My Camera and Top Apps for Instagram

My Camera and Top Apps for Instagram

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on what apps I used to edit my photos for Instagram. It’s almost the end of 2019 and many things have changed since. In this post, I want to share my current camera and top apps that I use for Instagram, besides a few photography tips.

On a regular basis, I get asked similar questions: What camera and apps do you use for Instagram? Let me answer that here!

To begin with, I want to let you know that I still have my Nikon D300 and everything else that goes with it. I am just not that kind of person to get rid of things.

Q: What camera do you use?

Last October, for my birthday, I bought a Pentax Lumix G85 mirrorless camera and I absolutely love it! I love it because it takes such lovely photos – beautiful white balance and some awesome inexpensive lenses – and that it is super light, the body is about 1.2lb or 600grams. I did buy a 50mm equivalent lens but I rarely use it. What I use every day is the kit 12-60mm lens.

This below is a sample photo that I took with the Lumix.

Lisbon Lumix G85

Camera specs

When buying a camera, you need to list all the things you must have and the things that would be ok to have… or not have.

In my case, I wanted one that has an image stabiliser, weather-sealed and a variety of lenses to purchase that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

The Sony Alpha, for example, are excellent cameras but the ones that are weather-sealed are priced more than I want to pay. For my need, I wanted to buy an under $800 camera that is great, light AND I’d be ok if it gets beaten up a bit or even stolen.

My suggestion is to make a list, scour Amazon (or your favourite camera shop) for features, write down or save the ones you like and go to an actual store to get a feel of this camera.

If you like how it feels in your hand, awesome. If not, may need to mark it off your list IF the features of this camera can be found on a different one.

When I was researching, I compared the Lumix G85 with these other ones, and a couple more. At the store, after playing around with most of the ones I saved on Amazon, I decided to get the Lumix.

iPhone XR

After however many years, I finally upgraded from the 6s to the XR. I went with the XR mostly for the cost. The XS was a bit too much and the dual camera/portrait feature I really wouldn’t use much.

Love the XR because it has quite a sharp camera; the images do look fantastic on a pixel basis. At the same time, I am not a huge fan because IMHO, the white balance is a bit off. The iPhone XR is super warm and in my eyes, the photo results weren’t normal, especially under the sun or Tungsten light (artificial light). Due to this, I struggled a bit the first few weeks of owning the phone because all my photos didn’t look right and I had a hard time editing the white balance to look the way I think it should be.

Even now I struggle with it but at least after having owned the XR for a bit, I know how to fix it.

On the left, I do like the warmth of the camera. The photo on the right though, too warm. I did edit the photo and while it looks ok, it’s not really the look I was after.

EDIT: I now use an iPhone 11

And I just love it more. It fixes all the light issues that I was having. I highly recommend it more than the XR if you’re not into super warm photos.

Q: What apps do you use to edit your Instagram photos?

I love app/software testing. It was my job before I moved to England and it’s just something I enjoy doing. While I have tried many apps, when it comes down to my Instagram, these four below are my top apps:

  1. Lightroom on the desktop for my camera photos and mobile for iPhone
  2. Unfold for my Stories
  3. Plann to plan my IG posts
  4. RNI Film to give the vintage/film and dust overlay look

Preview

What happened to Preview for planning?

I used to love using Preview to plan my Instagram feed. But sometimes last year or so, Instagram changed its API. This part is inconvenient I am sure for all software developer. With this change came a huge Preview change, at least for me.

One reason I love Preview is for its hashtag feature. I could type in a hashtag, let’s say #theprettycities and it’ll show how many photos have been using that hashtag. With the API change, this feature went away. I asked Preview and the reply I received was that the API change made them not be able to give me that feature anymore.

Ok, fine.

But then I got tired of going back and forth between Preview and Instagram when I was into trying new hashtags. So off I went to see if there’s anything else out there.

This was when I found Plann and when I saw that they have the hashtag feature that Preview used to have, I felt a bit like I got lied to.

For now, Plann gives me what I need. The only thing I don’t like is that I have to go in and out of a post to copy and paste the hashtags I saved. I suppose there is no perfect app.

And VSCO?

I actually have a subscription for this app still and I have purchased a few of their desktop presents. But I now only use it for videos. Despite me wanting to learn video editing better, I haven’t had the time for it yet and due to this, VSCO is the tool for me to polish up my quickie videos to post on Stories.

Q: Do you use any presets?

Like I mentioned above, I do still use VSCO and I have purchased their presets, but I don’t use them much for my Instagram photos.

For my IF posts, I just edit in Lightroom manually. But, when I love a look and I try to do it over and over again by copy and pasting the settings, I would then create my own presets.

I usually create presets after a big trip and I have hundreds of photos from it or when a new season is starting. Because of this, my preset are named after countries or cities. I have an Andalucia group and in it, there is a Seville, Cordoba and Granada presets. My last group was called Portugal. I haven’t made a Bali one yet. Somehow the Portugal and Belgium preset I created looked fine on my Bali photos.

A quick Lightroom edit

Q: Any tips on getting good mobile photos?

Yes, I have a few… Before I get there, I remember sitting in my photography class at uni and on the first day my professor told us that the word photo means light in Greek. While there are many aspects of photography that one needs to master, without this most important factor, bad light will equal bad photos – and Photoshop/Lightroom can only do so much.

