6 Feb 2018 57 comments

How To Make Instagram Work For You.

How to up your Instagram game…

If there’s one platform that everyone loves to hate, it’s Instagram. It’s great for satisfying the voyeur in us all, but not so great when you’re trying to base your career around it.
I’ve been uploading snippets of my life to Instagram for around seven years now, I actually didn’t understand what it was when I first downloaded it! I thought it was for editing photos to post elsewhere, what a noob.

Over half a decade and two hundred and thirty thousand followers later and I’m still at it! I know it gets a lot of slack, but I think it’s all in how you use it. It’s a fickle platform and I always say it’s an extension of my blog – I rarely take photos just for Instagram, and instead I focus more on my dot com (this ol’ thing!) because I know that every image on here belongs to me. A blog is surely more enduring than social platforms, and I can always use whatever photos I take for my blog, on my grid (as I often do).

I’ve seen so many tweets and posts from other bloggers about the change in Instagram affecting their following and engagement, but I feel like I’ve been floating on as usual. There’s the occasional picture that kinda bombs of course, but generally I don’t think I’ve taken too much of a hit.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to jot down some thoughts on the matter for a while now, so I guess this is it!

Keep it real

This post is less ‘how to up your game’ and more ‘how to strip back your game!’ I’ve been saying for a while now that we’re all appreciating a more natural, candid image on our grids and I really think it’s key to nailing the ‘gram these days.
Even up to a year ago, I’d set up mini shoots for my feed. Posed shots of trays on my bed, unrealistic flatlays and the like. Then one day I thought, this isn’t me. I guess I just felt over it, and I stopped posting pretty much altogether and then eventually shared more “me” pictures as and when they took place. I no longer put pressure on myself either – even now I don’t care if I don’t post for a few days!

The trick is finding the right balance between candid and aspirational. You want the kind of effortless that feels like it was a one-take shot, but still manages to capture that inspiring Insta magic.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m over the styled shots in front of the samesy locations. Anyone can do that. I feel like I rarely engage with photos that are so overly staged, and I don’t follow accounts in general if I feel like they’re prepping mini-shoots for likes – it just doesn’t sit well with me, you want this too badly.
I need more from my feed, I want to find originality in places I wouldn’t have thought to look in.

Make it personal

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty nosy. As soon as I follow someone, I want to know what their house looks like, where they eat, what foundation they use… I love doing a bit of grid-stalking.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise it’s that people you follow you want to know what you’re up to. There was a time when I’d post a single emoji as a caption, but now I put in an actual life update or whatever – just something with a bit more purpose. Try it, it’s actually kinda fun!

Leave your comfort zone

Some time ago, I always had some sort of theme on the go – probably all very bright, styled photos – and I wouldn’t have posted a photo if it didn’t work with my grid. Sometimes I’d so want to upload a certain snap and I just couldn’t ruin my grid like that. I KNOW, SO WEIRD.
Over the last year I’ve been thinking about what I want to see on my feed from the people I follow, and also what I’ve noticed does well on my own page, and something that occurred to me is that we like to see different photos from our fave people. Surprise us with your uploads, make it fun and interesting to follow you!

This image here is one that sort of inspired this post – even a few months ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of uploading a picture taken at night (!!) with the yellow tones mixing in with the natural light on my grid. Yikes.
Over eleven thousand likes though, almost three times my usual.

I love seeing a ‘lived in’ home on the gram, or an outfit photo with traffic in the background. It’s real and it stands out in a sea of the same shots outside Peggy Porschen’s, and that alone is gonna get a big fat like from me.

Don’t be scared of doing less

I actually find iPhone images do a lot better than camera shots – the blurred background just doesn’t seem to win out on Instagram. I usually find the one-take shots of mine do the best on my feed!

It’s the same with filters, I used to make my photos washed out and overexposed but I find barely editing them at all seems to work in my favourite. It’s a bit of a tipping scale of finding the middle ground of effortlessly edited!

Maybe it’s just me, but I love this more sincere approach to photo sharing! Where once that Instagram life seemed so unattainable, we seem to have gone full circle since.
I want to see foodie pictures and casual outfits, travel snaps, mirror selfies and pictures of your shoes. I want iPhone uploads and good captions, fun Instagram stories and less photo props and editing software.

What do you guys think of a more easygoing take on the gram? Are you finding, like me, you’re putting less effort in to your photos but seeing better engagement? Do tell!

Shop the Post

  • Heather O Gorman

    I adore your instagram! I really want to work on mine and for sure make it more personal! I might try and do more captions in the future! These were really helpful tips! I do tend to overthink my instagram posts and it can end up being too stressful. I want to have fun with it again rather than feel like I have to post certain things or post all the time.


