Truth be told, right now I’m a little bored with my carefully curated Instagram gallery. January – a new year – usually brings with it an urge to shake things up a bit, to form a loose plan and purpose for the year. This time last year I hatched a plan that went along the lines of ‘make it work or move out’. By which I meant engaging with my followers (I love this part, the daily chats) and posting with purpose. A plan that included working with more of the brands I love. Or leaving for good. I was really looking for a reason to be there because actually 2015 was difficult for me online.
A big part of my year on Instagram involved deciding what to post in advance and being meticulous about what those posts would be, in a bid to keep it interesting and varied. And here’s the thing, it absolutely worked for me. I grew my following by 60,000 people in 12 months, without any kind of major feature or collaboration, actually I’m quite proud of this. I had no real publicity elsewhere, I just posted my best at all times, engaged with my followers and was careful about my collaborations – of which there are more than a few. This year though I have a theory about posting unscripted…
The open road
Planning and plotting is a great way to hone your style. A perfect way to know you have something ready to post when next you need to and that your photos will sit together happily in your gallery. But it is entirely restrictive when you have seen something you just want to share. I’ve been mulling this problem over for a while because frankly, it takes some of the enjoyment out of posting. It becomes a road full of junctions and stops.
Then my friend sent me a link to an article about why and how Instagram decided to update itself last year. And it really confirmed my thinking. Not only that Instagram themselves aren’t really fans of the planned and contrived gallery – a gallery like mine – more that they love the spontaneous sharing of life’s moments. And oh yes, that read as a bit of a slap round the face. I’m not out to impress Instagram as such but it did make me think more about my approach. It’s a great reminder that it’s meant to be fun!! And it was just what I needed to read.
When did I get so obsessed with the looks? Like the gallery making version of airbrushing, I am so guilty of cleaning up my gallery and deleting posts to make it look it’s best as a whole. I advise others to do the same! Surely there must be a way to maintain a cohesive whole while sharing a spontaneous element. I do often pop a post in unscripted already, sometimes it jars with those around it for a while but post a few more and then, looking back, those slightly out of place photos are some of my favourites! Because they are the ones that are most genuine of all. They feel like an open road.
So I tested the water on you. Sorry. (Not sorry). On the post above I indirectly asked what you think. And oh what a lovely revelation it turned out to be – you can read the comments if you click on the photo. So many of you are posting unscripted, I feel like it finally opened my eyes to my obsession with organisation this past year. It has it’s place and mostly I love my gallery but planning ahead can be soooooo, well, boring.
Hand in hand with the curated gallery comes the question of how genuine I am being? To be genuine can mean a million and one things. I genuinely went to all the places I have photographed. I genuinely saw what you see in my gallery. But is it honest?
Part of me would like to say yes, it is honest. But it isn’t always the whole picture… I don’t think it’s deceitful and will always share the best photograph I can but perhaps the subject matter needs to shift a little.
You see I have spent a long time trying to second guess what my followers want to see rather than posting what I love first. I have the other photos, of course, I just got too caught up in being unsure of how many folk want to see what I like to photograph (you know, things like my children) so on my camera roll they sit indefinitely…
This isn’t without foundation though. Just look at my “best nine” (which actually means most liked, not my definition of best) for 2016. That’s a pretty clear message is it not? Proven time and time again if I study the numbers. And I do love photographing flowers and styling a flatlay it has to be said.
But do they define my photography? No. Not outside of Instagram.
Like so many others I find myself currently stuck on the downside of Instagrams not-so-new algorithm. According to my Instagram analytics, my current audience is half to a third of the size it was last summer. The number of people even seeing my photographs is such a small proportion of my following, somewhat inevitable when you have been ‘gramming for a long time, but still not fun to know.
I’ve spent a while researching and yes there are some steps you can take to make the most of your posts but there is also an element of luck. That luck can be illusive too. If your photos aren’t being picked up by said algorithm, then there’s only a certain amount you can do to make yourself visible. But you know what, the numbers really aren’t everything are they? Instagram has always been full of ups and downs, let’s maybe just enjoy it for reasons other than likes and follows hey?
So many instagrammers now seem to be simply chasing the big numbers, the large account with big exposure and collaboration opportunities with brands. I get that, I can see why. Lets be honest, experiences and money are why. And I am in no way criticising this approach at all! But it’s not where I come from. I started using Instagram for the love of photography and community it brought with it. Over the years it has shifted away from the people and over to the brands, undeniably so if you’ve been watching long term.
I’m maybe a little bit Instagram old school about it all. I’m there for the visual input, the inspiration and community. Anything else is and always has been a bonus. I didn’t even realise folk were making money from sponsored posts til 18 months ago – though it has been quite a revelation since and as I mentioned above I do work with brands creating content. Carefully chosen mind you, and only those I love or think my followers might be interested in. Because given the opportunity who wouldn’t? Yet most of my posts are still in no way associated with brands at all. I’m posting for the visual documentation of passing time, collecting memories of everyday.
I can’t help feeling I’ve strayed. From myself. In the pursuit of a perfect gallery I’ve lost some spark. Time perhaps to get over that and stop taking this all so seriously…
Life itself is unscripted is it not? And perhaps it would be so much more interesting to just go with that.
So how to be more relaxed about this posting without planning lark? That’s hard. When you’ve become used to planning and plotting your way, letting go is a bit of a scary prospect. But I’m game. I have no idea what is going to happen to the look of my gallery. Though one thing is for sure, I really miss the spontaneity at the moment. I’ve been too caught up in posting photos I think will be well liked or popular for much too long.
So I’m going to go with the flow like some of my favourite instagrammers already do. I love their gallery’s, they feel homely. Natural. I’m going to try and post things as they are a little more, back to less complicated edits. That thought scares me, I like editing.
I’ve never been great at following any kind of conventional approach for long. I feel stifled by it. I’m hoping that’s since my photos are always ‘me’ they will still kind of make sense as a whole anyway. And for the time being I may well keep posting some of those latergrams that have become the foundation of my gallery, because it may take a while to readjust. And I have so many of them.
I’m throwing caution to the wind whenever possible though and going with the flow. Lining up the next few posts? So 2016. Posting unscripted? I’m declaring it to be this years thing. Let’s see where that open road takes me.
You can read that article about Instagram’s updates in the last year here, and I do still firmly believe that planning has its place, especially if you are trying to grow your account.
But I’m not. I want to get the fun back…