So, at that point, I made up my mind that photography is the art of light. The better at mastering light, the better the photo will be.

Based on my light story, my photography tips are

At every possible occasion, capture images at different times of days and under different lighting conditions.

Full-on sunny day, play with shadows, shoot during the golden hours, shoot indoors with Tungsten lights, shoot outdoors at night with whatever light is out there.

What is this golden hour? In photography, this is about an hour before sunrise and also sunset. To find out when sunrise or sunset is, you can look it up on Google, use a weather app that shows the sunrise and sunset, or purchase an app called Helios. This app will give you all you need to know about your next golden hour photo opportunity. It’s a pretty awesome app!

This tip is also good for a mirrorless or DSLR cameras but it’s more so when snapping with a phone. The reason is that a phone doesn’t have the controllers that a “real” camera does. You can’t, for example, adjust the aperture or shutter speed. There are apps to give your phone camera more capabilities and control but in my humble opinion, having the skills to be able to do a lot manually will make you a better photographer.

Recap: play with light with your phone camera!

Play with the focus.

In the example below, I have the left focusing on the glass and the right focusing on the background. If you don’t know how to do this, on your phone, tap on the glass to focus on it and then the background to focus on the background. A very subtle move that can change the story of your photo.

Play with distance and angles

Shoot the subject at different distances and also angles.

The example below of the couple, I cropped in Lightroom. While this is fine, what I want you to do is practice with your mobile camera. I just didn’t photos to illustrate this on my computer to upload here.

For food/tabletop shoots, try different points of views. From the top, the side — which side? Your side, left or right? The different angles can truly change how the drinks, food and other bits and bobs look and again: tell the story.

How does it look if you take the photo while you’re standing up? Squatting down? If you are photographing a person, which angle is more flattering and how far is too far and how close is too close?

Use the grid lines on your camera

And practice the rule of thirds.

What is this rule? This rule of thirds in the very basic photography rule. If you look at your mobile phone screen, in camera mode, you’ll see two horizontal and vertical grid lines (if you don’t see these lines, you need to go into your camera settings and turn this on).

When taking a photo, you want to make sure that whatever it is you want to focus on is on the third part of your screen. Using the couple photo again, you can see that the second photo fits this rule of thirds.

Play with lighting

On the iPhone, you tap on the screen and a yellow square will show up with a sun icon to the right of it. When you move your finger up and down, the light will adjust.

A little bit more light control when using your phone to take photos and this is where you can decide how much of the highlight/details you want to keep.

Take a few different captures with different lighting and choose the one you like best.

Q: Are there any other apps you recommend?

On occasion, I use the below. Mostly for Stories.

  • Helios: an app to help me calculate when and where the magic hour will happen.
  • Mojo: for Stories and you can get it for iOS and Android
  • InStories: another Stories app and it’s iOS only
  • Splice: to create a slideshow of my photos for Stories and it’s also just iOS. This app used to come with GoPro. Not sure what the story is but I don’t think GoPro uses this anymore.

They are all freemium apps but between Unfold and the freebies offered by the above apps, you can get away without having to pay to create stunning Instagram Stories.

Q: Any other last words?

Practice, practice, practice!

I’ve been a photographer for many years and I am always learning something new each time I pick snap and edit my photos. While editing apps and presets can be super fun to use, focusing on how you use light and capture image with a camera should be top priority in learning how to be a good photographer.

Don’t get discouraged

Whether you think your photography skills aren’t improving or Instagram isn’t giving you the positive feedback you were hoping for (not a lot of reach or likes for example).

Don’t let those thoughts and algorithms that you can’t control keep you from picking up your camera and creating images. I know it can be hard at times, been there done that, but trust me when I say pick that camera back up, download the images, edit, and post!

Take care!

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Photography tips & best four apps for Instagram a video tutorial
Instagram: How It Helped Me Heal from Depression

Instagram: How It Helped Me Heal from Depression

About 300 million people around the world suffer from depression and is the leading cause of disability
World Health Organization

While we as humans go through the ups and downs of emotions on a daily basis, feeling sad and empty for more than a couple weeks can be a good indication that one is depressed. In the UK, one out of four people is affected by depression and in the US, 16 million people are affected. According to a recent Time Magazine report, out of the 16 million, one third do not get better with treatment. Sadly, at its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

Depression doesn’t just affect adults. It affects minors also. New research findings that were just reported in the Washington Post showed that between 2010 and 2015, there was a 33% surge in teen depression and scarily, a 23% rise in teen suicide attempts.

Savitri Wilder: Wisteria Photo

Wisteria

My History with Depression

Between 2013-2015 I went in and out of depression. I remember many mornings where I just didn’t want to get out of bed. It wasn’t because I was tired. It was because I had no energy or motivation to do it. Despite all the activities and loving people around me, I felt empty. On many nights I had a hard time falling asleep. Self-talks (mostly negative), regrets (because I didn’t do something I wanted/should have done), the unknown future, and more danced around in my head which then triggered anxiety. I felt guilty for not doing something and then felt guilty cause I felt guilty. A huge non-stop loop of self-pity and blame. Deep inside my self-worth was very low and I was very sad, but, since sadness is only for the weak, or so I thought, I replaced it with anger. Nobody wants to mess with anger, right?

