If you're using Instagram for your brand or business, there's a lot more planning that goes into crafting the perfect post than simply snapping a photo on the fly and crafting a quick caption. It's important to develop a visual strategy and create content that falls within that; but when it comes to coming up with content ideas, styling and shooting the images themselves... what does that actually look like? Let's discuss the anatomy of an Instagram Post: coming up with content ideas, styling and shooting the perfect image.
Coming up with creative ideas for Instagram content can sometimes be the hardest part. Take a minute and think about what it is you're trying to do with your Instagram account, and how your photographs can help you achieve that. Your Instagram feed offers the perfect opportunity to highlight who you/your brand is, what you do and what your style is at a glance. Think of it as a peek behind the scenes, offering VIP access to your followers, and also as a mini portfolio to showcase your work. Determining what your intention is with your Instagram account will also help you to come up with specific content ideas based on what you're trying to do with each post. Are you working on a specific project that you want to preview? Releasing a new product? Or maybe this is a way to talk about other aspects of your business beyond the pretty, styled imagery. Using Instagram as a way to showcase the lifestyle aspect of your brand and tell your followers a story offers the opportunity to build a relationship and spark an emotional connection with them. Think about what else is important to your ideal audience and brainstorm ways you can inspire them or tap into their other interests. I keep a running list of ideas for potential posts, and will also spend time sketching out ideas for layout and specific props to be included to help me visualize the content a little bit more. I can then refer back to this when it's time to create content, ensuring that the ideas fit in with my grid and with the story I'm trying to tell.
What are you trying to showcase? For example, are you highlighting a specific product, sharing your creative process, a behind the scenes of your workspace, or capturing an idea?
What are you trying to say in the photo? Is there a specific CTA, a theme to highlight, or what do you want the viewer to take away from it?
How can you bring a theme to life and ensure that it aligns with your brand style and story? Think of background options, props, brand colors, and the style of photos. Is it lifestyle- or product-focused? How is your product used? What is the end result of using your service and how can you capture that in a photo?
Is the focus more on the caption than the image itself? In that case, consider using some styled stock photos that fit with your brand aesthetic and allow you to spend more time crafting your caption.
Is there a good balance of content in your grid? Pay attention to the content you've been posting and make sure you're planning your content accordingly. This means considering things like colours (ie. not posting two brightly coloured backdrops in a row) and types of content (ie. spacing out flatlays with content that features people) and aiming for a well balanced feed overall.
Once you have an idea for your Instagram post, it's time to style your image. Based on the type of post you've decided you want to create, consider backdrop options, props and the overall style of the photo, and gather everything you'll need prior to shooting the image. If you're creating Instagram content on a regular basis, it's not a bad idea to build up a library of backdrop options, many of which you can find and create yourself, and also have a range of props on hand that fit with your brand aesthetic and the type of content you're sharing. This will also help create consistency within your feed. I usually start by choosing a backdrop or location that will fit well in my grid layout and will complement whatever I'm trying to showcase without competing with it. From there, if there's a specific item you want to showcase, start with that and make sure that's what the focus is on, building out the image from there and bringing in the other items one by one, ensuring they don't compete and instead enhance the overall image. Though I'll often start with a specific idea in mind of what I want the final image to look like, it's important to not limit yourself and to play around with the composition until all the elements work together to achieve the effect you're going for.
When it comes to shooting itself, whether you're using your camera phone or a DSLR, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Lighting: Natural light is always ideal, so pay attention to when and where you have access to the best light.
Composition: Consider how you're cropping your image, pay attention to the rule of thirds and where your focal point in the image is, and use negative space to create a more dynamic image.
Experiment and always overshoot: Spend extra time moving things around and trying various layouts and compositions within the frame. Shoot closer for a detail shot, move farther away to give more context to the image, and try a variety of angles.
Create a consistent editing process for your images: It will depend on your specific style, but find tools that work for you and keep your editing consistent.
Paige is the owner and creative director of Studio Bicyclette, a lifestyle blog and creative studio that aims to inspire and help brands and businesses find their magic, style their brand and tell their story.Her wanderlust and ability to find and create beauty in the unlikeliest places comes from a belief in fairy tales that started at an early age, a place where imagination is a tool that can be used to tell a story, spark creativity and solve any problem. When she's not styling a photoshoot or helping clients implement a social media strategy, you can usually find her dreaming up fancy cocktail creations, planning her next adventure or hunting for the perfect shade of pink lipstick.