Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thanks for your interest and feedback on my first Instagrammar School post. I'm happy to give a bit more information here, in one concise thought, rather than in bits and bobs here and there. 

I get a lot of questions on Instagram about "how" I take a certain photo, or what app I use or the techniques used to achieve a certain look. This is a tough one for me, because ultimately many of these questions are really: "Can you provide a step-by-step to copying your image exactly? I'd like a picture like this in my feed, too, please."

And, well, this is a bit tiresome. My express intention with this series is to encourage you to hone your own point of view. To develop an aesthetic that is distinctly yours. One that is authentic to your personal style and outlook on life. So I'll give you some technical tips to maximize your mobile camera, but I won't tell you "how" to take photos. That's up to you.


User Names
If possible, always use your name, or the name of your work/blog/site/business. How do you want to be known? Because that name will be on display several times a day, burning its way into your viewers' brains.

Try to keep your Twitter name and your Instagram name the same, so when people name-drop you and feed it through Twitter you get more bang for your buck.

Also note that you can change your username at any time without abandoning your followers. Go into your settings and choose what will become a household name in no time!

Hashtagging, Searching, Maximizing, Brand-Alignment
Like Twitter, hashtags can be used as subtext or commentary. They are also useful as a way to align yourself with other users (other brands!). @BexFinch started the tag #fromwhereistand, and to date almost 150 000 people have followed in her footsteps (pun intended) by using the tag.

Hashtags also allow you to catalogue your own images. If you add a tag (like #jasonsandwich or #muskokajason), they will all filter into one place so you can go back and look at a particular batch of pictures all at once. It's a fun way to organize a series or, for those of you documenting a transition or project, a great way watch something develop over time.

Social Networking, Portfolio Development
Guess who's watching? Lots of people. 

I know several people who have parlayed a well-ordered instagram feed into actual money-making ventures. If you're authentic and your point-of-view is strong, these tiny, low-res images can work as a tangible example of your aesthetic, your ability to assemble a gracious life, or display your work in a way that is constantly in front of people. Users will begin to follow you as a guidebook on life in general. If your feed becomes aspirational, others might come looking for your outlook on life/style/food/or whatever it is you do so well.

Instagram is also an extremely accessible way to display work. You put it out there, and people look at it. If they don't want to see it anymore, the onus is on them to check out. And because expectations aren't super high where quality is concerned, the bar is lowered and people begin to see the basics: Your taste, your style, your ability to arrange objects in an artful way. 

Much like other forms of social media, there are several approaches to Instagram. 

The most-common approach is the "Lifestyle" Instagrammer (ie. the Braggart Method, which I proudly employ.) These are shots of your every day life which you think others might find interesting.

If you're a craftsperson or artisan, consider using your Instagram as a place to share your process. Your followers will be interested in how you get to your final, beautiful product. Cover everything from shopping for supplies to manufacturing your goods. Be sure to include some narrative which might be interesting and will allow viewers to really invest in not only your product, but your artistry as well. Be thoughtful about trade secrets and ensure you leave a little bit of mystery.

If you're a designer or decorator why not use this platform to display your process as well as before and after images.  You can then cross-promote your own website/blog/shop by enticing people to visit after watching your process on Instagram. You'll have a captivated audience over several weeks or months. People love a behind-the-scenes look at an interesting line of work.

Perhaps you own your own corporate or non-arts business. Give it a broader personality by sharing parts of your every day operations people might find interesting. Don't miss out on the opportunities of social media because you feel like paper-shuffling might be less than fascinating. Find a way to make your business sexy. Maybe you can jazz up your brand by including Wall Street Fashion Tips. Draw people in with something jazzy, then pimp your business ideas and philosophies in an original way. Certain demographics are more-likely to use your accounting services if your online persona is interesting to them.


Camera+ (Available here and currently on sale for 99¢! I am in no way affiliated with this app.)

Camera+ is my primary iPhone camera app. In its most-basic form, it's far superior to the factory app. Without getting too involved in the ins-and-outs of the science of photography, this app allows you to separate your exposure from your focus. Below you see how I dragged the "aperture" icon to a darker part of my image, thus exposing for the shadows, rather than averaging your exposure over the entire viewfinder. Note, however, that you might blow out some of your highlights from time to time. I dig that look and it's become part of my personal aesthetic. This app works well for backlit human subjects or shooting in less than ideal conditions. Highly recommended.

More to come! Thanks for reading.


  1. The side-by-side comparison is a brilliant illustration of the app. Nice one, sir. Such great insight to YOUR process, and encouragement to others to find theirs. xo

  2. Thank you! I love going to Instagram school with such a capable teacher. I, of course, am drawn in by your unique style, but the best teachers give their students tools and a critical eye to develop themselves. I think it shows true mastery that you're going out on a limb and giving lessons. Thanks again!

  3. Great tutorial. And the key of which is to find your own path, not the ones set forth by others. And dig the side by side.

  4. Great post and tips. I wish I could get Camera+ for Android as it looks like a great app.

  5. just found your blog via making it lovely and i am so glad...such great tips, thank you so much for sharing!

  6. I've been following you on ig for a while and love your posts. One of the reasons I follow you is because I like your distinct and gorgeous photo stream. Thanks for the great tips!

  7. Missing you & your wonderful way with words! Come baaaackkk (please)

  8. HI Jason :) I just stumbled across your blog. I'm not sure how i got here even, but i am glad i did. Your blog is gorgeous, as is your home, and your photographs and your way with words. I love your recipes, and i especially love the Instagrammar school! I am looking forward to reading more.Keep up the great posts!

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