Why doesn't my Instagram feed look like theirs? // an insta photo guide

Have you ever scrolled through your favorite blogger's instagram (you know, the one you stalk constantly and secretly want to become because they're just so cool) or drooled over the photos on their most recent posts and just thought, "why don't my photos look like that??"

Maybe you've got a dslr. 

Maybe you've done that thing with natural light flat lays and white reflector boards.  

Maybe you know what aperture and ISO and shutter speed are. 

Maybe you've taken some photos of yourself that you think are kinda cute. 

But the bloggers you love (read: obsess over) don't just have cute photos. Their photos are perfectly catered bits of art. Their Instagram feeds have just enough pastel and just enough ocean photos and just enough artful photos of coffee and somehow it all looks like it fits together like a flawless painting.

You're trying, but yours doesn't look like that.

WHY??

Well, I ask myself that just about everyday and we're going to figure it out together. Right now.






Let me make a point of saying, before I dig in, that I am not a professional photographer by any means. I'm not even a semi-professional photographer. If you've been here before, you know that I write the blog posts I need to read. I teach myself the stuff I need to know. I give the advice that I need to receive. (My blog is probably more for me than it is for you, sorry to say). But this topic is something that has been on my mind forever, so I'm knuckling down on figuring it out with every bit of my amateur photographer soul.

This is going to be kind of a long (very long) post. But hopefully you'll learn something. I've broken it down into 2 main sections: The photos themselves, and the editing. And since we all have our blog idols, I thought I'd use some of mine as examples. Not in an effort to copy (we've all gotta be unique guys!) but just to examine and learn from their strategies.


How to have more cohesiveness on Instagram:

The thing about people's Instagram feeds that really get me going is the cohesiveness. Think about it like a tv series. You could watch each episode individually/ look at each photo and you'd enjoy them a lot on their own. But then, if you look at the bigger picture, all the episodes fit together into one larger story! This "larger story" / sense of cohesiveness can be accomplished through a number of varying factors: (please enjoy my inclusion of a few of my favorite bloggers/ instagrammer's feeds. I freaking love them. Please not that their photos are not mine in any way, shape or form. I made a few notes/ circled their color themes for educational purposes/ so you can see how they make their themes so cohesive). 

Colors 

A lot of people with themed feeds have 2-4 colors that they really tend to focus on. Sometimes it's super obvious because those are the only colors in the entire feed, but sometimes it's more subtle. And while you might not expect it, even having one tiny detail that matches your theme colors in a photo can contribute to cohesiveness. For example, in Kelsey's feed (abalanchingpeach), she has bits of goldish/yellow that often pop up, and also bits of pink. Meanwhile, littlevestigen's feed is a lot more obviously colored green and grey/black. 

It can be hard to keep up with a theme that is color-oriented, because as much as I'd love it, there isn't that much light pink stuff or light blue stuff floating around in our everyday lives (or at least not at the times when we're camera ready). This is one of the biggest challenges for me in trying to work on my own feed. But while I was researching this post I realized a lot of people with really catered Instagrams have certain items that make their way into a lot of photos and just happen to be the perfect color. Hmmm. See all the goldish/yellow hats and gold mirrors in Kelsey's photos? And all the plants and floral bed sheets in alittlevestigen's? And how Alix's hair (icovetthee) just happens to be the perfect color for her white-and-pink theme? Looks like we can use a few sneaky tools like these to add strategic pops of color to photos and add cohesiveness. 





White space/ fill 

One thing you might assume when thinking about perfectly catered blogger instagrams, is that everything has to be super white and super bright, right? (wow, rhymes). Well, sorta. What I've noticed is that there are a lot of blogs that really focus on the whole white/minimalist theme to the extent that everything sorta blends together and looks similar. If that's what you're going for, by all means do it, girl! But if you're craving a tad more variety, consider another approach: varying amounts of negative space vs. filled frames. See how in Kelsey's photos (abalanchingpeach), some have a lot of white space/ negative space and in others the whole frame is filled with stuff/color? That's what I'm talking about. There isn't too much white space, but there's just enough to tie it all together.


Texture/ busyness

Another thing to consider when thinking about white space v.s filled frame photos is what exactly are you filling the frame with? Is the background of the photo a solid color with maybe a little bit of texture? Or is it a busy pattern like in littlevesigen's floral bed sheets photos? The key here is balance. It seems like a lot of pros have some photos with busier backgrounds and some photos with solid backgrounds to maintain interest and variety without getting too busy.

And here's a note about more colorful instagram themes: (I spend to much time on Instagram, I swear to god). I've noticed that themes with really bright colors seem to stay away from patterns/ overly busy textures. Just look at the themes of thecraftedlife and abeautifulmess, they both have a great variety of bold colors, but they are also all solid colors to avoid making the feed look too crazy.



 

Filters & Editing


I think a lot of people assume that editing is what makes an instagram feed cohesive. And while it definitely does, I've noticed that really themed feeds (like the ones above) maintain their style primarily through posting content that already fits their theme (through color, texture, etc as listed above). Filters and editing are icing on a cake; they definitely add cohesion, but they don't make the cohesion. (At this point I'm desperate for any cohesion, lets be real).


