These recent years of traveling and journaling has somehow changed the way i use Instagram. Gone is the days when I didn’t have to think about what to post, schedule my posts, strategically style product placement without looking too hard-selling, color-tone my images, and wait for the right time before I can upload the super late post holiday pic so that it can transition beautifully with the next. What started as organic (read:blurry) mirror selfies (ok, I still post them… but not as much), have evolved to serious travel photos and heavily styled flatlays in high quality photos taken by a mirrorless camera. Aspiration, baby!
Indeed, my posts are now (mostly) deliberately produced, crafted and scheduled to get the maximum cohesive aesthetic of the feed. Consistency is attached to (almost) every piece of content I put out into the world. Do i enjoy it? A lot, because as a photographer, I’m all about the pleasing visual. Do I always enjoy it? Of course not. Sometimes I really want to post the sweaty happy groupfie when I’m training with my BJJ crews. Or sometimes I wish my coffee is still hot the moment i drink it. Just some examples. I’m straying too much here, moving along.
A consistent and cohesive Instagram feed is a great way to grow your audience. What is a cohesive Instagram feed? Simply answered: It’s a feed of photos that has a running theme which ties all your individual picture together. You may have a beautiful photo that generates lots of likes, but it’s the perfect grid of squares that will definitely garner followers. It’s the first impression that your viewers will see when they arrive on your page, and most of us want to make good impression, right? Or have extra likes and followers, right? Garnering an audience on social media is probably lot of people’s raison d’être right now. That just sounded just as shallow as I thought it would. Moooving alooong.
Doing this extra mile will indeed require dedication and effort (and cold coffee). Here are some tips and tricks that I have learnt along these years of grammin’, be ready:
Find out what you like, which will obviously become your content. Is it Travel? Fashion? Art? Is it all of them? I like all of them. Next, find inspirations for color, composition and shooting ideas from your favorite instagrammers. For travel inspirations, I follow @wonguy974, @jacob and @kotorimi. These are some insanely talented people who take beautiful photos with cohesive mood and color that produce an incredible feed. For fashion and beauty, I love the feeds of @ohhcouture, @taramilktea and @collagevintage, also for the same reason; consistency and beautiful content.
Always shoot a lot.
Always take lots of photos during one occasion and then use them throughout the week (or even months ahead). Not only this help to maintain consistency, but you’ll always have photo stocks or footages to post when work get hectic (or when you’re stuck at home not traveling anywhere for a few months.)
See my tips on how to improve your Travel Instagram game here.
Think in nine.
Now this is the hardest part! People who find your feed will see the grid of the first nine thumbnails (3×3) on your feed, so it’s really important that those nine photos are cohesive in terms of colors, exposures and mood. Think about the nine individual images as a set of one style, grouped together.
Balance your 3×3 group in equal proportion. If you start with two bright photos and break it with a super dark one, make sure that another similar dark colors will make a return within the next two or three posts. Confused? Me too. I just confused myself trying to explain something I just do daily. It’s 3 am. Anyway, here’s an example of what I mean:
After mastering the 3×3, you’ll grow to 3×4, 3×5… I’m at 3×9 at the moment, cos I’m fly like dat.
Oh, while we’re here; if you happen to ask me about those Instagrid maker apps… you know, the one when ONE single photos is split in nine/twelve little piece of individual little tiles? I would say: be careful in using it. It’s a big NO if the image is low resolution (the pixel horror!). Also, can you imagine if one of those split image happens to be a glorious crop out of someone’s… armpit? Remember to check each photo tile before you post it, and you can also get creative with it by creating a collage out of a collage, #collageception
I’ve also stumbled upon some inspiring contents like this one by @adidasoriginals who cleverly utilised the grid maker to do a transitioning background to display their individual pictures. With the right content, the instagrid can indeed promote a strong brand identity and send key activation message to their viewer (Oh wow look big words.)
Mix up your content
If you’re into travel shots, mix your landscapes with food, interior, street and some little details for more variety. If you’re doing a fashion content, mix your OOTD with your close up shots, shoe-fie and flatlays. Like my tips above on the colors and mood, remember to distribute the subjects in equal proportion and evenly space them out in order to really bring the feed together.
Make some white space/visual breathing room on your feed.
I don’t mean posting an empty white box. If you happen to like to shoot landscapes or richly detailed shots, make some “break” by posting one simpler photo with a clean space next to them to give a balanced aesthetics. Can you count how many times I’ve used the word “consistent”, “content” and “aesthetic”? My thesaurus website is down, sorry.
Edit your photos in similar tone/color mood
When you got to this point, I hope it won’t be too heartbreaking to tell you to stay away from the tragic Instagram native filters. I highly recommend you to use VSCO to tone your images, and stick with only a few filters. The same filter applied to all the photos will automatically create a consistent feed. Experimenting with too many filters won’t do any good for the consistency, but if you’re anything like me, who always put different filters in every photo I take, you can at least put the same one on the adjacent 9 photos.
Lighting is key!
Make sure all your photos is executed to perfection. That might mean bright, sharp images for some, or even moody photos with artistic blurs for others (remember guys, ARTISTIC blurs). When shooting flatlays for example: experiment with the product placement and proper natural lighting (See my compete guide on Art of #Flatlay 101 here). When shooting your breakfast, take a seat next to the window to get the best lighting for your meals.
I really mean it. Window light is key. I repeat. Window light is key.
Resist the temptation
It will always be tempting to post some photos that you really love, but unfortunately wouldn’t fit with your whole feed. If you follow my instagram, you’ll see that I still often succumb to the temptation and insist to fit in a selfie or two (that will get deleted after a week). I know the feeling; but by all mean resist the urge to post them and take them to your IG Stories instead. If you accidentally post something in the whim of the moment (the friday night party was fun the moment you post that pic, but will look like a visual regret a few days later), it’s ok to delete it. If the photo doesn’t go well with the other photos, doesn’t suit your color scheme, is not nicely executed or doesn’t perform well on your feed, it’s gotta go.
In fact, if you really have time on your hand, try to scroll back in the yesteryears of your IG experience and try to curate them. Scroll waaaay down to your first posts. I think we can collectively agree that many of these images are “what were we thinking?” posts, and some of those Valencia filtered photos don’t really belong here on your precious feed anymore. Instagram now has the awesome Archive feature that lets you hide the photos you don’t like anymore, while still allows you to have them. Visual regrets be gone!
Now here’s the tip that will save your life from all the planning stress and confusion: The IG Planner Apps! I highly recommend you to use planning Apps to plan, layout and schedule your post strategically. This will help you a lot in creating a consistent, aesthetically pleasing 3×3 grid in the most efficient way! And this section is not sponsored whatsoever! I’m done with the exclamation mark!
Once you’re done editing your photos, arrange them into a flowing feed, then upload all your images with captions, mentions and hashtags and schedule the posting date and time; the apps will remind you when it’s time to post them. #Lifesaver!
Here are some apps that can help you plan your feed to perfection:
So there you have it! I know that’s a loooot to take in. My last tip would be: Stay true to yourself! Afterall, no matter how aspiring or staged it might be, Instagram should reflect your personal style. What’s the point of shooting the insta-popular coffee cups if you don’t enjoy coffee? Or shooting the vibrant vegan bowls when all you want is a big plate of rib steak? (Well, aspiration, baby!!), in other words, if you’re not feeling the visual you’re delivering, that will somehow create a detachment that your followers will eventually sense.
Hope you’ll find these tips helpful and don’t forget to leave your IG handle on the comments below so I can visit them and leave some love!46