  • It’s refreshing to see a post like this one. I thought it was going to be something about which apps to use and what at angle you should take your shots but no – an actual, quite open post on what worked best for you!

  • clare⭐

    its so refreshing to read something where poeple aren’t obsessing over having the ‘perfect’ instagram. keeping it real is the best way 100%!


  • Elle Kirkpatrick

    This is such a refreshing post, Kate! I admit I’m a bit obsessive about my “grid” and colour coordination of posts, but I am also definitely aiming for a more authentic (and vulnerable) feel. I also recently reincorporated selfies back into my feed – I was so sure that selfies were uncool, but now I have changed my mind and want to embrace the feeling I have when I’m feeling myself! I want to share what’s real in my life, not the perfect snaps constantly.
    p.s. Your Instagram is always beautiful, and I love reading your captions!


  • Genya

    Really enjoyed reading it! I struggle a lot with wether to upload something or not because it doesn’t fit into the theme or is something different to what others post. It is nice to hear that some people still care about the person behind it! Thank you 🙂

  • I’m definitely inclined to agree with everything you’ve said here so eloquently, Kate. I love the rough edges of spontaneous photos and images that really capture the personality. That said, I do really enjoy setting up beauty product shots and getting creative with props so like you said, it’s about getting a balance and working out what feels right for you. There’s definitely a candid shift going on with Instagram at the moment and I’ve definitely seen better engagement with iPhone shots, too. I always try to make my captions as personal as possible (translation: massively over share-y haha). Like you say, it’s almost like micro blogging now and it’s a great way to give more to your audience than just another pretty outfitshot holding a latte. Your feed is always so beautifully done. I love your peachy tones. Great post lovely! xx

  • Instagram has felt so unattainable to me for the past four/five months, I lost interest in posting and generally browsing on the app. This post has given me motivation to get back on it and (try) not to care about a theme too much, so thank you!

  • I definitely over-think Instagram, which is why I think I stop posting on there from time to time… your attitude sounds quite refreshing! I’ll try being a bit more relaxed about it and see if that helps me enjoy things more.


  • I think some people can definitely overthink instagram – I’m definitely picky with who I follow as I know what I like and want to see. I’ve definitely found where I fit in from just using the app, I love taking photos so it’s mainly for me anyway, I’ve definitely found a style I enjoy and I don’t curate my feed or images, they happen naturally. I like white images but I’ve definitely over edited in the past which I’m steering clear of!
    I also always have a chat in my captions, probably too much of a chat haha but it’s what I like to do and like you said, I like following people who do the same!

    Madi x

  • LOVE these posts! Such a real way to gain followers and keep it real. I ADORE your feed, Kate and always look up to your insta for inspiration!


    Ellie xx

  • I find the less I stress about the old gram, it works better for me! I read a good tip on Instagram where it’s looking at your actual life and what you actually do and fitting it in with a theme that suits you. I tried fitting in with a super bright theme, but I began realising that not a lot of things I do are super colourful so I had to overcompensate with editing. Now I’m just taking it easy and it’s going a lot better! Great post and totally agree with your points. xx


  • These are so helpful! Thanks so much for sharing these tips. instagram can be a real pain especially with the algorithm continously changing.

    Candice | beautycandyloves.co.za

  • Love this – you’re SO RIGHT! Recently I’ve realised that I much prefer natural, candid shots to look at so why was I stressed about getting something else? I’ve changed my game and although unfortunately insta definitely has slowed down for me, I’m happier with my content than ever! x


  • I love this and I definitely have to agree. I love real life photos and I personally no longer follow accounts that are overly staged. I want accounts that inspire me not make me feel “off”.

  • Love these tips! You have an amazing instagram feed, so it’s obviously working for you! 🙂

    xoxo Mollie

  • This is a great post – So with you on the whole Peggy Porschen’s thing! I think it’s getting to the point now where people are overthinking their Instagram way too much…The whole point of instagram is to be instant and in the moment. I personally love photos that have a bit more substance to them, especially when they are accompanied by an in depth caption.

    • Very true. “Insta” is in the name but for the most part, people are now using it to post DSLR photos they edit in Adobe and then have to send to their phone for sharing. It’s kind of an oxymoron, really.

    • I totally agree – what happened to the instant grams… I love reading ‘life update like’ captions too. Instagram is a way of connecting with likeminded people, especially in the creative field such as bloggers. Daisy xxx

  • Such a great post, and something I definitely needed to read today, in the midst of a never ending people follow/unfollowing my account!


