Looking to revamp your ‘gram, or simply need some pointers to take it to the next level? Look no further. Being the extremely over-compulsive person I am, even the slightest mismatch on my grid leaves me anxiously staring at my feed until the culprit image is deleted. But luckily, thanks to said anxiety, I’ve managed to pick up a few tricks for a much needed feed boost.

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Step 1: Insta-Fundamentals

First things first, before you even lay a foundation to build your feed upon, there are three quick questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What type of account do you want? Do you want a feed geared towards generating tons of traffic and getting likes out the ass? Do you want a feed that is less follower-focused where you can express your artistic eye and experiment with ideas? A portfolio for prospective employers? Once you figure this out, you can mosey on down to step 2.
  2. What angle do you want your feed to take? If your goal is virality, consistency needs to become your best friend. The easiest way to be consistent is to set an angle that is easy for you post about on a semi-frequent to frequent schedule. Live in New York City? Maybe “life in the city” is your angle (please don’t use that if you want to stand out, clichés aren’t going to do you any justice).
  3. What visual aesthetic are you striving for? Do you like bright and contrasty images, dark and moody images, neutral unfiltered images (notrecommended for virality unless you’re a socialite), or something different?

Once you answer these questions, you can grab your metaphorical hammer and start to construct your foundation.

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Step 2: Take A Picture Why Don't Chya

Now that you have a basic rubric for what you’re working towards, it’s time to start shooting. Take pictures of everything, and by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. When you’re just starting out and trying to find your eye, it’s going to take a lot of experimenting to get comfortable and find your competitive edge / niche. We all get that feeling of constricting anxiety and laziness when walking around and looking for something to shoot; often times we’re looking for that perfect scene or location, and don’t realize that beauty is all around us (add $1 to the cliché jar).

I don’t even think the most complex, formula-saturated Excel worksheet could calculate the number of times I’ve made a fool of myself trying to take a picture on a chair at a coffee shop or in the middle of a busy intersection. If you’re out in public, chances are, you’re never going to see these people again. Embrace those seemingly crippling (but actually harmless) butterflies flying around your stomach, and venture out of your comfort zone. You’ll be happy that you did, and doing it in the future will be much easier; self-induced exposure therapy will save you thousands at a therapist.

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Step 3: Throw That Filter In A Circle

Now that you’ve got a camera roll that’s 95% full from holding down the shutter, it’s time to do some post-processing. Developing your aesthetic and finding the “perfect filter” is easier than you may think, just find one you like and stick to it; be consistent (throw that filter in a circle) and don’t overthink it. Here’s my go-to editing process:

  1. VSCO: S2 or A6 for a clean + modern look, depending on the image
  2. Muse Cam: fine tuning colors and eliminating unwanted hues (Lightroom mobile is also good for this)
  3. Snapseed: final touches and lighting adjustments

 

I think the biggest issue I had to deal with when it came to finding a look I love is self-comparision, specifically when it came to other Instagrammers with hundreds of millions of followers. Seeing something work so well for someone else can bear a heavy influence, and not necessarily in a good way. My first few years of taking pictures for social media consisted of me trying to replicate the filters and styles of my favorite influencers, and I can say without any hesitation, that they were the worst few years of creative self-discovery. Failure after failure, lost image after lost image, I began to grow anxious and stressed when my dupe feed wasn’t growing at the rate I hoped. I’m not saying to avoid getting inspired by your favorite creatives, because inspiration makes the world go ’round, but try to do so with your own distinctive style. Realistically, how many white-out coffee cups do you want to see on your feed? People follow others to get inspired, so step up your game and find your edge.

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Step 4: Sheesh, Can I Post It Already?

You’ve got your picture, you’ve got your filter, and your anxiety to post is eating a hole through your skull. Before you publish that bad boy, you should always preview what it will look like on your feed, especially if your goal is consistency.

Now that VSCO Cam’s library grid isn’t an exact replica of your Instagram feed, your second best bet is to use Instagram’s multiple-account feature to your advantage. I use an exact replica of my account to publish my pictures on before I make them live on my feed. There are also a handful of apps that will do this for you (and even schedule posts for you) like Later.

Once you’re happy with how your new image gets along with your old (or doesn’t if you’re trying to live life on the edge), you’re good to!

I am an extremely anxious person, and sometimes have a tendency to post a picture just to post it (as opposed to posting something I actually love). The problem with this is:

  1. You’re diluting your content with posts you’re not sincere about, which can hurt your rep and irritate your followers when you inevitably delete it within the hour.
  2. You’re stunting your creative growth and taking a step backwards rather than experimenting with a style you like and growing.

The best way to avoid this dilemma is to take a mental step back and shift your perspective. Soak these notes up:

  • You aren’t going to lose followers for not posting a subpar image (in fact, you’ll do the exact opposite). Think about your own Instagram habits. How would you know to unfollow someone if there isn’t an image to trigger a cognitive response about who they are? Conversely, if you see a crappy image, chances are, you’ll unfollow that person, especially if you notice they have a bunch of them, or that they keep deleting.
  • Restraining yourself and taking notes about what you like or don’t like about said image will help you with future shots. Grow with your mistakes, don’t let them grow on you.

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Step 5: Assess, Don't Obsess

Now that your picture is up, it’s time to assess its relative impact on your feed in terms of reach, engagement, and general aesthetic. The best way to test the two former points is to convert your profile to an Instagram Business account. Doing so allows you view the ripples your images make; what works, what doesn’t work, and what definitely doesn’t work. Here are a few insights available at your disposable when you sign up (quoted text directly from Instagram):

  • Reach: “the number of unique accounts that have seen your post.”
  • Impressions: “the total number of times your post has been seen.”
  • Engagement: “number of likes and comments on your post.”
  • Top posts: find out your top performing posts
  • Follower growth: in terms of weekly or hourly averages, locations, ages, and even genders

One thing to note: in order to convert your profile to a business account you’ll need a Facebook Business Page you can connect to – read up on creating one here. If you want to keep things simple and manage your profile as a personal account, you can guesstimate these stats, but only in terms of engagement; just keep track of likes and comments, and compare them to other posts.