As you might know, I have my own Instagram page – macro.viewpoint – where I share macro and nature related photos daily. Okay, nothing special, capture a photo, edit it and post it, right? To maintain a good, consistent and chromatic Instagram feed – a lot of work is needed. And there is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. In this blog post I will tell you how I create a chromatic Instagram feed and all the work behind it. I will describe the life cycle of my photos from taking the shot until posting it on Instagram. Even the first step alone can be a lot of work. To be able to post good content on Instagram – first you need to acquire the content.
Capturing the photos
To be able to create a chromatic Instagram feed, I go out and take photos often and capture as many different photos as I can. A bonus is if you capture different colored flowers while you’re out. But I don’t really think much about it, since while a cycle for my theme runs, I usually collect enough photos for each theme.
What makes the photos great?
For your captured photos to turn out good, you need to know the tactics that make a photo great. For example, going low when capturing plants and insects instead of capturing them from above or mid-way. Also removing the distracting objects around the flower, or choosing an angle which make the best, simplest and most blurred background.
To increase the chance of a great photo that’s sharp and focused correctly, taking as many photos as possible is crucial. Change angles, change settings. You need to make sure that there will be some good photos. Especially if you are still learning, this is the way to make sure that you will have a good result. Don’t just snap few photos and think that the shot will come out perfect. I also try to use different backgrounds (other flowers; trees with bokeh; grass) and also experiment with being close to the subject and getting more further away. There are more tips that I hold on to while capturing photos. Feel free to read the blog post where I have collected 10 top macro photography tips from me.
My own set-up
I capture my photos with a Nikon D5200 DSLR camera. Alongside with the camera, I also use multiple lenses – mostly a macro lens (for getting close to tiny flowers and insects) and a portrait lens (for bokeh-ful close-ups). You can learn more about all the equipment that I use in another blog post of mine – What’s in my camera bag?.
To ensure the storage space for that many photos both in RAW and JPEG format, I own a 128GB Samsung memory card . Such large storage option allow me to store multiple days of photoshoots in my memory card before deleting them.
I shoot my photos in RAW format. That allows me to get back the colors in case the photo has some overexposed or underexposed parts. I also shoot 95% of my photos in manual mode, which allow me to control the outcome to the smallest detail. If you capture photos in automatic mode and would like to start using manual, you can read my beginner’s guide in manual mode.
Storing the photos and choosing which photos to edit
After a successful photoshoot I have 200-700 new photos in my memory card.
External hard drive
I copy the photos to a new folder in my external hard drive (I own a 1.5TB Western Digital Elements external HDD), separating the RAW files and JPEG ones. The reason I shoot both in JPEG and RAW – it’s easier for the computer to view and zoom in on the JPEG photos. Also because I share the JPEG ones to Google photos, but about that – later. I then go through the JPEG photos, delete the bad ones, and meanwhile select the RAW files I really like, that will go into my Lightroom.
After selecting the best photos that I want to edit now, I load them in my Lightroom and add to my “to-edit” folder. I currently have around 380 photos in the folder, from which some are even from April. Sometimes it’s hard to decide how to edit a photo. Also a lot of photos that I’ve loaded in Lightroom don’t get edited and posted at all.
All the JPEG photos get loaded in my Google Photos account. This helps me, since I can always access all the photos that I have captured. I love Google photos, because I can search the photos using keywords such as “insect”, “purple” or even a specific flower name. Google Photos analyzes each photo and adds keywords to them, which help me find the photos later. In Google Photos I add a star (favorite) those photos that I think could be edited and posted in the future. When in need of photos for my upcoming theme, I simply search “favorites blue” and get all the favorited photos containing blue color. This is very useful when you want to do chromatic themes on Instagram.
Choosing the photos to edit
If a photo looks sharp, there is detail and it’s overall a good photo, it still might not end up in my gallery if I don’t feel like the photo makes art.
I am such self critical about my photos that sometimes I shoot many photos of an object and I don’t post any of them, because they’re not good enough for me. If a photo looks sharp, there is detail and it’s overall a good photo, it still might not end up in my gallery if I don’t feel like the photo makes art. I’ve even edited photos, and have scheduled them in my feed, later to have them removed from the schedule.