  • Genuinely, you are my favourite person to follow on Instagram, I’ve said it before I know. But every shot you take is just perfect, and I love getting to know you through your feed. Your first sentence summed it up for me, and it’s such a shame because for me it is my job along with YT/Blog etc and it is so disheartening being told my images are being hidden from people’s feeds and receiving about 1% engagement, I just want to share pretty pictures of my life and my little family and to not judge myself on the numbers which seem disconnected. It really is a love hate relationship!! Great post, lovely xx

  • I absolutely love this post and 100% agree on realness and authenticity resonating more on Instagram. There are some accounts I follow that literally stage the exact same photos in the exact same places (Peggy’s for one) as other, larger bloggers and my thought is…really? I know that imitation is flattery and Instagram has become a very aspirational platform, but like you…I’m much more inspired and likely to double tap those who march to the beat of their own drum with unique feeds OOZING with THEIR personality!

    xoxo – Kelly

  • I love your feed, you’re Instagram queen. I totally get what you mean by the hesitating to post pictures if they don’t go with your feed. I used to go for weeks not posting anything because I knew I needed a filler photo or a different one to go with my theme. Mental!
    jen, velvet spring x

  • Say Rah

    Oh my days I felt like you had a different vibe the past year! You clearly have an eye for aesthetics and a good work ethic so combine that with your openness and it’s beautiful.

  • Old Fashioned Susie

    A friend of mine sent me this post and I must say it’s so refreshing to hear this kind of opinion. I’m so over The heavily edited/styled/prepp’d shots too! Off to check out your Instagram! X

  • Beautiful post … always great ideas! 💗👍🏼💗

    🌸🍃LA BIJOUX BELLA 🌸🍃| By Mia | A Creative Lifestyle Blog

  • Cate

    I got to see the Instagram queen, Eva Chen, speak along with her team about fashion and beauty social media strategy a few months ago, and she basically told everyone in the room to forget about the grid. It’s not important – if you have good, authentic content, people will follow you, not just because every post you have is blush-toned.

    So you are 100% right that you’re better off posting the photo you really love, rather than the precisely thought out, perfectly-filtered image that perfectly matches the rest of your posts.

  • Loved this post so much, Kate! <3 🙂 It's really true, I think we all have that love-hate relationship with Instagram, but at the end of the day, I still love it because it helps me stay inspired! Thanks for sharing all of these great tips!

    XO, Elizabeth

  • There’s so much amazing content on IG these days, but I do feel like every photo I scroll through has been edited till the cows come home. Always nice to see real and candid content~

    Vivian | LIVE IN LOVE
    IG | @viviyunn_


  • I feel the same way. I’ve been posting everyday on my page as part of a 365 photo challenge and it had really taken me out of my “perfect” feed, which was never that to begin with. Now, I shoot a random photo and it does great and I love them more than before. You’re right, it’s about finding the right balance.


  • 鸟儿叫,花儿笑,一年一季春来到!

  • Love this post and I agree it’s so important to just find your own style. I love your photos for inspiration x


  • I enjoyed reading this post so much as it really hits the nail on the end with instagram and just social media life in general. At first I sort of treated instagram like it was some sort of photography portfolio but I’ve realised recently I would much rather it be a reflection of just me and my everyday life! 🙂 xx

    Tash | natashatodd.co.uk

  • This is such a great post! Thanks for sharing this. X

  • Oh I love this, you gave me a different way of looking at things. I will totally use more of your approach. I also love to get to know more about the people I follow (what they eat, their homes, what they get up to – even if it’s to the grocery store lol, etc). I love your page as well.

  • Really loved this post and your instagram is definitely one of my faves because you’ve made it so personal. I find that I follow Instagram accounts for two very different reasons, either it’s for the person behind the account, in which case what you just described in this post is exactly what I’m looking for, or it’s for the actual photos and in that case I’m looking for styled and edited photos that might be unrealistic but still really inspiring. I definitely think there is room for both on such a large platform as Instagram it’s just about choosing which way you want to go and what works for you 🙂 <3


  • Helen Campbell

    A very honest post and I totally agree with you a more realistic natural instagram post is much more relatable. I’ve never set up a ‘mini photo shoot’ and honestly wouldn’t have the time for that every time. More candid real photos are definitely the way forward. Thanks for the honesty x

  • Flo la vita

    I loved this post so much it was so interesting. I agree with you on people overthinking their Instagram and trying to look like something their not. I always love it when people are honest, Hannah Gale’s Instagram stories are just so real xx


  • Instagram has been so tough to crack lately, but I think your less is more approach to it is probably the secret we’ve all been missing out on. I was trying to hard to figure out my ‘theme’ but in the end, maybe not having a theme is OK after all. Either way, your feed looks excellent – and I can totally see why that photo inspired it all. It’s a great photo, even at night! 🙂

