photography & instagram

Posting unscripted

01.30.17

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BP1zNACg5d1/?taken-by=humphreyandgrace

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.

life unscripted

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.

J x

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…

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24 comments on “Posting unscripted”

  1. Dear Julia,

    Thank you for such candid and interesting post. I joined instagram over the summer, so am still a relative newbie. Yours was one of the first accounts and journals I came across. I remember reading your post on white balance in particular and thinking just how helpful and inspiring it was. I have really enjoyed following your adventures since, both on instagram and here. It’s interesting too see a few of more posts lately about the auntenticity and the meaning of success on instagram in particular. It’s so fascinating to see different interpretations and takes on it. As you say, it’s hard not to get sucked into the numbers game, but it’s refreshing to see hat even since the summer the sentiments are shifting, even if the reality is that numbers do pay. I hope you continue with your less scripted quest, as your captures really are inspiring.

    1. Thanks Krissy, I do think theres a much more accepting theme running through at the moment, perhaps because I am looking at the app differently myself. Wh knows. But there does seem to be more of a movement to make it fun again, long term instagramming always has lulls and the best way I’ve found to get through them is simply to post what you love. I hoe you enjoy it there, it is one of the best communities I know xx

  2. I’ll keep it short and hopefully sweet? Hallelujah I get so bored of same old, same old flowers and linen napkins and wooden chopping board perfection! Let’s see some life please ! Xx

  3. I just want to say “Finally!! I’m not the only one to see that Instagram is not what it’s supposed to be anymore”. I tried hard last year to plan my photos in advance, but my heart was never into it. Why would I post something in 2 weeks when at that time I will have moved on from it anyway? Whether it was a trip, fresh flowers or something else?

    I understand how Instagram is so important in business, especially for photographers (I turn out to be one of them!), but for some reason the whole planning makes it sort of superficial and I am losing interest in it. I used to post every day, and grew my following a bit, but now I somehow post maybe once a week, if I have something to share.

    I think the Instagram media (or tool) should be either viewed as a Portfolio gallery with a personal touch rather than a complete transparent behind the scenes (Stories do that very well!) so at least we can post whatever we want for the sake of making the whole feed look pretty. Because at the end of the day, we all love a pretty feed :)

    1. Hi Lucie
      Thanks so much! I agree entirely, it takes away the spark somehow. I want my posts to be relevant, which is great for most of the year but I have to admit to finding the depths of winter more difficult simply because we aren’t out and about so much. I guess a portfolio of sorts is the best way to look at it xx

  4. Hello lovely you! Really enjoyed reading this, and good for you for cutting yourself some slack and shaking it up with your plan to post unscripted. It’s funny – that’s how I’ve always posted – day-to-day, not knowing what I’m going to post from one day to the next – but recently since around November-ish I have started planning more and looking at my gallery as a whole, something I never did. I’m still struggling with the algorithm, so engaging as much as I can has been on my list too. Ugh. Wish we could meet for a cuppa and chat about all this stuff. Hope you are well lovely xxx

    1. Thanks Jules, I always posted without planning until last year but then thought I’d give the whole planning lark a try. It was really useful for a while but I am not looking for anything more than enjoyment from posting again so planning becomes less relevant. How are you finding it? xx

  5. i feel you sister, i do ;) my problem is not that i plan in advance, my problem is that i so often skip that and post unscripted. haha! and i like so many styles, i can´t decide.. ;)

    1. I’m pretty sure there is no right or wrong way and that finding whichever way is fun is the most important thing! If that makes sense. And your gallery is always ‘you’ so perhaps mixing it up doesn’t really matter xx

  6. Dear Julia,
    I’m so glad that I read this .Following you has always put a smile on my face and I look forward to whatever you post on IG. Life is so structured and deliberate; and your not! You are a breath of fresh air, that I am glad to inhale. Do whatever makes you happy . Don’t count the numbers ! Feel confident knowing you make a difference out here.
    Love,
    Lynne. of liner_line47

    1. Dear Lynne
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful words, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy my posts! I know the umbers aren’t everything but it is so easy to get caught up in caring too much about how ‘well’ a photo performs rather than in what it’s saying. Your words are encouraging. I’m actually more excited about posting that I have been for a long time so let’s see where this year takes it xx

  7. Firstly, I apologise for the long comment in advance! I don’t seem to do short comments!

    This really resenates with me! I am very much mood-driven re: what I post to my instagram, and after the algorithm was implemented, my engagement {small as it was} totally nose-dived! Since then, I’ve been in-limbo; not really knowing where to go or what to do with it. It just wasn’t fun for me anymore.
    I tried the ‘planning & curating’ ideaology, but that didn’t feel right for me either. So abandoned that, & have since taken a long break from properly posting and just kept up with the people who I follow and the existing friendships that I had already made there. This exercise made me realise just how much I *love* the community aspect of Instagram, over likes & follows which I had seemingly fallen into the trap of obsessing over!

