Is It Time To Abandon Your Instagram Theme?

 

Algorithms, themes, optimal posting times – just when did Instagram get so damn tricky? Long gone are the days of “oh shit, that’s cute, let me post that now”, and the likes of Amaro and Juno are a thing of the past (Valencia has always been a shit filter, and we all know it too). Don’t get me wrong, the ‘gram will forever be my favourite platform. As a teenager I used to organise mini-photoshoots with friends and wannabe models from my town (I actually wasn’t terrible – see here for rl evidence) so photography and image sharing is always something that’s come naturally to me. It’s no surprise then that I found my way into blogging, and that Instagram has become an integral part of what I do.

In being an integral part of my job, however, there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with it. I have to get my uploads right, or I potentially jeopardise my biggest platform for sharing my work. This is the same for most bloggers, and so we’ve found ways to make sure everything looks *just right*. Thus Instagram themes were born – a way of looking at the Instagram theme as a whole *flowing* entity, rather than a base for individual, non-associating single uploads. But how far has the Instagram theme gone on to hinder creativity and expression, rather than help?

Scarf – ASOS
Shirt – ASOS
Duster – Missguided (sold out – sale ASOS alternative here)
Jeans – ASOS (cut the bottoms and distressed myself)
Shoes – Mango

I’ve recommended Instagram themes in the past, but I’ve also questioned them, asking how far is too far? I yoyo between thinking they are extremely beneficial to thinking they are extremely limiting, often finding myself coming to a decision at somewhere in between. I, myself, have dipped in and out of themes, switching it up occasionally by changing my filter or finally breaking out of the white wall background rut (all of my images ended up looking the same, and whilst this is great for keeping a blanched out theme, it’s not great for making outfits look exciting). I used to use the VSCO filter F2, and now I use A6, and if your an Instagrammer, you’ll know how ridiculously big of a deal changing your core filter can be *first world problems*. Over the past few months, however, I’ve found myself largely abandoning the rules I previously lived by.

These aren’t the best set of photos to demonstrate my point, but there is still something in them; previously I would have banished all greenery from my feed, trying to keep it as neutral and monochromatic as possible. All hues were desaturated and the tone was cooled down to an icy blue, with the exposure amped way way up to make the whites as bright as possible. This led to an over-edited, contrast-city-central finished product, but it fitted perfectly into what I thought was most important: a cohesive, light, bright and white theme. That’s what was successful, so that’s what made sense to do, right?

 
And I’m not knocking the white Instagram aesthetic at all. A lot of people do it incredibly well, but I didn’t, and I found I was just doing it to try and keep up with what seemed to be the standard. Much like I mentioned in my last post about genuine sharing and passion in blogging, my theme was based around what I thought people wanted to see, rather than what I actually wanted to share. I was pigeon-holing myself into one type of post, and felt that my content would suffer if it didn’t align. The truth was, my content was suffering because of the “Instagram theme”; I was stopping myself from posting images that I loved, because they didn’t fit in with images that I maybe wasn’t so crazy about. 
And of course, I do understand that an Instagram theme can be important. I use the same filter on nearly every single one of my photos, and I try to keep the editing much the same throughout my uploads. However, I’ve pledged to not put a stopper on my creativity. If I see a bright red wall and I’m wearing a bright red jumper, I’m going to stand in front of it and snap away. If there are more than three colours in my 1×1 square, I will not delete or turn everything black and white. If there is an unsuspecting car in the background of my quick OOTD shot, I will not try to desperately Photoshop it out and fail. This is my pledge as a Brownie and a blogger (yes, I was a Brownie, and a very good one). I’ve realised that whilst the appearance of a feed as a whole can entice a new follower to come onboard, creating interesting and diverse images in their own right will make them stay.

We don’t see the full feed when we enjoy our 26th scroll of the day through Instagram, instead we see a sea of single images. In a way then, doesn’t the single image trump the overall feed? If we’re stopping ourselves from sharing an image that we love just because it doesn’t *fit*, are we not stopping ourselves from doing the one thing that as content creators we should be doing – sharing work that we are passionate about? If we’re uploading #Pinspo shots just because it ties into a certain colour from last Wednesday’s evening upload, are we not losing the honesty of what we share? Since taking the blockers off of myself and stressing less about my overall theme, I feel like the quality of my individual images has only improved. I spend more time thinking about how a single shot works in its own rights – the composition, lighting, pose – rather than how it will fit alongside my other pictures. I’m creating images for the beauty of the single image, rather than creating images to populate a feed. 

How much do you think about your Instagram feed? Does it play a big part in how and what you share? Let me know in the comments down below or find me over on Twitter and Instagram. Instagram is an ever-evolving platform and as it’s my little darling, I’m always keen to hear your views on how you think the community is developing!

  • Love this Chlo! In the last few months I've started abandoning a 'theme' and just posting whatever outfit shots I have, no matter where I take them. You tend to find you have a theme anyway if you keep similar brightness levels etc, which is what I've found! I love being able to post whatever but I still find that I'm so fussy about what posts go where and whether they fit with the ones around them, ugh!

  • I am a bit in theme limbo! Some days I love a good theme then like you said I find it then restricts what I post so I abandon it. Its a hard one x
    Your feed is always gorgeous x

  • I'm with you on this one! I'm constantly torn between wanting the perfect theme and thinking 'fuck it'. Lately (well, for now) I've been doing "mini themes", like my latest blog post was against a black and red wall, so I've been sharing those images as well as other images with reddish tones, with the odd random picture thrown in. And that will all change this week with my new post. I think I've found a sweet spot in doing that.

    tie dye eyes fashion blog

  • I totally agree with what you've said! It's so frustrating to not want to post a pic you love because you're worried it doesn't work well! sighhh! On the plus side you look gorgeous!!

