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Instagram for Authors: How to Improve Your Grid (For Beginners)

If you’re an author brand new to the idea of strategizing your Instagram presence (as opposed to just throwing up any old image, at any old time), there’s one term you must get familiar with:

Your Grid

Your grid, is essentially, the last 6-12 photos (depending on users’ screen and resolution size) that you’ve that display on your Instagram profile page—the literal grid created by your recent photos.

Why is it important?

Because it’s the single most important deciding factor on whether someone decides to follow you or not. You’ve got about five seconds after someone comes to your profile to convince them whether to hit the follow button.

Sometimes you can woo them with your bio. Sometimes, they’re already wooed because they love your books. But because humans are inherently visual, the Grid, the way it looks is usually deciding factor. And often it’s instinctive—a split second decision: Is it pretty, or not pretty?

Don’t believe me? Imagine you’ve stumble upon my Instagram profile.

Which of these are you more likely to follow:

Probably the first, right?

That’s my current grid.

The second is my grid from a couple years ago when I had no strategy, and just posted any old picture.

You can see the difference. The first one, my current grid, is cohesive. My primary brand colors are black and white, so you see a lot of that. And while there are plenty of other colors happening, I try to space them out so that no one photo dominates overly much. In other words, my current grid looks like it goes together.

Or, simply put, it’s prettier.

Now, that is not to say you have to have a pretty grid. I know of plenty of big authors whose grids are far uglier and more random than my before picture above. And guess what? Many of them have way more followers than me. Thousands more. Some authors are so big, so fabulous, their readers so hungry for their updates, that it doesn’t matter in the least what the posts look like, or if they go together. That approach works too!

You don’t have to have a pretty, strategic Instagram feed. You could also just be a big-time author with a huge following.

However, I’m guessing if you’re here, reading this post, it’s because you’re not a big time author who gets followers just because of your name.

Or maybe you are a big time author, but you still want a prettier grid, but don’t know where to start.

Good news. You have options! Lots of them! If you search on Pinterest for “Instagram Grid Inspiration” you’ll come up with dozens of options, many of them far more fabulous than mine above, but in this post, I’m talking to you beginners.

Today, I’m going to walk you through the EASIEST way to improve your grid, no ninja Photoshop skills required.



The one-click way to a better Instagram feed:

Use the same filter for all of your photos.

Note I said the same filter. For all your photos. That is crucial.

You may have already dabbled in filters, but I’m also guessing you may fallen victim to a very common Instagram lure: Choosing a different filter for each photo based on what makes that picture look “the best” rather than using the same filter for everything.

Does this sound familiar …

You’re on vacation and you take a picture of the ocean, and it’s so beautiful and bright, and so you pick a filter that brings out the bold blue color of the ocean. Gorgeous! Everyone likes it and comments on it. And then the next day you’re still on vacation and the sunset is very hazy with a delicate, almost watercolor palette, so you choose a filter that give it a dreamy soft pastel look. Oooooh sooooo pretty. And then the next day, you take a selfie at the airport, and the lighting’s not great, so you do that one in black and white because it looks better.

I’m not judging. I used to do it. But it’s also an Instagram newbie move. Why? Because it takes into account each picture by itself, with out factoring in how they look together. Without taking into account, wait for it. The all-important Grid.

I’ll be blunt. Those three pictures I described above next to each other in your grid are going to look like a hot mess.

I’ve mocked up a couple of examples below so you can see the difference a consistent filter makes.

I selected six random photos from my iPhone photo feed. Literally, random, I just poked around and clicked ones. They’re all taken with my iPhone, all of different subjects. None are particularly great photos, but they’re all things that I might want to share with my followers. Pictures of my life, etc.

Here’s what they look like, straight outta the phone, no filter:

Instagram Example - No Filter _ Editing.png

Whatever. It’s fine. The picture of my dog in the leaves is great, and I like the way the picture of the reddish cocktails is next to my red coat on the grid, but it’s all looks sort of … random. I would not follow this feed.

Below, the same photos, and this time I’ve added filters, but a diferent filter to each one, based on the photo itself. This is what I would have done back in the day. I’d have looked at these photos and thought, “Ooh, I want to make the green on that salad POP, and picked a filter that did that. I’d have looked at the picture of the city, and wanted to bring out sort of the moody, cloudy, urban vibe, and picked a filter for that. For the one of me, I’d have wanted to embrace the muted rosie tones, and picked a filter for that. For the one with Bailey in the leaves, I wouldn’t have been able to resist making the fall leaves as vibrant as possible, because they’re so gorgeous.

Now see what that looks like below. Each photo by itself does look better, or at least more interesting, than in the grid above. But all the photos look like they’re competing against each other, and there’s no cohesiveness.

Instagram Example - WITH DIF filters-1.png

Now, see the exact same photos, with the a consistent filter applied to each of the photos:

Copy of  Instagram Example - WITH Filter _ Editing.png


It’s subtle but can you see the difference? The photo quality still isn’t great in the last ones, the photos themselves are still a little random. But by using the same filter, I gave the combination of those six photos more cohesiveness. The filter brightened all the photos a little, desaturated them all a little, and gave them all a slight pale yellow tint that makes them seem like they go together.

Here’s all three of them side by side:

Which of the above are you most likely to follow?

For me, it’s the last. Yes, the photos themselves aren’t as GRABBY (because of the subdued filter I used, you could just as easily apply a super bright, high-contrast filter to all if that’s your more your jam!). But while the first is fine, but average, the second vibrant, but inconsistent, the third is cohesive which instinctively tells me I can count on that brand. And as as we know from this post about brand development, cohesive consistency are pure gold.


Tools:

A Color Story (iPhone App)

All of the filters I used in my examples are from A Color Story, which is a highly recommended app for beginners. In full disclosure, I use Lightroom these days, as it allows me to use the same presets when working on my laptop and my phone, but I used A Color Story for a long time (I still do from time to time!) and I recommend it highly.

That said, you don’t need a seperate app to implement the consistent filter approach. If you’re just starting out and want to keep it simple, you can apply one of the filters built into the Instagram app (just remember find one you like, and stick with it!)

For inquiring minds, the filter I used on the #3 example above (where I applied the same filter to all) is Solange from A Color Story’s Flashes of Delight filter pack. If you do like the really bright, vibrant look, similar to what I used in the picture of my salad in the second example above, I highly recommend Pop from the Essentials pack!

Planonly

Game changer for my Instagram strategy. It lets you upload all of your Instagram posts ahead of time so you can see what they look like together before you post them. This is what allows me to see when any otherwise fabulous photo stands out too much from the photos around it. Also, bonus: you can schedule your Instagram posts in Planoly, which lets you fully plan ahead of time! Click here to sign up for Planoly.


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DesignLauren Layne