    —— Saying that though, why have Instagram chosen to curate what *they* think I would, & would not enjoy seeing in *my* feed if they want to bring back the authentic feel it once had? The rest I understand, but this bit just doesn’t, I’m afraid. It’s frustrating! I’m hoping they will see the error in it and bring back a chronological order to our feeds.

    So, I will get back to posting what I *feel* like posting, chatting with my friends, & maybe making some new ones this year too.

    Good on you for leading the charge into the unscripted, & re-finding your love for what you do & the why behind you doing it. & thank you for sharing it! Xx

    P.S, I have loved your recent “unscripted” images! I love your feed & photography anyway, but I think knowing that you are happier now, & that you’re making it more about *you* again is really lovely to see! x

    1. Hi Steph
      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! Instagram have not helped themselves in some ways with this algorithm and I agree that their choices of what we see aren’t always the ones we would choose. I realised recently that they actually hide posts from my feed completely – as a compulsive scroller I regularly scroll the whole of my feed yet I still miss posts from friends. They just don’t show at all until I visit their galleries.
      Really the community aspect is the best part of Instagram. It always was and that, I reckon, is out of Instagrams hands anyway because it’s what WE make of it.
      I hope you can find the fun in posting and try to forget the numbers. I know that’s easy for me to say with a big account but my engagement is not fantastic for all the time and effort I have put into my account. And there is little really that any of us can do about it.
      Here’s to making it fun xx

  8. Hi Julia,
    I love your honesty in this post. I haven’t been on Instagram very long at all but instantly fell in love with the creativity it inspired finding something to photograph once a day and the strong community of other creatives and mums in a similar stage of life to me. However, in a bid to make my feed look more cohesive colourwise I turned to planning, which whilst working it becomes very restrictive and limiting in what you can post! I’m hoping going forward I can find a balance between planned and the spontaneous?!
    I am very much looking forward to following along on your unscripted journey… I’m sure it’s going to be amazing!
    Becca x

    1. Hi Becca
      Thank you! I’m really encouraged by the lovely comments left here and on my photos on Instagram, I’ve been too worried about all the wrong things and not thought much about the enjoyment of it for a long time. The only way to change things is by turning it all on it’s head again. I reckon there is a balance out there, it may take a little time to find it but good luck to you too! Here’s to a happy year of posting xx

  9. I came across your IG this morning and have spent the last two and a half hours totally immersed in it. I started off thinking ‘I want her life’ but it was refreshing to read about your trials and tribulations and see that you are actually just like me really (although much more proficient at Instagramming and photography). I absolutely love your style of writing. You come across as such a gentle and genuine person. I am very grateful for the gems of wisdom I’ve discovered on your blog and I just wanted to say thanks for a totally enjoyable few hours.

    1. Hi Heather
      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! It means a lot to me. In a type of media where perfection seems to be the focus it can be easy to get caught up in it all. But I’m not perfect and nor is my life.
      I think it’s so important to share a more balanced view and am excited to see what happens with it this year. Maybe it won’t click with people but one things for sure, I’ll be able to say I am posting honestly.
      Nice to meet you xx

  10. Good for you Julia! Go with the flow, have fun with it and enjoy photography. Your work will always look cohesive so I don’t think you’ll have any problem there! Xx

    1. Thanks Hannah, I’m just bored with overthinking it all, remember when it was just fun way back? I’m all for finding that again xx

  11. I just read your article and I feel your words. I guess I already noticed a change in your feed, in your captions, some pictures were different, and I LOVE that. Go on with the good vibes, if it’s planned or not. Agree 100 %, that instagram should be fun. But the not-so-new- algorithm took away some fun I had before, its never cool to be downgraded.
    have a lovely day, Julia!
    Johanna

    1. Thanks Johanna! I guess I’ve been feeling restless for a while, maybe trapped by my own self imposed rules? Im really interested to hear you had noticed already, that’s great, hoping the more relaxed approach will make it fun again. And yes being downgraded is not fun but it is part of long term instagramming, sometimes you’re on the upside and sometimes not. This phase too will pass…
      Happy ‘gramming xx

  12. The seven sisters shot must be one of my all time favourites of yours! I’ve always wanted to find myself surrounded by so much beauty! And yes, i spend too much time thinking what goes well on my feed instead of just sharing what i love most, but we all do that right?!

    1. Oh really? That’s so nice to hear as it’s one of my favourite places to be! It seems a lot of us do the same, and I’m all for turning that on it’s head xx

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