camera roll and can really plan ahead. As I try to upload at least once every other day, even if I’m working I find that some days I’ll take loads of really nice photos, edit them and upload them to UNUM to save for days when I’m too busy to spend much time on Instagram.
Final Upload & Caption
Once I’m completely happy with my photo and have edited it, which by the way can take quite a long time if you’re indecisive like I am, then I’ll finally upload it to Instagram. Sometimes I’ll use Instagram’s editing tools to pump up the brightness a tiny bit more, then I’ll move onto the caption. I try to keep my captions brief and relevant to the photo, using geolocations to increase engagement and tagging relevant accounts. For example in this photo I’ve been using throughout the post, I tagged the bakery I was eating at plus their location so I appear on that grid, Tiptree jam company as this is one of the main subjects of the post, and 3 accounts that feature good photos of Leigh on Sea which is my local area. I use no more than 5 hashtags and keep them relevant to the photo as well, but avoid ones that are used by millions of other people like “pink” or “love” as my photo will get swallowed up in a sea of others and won’t be noticed at all. I also have my Twitter linked to my Instagram so I share my Instagram posts when I upload them which attracts people who follow me on Twitter to my Instagram feed.
I’ve tried to explain my process in a way that’s both detailed and simple to follow. It’s quite hard to teach someone how to use your specific methods as they don’t work for everyone- we all have different feeds and ways of taking photos. What’s most important for me is forward planning with UNUM, sticking to a theme so my photos flow smoothly and posting regularly so my followers don’t get bored and unfollow me- plus having a place to let my creative side run wild!!