    Kelly | http://www.kellyprincewrites.com

  • Mary Duggan

    The ultimate advice coming from the Queen of Instagram! Great tips, as per usual!
    XO | easilyinspired-blog.com

  • This is such a great post, thanks for sharing Kate 🙂 I’m really at a point where I don’t know what to do with the gram. I’m trying to take it slightly less seriously and less structured, like posting every other day and not trying to feel pressured if I haven’t got something scheduled and ready to go… it’s bloody hard though! I often feel like trying to be less structured means I don’t get as many followers which bums me out. As much as people say “it’s not about the numbers” we wouldn’t be trying if it actually wasn’t about the numbers, would we?

    A xx

  • oh what a lovely post. even though i’m not too happy with the way instagram is right now, its still my fave app and since posting what i want to post, i actually managed to make it work for me.


  • I agree with you for what I like to see on my feed. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to get the same engagement with one off shots as I do with ones that I’ve thought about and staged. Whether that’s because I don’t have as many followers I’m not sure but I find Instagram to be such a strange platform right now. With the new algorithm my feed is all over the place anyway and people who I’ve followed for years (like you!) hardly ever show up on my feed!

    Kayleigh x

  • elisha mae

    Lovely bit of insight into your Instagram ethos Kate – I really like your ‘less is more’ approach and definitely going to try and be a little more relatable with my captions going forward.

    Elisha-Mae | http://www.elisha-mae.co.uk

  • Diana

    I must admit I love the look of a consistent grid on Instagram like Iris’s from A Dash of Fash and I’m mesmerised by @domsli22’s amazing close-ups and all her other shots, but for me to return and check up on an Instagram account on purpose and not just when a shot pops into my feed, I have to somehow form a connection with the owner and that’s why I completely agree with make it personal! Random, staged pics are not enough, photos have to tell your story to get others engaged! Even though being open about all that you are is scary, I do believe is the way forward! 😉 Look forward to a post about the Miami trip! 😌
    Diana xxxx

  • AllieNey Skunky
  • THis post is fabulous! I am one of those in a love hate relationship with Instagram. And have been trying to focus more on the dot com as well. I don’t do mini Instagram shoots, who has time for that?! hahah

  • Ah this is perfect! Its totally helped me at a time where I have just fallen out of love with instagram. This has really given me the jolt I needed to stop taking it all so bloody seriously and just to do it and be me and not give a second thought about it…the hint is in the name. Insta for being instant and in the moment. Thanks Kate! xx

  • Great post! I completely relate to your point on feeling like you’re having a nosy into someone’s every day life!

    XO Zoe | http://www.savagebeautyblogger.blogspot.co.uk

  • Eve Martel

    I agree 100%! I want to see lived-in, fun feeds.

  • I’m seeing a lot of people say phone shots are doing better than the fancy camera shots these days, so I’m trying to get back to that 🙂


  • Loved this Kate, I always think you nail the mix of personal and pro and it’s good to throw in a coffee shot with all the slicker ones every so often, even mixing up the captions so they’re fun and honest. I use it a lot for sharing my work but I try to pop in a photo of me and my life in once in a while, and it helps build that personal audience who get to know you and your work equally.

    Lauren x
    Britton Loves | Cruelty-Free/Vegan Beauty • Lifestyle • Photography

  • Lisa Autumn

    YES GIRL! so inspiring.. really needed this now 🙂

    xx Lisa | lisaautumn.com

  • Yariella Coello

    Great article, Kate! As a newbie blogger, I’ve really been trying to naturally define my style on Instagram and I’ve been shocked at how uniform it’s all become. Every travel blogger seems to stand in front of the same place with the same dress. I really want to create an identity and style that’s truly my own! Love your tips on how to really personalise things.


  • I’m kinda on both sides. I’m really passionate about photography and setting up a shot really excites me, I love faffing about with flat lays and throwing bits and bobs onto it to create, essentially a big mess! But then I also love a rough iPhone snap, especially if it’s of my little boy or a cute lifestyle one where I don’t take my camera with me and just enjoy the outdoors. I would say my feed is a mix of both and I’m happy with that. I tend to always make my ‘styled’ shots different every time though, I hate repeating the same thing over and over! x

    Gemma Louise

  • Thanks again for sharing more tips on Instagram!
    Your account keeps growing girl, keep it up 🙂
    XO Amanda

  • Ella

    I absolutely love this post! It is so true! I don’t have any set theme with my instagram! If I like it I’ll post it, for me it’s all about what you want to see on there! Exactly what you said! Just do what you wanna see and 9/10 other people will like what they see from you if it is real and natural!