At that time I didn’t really know what exactly I was feeling. I just knew I was miserable. It’s been mostly the last 12 months that I have been able to truly look back, question, and reflect on the negative feelings and thoughts that I had. Since it’s been a few years, many things are fussy too. That’s the other side effect of depression, it clouds your mind and it can influence your memory. What I believe triggered the depression was the frequent feeling of never good enough and lack of meaning in my life. It didn’t matter if hubby made many attempts to tell me how well I did something, how the family appreciated the things I did or that me staying home was truly important to the family. I feel ashamed to admit this but I expected quite a bit from the girls, especially in terms of discipline. I didn’t get mad every day, or even every other day, but when I did, I was angry and the girls would be terrified. I wasn’t the most pleasant with my husband either. Even if he didn’t mean it as a criticism, I took it as so. 

There were so many triggers, they felt so strong, and I didn’t know how to handle them.

Without realising it, I became the victim of my mind. A lot of anger, a lot of blame, a lot of defensiveness, and a lot of waiting for all the things outside of myself to be better so I could feel better. 

I didn’t know though that I was depressed until 2016; I thought that depression was something that you either have or you don’t have. Due to lack of education, I thought depression was biological. I figured a thirty-something person wouldn’t just all of a sudden be affected by depression. The idea that I may have been depressed came about when my good friend and I were having a chit-chat. I don’t remember exactly how the topic entered our conversation but she said I was really anti-social the year before. Even if I were there physically, my mind was elsewhere. She said that even though I was feeling better, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I saw somebody.

I agreed. Kind of.

The Therapist and I

I did make an appointment. I was terrified!

I wasn’t scared to see a therapist. I was terrified to hear what she had to say. I was scared to hear that I was damaged goods. Unloveable. Not good enough. 

I did make myself go. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the feelings I had the year before.

So glad I went! It’s not how I envisioned it to be and I was assured that I was not who I thought I was. She told me that I am always worthy of love. That I am a good person. My behaviour could be better but the core of who I am is good and as long as I believed that I did my best, I am good enough. Since I was already feeling better, I didn’t spend a lot of time in therapy trying to feel better. After she got to know me a bit more, we went to work on getting to the point where I would be truly healed. She also wanted to make sure that  I knew the signs so that I could work on triggering my positive brain chemicals before depression makes itself comfortable again in my mind.

Audley End

Audley End

In one of my sessions, my therapist told me stories of when she was working with minors in a juvenile detention. She shared more severe cases, because I asked, and what got me was this: Most of the kids in detention and adults in prison have one thing in common, they didn’t have a caregiver, a mother (she said this mostly for my benefit, not due to sexism), that was there for them. Not just to feed and clothes, but also emotionally and mentally. She showed me the importance of being a mother and that not everyone can be a good mother.

We spent time exploring my childhood and we put many pieces of my life story together. My therapist helped me quite a bit but a lot of reading (reliable blogs, research, reports, and self-help books) with many days of reflections added to the complete healing process.

My therapist was quite impressed that I got as far as I did. She asked how I did it and I swore she thought she heard wrong. What I told her was: I started taking photos again last February and posted every day on Instagram. I felt encouraged by the engagement and nine months later I felt quite good.” She said that by accident I stumbled upon an unconventional way to get out of depression. 

A little background story before I go on… Before moving to England I was not only working full-time in my career field, I was also teaching at a university on a part-time basis and paper crafting weekly. A few times a week I also blogged about our daily life and the crafty goods I made. I was busy, steadily moving up in my career, and I felt that I was not only contributing to my family but also the world. I felt like my life had meaning.

Even though it was my decision to stay home and I was busy with the family and travelling, I felt as if I lost a huge chunk of me. I often looked at myself in the mirror and asked, “Who are you? Who am I?” And the answer to “a stay-at-home-mom” was just really depressing. I felt meaningless.

The Negative Effect of Social Media

Initially, Facebook was a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends and family. Slowly but surely though, it became one of my biggest triggers. I was happy for each of my friends’ successes, they all worked hard for them. But each promotion, new degree, new job, next conference, etc made me more and more worthless. I felt like I was not good enough. Later I found that it’s not just me who felt this way. This study shows it.

Another recent research conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health produced some startling numbers. According to their data, 91% of people between 16-24 use the internet for social networking. And in the last 25 years, the rate of depression and anxiety have increased by 70%. This research also specifically mentioned Instagram as one of the worst social media for mental health.

I can see this!

The perfect breakfast, the dream beach holidays and body, the relationship goals, the crafts we wish we could create, the cute kids that we wish we had, the rooms and decore we wish we have in our own home, the money we wish we had to buy all the cute outfits, the well-behaved dog that is also too cute to be true, etc.

With Facebook, since these friends are my real life friends (and most rarely bother to edit their photos before posting), I still had a sense of reality. I knew, for example, that my friends argue with their spouses despite posting lovely photos of themselves and spouses — smiles and all. But if you’re not careful with Instagram, especially since most don’t know who these people are in person, life on Instagram can seem to be the reality of these people. It’s like a kid looking into Willy Wonka’s candy shop. Feed after feed after feed of gorgeous, dreamy, magical, and expensive stuff. If we’re not conscious, our minds will start creating this belief that there are so many out there with lives waaaay better than our own. How depressing!

