If you want to stand out in today’s Instagram world, it’s no longer enough to simply take beautiful photos. You have to take beautiful photos, post them consistently (like everyday), organize them in a feed, and make that feed not only aesthetically pleasing, but cohesive. If I may, curating the perfect Instagram feed is like curating a gallery. You need both pieces that stand on their own, but that also can coexist as a unified body of work.
We talk a lot about how to market your work in Foodtography School, my virtual food photography school (with over 1,000 alumni to date!), but today I wanted to bring some of that knowledge to the blog. So put that pot of coffee on and get ready to learn, people. I’m about to spill some tips to help you plan out your food Instagram feed so it’s pretty AF.
#1 Use a Feed Organizing Tool
Plann, Planoly, UNUM, Snug, & Preview are all “feed organizers” that help you plan out your IG feed in advance. They let you move photos around a mock grid, allowing you to plan your feed with photos you haven’t Instagrammed yet.
This is #1 on my list because it is the first thing you need to implement in order to create a stellar Insta feed. I also love how some of the upgraded versions of the apps allow you to save captions to the photos so when it’s time to actually post your picture, the majority of the legwork is done; simply copy and paste, et voila.
Many have unlimited squares to load photos into so you’ll never lose one in the depths of your phone again. So instead of looking through the 8,000+ photos on my phone I just go into my app and choose from the 20-30 already edited, Insta worthy photos I have cued up in the app. This makes it way easier when you’re curating your feed.
You can also edit and crop your photos within the tools, though tread lightly, because cropping can sometimes warp your photos, putting weird vertical lines across it giving a striped effect that you don’t want. For this reason, I recommend to leave editing tools to editing apps, and just use feed organizers for content visualization 🙂
#2 You’re the salt to my pepper:
The Dichotomies Rule
It’s hugely important to have a diverse collection of photos when you’re laying out your feed. As in, photos that contrast each other from one to the next in terms of composition, style, and patterning. This will ensure that it’s well balanced and not too repetitive.
The easiest way to do this is by working in what’s called dichotomies. Dichotomies are two things that are polar opposite one another. The ones we’ll focus on today are: Simple vs. Busy, Singular vs. Repetitive, Center vs. Left/Right Aligned, and Organic vs. Manmade.
Simple vs. Busy
Singular vs. Repetitive
Center vs. Left/Right Aligned
Organic vs. Manmade
When creating your IG feed, make sure that you’re paying attention to The Rule of Dichotomies. If you just posted a shot of a single piece of cake, you might want to contrast that by placing a photo of a tablescape next to it. Or if your feed is looking a little busy, give it some breathing room with a more minimal, simple shot.
#3 Use 3 types of shots:
The Varied Perspective Rule
Along with dichotomies, shooting from different angles is supremely important to the overall look of your feed. You don’t want your feed to end up as all overhead shots, or all straight on shots. You need a good mix to have a fabulous looking feed. Bonus, this will show your diversity as a photographer!
Straight On Shot
45° Angle Shot
#4 This, that, this:
The 1-2-1 Rule
You’re probably thinking what’s the 1-2-1 rule. Well um you don’t know yet because I just made it up but basically you DO NOT want any of the same dichotomies or perspectives next to each other. Here, I’ll use a screenshot from our @foodtographyschool feed to explain!
See how both the photos marked 1 are similar in composition, shot type, color and height? (extra points for color & height).
Here’s another example…
See how the “1”’s are similar in composition and shot type, but “2” completely diverges?
Using the 1-2-1 rule gives your feed a really nice symmetry. And symmetry is universally appealing to the eye, so this is going to look great to everyone.
#5 Look at Your Feed in Blocks of 3, 9 & 15:
The Block Rule
When you’re planning and designing your feed, I suggest looking at your photos in blocks of 3, 9 and 15 together. Make sure it looks balanced in those increments. Within blocks of 3, ask yourself if you’re using 1-2-1 rule. In blocks of 9, make sure you’re using a variety of dichotomies and perspectives.
And in blocks of 15, make sure you’re hitting all of the big picture things that your brand is about. For example, in my feed’s ideal world, within every block of 15 photos I want at least 1 savory image, 1 restaurant/travel image, 1 image of me, and 1 photo of my animals/apartment. The rest are baking images, of course! 🙂
#6 Diamonds are your best friend:
The Rule of Diamonds
A good way to ensure a feed has balance is to look at it in a grid of 9 photos to make sure photos 2, 4, 6 & 8 all make sense together. Look at the grid below, see how photos 2 & 8 are similar in terms of a cocktail subject, green color, and a close-up crop? And see how photos 4 & 6 are similar in terms of left/right aligned and an overhead perspective? We can also say the same about photos 1, 3, 7 & 9. If you printed this out and folded it over it would almost be completely symmetrical!
Following the Diamonds rule ensures that your feed has balance on a larger scale.
Bringing It Home
To tie all of this together, let’s look at an example from my actual feed…
- In general, I’ve followed the Varied Perspective Rule In this grid we have overhead, straight on, and 45° angle perspectives.
- I’ve also followed the Rule of Dichotomies by placing varied photos next to each other. For example, in row one we have a Singular vs. Repetitive dichotomy.
- I’ve also also followed the 1-2-1 rule across all 3 rows. For example, in the middle row, the photo of carrot cake is overhead and up close, the beach shot is straight on and far away, and the pizza shot is overhead and up close.
- The Rule of Diamonds is almost perfectly executed here. Photos 2, 4, 6 & 8 are all top down shots, and take up most of their frame.
- Something to note, whether it’s a shot of you, your table at a coffee shop, or your dog, adding a personal touch to your feed gives people a chance to connect with the person behind the feed. This is really important! People are on social media to connect with people. Hence the photo of me from my trip to Mexico.
Now let’s contrast that with a not so great example from my actual feed…
Now that you’re super knowledgeable, can you come up with a few reasons why this doesn’t work?
Here’s what I’m seeing–
- The top right corner is far too busy. There are too many components in each photo, making for 3 busy photos touching each other. This goes against the Simple vs. Busy dichotomy.
- The opposite bottom left corner is lack luster; those three photos are too simple. Plus, they’re all straight-on shots, which goes against the Varied Perspective rule.
- The left column has too much negative space compared to the overall grid of 9. This again goes against the Simple vs. Busy dichotomy.
- I’m not seeing any of the 1-2-1 Rule, nor am I seeing the Rule of Diamonds in this feed.
Of course, it can be hard to 100% follow all of these rules when organizing a feed. It’s good to have some imperfections along the way because we’re only human right? Regardless, even just knowing that these rules exist now, you’re going to be seeing your feed in a different light. And to get the most out of this post, I’d suggest bookmarking it, sitting with all this newfound information, and coming back to it in a few days once your brain has had a chance to digest. I bet your Instagram feed will be looking better in no time!
Love and brownies,