How to Create a Cohesive Instagram Feed
A few days ago, I posted a question on my Instagram story asking what y'all wanted to know about all things photography—whether you want to go into photography full-time, it's just a hobby, or you just want to make your Instagram just a lil more aesthetic ;) I loooved reading all the topics y'all submitted, and I can't wait to dive into all of them eventually! This particular topic was one I received several requests for, so it seemed like a good place to start.
But first, I want to preface this post by saying that I know this sounds like a silly thing to be concerned about. I used to think the same thing and wondered why people cared so much about how their feed looked. But honestly, sometimes it matters; and sometimes, it doesn't matter one bit, but it's just a fun, creative challenge.
As a professional photographer, I get at least 80% of my new clients from Instagram. People are going to decide whether or not they want to follow me (or hire me!) based on their first impression when they stumble across my feed. For that reason, it is so important for my feed to convey my style and aesthetic in a very visually-appealing way within a second (because let's be real, people probably aren't going to click on each individual post and examine my photos one by one!).
Other times, having a cohesive Instagram feed really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Maybe your Instagram feed isn't going to affect whether or not you get hired and make enough money that month, but I still don't think it's silly to care about your aesthetic! I see it as just a really fun, creative challenge. I think it's actually pretty entertaining to try to figure out ways to edit the poorly lit photo from my sorority's formal to go with the iPhone photos of my dog. It's hard, but it's also so fun to try! Now that we've got that covered, let's dive into the actual content! :)
I wanted to tackle the whole cohesive Instagram feed first because it's something that has been SUCH a struggle for me and one that I just recently felt like I started to get a handle on (and I've by no means reached the level of cohesiveness I desire for my feed)! I used to think that editing everything using the same settings or preset was enough to make my feed look cohesive, but I just kept coming away disappointed. There's actually a whole lot more that goes into it!
Below are some examples of some very cohesive Instagram feeds that I'll break down so we can figure out what makes the photos all work together so well!
Alivia's travel photos and images of the cutest spots in Portland are one of my favorite reasons to follow her! She seems so sweet, and she has some really good educational YouTube videos as well!
You've probably heard of India Earl. She's a super talented couple/elopement photographer, and I love how personal and intimate her photos are.
I absolutely adore Caroline's work and her feed (so much so that I'm flying to Pennsylvania in September to attend her workshop lol). She's an extremely talented wedding photographer and such an inspiration for all of us young creative entrepreneurs!
Finley is one of my favorite dog Instagram accounts to follow! Finn's mom does such a wonderful job capturing this very good boy (and keeping the feed's aesthetic on point!). We have a lot to learn from Finn!
So what makes these feeds so cohesive? Let's break it down to the top three things that contribute to the overall cohesiveness of your feed!
1. Editing style
Now I can't guarantee this, but I would have to guess that these Instagrammers all used the same one or two presets on every photo in their feed. They all have very distinct styles that they developed over time which they then turned into a custom preset in order to speed up their workflow. This accomplishes two things: 1) you don't have to keep making the same adjustments one-by-one on all your photos (because that would take forever!) and 2) if all your photos have the same adjustments made to them, then they will probably look more consistent.
If you're a photographer, this consistency is important for the overall look of your Instagram feed, but also so that clients can know exactly what to expect when they hire you to take their photos! No one wants to hire a photographer expecting photos with a light & airy feel to then receive dark & moody photos. Be sure the content you're posting on your Instagram reflects what clients can expect if they hire you.
related post 》how to edit your iphone photos + a free preset
Personally, I have a total of 3 presets I use for my photography. I use the first one on about 99% of all my photos. The second one I use when the lighting is just a little bit weird (like if I'm shooting indoors), and it helps me get those photos to look like the ones I edited with the first preset. The third one is a black and white preset. I currently run my sorority's Instagram account as well, and I have just one preset that I use on every single photo for that account.
So if you're ever buying presets, don't buy them just because there are a lot of different presets in the pack! One to three presets is all you really need (or want) to maintain a consistent feed. It's good to get multiple presets if you're still trying to figure out what style you like best, but once you've found what you like, STICK WITH IT!