Somehow, I think mostly due to ignorance and also not having the mood to really care much about things that didn’t mean much to me (my give a f*** level was really low then), I managed to just focus on following people whose photographs spoke to me. My goal was to make me love photography again and so I followed many photographers. I also wanted to get some fresh ideas on where to go in England and so I followed many English Instagrammers. 

Happy Chemistry

Before I get into the details of the next portion, let me share a bit of chemistry…

There are four main ingredients that our brain needs to produce in order for us to feel happy: Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins.

Dopamine: The reward chemical. Our brain produces dopamine when we complete a task, hit a target, feel grateful, and do something nice for others.

Oxytocin: The trust and love chemical. Our brain produces oxytocin via relationships. When we feel like we are receiving love, our brain produces oxytocin. While a lot of oxytocin are created when two people hold hands, hugs, kiss, or have sex, some oxytocin can also be created by connecting with a friend and using the word “love” a lot.

Serotonin: The mood chemical. You know what Prozac, the anti-depressent drug, does? It helps create serotonin. Naturally, serotonin can be created by being out under the sun and exercise.

Endorphins: The pain chemical. Endorpins is released after exercise. You don’t need to do high impact aerobics or bike five miles a day to get endorphins. Walking 20-30 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week, can help your brain produce endorphins.

Can you start to see where this is going?

Nottinghill London red bus

Nottinghill London red bus

I actually didn’t know about the psychology of social media when I started to actively use Instagram in February of 2016. To be fair, despite being a psychology major in uni, psychology was the last thing on my mind. Early last year, I was just struggling to find a way to feel better.

Before I fell deep into depression I was very creative. Paper crafting and photography were my two outlets. In 2015 though, I barely touched my camera and I only crafted because I had to — for the girls’ school or something. I decided that crafting was not a good choice to dive into. It’s messy and the mess would just overwhelm me. So I opted for photography. Even when I was feeling completely not in love with photography anymore, it was not messy and quick. 

To make the project as simple as possible, I decided to mainly shoot with my iPhone. I never leave the house without and it’s so much smaller.

I failed this many times in the past, but I decided to do the 360 photo challenge again. The challenge has daily challenges and while I wanted to do my own thing (which I wasn’t sure what yet then), I figured it was a good plan B if I needed inspiration when I was in a rut. I also didn’t want to spam my real life friends on Facebook and this was why I opted out for Instagram. I’ve had this account since 2010 but it was mostly private and dormant. One photo a day on Instagram. Not bad, right?

I posted my first photo February 1st and I posted three photos that day. I was excited about this new activity. Dopamine!!

I used hashtags. Just whatever hashtag that sounded good. And amazingly, I started getting likes and comments from people I didn’t know! More dopamine!!

Here’s a funny part… Before February, I didn’t realise that there are gorgeous feeds on Instagram. I thought IG was just a twitter version of Facebook 😳🙈. Boy was I wrong! I was so amazed at how many beautiful feeds were out there and I spent a good few days just soaking in all the creativities. Despite having a family who loves me and always tries to make me laugh often, more oxytocin was sneaking in.

The dopamine effect started to kick in after a few weeks and was feeling quite positive about the project. I wasn’t thinking, or even aiming to become happier. I was just aiming to like photography again, do something creative, and to give me something to do outside the house. Despite the cold temperature, I was outside a lot and soon after, I realised that there are “special” hashtags to use. I studied Instagram a bit more and learned about niche hashtags and implemented what I learned. To keep me motivated, I aimed for 1000 followers by the end of December 2016. I figured a 100 new followers a month is doable. Dopamine and endorphins.

Mid-February family and I went to London for an overnight getaway. By this time I was somewhat decent with my hashtag choices and I uploaded a few photos from that trip. For a newbie with a few hundred followers, the feeling of getting over 200 likes that weekend on a photo was equivalent to getting 20k likes. The best part though was the engagement that I was having with other Instagramers — I felt like I was bringing meaning to others via my photography — and I loved every comment that I receive! My most favourite are those who told me that my photos brought back good memories. More dopamine and oxytocin!

By the end of March, I had a better idea on my niche. Initially, I wanted my IG to be a travel feed. But then I realised that it was unrealistic due to me being a mom of two school children and the wife of a husband with a demanding job and schedule. So I decided to share the beauty of my local wanderings with the occasional travels on and off the island.

The sun was starting to come out more, I was super enthused about creating and I spent many hours between school drop off and pick up taking photos of pretty facades, streets, flowers and whatever that were around me. Funny thing about Instagram is that once you become a regular, you start seeing things that you never noticed before. Lovely simple, or even magnificent, things that you pass by every day which you have taken for granted. Our brain is funny this way. Once it becomes used to things, those things gradually become the new normal. On the engagement front, I started actively commenting on others’ photos too. Lots of “love” were said on a daily basis and I had to search for what it was that I liked about the photo I was commenting on. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. BOOM!

Without knowing it, I was creating feel-good chemicals in my brain and I was slowly but surely rewiring my brain.

Gratitude

There is more!!