So without further ado, I did a bunch of research (read: stalking) as to how many of the greats edit their insta photos. Here we go.

Filters 

 Filters are basically a whole bunch of edits grouped together that can be applied to many photos to give them all a similar vibe. Pretty much all the bloggers/youtubers/instagrammers who use filters seem to use vsco cam. A few popular filters for light and airy feeds are A5 and HB1. I've always kinda steered clear of filters because when they are overused they can look a bit tacky, but vsco filters definitely look natural when used in a cohesive way so I'm gonna try using them more (plus it's what the pros do). If you want examples of how different filters look when used across a whole feed, use Pinterest. Just searching "vsco" in Pinterest will give you a bunch of examples of people's beautiful feeds and will tell you exactly what filter they used and how they edited to make them look so cohesive. You can even search "vsco HB1" for example to see how people's feeds look with a specific filter you're thinking about using.

Presets 

Presets are kinda like mama filters. They're used in legit editing programs like Lightroom to apply your edits to many photos instantly. Presents are different from filters because you design and save them on your own, giving you a completely unique look. They also require a bit more skill and a editing program like Adobe Lightroom that costs money. But if you have Lightroom, I would encourage you to download Lightroom mobile so that you can access your presets on your phone as well and use them for your instagram photos. Here's a good video about making presets in Lightroom.

Snapseed for brush tool and curves

Ok, back to the easy and free stuff. Snapseed is another really great tool that a lot of people use, because it's sort of the app equivalent of Lightroom. I was actually pretty amazed when I found this one because of its similarities to Lightroom. You can adjust tone curves, you can use a brush tool to manually adjust exposure and temperature, and you can also plot selective points to adjust specific areas. It's pretty great.


Darkroom to manually adjust hues and luminance 

Another one of the best parts of Lightroom is the HSL sliders feature. There you can manually adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of colors in your photo to really customize them. Luckily for those of us on mobile (or those of us on a budget) you can do the same thing with the app Darkroom. This tool is really important in creating a cohesive feed because it allows you to stress certain colors and tones that are characteristic to your brand. (Lol using the word "brand" makes me feel pretentious, I must truly be becoming an instagrammer).



 Alright, those are all the tips from my investigation into insta photography. Hopefully, now that I've taken the time to figure all this out my feed with improve ;) Let's get this instagram thing down, fellow girl bosses!  Also keep a look out for more photography posts as I try to keep figuring stuff out.

♡ Julia



17 comments

  1. Really great tips! I love how you showed examples with each as well. It can definitely be a frustrating topic, especially with the new algorithm too. :(

    -Emily www.coatandcoffee.com

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    1. Glad it was helpful! And yeah it can for sure be frustrating :/

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  2. Wow you've literally read my mind with all your relevant blog posts lately! I have always struggled with finding cohesiveness on my Instagram feed that sometimes I just want to give up! But I love that you stepped back and analyzed your favorite feeds! There's a lot of great insight in this post. Thanks!

    Kim
    Simply Lovebirds

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    1. Aw that's so nice of you to say, Kim! Thanks for the lovely comment and I'm glad you found it helpful.

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  3. This is an amazing post! You literally analyzed everything in such detail. I don't even think about these things when posting on Instagram, haha. Maybe I should start :) I'm definitely pinning and sharing this around! x

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

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    1. Aw yay thanks so much, Leta! Yeah I tend to over-analyze ahaha, but whatever helps :) Thanks for reading!

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  4. These are such great tips...you did an amazing job analyzing these Instagram feeds! Thanks for sharing!

    http://roadesque.com
    http://ourruins.com

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  5. Wow, you did an excellent job of explaining that!
    I've been meaning to fix my feed for a while now, but it just seems like such a huge undertaking, I think I'll have to pin this and go back over it slowly when I finally get around to it... wish me luck! Xx

    Kez | acaciasdreams.com

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    1. Best of luck! I'm in the same boat as you, it can be pretty frustrating. Glad you liked it!

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  6. Some great tips there! I have been trying to sort out my Instagram, I want it to look more profesh, but I want it to be more unique. xx

    LAURA ­| Laura Thinks About

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    1. That's my dilemma as well. I want to find a way to make it look professional without looking like everyone else's.

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  7. This is so informative Julia, I wish I was better at instagram, I have gone for a pinky theme but it isn't professional enough looking by far :(

    Rosy | Sparkles of Light Blog
    My Instagram | Instagram

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    1. I feel the same way, Rosy. It can be quite frusterating. The good thing about Instagram though is that what really makes you stand out is uniqueness, I think. And I love your pink feed, girl! Definitely be proud of it. :)

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  8. This post is so helpful! I really want to have a cute pink theme, but it is so hard to post pictures all the same color! I just want to post every cool picture that I get no matter what color it is! I'm working on it though, and this post will definitely help! :)

    Ryan | www.ryality.com

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  9. I try and use some of these techniques regularly but sometimes it's really hard to balance, lately I've been experimenting with a semi-colour related overall theme and it's kinda subtle but so far I'm enjoying it :)

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

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  10. The thing about people's Instagram feeds that really get me going is the cohesiveness. www.classic-trash.com/view-private-instagram-photos-instagram-private-profile-viewer/

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