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Instagram used to be the simplified version of Facebook. Instead of seeing everyone’s EVERYTHING in a Facebook feed (FarmVille, rants, a million shared articles) people started to love the simplicity of Instagram. I used it for years as a place to randomly post personal photos and some portfolio work…. and then everything slowly started to change. There was a shift that happened in the creative world a few years ago and it dramatically changed how creatives used Instagram!

The real shift (in my opinion) was the introduction of Snapchat. Snapchat has been around for a LONG TIME but it wasn’t until a few years ago that the creative world really started to use it regularly. Snapchat took the place of Instagram’s carefree place to post personal photos and videos. Snapchat is now the more personal, real life, not-so-perfect social media outlet and Instagram has become more of a perfected, curated and branded social media platform. Is this true for EVERYONE’s social media accounts? Has EVERY single photographer switched to this new pattern? No… but I would say that 80-90% have…. at least in my world! Follow along on Snapchat: katelynalsop

So, I have a confession to make…… I’M NOT A GOOD INSTAGRAM CURATOR!!!! I get frustrated with making my TOP NINE PERFECTLY PAIRED!!! Is it because I can’t figure out how to balance tight, wide, clean and busy shots? No. When I actually TRY to curate my feed, it’s beautiful! I can totally SEE the design aspect of a curated feed. However, what is frustrating to me is the time and effort it takes to think through my feed, plug in images into the VSCO app just to see what they would look like and then hold off posting something I NEED to post simply because I need to post a more SIMPLE shot first to clean up my feed!

Don’t get me wrong…. I ADMIRE beautiful feeds! I do! My best friend Jilly has a GORGEOUS feed. It’s literally perfect! …. And she ENJOYS making it perfect. That’s the difference between the two of us. Some photographers and creatives LOVE having a perfectly curated feed and they enjoy the process of piecing their feed together like a puzzle….. and them some of us don’t always want to have to think things out so much!! So that is what brings me to my post today. How important is it to have a PERFECT FEED? Will I really gain hundreds of followers if I have a more perfect feed? Or is that only true for certain people? Do people follow me on Instagram because my negative space usage in my top nine is on point? Or do they follow me because of my personality? I honestly don’t have a clear answer to this but I do have a few thoughts……

– I’ve grown at a pretty steady pace on Instagram WITHOUT having a perfectly curated and well thought out feed…. so in my experience, an imperfect feed hasn’t hindered growth! We’re at 51.5K and we gain several hundred followers a week and that has been consistent for the past several years. You can follow along too, @katelynjames or by clicking here!
– I’m VERY personal in my captions and tend to talk to the Instagram world as if I were talking to a girlfriend sitting in my living room. So, maybe my personal approach in my text allows me to connect and grow on Instagram where some other photographers attract followers through having beautiful collections of images in their feed! Neither is right or wrong, good or bad… it’s just two different ways to use Instagram!
– Curation and perfecting my feed isn’t a priority for me all of the time and I often get annoyed with it…. so there are times when I just don’t care!! …. And that’s OK! I haven’t lost followers when I posted three “busy” shots in a row and my brand wasn’t scarred for life. I have learned to give myself some grace instead of being frustrated that my feed isn’t flowing as perfectly as others!
– There is a BIG difference between not worrying about a perfectly curated feed all of the time and not caring or curating at ALL!!! If you are a professional photographer and you start posting blurry, grainy, DARK photos that were taken with your iPhone and yet your style is crisp and bright… that’s not good. That would be more of an issue from a professionalism standpoint. You want your Instagram account to promote your brand WELL and in a professional way while still maintaining personal aspects to it.
– The perfectly curated feed vs. the non-curated feed is a very individualized decision. If it stresses you out… stop worrying about it! If you enjoy it, keep doing it because I guarantee that your followers love you for it! The point is…. you do YOU as long as you’re keeping your account professional and personal.

I want to make sure I don’t confuse anyone and so here is an example. This was my feed during a season when I wasn’t trying to curate a perfect top nine. Notice how busy it is? There isn’t a good use of negative space and so it’s hard on the eyes. HOWEVER, the images that I was posting were not UNPROFESSIONAL, they just weren’t perfectly curated from the perspective of the FEED!

