Tips for planning, shooting, editing and sharing so that you can post consistently and grow your Instagram page.
For the first year after creating my Instagram page, I was posting 3 times a week. I specifically remember counting out the number of photos that I would return home from vacation with and calculating how long those photos would last through the month before I ran out of content again.
During this time my account was growing, albeit very slowly. One year ago around this time, I decided that if I really wanted to see more growth with my page that I needed to start posting every day. As a travel blogger who only travels once per month, I wasn’t sure I would be able to create travel content quickly enough to keep up with posting every day.
If you’re a fellow content creator who also works full time, you know that your blog/Instagram can feel like a second full time job. For those who are not content creators yet or are just starting out, my biggest piece of advice for throwing your all into your brand is PLANNING and BATCHING.
I’ve outlined tips below that have helped me better manage the time I dedicate to my travel brand. In return I’ve seen faster growth which translates into working with more brands. Not all of these tips will be applicable for every niche (ie: if you’re a food blogger who only posts photos of your food, you may not care about your outfit planning) but there majority of these tips can still be applied across many niches.
I’m a travel blogger so the most important part of my content is always the location of my shoots. I could be wearing the prettiest, most flowy dress but if it’s shot in a location that isn’t inspiring to my travel-based audience, the post will not perform well.
When I first started my Instagram, I was very guilty of posting content in poorly planned locations just for the sake of posting. Not only was I not providing value to my audience that chose to follow me for travel content, I wasn’t staying true to my own brand. I recall doing a partnership with a makeup brand and posed in my bedroom against the plain wall with a tube of lipstick in my hand. I also recall it being one of my worst performing photos ever. Never again!
This first thing I always prioritize now is my location. I have a list saved in the notes section of my iPhone of places I want to shoot at in Chicago. I organize it between indoor and outdoor locations so I can quickly prioritize spots depending on the weather during the day of my shoot. Of course, you can choose to prioritize any other way you’d like (ie: by neighborhoods within your city, etc.)
I also take advantage of the “save” feature on Instagram. I have a folder created for my own home base of Chicago since half of my content is shot at home between my trips. I also create folders for cities that I have upcoming trips to so I can keep myself organized when I get there and don’t waste time doing so once I’m already there.
After I have my locations organized for a day of shooting, my outfit choices fall into place more easily. Even though fashion comes secondary to travel locations, I think it’s an important part of expressing myself through my content. I wouldn’t shoot inside a coffee shop with a ball gown on and similarly, I wouldn’t shoot inside a gorgeous hotel lobby in jean shorts and a tank top. I always make sure my outfit fits the vibe of the location.
As I’m putting together a location itinerary for a weekend full of shooting in the notes section of my phone, I’ll also write out the outfit I’ll wear at that spot. This helps keep me organized when I’m on the go that day. I also keep my brand collaborations organized in a separate excel file which helps me stay organized with payments, invoices and follow-ups I owe the brand etc. Staying organized is great for collaborations that pay money in addition to gifting the clothes – the quicker you post, the quicker you get paid!
Shooting in bulk
This tip is a build on tip #1 of this blog post and is the only possible way I’m able to keep up with daily posts. Always, always, always shoot in bulk! When I started my Instagram journey, I was often sharing the same location twice in a week with a slightly different pose because I had nothing new to share. While this strategy works for some accounts, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to share unique locations throughout the week.
When I’m in between trips and need “filler” content, I aim to shoot 3-5 locations in one day. This means if I shoot on a Saturday and a Sunday, I have enough content to last the entire week. Of course, if you add more locations it’s even better cause that means you’ll have more content lined up in your queue that you can fall back on if you take a weekend off from shooting.
I’m lucky to have made so many friends in the Chicago blogging community that there is always at least one person who wants to shoot on any given day. We typically go out in groups of 4 and can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour at a location.
Editing in bulk
Thank goodness for so many apps that help to make content planning more efficient. When it comes to the editing process, two apps that have become my best friends are Lightroom and Preview.
I do 99% of my editing in Lightroom with some small detours in Photoshop (still learning some things in that app though). There are tons of other photo editing apps you can use but I’ve found Lightroom to be the most user friendly. You can download the mobile version for free or pay for a monthly subscription which also includes a desktop application. I pay for the $20 monthly subscription so I can have the extra storage space, but I do almost all my editing on my phone since it’s easier for me to use and I can do it on the go (road trips, flights, my morning commute on the train, etc.)
The best part about Lightroom is using my own saved preset so I can rip and reapply to every photo of mine that I bring into the app. What is a preset? It’s a pre-determined combination of the various editing tools/options inside lightroom. This means the same level of lighting, color hues and sharpness will be applied to all your photos which creates a clean, cohesive feed.
I cannot tell you how much of a time saver this has been! If you are new to Lightroom and don’t know where to start or simply don’t want to create your own presets, you can also purchase them. A lot of content creators sell their presets so if there’s a certain account who’s theme you love, there is no shame in purchasing their presets to help get you started!
Many content creators also change their editing style with the seasons or if they’re sharing content from different locations around the globe. If you’re sharing photos from a tropical location with a lot of ocean in the background then you may opt for cooler (more blue) tones vs. if you’re sharing photos from a dessert location where you might opt for warmer (more yellow/orange) tones. It’s totally ok to change your editing style over time but I would suggest keeping at least the first 9 photos of your feed within the same theme before changing it up.
After you’ve edited a large set of photos, you’re going to want to mass upload them all into an app where you can see what your future feed will look like. I use Preview but just like photo editing, there are many apps to choose from. Find what works best for you!
Preview allows me to upload photos in advance of posting them live on Instagram so I can see what they will look like next to each other. You can use the same preset on all your photos to make them look similar but there are other aspects of your photos that you’ll want to take into consideration when building out a nice feed. Do your photos have more landscape or cityscape, what poses are you doing, what colors are in the background? You’ll want to make sure you build out a feed that keeps these different elements nicely spaced out from each other. You don’t have to keep to an exact pattern all the time and there is truly no formula to building out a nice feed but try to switch up the order of your photos based on the elements I mentioned.
Creating a cohesive feed on Instagram is very important. When someone comes across your profile, they will decide in less than 3 seconds if they want to follow you and that decision is primarily influenced by how aesthetically pleasing your feed looks. Taking care of the editing and planning portion of content creation in bulk will be a huge game changer on your Instagram journey!
Writing captions in advance
This is one piece of advice I received early on and admittedly still need to do a better job at. When you’re posting every single day, you will inevitably run out of something to write in your caption at least once. I have seen a variety of caption themes on Instagram over the years – talking about your day, talking about the location of the photo you posted, some are very punny, some have inspiration quotes.
It doesn’t matter what your caption is about, as long as you stay true to yourself. I find that captions that are more thought provoking (ie: asking your audience a question) will receive better engagement as it encourages your followers to be a part of a conversation with you and with others.
Once I know what my next week or two of content will look like, I try to write my captions for those posts in advance. This can actually be done right inside of the Preview app that I talked about above, but I have never used that feature of the app and prefer to write mine out in the notes section of my iPhone. Keeping my captions organized in my notes section also helps with assigning the correct set of hashtags I plan to use in that caption as well.
If you’re new to this whole content creation game and feel overwhelmed by everything, just know you are not alone. Everyone has those feelings when they first start out and we all have learned to navigate the time management portion of it. Hopefully you find these tips useful! Let me know in the comments if you have other tips to share!