I've long wondered how professional photographers create a branded look on Instagram.
Recently I decided to experiment on my own Instagram feed.
While I'm not a pro photographer, I've attended photo shoots for major brands as part of my advertising agency work. (I've also taken several classes on food photography.)
Here's what I've learned through my Instagram experiment.
Step 1: Define a visual aesthetic/brand.
That's how professionals ensure that their images (and Instagram feeds) are memorable and easily identifiable. It also ensures that everything works together. For proof, look to Martha Stewart or Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess.
You'll notice some commonalities within their Instagram feeds that go beyond just using a certain photo filter:
- Strength and direction of lighting
- Color palettes
- Color temperature (warm/cool)
- Camera angle
- Depth of field
To create my own Instagram brand, I created a Pinterest board, where I pinned images that spoke to me. Then I looked for common themes within the images I'd pinned.
Here are the brand guidelines I came up with:
- Rustic chic
- Warm tones
- Muted saturation
- Directional lighting
- Low depth of field
- Common motifs: books, coffee, nature
Step 2: Find your tribe.
Once I created with this list of attributes—particularly the common motifs—I searched for relevant users and hashtags. Then I began following, commenting, and participating.
Hashtags are a great way to get exposure for your Instagram photos, particularly if you can tap into a small but active community. Tagging a photo "#selfie" or "#food" might get you a short burst of likes, but you'll quickly become buried under competing images.
I've had much better success with daily and weekly challenges, photo-a-day prompts, and other group activities.
Step 3: Keep refining your look.
My list of brand attributes helped me start shooting. But it took additional time to determine what Instagram filters helped me achieve the right look, what camera settings lent themselves best to the Instagram format, and what subjects proved the most popular.
Going back to my Instagram page and viewing all the photos in one feed helped me gauge my progress.
I'm still refining my Instagram style, studying the latest trends, and finding new sources of inspiration. But it's been a fun journey, and my followers have been slo-o-o-wly climbing. (Help me climb by following me—promise it'll be worth it!)
Do you have photography or Instagram tips to share? Let me know in the comments section below!
Cover image courtesy of MaxPixel and used under a Creative Commons license.