Tell Me All! {series}- A Beautiful Feed, Part 1

Between iPhones and Instagram, no one these days is a stranger to taking photos. But sometimes it takes a little more work to get a "good" photo... you know, one that you'd be proud to share on social media! Isn't that the true test? ;) When I first joined Instagram a few years back, I was totally guilty of the photo-of-a-meal-with-weird-IG-filter-applied posting. Of course, I probably had about 8 followers, so hopefully I wasn't boring too many people... but still! Over the years, my style has (thankfully) improved as I've honed my eye a little. Which got me thinking... what is that makes one IG feed more "pleasing" to look at than another? What should you look for when taking a picture, to give it just a little extra oomph?

I tapped two of my favorite IG friends, Rachel of @linesacross and Amy of @amyventures, to share their thoughts. Rachel is the author of "Lines Across", a super-fun blog dedicated to crafting, DIY tutorials, and making beautiful things- no matter how much time/money/talent you have. Amy is an incredible photographer and graphic designer (Amy Chen Design), with an eye for color and cleverly-unexpected photos. They both have beautiful, well-curated IG feeds, with lots of bright + crisp photos... so clearly, they're doing something right! In Part 1, we'll discuss their process for taking photos and some of their top tips for taking good ones. In Part 2, we'll go a little deeper into making your feed really stand out. Ready...? Go!!

1) WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR TAKING PHOTOS? (i.e. planned out vs. spontaneous) HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND ON THEM IN A GIVEN DAY?

"I feel like naturally, as a creative, my brain is constantly churning and coming up with new ideas... If I'm not at home when the idea comes to me, I usually jot it down on the notes app on my phone and stage it whenever I have time. A lot of my spontaneous shots are food related - because I'll be making a meal and stop for a moment to appreciate how pretty something is (like that halved avocado I recently posted :P) - Amy, Amy Chen Design

"It's really a combination of planned and staged photos. Since I'm also a craft blogger, I try to take interesting shots along the way while I'm working on a project. However, a lot of my shots are planned in advance, especially ones that are part of a series like color studies, pictures of sprinkles, etc.  It's hard to say how much time I spend. Usually I don't spend too much time, because I'm working on blog posts already. However some of the more elaborate pictures take about 30 minutes to set up. Sometimes I try to take a few similar pictures at once, and then save them and spread them out over a period of time."- Rachel, Lines Across 

I personally love the notes app too! I'm constantly jotting down ideas (both for IG photos and for business) so I can come back to them when the time is right. As IG continues to evolve and become more important in the creative world, I think more and more of the photos we see are NOT spontaneous, as they may have been even a year ago (what, you thought that perfectly unpeeled banana against the indigo blue backdrop was candid?!). Sometimes, if you have a great eye or are lucky, you'll capture a great candid shot, but more often than not, a great photo takes some planning... and I think thats a good thing! Think about your favorite IG feeds... most likely, they have some kind of consistent theme or color scheme, and that's probably a result of thoughtful planning. If you're using your account for any sort of professional or creative reasons, putting some planning and forethought into your feed will help you to cultivate a more impactful IG presence. So, you might ask...

2) WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 PHOTO-STAGING TIPS?

"When staging photos, the most important things to consider in my opinion, are lighting and background. I always use natural lighting for my pictures, and the ideal light is soft indirect sunlight. You can find this in the shade, on a cloudy day, late in the evening, or inside by a window. If you have too much direct sunlight then your pictures will be harsh and you will have dark shadows. I LOVE taking white background pictures, and have a lot of white foam poster boards that I use. However, sometimes taking white background pictures can be a little tricky, since the white will pick up any color that is nearby (like that orange shirt you're wearing, or the blue sky, or your yellow walls). You also need to increase the exposure a lot when taking white background pictures, and while this can be tricky, it's also something you can easily do with just your phone's camera. I've also bought a big stack of solid colored 12x12 scrapbook paper to use as backgrounds. Fabric, wood flooring, counter tops, and wrapping paper also make great backgrounds."- Rachel, Lines Across

"Three tips: (1) Use natural sunlight to light your staged photos. Be careful to avoid harsh sunlight (as this will lead to weird dramatic shadows / blown out photos), but don't shoot when it's dark outside either (incandescent lamp lighting is funky and will look terribad). Unless you have a professional light kit (most people don't - and even if you do, who wants to deal with that for a quick Instagram photo?) - natural sunlight is your best bet (and it's free!). (2) Invest in a separate photo editing app from Instagram. I can't stand Instagram photos and editing tools (although they have been adding more flexibility in recent updates). I personally use VSCO (which is free), but there are plenty of other ones out there. Find what works best for you and run with it! :) (3) Just have fun and don't stress about it too much! You'll learn what works and what doesn't along the way - and before you know it, you'll be a master in no time! ;)"- Amy, Amy Chen Design

So, let me break that down...

  1. Always good lighting! Always.
  2. A good, clean background. Anything else will distract from the magic you're creating!
  3. Use a photo app to perfect it! Almost every photo could use a little tweaking. VSCO and Afterlight are two popular ones.

It sounds so simple, but I promise just applying these three points to every photo you take will help to make a huge difference. Do you have any great tips for making your photos pop?

Coming up in Part 2, we'll delve a little deeper into curating your own feed and IG presence. Stay tuned...