For survival reasons (way back many thousands of years ago), our brain was wired to look and remember the negatives. Our brain wanted to make sure that we survived and in order to do that, it wanted us to really remember which berry killed our cousin Manny from two caves down.

Now, think of a beautiful day when all was good except for one. Out of the blue, as you were strolling to grab a cup of coffee, a bird pooped on you. What would be the most likely thing that you’d feel strongly about? The handful of good things that happened that day or the poo? When it happened to me, it was all about the poo! And if you have ever been pooped on by a bird, let me tell you! Unless you wash your hair really good, the smell will linger! Fast forward… I don’t remember much of that day. I am almost sure it was a really good day. But I remember a lot of the poo and the smell after. 

Wandering about with Instagram in mind forced me to find the beauty, the positive, the goodness, of everything that passed in front of my eyes. Being behind the camera, or in front of the iPhone, made me wonder about the story of the old man sitting alone and content with the day’s paper and coffee. That visual made me see loneliness in a different way. While I knew I was very lucky to be able to live in a safe and beautiful country, I never consciously said how grateful I was. 

I started being more thankful for many things and around this time last year I started getting into the habit of finding three things to be grateful for that day. I wouldn’t just think about being grateful. I would say them to the family or friends and/or write about them on my Instagram posts. Here’s another interesting research… If for whatever reason there is nothing in your life that you can be grateful, the act of searching can release the feel-good chemistries. The conscious effort that was put into looking for the positive is what helps push the automatic/subconscious negative mind away.

Before Instagram, I would do my errands and then back home again. After Instagram, my errands took more time. A Cambridge run could last all day. A weekend at the beach with the girls required more walks than just sitting on the beach and a cafe stop. The three hours drive to Bath then became an all day drive since we had to stop at a bazillion different spots (according to Jovie).

Cambridge, UK

Cambridge, UK

I don’t doubt that social media, and Instagram in particular, can cause depression. I know the number game almost got me (will write more on this next time). But if used the right way: staying true to why you’re on the platform, surrounding yourself with inspiring people, and using Instagram in a conscious and methodical way, it can help those like me get out of a very sad and lonely place.

While Instagram did help me crawl out of the deep dark underground cave of depression, my family is the one that I have to thank and be grateful for most. I know it was tough at times and nobody, not even myself, knew who I was, but somehow, even after a lot of tears, we’re still together in this game of life.

I am proud to say that in the last 12 months I have not had out outburst. Before the depression, I was quite an even-keeled person. After the depression, not a whole lot triggers me. I am significantly more emotionally intelligent, I know who I am more, I can think properly and remember a lot of information again and to top it all, I want to go back to university and work on a PhD in psychology. I want to do research on a few things that I experienced and I want to help lessen the number of people with depression.

If you made it this far, thank you so so much for reading and I hope that some of the information here can help you with your healing. Take care and feel free to message me with any question!

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Instagram Tips: Consistency & Value

Instagram Tips: Consistency & Value

Oh hi again! It’s been awhile but a few things kept me from blogging, one being not sure of what to write about. Yeah, a bit of an issue, huh? ?

Here I am though, and today I want to share my thoughts on being consistent on Instagram and giving value to your followers.

Many moons ago in university, my photography professor told me that my photos were technically good but they had no soul. For a late teen/early twenty-years-old, that was a huge shock! The comment did hurt my ego, especially since the guy I was dating took that photography class also and my professor often used his photos for examples on what good photography should look like. While I still liked taking photos, I wasn’t in love or really into it until Emma was born 13 years ago. I took many photos.

Some were good and some were just ok.

I started scrapbooking and card making regularly then too. Some were good and some were just ok.

Funny enough it was around this time that I truly saw what my professor was talking about! Even though my photo quality wasn’t excellent, I could see more soul and I had an inkling that it may have came from my love for the subject, new mother’s love. I used that feeling to keep me going in photography. Every week I felt like I was getting better.

Have you ever heard of the term fake it until you make it? If not, it basically means that you need to pretend to feel confident until you gain the experience or tool needed so that the confidence becomes real.

Have you ever watched Amy Cuddy’t TedTalk video? If not, here it is below.


Why am I rambling about this?

Because I faked all my confidence in photography, papercrafting, Instagram and like Amy, public speaking. A slight difference in body posture, perspective, tone of voice, courage– to share my work to the world, and how I held my camera, helped me get to where I am now.

I was a C student in public speaking in university. I was terrified of speaking in public. But I faked it until I made it. Before moving to England I spoke at difference conferences and a day before we flew out, I spoke to many business folks from Kansas City, Hallmark was one of them, at one of their marketing development sessions.

Like Amy, I went from faking it to waking up feeling like photography, papercrafting, Instagram, and public speaking have always been my thing; like I was born with them. My photography had a soul and everything just came naturally.

Instagram is a visual platform. Without good to great images, you will not grab your potential audience’s attention. Some people have natural artistic eyes but most of us don’t. This doesn’t mean we are not meant for visually appealing photography, we just have to be confidence that we can do it and keep practicing.

You’ll have good days and many bad days but if you keep it up, you’ll get there!

In the write-up below, I will share screen captures of some of my Instagram friends and with a few, I will also show how we have grown as photographers and Instagrammer. We all started from being a newbie, the key is to believe in yourself, practice, be consistent and give value.