THESE are examples of when my feed was curated a bit more!  I paid attention to color tones, how tight or wide the images were and how simple or busy they were before I posted them so that the feed would look perfectly curated!!

So what’s the answer? Do photographers have to have perfectly curated feeds? My thought is this… photographers need to have professional feeds with personal touches. If their top nine aren’t always perfectly curated, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. However, if you really don’t want to worry about curating very much at all, you need to make sure that your strength is in your CAPTIONS. I hope this helps all of you out there who may get a little stressed over this! Just take a deep breath and do what you enjoy!! You’ll build a better brand if you start focusing on your strengths and stop trying to do exactly what others are doing!

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xoxo, Katelyn
10 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Catherine Crane reply

    I totally feel you! I majorly struggle because there are some photos I want to share right away and just want to forget about having a perfectly curated grid! Curating is also not my strongest so that makes it worse! I had no idea you could plug photos into VSCO though.

  2. Kati M reply

    What do you use to curate your feed? I used to use VSCO, which let me preview it, but they changed their formats and I can’t find anything that will let me preview it before posting. Would love to know how you curate!!

    • Katelyn James reply

      I used to use VSCO but haven’t in a while…and honestly haven’t been using a different app or anything. :)

    • Dave Mullen Jnr reply

      There’s an app called UNUM on iPhone that i’ve recently found to be useful when planning your next posts. It’s drag and drop and even brings up your current posts so you see how it’ll flow.

      PS. Here’s the ultimate curated feed!

  3. Ashley Ziegler reply

    This was a great post Katelyn! I really like the emphasis on focusing on my personal strengths instead of what works as a strength for others. I hear so many different reasons why or why not to post X amount of times a day, or these kind of photos only. I like that you mention really trying hard to be personal in how you’re professional. Thanks Katelyn!!

  4. Jana marie reply

    Ahhhhh!! I’m so glad you wrote this. The amount of time it takes to make an Instagram acct perfect is just crazy. I swear I tell people all the time I just want to have an Instagram act that shows real life and doesn’t have to be so perfect all the time. It’s too time consuming, I don’t want to spend all my time on my phone.. But no my Instagram doesn’t get as much attention as the next Bc it isn’t “perfect” like the next persons. It’s a little aggregating. We are just inundated with social media perfection and I think it’s actually hurting us small business owners mentally. I’ve NEVER looked down on myself, EVER in my life, until I started comparing all of us on social media. Someone said once “never compare your start to someone’s finish.” The problem is, there are new photographers, young photographers who spend so much time making themselves “look perfect” that that perception becomes what people think is the reality. And katelyn oh katelyn. Your feed is the PERFECTION feed in my eyes. The perfect blend of personal and business get always looking professional and thoughtfully laid out. Thanks for this write up. It makes me feel a little better. Although still trying to figure out how to get to where I want to be without spending all that “overwhelming amount of time perfecting everything.” It’s a grey like for sure

  5. Sheri Berke reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion about Instagram. And how the bar is raised for a professional photographer; but how high does the bar need to be and still be an effective tool. Thanks again! Sheri

  6. Nancy Ray reply

    Exactly!!! I love your personal touch and I agree it’s one of your strengths. I got so uptight about perfection for a while I stopped posting, but whats the good in that? I’m so happy now to be free to post what I want. Thanks for this post, K!

  7. Mati Tharp reply

    I agree that stressing too much over our insta defeats the purpose of enjoying how easy it is to share photos. I would rather feel like I’ve met a new friend and enjoy their pictures than go into their insta to be critical! Or not have someone post a wonderful moment because it wasn’t a perfect fit! Your comment on captions was so true! I have teenagers and they will save caption ideas on their notes and spend a lot of time deciding a caption! It will get them added likes with the picture and usually comments!

  8. Joni reply

    KJ, you have to check out the app I think it would help you take out a little stress with Insta! You can preview your feed without having plug in stuff and its the easiest way to get professional images from your computer to your phone ;p I’m basically in love with it right now as I’m taking a dive into the Instagram world!

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