2. Color scheme
This is the piece of the puzzle that was missing for me for SO long. I thought it was enough to use the same preset on my photos, and somehow they would all magically look the same. But if you look at the feeds I mentioned above, you'll notice that they all have a color scheme that appears in each of their posts, helping to tie the images together.
I found these colors by bringing a screenshot of each feed into Photoshop and using the eyedropper tool to select some of the predominant colors throughout their images. If you don't have Photoshop but want to try this yourself, you can use ColorKuler to achieve something similar!
So why are these colors important? We've already established that having a consistent way of editing your photos is very important because it helps keep the colors and exposure (among other things) consistent throughout your photos.
Let's imagine that Caroline Logan decided to put on a bright orange shirt and wanted to post it on her Instagram. Even if she used the same preset on that photo as she did on all her other images, that orange shirt would still stick out like a sore thumb on her feed. That same orange shirt would fit perfectly in Alivia Latimer's feed though, since her color scheme has a lot of orange and warm, earth tones in it.
In case you're wondering what my colors are from my feed, here they are!
Even though I've by no means reached the level of cohesion as the feeds mentioned previously, I aim to have each of my photos reflect my overall color scheme.
You may have also noticed that these colors are very similar to the ones I use throughout my website and on my Instagram story highlight covers which adds an extra layer of cohesion and carrying my branding throughout all my platforms.
Bonus tip: Sometimes you can play with the HSL sliders in Lightroom to manipulate certain colors in a photo to match your color scheme. For example, in the screenshot of my feed above, if I wanted to change the color of Kennedy's orange pants in her engagement photos to go with my feed, I could do that using the HSL sliders (and some masking as well). Just keep in mind that you probably don't want to do this with client photos if you're a photographer. Mango Street has a great YouTube tutorial on changing colors with masks and the HSL sliders that you can check out here.
3. Shooting style
This one sort of encompasses the other two points, but it's a little bit harder to define. If you look at Alivia's photos, not only are they consistent with how they are edited and what colors they contain, but they are also shot in a similar way. Most of them have a shallow depth of field (in other words, the subject is very sharp and in focus, but the background is very blurred), the lighting is similar (golden hour), and most of the images are set in nature.
India Earl's photos are moodier/darker than Alivia's, and they appear more intimate and emotional. She probably shoots with a pretty wide lens, but she gets very close to her subjects. Her photos were also taken in beautiful, outdoor settings with similar lighting in each image.
Caroline Logan's photos are all very bright and usually have a predominantly white or light-colored background. If she's outside, the subjects are in open shade, and the background is brighter than they subjects to give that light & airy feel. All the indoor photos have a white or light-colored wall in the background.
Finley's mom usually photographs him outdoors during golden hour with a dark background (usually a line of trees) and with the sun peeking through the leaves.
1. Figure out your editing style.
Whether you like light & airy, dark & moody, or somewhere in between, play around with your edits until you find something you really like and that fits both your personal style and/or the style of your ideal client. Take your time with this, but remember that everyone's style changes over time, and it's totally okay if you decide a month from now that you want to change it up again (trust me... I re-edited my entire portfolio a month ago lol).
2. Determine what you want your color scheme to be.
For example, I did this by looking at how I decorated my bedroom and what colors I typically wear. My room has white walls, white bedding, grey floors, a blue and white rug, and botanical/floral artwork with shades of blue, pink, and green. My wardrobe is filled with denim, white, blue, green, and pale pink. Even though I LOVE so many other colors, I knew that some combination of blue, green, pink, and white were colors that I've been consistently drawn to and are very reflective of my personal style. If you have a look around the website you're currently on, you'll notice those same colors popping up!
3. Examine your photography style.
How do you typically shoot your images? Do you like the look of a dark line of trees in the background to make your subject pop, or do you prefer a light-filled, glowing image? Do you like strong contrast and rich colors, or are you drawn to pastel colors and an airy vibe? How does this coincide with your editing style? Do you typically take your images in the downtown area of a city or out in the middle of nowhere with a mountain in the background? These are just a few things to keep in mind when determining your shooting style!
So I wanna know: who are some of your favorite people to follow on Instagram with a kick-butt cohesive feed? Leave a comment below with some of your favorites, and as always, if you have any questions or suggestions for future posts, leave a comment or send me a message!
Welcome to the blog—my journnal about my recent work, faith, and everyday life. Grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile!