This week’s episode is a response to a request I had to talk about Instagram photography. Potentially a little off-topic for me, but I thought I’d share my relationship with photography and why I choose the path of least resistance (i.e. using my phone instead of a fancy camera).
I also go through a few things that really helped me the last time I was in a creative rut with Instagram, so if you’re feeling a bit stuck, hopefully the guidance here can help.
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or listen here:
LINKS AND FURTHER READING:
- The Bloom & Grow Instagram course by Sara Tasker
- Mosaico app
- All that is She – Instagram
- Instagram tips, tools and resources
So a while ago, I asked for episode ideas for the podcast and someone asked me about Instagram photography, so I thought I’d talk about my approach to that here, my relationship with photography, and why I choose the path of least resistance.
Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing okay and are holding up well. So this week’s episode is a little different to normal and slightly off-topic for me, but I got a request about it and I thought it would be interesting to talk about. So we’re gonna be talking about Instagram, photography, and why I follow joy over being quote-unquote the “best” at something.
So I thought I would start by talking about my relationship with photography, which is a bit of an odd one. So when I was at college, I chose to take photography and I absolutely loved it. Well, for the most part I guess. When it came to creating mood boards and visual ideas, I lapped it up, but as soon as things got a little bit technical, my interest totally switched off.
So I had this idea that I would go on to take photography at university and become a photographer for a career, but after getting a C in my A-Levels and realising that I would need to do an extra year, so an art foundation, before going to university, it all just seemed like a bit too much work for me. And I decided that I should really follow my first artistic love, which was writing.
So my parents very kindly got me a fancy digital SLR as a graduation present and I vowed that I would keep up with my photography even if I wasn’t gonna become a photographer. And I did… very, very briefly. But then this cool new app came out called Hipstomatic, which I’m sure some of you will remember, and I realised that I could get creative with the photos I was taking on my phone.
So my sister then introduced me to the world of Instagram and I started playing around and posting on there, but I treated it very much as a place to share random snapshots and never really had any intention behind what I was sharing.
So fast-forwarding now to 2016, and after going through a breakup I booked myself a trip to Costa Rica to study photography and take yoga classes. And here I fell in love with photography again. I learned how to use the manual mode again, and captured some really incredible scenes, including some amazing sunsets, which I still look back on now and I’m so proud that I took those photos. But alas, after being back for a while, this information promptly fell out of my head and I continued to reach for my iPhone instead of my camera when it came to taking pictures.
Now, after I launched Blue Jay of Happiness in 2017, I realised that I wanted to up my social game and invest more into Instagram. So I liked taking pictures and writing, so really it was a match made in heaven for me. So I booked onto a course by Sara Tasker from Me&Orla called Bloom and Grow. And not only did I meet so many lovely people on that course, but I realised that it’s absolutely fine to take pictures with your phone. Sara just really gave me that permission slip that whatever feels good to you, and whatever you can be most creative with, is the way to go.
And this course did encourage me to get really creative and I found my style. And it was just so much fun to just create and not have any pressure on it. And just taking that pressure away from having to use a fancy camera, I could just enjoy the process.
And in the years since this course, that mentality has really stuck with me. So I know I could create better quality images if I took the time to re-learn how to use my camera. But right now, that just isn’t a priority for me.
My focus at the moment is on writing and sharing helpful content, whether that’s through the blog, through this podcast, or on Instagram. But I do know now that I don’t have to have the best quality pictures in the world to share my message.
And I know it can be really easy to compare yourself to others on Instagram, but prioritising what’s important in my business, which was the message and not the visuals, has really helped me with this.
And for me, using my phone to take pictures is the path of least resistance and the path that brings me the most joy.
Even when using my phone though, of course I do still get stuck in ruts and fall out of love with Instagram from time to time. So I thought I would share a few tips that really helped me back when I was in a really serious rut with everything that might help you if you’re feeling creatively a little bit stuck when it comes to Instagram.
So the first I think is really important is narrowing down what aesthetics you like in your own feed. So look through your feed and notice which pictures you like and what the common thread is between them. Try using the Mosaico app – I’ll pop a link to that in the show notes – to put together all your favourite images into a grid. And that just helps you see everything crystal clear, what kind of style you like and what aesthetics you like.
Now this is a tip I got from Dominique from All That Is She when she ran a workshop at Blogtacular, so again, I’ll pop a link to her work in the show notes. She’s fantastic, definitely someone to follow if you like creative Instagram.
So when I did this, I really reminded myself that I do love neutral and warm-tones, I like a lot of negative space, I like simplicity, interesting lights, floral, and portraits.
So, the next thing I did was to take a note of what does well in my feed. So obviously I’d figured out what was my aesthetic preference, what I liked the most, but I needed to also have a bit of a commercial look at things and see what my audience was liking. So take a look at your Instagram analytics to see what performs well, quote-unquote “performs”. So I personally have a business because I find the analytics so helpful, so I definitely recommend getting that if you haven’t already. It’s really great to see the stats and things of your posts.
So when I did this, I noticed that shots taken from above did really well. Simple but creative flatlays and creative self-portraits also do well. So in terms of the metrics I would look at, personally I think engagement, comments, and saves are the most important. But yeah, it is interesting to look at the likes and reach, but for me, engagement is the most important metric to look at.
So when you’ve done this, you now know what you aesthetically like and you have a better idea of what performs well.
So the next step that I did was I kind of smushed all of my findings into different content categories, which meant that I had certain things that I could stick to whenever I was posting on Instagram. So, if I run through what my content categories are, maybe it would give you some inspiration for what your own might be.
So the first one of mine was portraits. Self-portraits, creative portraits, branding photoshoots portraits. I genuinely like being visible in this way and I‘ve found self-portraiture to be really helpful when it comes to actually accepting my physical self. So that’s definitely a category I like to do a lot, so you’ll know if you go on my feed you’ll see my face there quite a lot.
Another category is in my hands. So again, I’ve always quite liked my hands. It’s one of my physical features I just have always quite liked and I am quite drawn to images of other people’s hands too. And it’s a pretty easy category to include as well. It’s – it suits my need for something simple and easy to do.
Another category for me is simple flatlays/from above shots. So I’m not a massive flat lay person, but the odd really simple, creative one is fun and it does very well for me when it comes to my analytics.
Another category of mine is florals. And a lot of my love for this definitely came from the fun I had with them on Sara’s Bloom and Grow course, that was all based around using florals in your photography. And I guess once you see their creative potential, it’s pretty hard to step away.
So now I have a bit of a checklist going on in my head. So am I posting something from one of those categories? Does it have enough negative space? Is the tone right for me? Are there less than three key components in the photo? So for me, it’s all about simplicity. Now, of course your checklist will be completely different depending on your own aesthetic preferences and your own analytics of what does well. But having that checklist just makes it easier to know what to post.
So another thing that really helped me was to stop panic posting. And this was probably the most important thing for me when I was going through my rut, because when I looked back at the images that I was really unhappy with, almost all of them were panic posts. And when I say this, I mean those posts that you feel like you have to post because you wanna have something out there but you don’t necessarily have anything that’s good enough or right enough for the time so you post whatever’s available, just to fill a gap I guess.
So of course, not every post has to be mind blowing, thank god, because ain’t no one got time for that. But I was personally posting content I wasn’t happy with because I thought I had to show up daily. And as soon as I took that pressure off of having to show up every day, I realised that hey, the sky doesn’t fall when you take a few days off! And everything changed for me and I realised I could post more freely and only post my best content.
So I became more conscious and considered about what I posted and I had things to say in my captions. And I just overall felt much happier with what I was producing.
To help with this kind of transition into not panic posting if you’re someone who feels like you have to post everyday or you’re worried about showing up a lot, then I would say continue to show up in Stories. So that’s what really helped me stop panic posting was being really active over there. Now I’ve always loved Stories – if you follow me on Instagram you probably see I’m on there pretty much every day apart from Saturdays, when I take a little break. And I just think they’re a really great way to stay in touch with and be in front of your followers. So this just means, even when I don’t post on my grid, I’m still able to engage with my community.
So in a nutshell, really I guess the overriding message here is to try and become a bit more structured about what you post, but less structured about when you post. Because this is the thing: when creating for Instagram, or anywhere, becomes hard work, inspiration dries up real quick. So try and keep that pressure off, have fun, experiment, figure out what you like and try outlining a few categories to help you find your style.
So there we go! A little bit of a rambly episode, but I really hope you found something useful in there. I’d love to hear where you choose the path of least resistance and how you’re getting on with Instagram these days. I know I’ve definitely noticed my engagement has dropped a lot recently but I’m not letting it worry me too much – I’m just continuing to post what I normally post and just recognising that it’s a weird time at the time of recording this and not everybody’s looking at Instagram and that’s absolutely okay.
But yeah, definitely follow me over there if you’re not already, my handle is @katbluejay. And the thing I love most about Instagram is the community and the connection, so please do say hello if you haven’t already. It’s a really lovely place to talk to people.
So that’s all from me. I’ll be back next week to talk to you about how to avoid burnout. Until then, I really hope you have a good week and take care of yourself!