Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Instagram - A few tips and sources of inspiration

This post is a little bit different - Instagram, as a tool for visual storytelling, has taken such a prominent place in my creative life that I wanted to share some of my current sources of inspiration and a few tips I've picked up in the last few months.

When I first joined Instagram almost four years ago, I had just moved to New Zealand and my initial goal was to feel connected to my new home.

My account still has all the photos I shared in those early days, even though they are now so distant from my current approach.

I cringe at some of them but I leave them be nonetheless. They show me how I've progressed from the early days participating in monthly photo-a-day challenges, to a wider and more thoughtful approach that I prefer today.

I was fairly picky from the start on who I followed but took my contribution a bit more loosely. I used Ig more as a platform where I passively enjoyed beautiful content provided by others, rather than actively exploring all the creative and connecting possibilities of my own content.

Not surprisingly, after a couple of years I wasn't enjoying my grid much. But I was a bit slow to realize my own agency on this. It wasn't until early last year that I consciously decided to turn my account from a reactive randomness into the type of considered and meaningful content that I myself enjoy in other accounts.

Over the last year, I have explored ways to do this and have learned so much more about what Ig can be in that short time-frame than in the previous three years. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel more in control now.

So here are a few tips I picked up that have really made a difference and a few of my current sources of inspiration.

1. Find your focus
One of the problems I was having with my account was a lack of focus. I was using it for personal style and mindful consumer musings, in alignment with the blog, but also for all sorts of other random stuff. The "voice" was disperse and the content just didn't flow.

The decision to narrow down and stick to topic has been more liberating than I anticipated. Not only am I now able to provide a level of assurance to my followers on what content to expect from me - and thus connect with people genuinely interested in the same things - but I have been more free to explore and develop a consistent personal style.

Instainspo: Andrew Knapp, Amy Wybrow, Jana

2. Explore+Express your style
Another issue I had with my content previously was that my style was really unclear and random. Not being a photographer, I was trying different things, looking for my own way but not really finding it.

Since I've become more clear about my focus, I have been able to put more energy in developing my style. As this became more clear, a natural flow between images started to emerge - funnily enough, this is the same experience I've had with my wardrobe - once my style became clear, it all started to make a lot more sense together...

The hardest challenge has been to express myself in a way that is relatable and personal, but not narcissistic. I work on this one every time, asking of each photo - is it 'me'?

The other day when my friend told me she could get a real sense of me through my images (such as the two above), I knew I was on the right track.

Instainspo: Ana Morais, Cup of Couple, Hannah Kim

3. Don't go for second best
You know Madonna was right on this - just don't do it. It's not worth it. Not for your creative well-being, not for your followers and not for the communities you may want to engage with or be part of.

Look, I've been here many times. Maybe you want to post right now but the only photo you have is not really something you're happy with. You know you can do better, maybe tomorrow morning when the light is right. But you really want to share something - right now! There's an "insta" in the gram after all. FOMO takes over and you go ahead and do it. After a few of these, you look at your grid and the feeling you get out of it is less than satisfactory.

From my experience, the moment I started to share the content I was truly happy with - my personal best - that's when I really noticed a consistent increase in engagement with real people on the other side of the line - and a boost on my own creative morale!

I'm not saying that your photos have to be professional photographer grade. Or that you can't be spontaneous in your sharing. But just look at the image and ask yourself - is that the best you can do at that time? What's the story you want to tell? Are those images telling it right? If the answer is no, don't go for second best.

Instainspo: Lee Vosburgh, Emilia, Sara

About #Hashtags
Top posts on 3 February 2016 for #p3top - the hashtag connecting Portuguese Instagrammers
If you are still seeing these as an annoying addition to someone's photo description, look at it this way - hashtags, when used well, are a powerful connection tool. They will put you in touch with countless inspiring instagrammers from around the world, and help like-minded people build a community.

The hashtag brings us together and keeps us together. Some of my current favourites for inspiration and a sense of community are:


Looking to learn more? Sara from the blog Me & Orla has several posts with Instagram tips and she's a bit of a pro. She has also written an e-book "7 days to a better Instagram" which is free. I have found it extremely helpful in implementing the changes I wanted to make to develop a beautiful Instagram feed.

What do you think? Let me know if you find these useful at all. And also, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Instagram... 


  1. Very interesting. I'm a bit torn. I love IG and I love seeing people's stuff on it. But rarely have the time (or light. I literally leave before the sun is up to go to my windowless classroom and leave after the sun has gone down these days...sigh). to contribute. But I really like all of these tips.

    1. Thanks Kristian - I'm glad you liked it.

      And I know what you mean - It was the main reason why I couldn't commit to daily outfit photos or why I take the blog so slowly (although this year I'm trying to post at least weekly). What I decided to do with Ig was to make it into a hobby so it's something I put some time aside on the weekends to play around with. I found that after getting a bit of the hang of styling I can now capture the image I want quicker - which enables me to post more frequently and more immediately. Sometimes I have an idea for a photo but the conditions aren't right (lack of time, etc) so I just note the idea down, draw a sketch and then test it out later when I can.