Work It – How to Use Instagram

by , posted on January 8th, 2015 in Work It

christmas crackers

Sometimes friends like to pick my brain about social media. Usually, they’ve just been tasked with taking it over at work and are full of questions, What’s the best one? What do I share? Does it really matter?

So today, I thought I’d help demystify everyone’s current favorite, Instagram, and offer a few quick tips; a crash course of sorts.

First, let’s collectively swoon a little over IG. It’s popularity is well earned: it’s fun, it’s full of personality, it’s free of political diatribes, and it’s quick and easy to upload photos.

But the thing to keep in mind about IG is it’s somewhat of a distorted reality. People upload photos they’re most proud of, which, makes sense to me. Think about the photos you hang in your house. You put up the best, right? IG is like that. If you’re using it solely for personal reasons, go in remembering that life is always messier than what’s inside the square and you’ll be golden.


For instance take the photo above. That’s taken in my basement and my foot is blocking a water pipe that was left over from a sink we had removed. See, distorted reality. And that’s okay. I think of it a bit like daydreaming; how we’d like things to be. If you’re using it for your brand at work (which could also be your creative work/personal brand) you’ll always want to put your best foot forward.

food shots on instagram

I’ve spent some time analyzing successful feeds and here’s what I’ve discovered. While it’s hard to say what will be most ‘popular’ these things typically generate the most engagement across the board:

1. Pictures of you. Not all the time, but enough that people get a sense of what you look like.
2. Cityscapes and Dogs
3. Overhead shots.
4. The more white space/breathing room, the better. Although you can go in the opposite direction with gorgeous moody images.
5. Pops of color.
6. Behind the scenes snaps. Yes you want to put your best foot forward, but occasionally showing how you do something or the mess outside the square reminds people there’s a human behind the image.
7. Consistency is king. Translation – feeds where people know what to expect gain more followers than ones that look like a hodgepodge.

IG fundamentals

Now some people have rules about only ever using the camera on your phone or never using filters or whatever. All of those things are fine. It’s also totally fine if you throw all those rules out the door. Whatever you do though, don’t be an IG snob. It’s meant to be fun.


Now here’s a secret I learned… You know those beautiful shots of artfully arranged props on a perfect white background? Foamcore!

Place it on the floor near a sunny window. Arrange your stuff all prettily and whatnot, then snap. If you have a second piece of foamcore (they sometimes come two in a package) prop up the second one to bounce the light from the window.

And while IG is a visual medium, don’t forget to add some conversation to the mix.

how to use instagram“I am not a fashion blogger, but I do have attitude. Some may argue a bit too much of it. #thisis38 #momuniform”

As far as how to edit photos, I use vsco, but I’ve heard Snapseed is super popular as well.

Hopefully that crash course was helpful! Now when your boss asks you if you have any experience with Instagram you can say, totally

ps. You can find me on IG here
pps. For those more skilled at IG than me, what did I miss?

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2 Responses to “Work It – How to Use Instagram”

  1. Jillian In Italy Says:

    January 9th, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Great post Jen!

    I just read a list that some blogger wrote with all the cliché photo images to avoid on IG. It includes flowers, cupcakes, fruit markets, macaroons, apple products, fancy book covers, avocado sandwiches, window pane shots, Starbucks coffee and clouds.

    Personally I think everyone should photograph what they find beautiful. What’s a cliché to one person could be someone else’s passion.

    Or should I really stop putting on images of my avocado sandwiches?

    I use Afterlight for editing my photos and am very happy with it.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more! I say take all the images of avocado sandwiches you want.

    I’ll have to check out Afterlight. I love the way your photos look. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that you’re an awesome photographer. ;)

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