    Albana Janjeva | Stylist | Pick of the Month: Off-White

  • I really agree with you! I ditched my 'theme' a few months ago and I love the freedom I have. My stats are similar but I don't give a shit. I'm loving it!

    Sarah | More Than Adored

  • I really agree with you Chlo! I love looking at those perfectly white Instagram themes and I tried so hard to have one myself but I got so stressed trying to keep it up. Now, even though my instagram still kind of does have a theme, I try to just post what I enjoy and not panic too much when something doesn't fit nicely on my 'grid'. I've never thought about the fact that people only really see the photo you post on their feed when scrolling either, and aren't constantly looking at your profile and analysing your theme *huge epiphany*. – Absolutely amazing post! xxx

  • Such an interesting post! I'm actually doing my dissertation on fashion bloggers on Instagram so I basically live and breathe this stuff everyday. Personally, I would say that rather than a specific 'theme' successful Instagrams are visually coherent – as in, all of the images have a flow to them and look good together. BUT the individual images have to be good as well. It's a precarious balance, but it's just what Instagram is like nowadays!

    Lynnsay x
    http://www.sartorialscot.com

  • I care too much! It is shit when the algorithm changes interaction on your posts and how often people see your images. Seems the harder I try with posting popular times and faffing about on getting the brightness the same in each photo. The less likes I get and less followers and it makes me feel crap. When it shouldn't. Shitty Instagram algorithms lol. I also change my mind on filters like the wind, then go back to what I was originally using. I am an official Instagram mess! My New Years resolution if to give less of a shit about it and post what I want, when I want and see how it goes! Fab post as always hun xx

    http://www.lurchhoundloves.com

    • Omg this is me! It takes away the fun of the social app all together sometimes! X

  • I love sticking to my theme but then again I love monochrome and bright whites and blues so for me my theme has never felt like work. I find it easy to not have to think about it and just use the same filter but I also enjoy the playing about with shadows and highlights etc to make everything fit. I do get the odd picture here and there that doesn't fit but I never lose sleep over it and I definitely couldn't care less about optimal posting times and all that jazz. Some of my pics gets 300/400 likes others get 150; it's the way the game goes. Life is way too short to worry about small things like that. Only thing that really irks me is a shitty grainy image and that's why I always try and make sure my pictures are good as can be whether I take them on my DSLR or iPhone.

    Great post as always!xx

  • ahhh this is so difficult cos I'm on both sides of this argument! I LOVE to follow those with white themes, white interiors, monochrome outfits! But at the same time I LOVE a theme to look fun, spontaneous, colourful… it's hard to get the balance right.
    Generally if I've got nothing to post it will be a generic one of my (beautiful) kitty on my white bed sheets… but when I'm doing something super exciting and want everyone to see (i.e a holiday, food etc) I wouldn't think twice about the colour…!
    Anyway, great post as always – you've reminded me to get wearing these mango loafers again!
    Rose and Weston x

  • This outfit is super chic !

    Sara
    http://www.thecrimeofashion.com

  • I'm finding instagram so difficult. I feel like the creativity is somewhat stripped from us as obviously as a blogger you want people to see your photos that you've worked hard on however it's like were all getting sucked into the same themes and the same optimal posting times.

    I'm constantly wanting to post whenever and whatever I want but then If I'm working hard to ensure the quality of my photos is coherent, then I want as many people as possible to see it. It's a constant cycle

    It's so hard even though it shouldn't be, I suppose it's just instagram at the end of the day

    You look chic as hell by the way…

    Abigail | BLUSH & NOISE

  • Great post. I tried themes , it didn't work. I post more or less what I want but I make sure they are good photos. I don't gain lots of followers , in fact I loose them in droves. I follow people with themes whose following thrives while I twindle … I figure my life isn't just one thing, colour, theme and I'm perfectly ok with it x

  • Oh my god I love this!! As a new blogger, the thought of having a running theme in my Instagram is so intimidating as I'm still figuring out wtf that is! Thank you for writing this, more posts like this are needed to take the pressure off us! ❤❤

  • I'm still trying to figure it out truthfully. I love colours and they usually go with my mood so I feel a little tight trapped with the whole instagram theme thing. I think this one on your blog came out wonderfully. Great look

  • Loved your thoughts on the whole Insta Theme chatter. I've found for myself it works best when I edit my picture the same way mostly and just using one to two filters. But I abandoned the idea of what I "had" to post on each day to keep up a structured feed. now I post what ever I want to, most of the days. But this has been just for a couple of weeks since I was fed up with limiting my pictures ;).
    Lea, xx
    http://www.asnippetoflife.com

  • Great post !
    Seeing nice themes won't make me follow, I've always been about the single picture, even if they don't fit in a specific theme. A nice theme is just bonus. The personal style of the person will also make me follow.
    To me, your feed still looks coherent, even with your new resolution, so don't hold back from posting pictures you like even if you think it doesn't fit because it can, in its own way.

    http://i-think-its-today.blogspot.fr/

  • If you have to go by traditional means of following, it would involve waiting for users to discover you through advertising, personal contacts or coincidences and that likely would take ages. this post

  • Omg this post is amazing, I completely agree with you! This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Lately I've been avoiding posting lots of photos I like, just because it "doesn't fit in the feed", and I think this was my sign to just let it loose and post the damn pictures! Thanks for this post <3


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