CONSISTENCY

For your Instagram to grow, you need to be consistent in what your share, the frequency and the photography style.

We all love different things. Our families, pets, worldly possession, hobbies etc. If you want to grow an Instagram account, it is most important to have a niche, a small few things to focus on. You can do travel and cafes, cats and roses, food and flatlay, florals and tea, family, knitting and crocheting, or travel, food and floral. Showcasing more than three things are just too much. Look at it from a Venn Diagram point of view:

Venn Diagram

Venn Diagram

The more varieties you share, the more difficult it will be to find other IG users who share the same love as you.

For my Instagram, I focused on local (Cambridge area) travel with a bit of travel outside of the island when we can. Within the travel niche, I mostly focus on facades, street views and more villages/towns than cities. Due to this, my feed looks like the below.


This doesn’t mean I can’t have a dog or an image of the girls in there, they’re just not the focus. From a movie/book point of view, the dogs, kids, and people are just supporting actors. For me, they give life to the image. In some instances, the supporting actors give perspective on how big/small a building is.

Lately, I have added interior and I will continue to feature them but just a sprinkle here and there for many reasons, mainly because I rarely get invited to tea by the homeowners of the houses I photograph ?

If you do food and flatlay. You can add all sorts of embellishments to it. Kitchen tools, spices, drinks, etc. But as long as you stay with your theme, a flatlay, and possibly with a home baked bread or cake, your account will grow.

How often should you post?

To grow steadily you need to post everyday. Don’t forget to use hashtags. If you can’t do everyday, it’s fine, but be consistent with your every other day. You can still grow if you post randomly but don’t also expect a steady growth. You get back what you put into Instagram.

How many post per day?

This is really up to you although in my personal experience and from watching other new accounts grow, starting out you should post 2-3/day. You can keep this up if you have the time and photos but if you grow to a rate where you cannot keep up with engagement or you cannot continue to produce quality images, I suggest bumping your post down to 1-2/day. I started out with three. Then when I reached about 1,000 followers I went to 2/day. After about 5,000 followers, I went to 1/day. I’ve been one a day and everyday.

What time to post?

This is a bit tricky. I’ve watched others, use different “what time to post” apps and personal experiment on posting the same time and randomly. What I found  for my feed was that it didn’t matter as long as it was a reasonable time. For others, a business for example, it may matter.

According to Iconosquare these are my best times to post:

Savitri Wilder: Iconosquare screen capture

 

According to When to Post (a free app, the Android version here), these are my best times to post:

 

When to Post

A bit different, right? But I can say that if I post around 10-11am and 12-1pm, I’ll be ok.

In general people like schedules. We like knowing when a show will come on. We like getting to work and know what will happen when. We like knowing that when we wake up, and look on Instagram for our daily inspiration, our favourite Instagammers will be there for us.

Another factor I use to decide on when to post, especially since I post just once a day, is geographic location of my audience.

Savitri Wilder: Iconosquare screen capture

Most of my audience are in Europe and American continents. If I post too early, let’s say 9am, the Americans are still sleeping. If I post at 10pm, many of the European peeps will have gone to bed. I do know too I have followers from Asia and Australia and posting around the afternoon gets to most everybody. I also post in the afternoon because mornings are just way too busy for me. Getting kids ready for school, doing house work, etc. On weekends, I sleep in if I can, or on swimming club duty and there’s no Internet in the pool. But by lunch time on any day, I am awake and usually have a bit of time to faff on the phone and post.

Figure out where your target audience are and use this information to help you decide on when the best time to post will be. Experiment a bit. My 1pm may be your worst time and your 7pm will be way better than mine.

If you have a business Instagram account, I believe it will give you the stats above. I am still on a personal account since I don’t see a need to go business; I can get my stats from Iconosquare. I know it’s a paid app but it’s very inexpensive and it’s what I recommend my clients. I need to have it anyways to know how to use it.

Feed Planning

You think I made my Instagram the way it is from just deciding on the day what to post?

I am not that good! Many of us Instagrammers use apps to help curate our feed to the way we think it should look like. You can pre-determine how your layout will look like by using a few free apps. The ones I have used are UNUM (iDevice and Android), Planoly (iDevice and Android) and Preview (iDevice and Android). Of the three, I use Preview now. Unlike the others, Preview has a feature to save hashtags into many different groups beside pre-planning how my feed will look. Right now I have a hashtag group for city, house, floral, lifestyle etc. Just a push of a button and voila, hashtags!!

In these apps you can insert photos, move these photos about, and see how they’d look next to, on top of etc, of each other. This is a powerful tool to make your feed aesthetically pleasing. It also can save you a lot of time! I can spend an hour prepping for three or four days worth of posts. I’ll add hashtags, type in the history/story, save and when posting time comes, I can do it in minutes.

Here’s an example of my Preview. I took a photo of the Cambridge Wine Merchant some weeks ago. Should I or should I not post this photo today? Remember, there is no right or wrong here. This is YOUR preference, YOUR visual. According to my eyes, for this image, no. I just posted a forward facing building and under it is also another forward facing building. The next should either have some space, a row of building from the left (since two images before  and down centre there are row of building from the right) or even an interior. I’ll post the Wine Merchant another day, maybe. But not today.

This may look a bit much but again, Instagram is a visual platform. You need to do the best to make your feed visually appealing.

Savitri WIlder: Preview App

Photography style

Is another important aspect in order to grab the attention of others on Instagram. If your photos are not good, you are not going to grow. If you think you’re using the right hashtags, you’re engaging, staying within a niche, posting regularly and still not growing, it may be time to be brave and ask others to critique your photos.

Try to really find out what is not right with your photos. The edit, the perspective, layout, the background, the colours, etc. And then go from there. There are many tutorials, free even, that you can find online to better your skills. If you need a filter to help with consistency, use something like VSCO, AColorStory, etc.

I hope by now you are getting a better idea on what consistency means. If you look at successful Instagram feeds — grow steadily and with good, 5% is considered good for IG, engagement — you will see similarities: Consistencies between all the things I mentioned above.

Before moving on to value, here’s one fabulous example. A new favourite of mine, @heydavina. If you want to see what life is like in New York with some travels to other cities and fab cafe vibes, she’s the girl to follow. Gorgeous images of outside and inside of buildings, street vibes, and beautifully presented food. To be fair I have not stalked her enough to see if she post at a certain time or how many a day but I do know she posts every day and what caught my attention was where she goes/showcase (in-line with what I love also) and the aesthetics of her feed. Davina is also a very engaged Instagrammer and this is also why I enjoy interacting with her daily on Instagram.

VALUE

In general, humans are curious beings. We’d hear a noise and we’d look up. We’d hear whispers and we’d strain to listen. We see an intriguing photo and we want to know more.

We are all not great photographers, I know I am not.

If you want to grow your feed and have people engaging, adding value to each post can set you apart from the rest.

I love adding a bit of history and/or life story to my photos. I was a blogger before Instagram, I love history and I am an educator. I didn’t realise until many comments later that many not only come for my photos but also the history/story behind it. Through my writing I’ve connected with so many wonderful people. I got to know them a little bit more and they also learn a little bit from me. It’s a win/win for all of us and it truly makes my Instagramming time worthwhile.

Since my realisation, I’ve noticed many Instagrammers who not only share fantastic photos but also write captions that I know I wouldn’t want to miss reading on a daily basis. Of the wonderful people I follow, I have to give @cookiesncandies the award for always writing out the best captions! She makes me laugh out loud a lot!

Value can come in different form. Mine is history, daily stories and now and then things I’ve learned ever since my breakdown spiritual awakening  (borrowing Brene Brown’s words). Others can be inspirational quotes, recipes, stories about the process of whatever they photographed, silly things their kids said, travel tips, marketing tips, etc.

If you can give a little bit more, I believe you can have growth and followers who look forward to what you’ll post next.

We All Started as Newbies

So many things and the information can be overwhelming but do not be discouraged! Read a little bit, do a little bit and go from there. I have had photography experience in the past and while not even close to good, I could get a hang of that skill the fastest. Instagram was all new to me despite having had an account for many years. Using IG privately and publicly with the want to grow are like apples and oranges. I had to learn and it took me a good month to get the first true 100 followers (my first 122 FB friends don’t count ?). I got better at it and a few months later, thanks to a wisteria photo, I reached 1000 followers.

Below I want to share a few of my friend’s feeds. From earlier on when we were just learning the ropes to today. We didn’t start with a bang and if we can do it, you can too!

@dy_ellie

My dearest Instagram friend is Ellie. She’s only 15 minutes away and she is really lovely to hangout with. She does more flatlays than I do and hang out more in the city, but she also tries to give value in her captions. This is her now.

This was her about a year ago. That cat. I don’t know why I keep laughing everytime I see it!!

@misskatyenglish

Sometimes last summer Katy asked a group of Instagrammers for feedback on her feed. She wasn’t growing. I gave her some honest feedback, Katy graciously accepted and thought them over.

Have you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Katy may have either read it or she’s just naturally proactive but she used what advice she thought was good for her, made some changes and you can see her evolution.

Her main problem was having a bit too many different things that she was sharing on her feed. Once she chose her niche and aesthetics, she started growing again.

I am guessing here but I think this is her winter look.

A more earth tone autumn feed.

And her then.

Last but not least, here’s mine from about a year ago. Woah I was everywhere!!!

I hope you find this post useful! Until the next one!!

Instagram Tips: Consistency and Value

 
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Instagram Tutorial: Your Bio

Instagram Tutorial: Your Bio

I think I should start at the beginning with this whole Instagram thing. A very good place to start. When you read, you begin with… Ok, getting a bit carried away here. This is not the Sound of Music blog ?

Anyhow… If you just want your friends and family to see your Instagram feed, your bio can say and look like whatever. But if you want the public to see AND follow you, you need to give the public and idea what it is you have to offer. Especially if you’re new. This is like a job interview or speed dating. Those first few seconds matter.

Are you a doll crafter? Are you a home decor shop? Or are you a flat lay floral and stationary feed? Where are you located or where will you be? What is your cause if any? Or what other important details do you want others to know?

Instagram gives you a small space, above all your little squares, to tell others a bit about yourself and your feed. If you are a business or somebody who wants to grow their IG feed, this is one important and easy place to focus your mind on.

There are a few limitations: Your name cannot be more than 30 characters, your bio cannot be more than 150 characters and the keyboard “return” for a line break is not an option. The text limitations make sense, the keyboard confuse me still, but it’s ok, we can work with this!

Instagram is a visual platform. Due to this, while the usage of emojis and special characters are not required, these little symbols can help simplify a few words and also enhance the aesthetics of your bio.

Use my profile as an example. All text on the first screen capture and a bit of emoji goodness on the second.

Instagram Bio Example

Can we agree that the second bio is visually better than the first?

How can you create this you say? Give the little video below a play and find out!

Easy right? I have no idea why IG removed the keyboard return option but it’s the way it is.

Below I want to share two of my Instagram friends’ bio and feed. The first is Shea (@conversationwithmysister). She used special characters to enhance her bio. You can clearly see what her feed is all about, where she’s located, her website and more.

The second is Ellie’s (@dy_ellie). Hers is a business account thus the “Contact” button. A quick look at her bio and you get the idea that she loves to travel and tell stories via her photos that were taken using an iPhone. She also created a hashtag that she’d love everybody to use when in Cambridge.

The last is mine. Mine evolved from being detailed about what I photograph (I think one time I had emojis of kids, map, flowers, house, coffee, car, bicycle and unicorn) to something a bit more simple. I just want folks to know my name, what I use to photograph (because people kept asking), more less where I am located and that I am an American living in the UK. The later I added in hopes that people will know that I photograph and tell stories about the UK from an American’s point of view.

I hope you find this little bit of information useful. The bio isn’t much but it is an important tool to help the Instagram community get a better idea of who you are.

 

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Instagram Edit Your Bio Beautifully
Instagram Tips: Hashtags Basics

Instagram Tips: Hashtags Basics

Hello again! I hope you found my last post useful!!

Today I want to share the basics of finding hashtags for those who are new to Instagram or those who are wanting to start growing their Instagram account. There are a lot of articles out there on the Internet in regards to top or best hashtags to use, but, there were only a few that I found to be really useful for those just starting out.

I found a lot of interesting findings when doing my hashtag research, the algorithm, but I will not go into that now. It’ll just be too much.

So let’s get started!

  1. Do not use general hashtags like #tuesday (9.2 million photos in there) #breakfast (53.2 million) #travel (147.2 million) or even #tbt (352 million). Right now, go into one of those hashtags and look under “most recent” and scroll through. How many posts come in every minute? A lot!
  2. This is where reflection comes in… Look at your feed if you have one or think about the one you will be starting. What do you want to share with the world? How do you want your feed to look and who do you want to engage with? Moms, fellow travelers, photo enthusiasts, lovers of architecture etc. What will your niche be? Ok, you may be thinking, “I don’t want to be too niche, it’ll be too restricting.” Have you heard the term niche marketing? Basically you want to be the big fish in the small pond and not the small fish in the big pond.
  3. Once you have a better idea of which direction you want to go, do a bit of digging around. There are a variety of ways to do this.
    1. If you love a particular magazine, see if it has an Instagram account and a hashtag. Or just look at any magazine’s IG account, magazines that would be read by people who may like what you have to offer, and see if they have a hashtag that they use.
    2. Find other Instagrammers,  ideally an Instagrammer that doesn’t have a huge following as yet, in your niche with good engagement. In Instagram, 5% engagement is average, anything more is really good. Look at their hashtags, click on them and if you find some good ones, write them down on a piece of paper, phone Notepad/Evernote or whatever.
    3. If you are involved in a group, let’s say Clickin Mom and they have tags they use, write them down. If you love using a particular photo editing app, VSCO for example, look up vsco’s tags.
    4. Visit Instagram’s blog. They post weekly hashtag challenges. Give them a go. A lot of IGers participate and you have a chance to be featured.
  4. Look up related tags on Instagram. What you want to pay attention to when looking and selecting these hashtags are how big it is. This one example has about 167,250 posts and if you scroll through the most recent posts, you can get a rough estimate on how many new photos come in every hour.

    InstagramHashtags
       This one I think had about 14 photos. It’s not bad. Your photo can be easily accessible by many for the next hour or three.

    InstagramHashtagsMostRecent
  5. Use a variety of tags for your photo. If you are posting a handmade doll that you sell on Etsy. Use a handful of doll related tags, use a handful of mom/kids tags (assuming these are toys), use a handful of lifestyle blog, use a handful of location tags (#eastanglia, #parismaville, #thebigapple but not #chichago, #london, #tokyo, they’re too big and generic) and if there is a flower or the doll is on a bike or the doll is against a pretty wall, use very niche tags like #fouriadorefriday, #bicichic, or #ihavethisthingwithwalls.
  6. Combine big-ish to small-ish tags. I nice rule of thumb is to use hashtags with 5k-100k photos in there and if the hashtag photo amount is small, make sure it’s active. That there are photos being posted using that tag at least every hour. You don’t want to be buried. But you don’t also want to be the only post in two days, or weeks.

That’s that. At least for now. I think those tips above will get you going! Please let me know in the comment below if you tried the tips above and finding them helpful. Also, if you need any help finding a few, please comment below also. I’ll help the first five people who ask ?

Until next time!!

 

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hashtagsbasics

hashtagsbasics

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

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