My criteria for the photos to edit is:
- potential to be a good content – the composition looks good and there are no distracting objects (excluding the ones that could be removed)
- The detail is sharp, and where I want it to be. This means sharp eyes or wings, or other necessary parts of an insect. Or sharpness on the right place on a plant.
Editing the photos
All my photos get edited in Lightroom. Some photos afterwards get edited on some other applications as well (this could include Snapseed, PicsArt, Lens Distortions and more). You can learn about the editing apps that I use and suggest in this blog post of mine.
I edit my photos on my mobile phone – it’s really handy to be able to edit the photos while on my way to work, or while simply chilling in bed. Occasionally I also use my computer to do more advanced editing using Adobe Photoshop. Feel free to read How I edit photos for my Instagram to find out about my editing process.
My editing style changes over time – I always improve and find some new tactics on how to edit my photos. 2 years ago I edited on Snapseed by using “Grainy film” settings to apply faded/vintage presets on my photos. You can notice the editing style in all my first photos posted on my Instagram in 2018. Then I switched to Polarr, which offers fairly similar functionality to Adobe Lightroom. In the end I switched to Adobe Lightroom. Now I own the paid version of Adobe CC Photography plan, which allow me the access to selective editing, healing and other paid features on my Lightroom mobile application. I use the selective editing a lot. There always will be some spot on the photo where I want to make local adjustments. Often I add colorful background to my photos using the selective editing. Recently I have also started loving to edit the photos more darker and moodier. As I said – the style changes up frequently.
Planning the feed
Planning matters a lot of you want to achieve smooth transitions in the chromatic feed. You need to have enough edited photos of the same color so that you can choose which photos to post, and what order to post them in.
When I capture photos – some get edited right away if I see great potential in the photo. Often afterwards the edited photos wait even up to 5 months to be posted in the corresponding color theme. It’s a struggle to edit a photo that fits in the theme that just ended in my gallery. But I have to bear with it to keep my feed consistent and smooth. There have been cases where I still squeezed the photo in even if it did not quite fit in. An example of this can be seen below – I posted a yellow photo in my red theme. Afterwards I compensated it with a mix of yellow and red photo of a lily.
Feed planning application
After editing my photos, I upload them to my Later account. It’s an Instagram feed scheduling app that stores all the content in cloud. That means that you can also use it on your computer’s browser. The app allows me to add tags to the photos, which, in my case, are color tags. I can add as many tags to a single photo as I want. Afterwards when the time comes – I search for the color and schedule the photos that I want to post.
If you feel that a chromatic Instagram feed is not quite meant for you, you can take a look at my bog post Organizing your Instagram feed – how and why? – which actually is my first blog post in this website. I have mentioned other ways of organizing a feed as well.
And in case there’s a reason you don’t want to use this specific app, there is another app that I have used – Garny. It’s an app that does not upload your photos anywhere, so they have to stay on your device. Also all the photos that you upload will appear in your schedule. An advantage of the Later app is that you can upload as many photos as you want, and only schedule them when the time comes.
After scheduling the posts, I often rearrange them to have as smooth color transitions as possible.
Transitioning from one color to another
A challenging part could be creating a smooth transition from one color to another. I follow the order of white – yellow – orange – red – pink – purple – blue – green – brown. Transitioning from one color to another could be challenging, especially from white to yellow, and blue to green, because they don’t really flow smoothly from one to another. It’s easier with other rainbow colors such as yellow – orange – red – pink – purple – blue, since they transition from each other, and there are tones in between.
When transitioning from one color to another, I try to share photos with colors consisting of both the current and next color in between. This year my transition from blue to green will be much better that last year’s, since I have a lot of photos with very much green color, and blue flower. While in my blue theme, I will start to introduce the green color in my photos while still maintaining the blue color as the accent. And one moment the feed will simply change into green without the blue.
See the example below to compare my previous blue-to-green transition, and the end of my upcoming blue theme (spoiler alert!). You can see that while it’s still the blue theme, I’m slowly stepping into the green theme already.
Posting the photos
I often create captions a couple of days ahead for my posts to be able to publish the posts quickly. Since I use hashtags from more than 300 feature hubs, I have created my own hashtag storage and generation solution. It allows me to quickly get all the hashtags related to the photo that I plan on posting. I use mostly feature hub hashtags + a couple of general hashtags related to the photo. If you would like to learn about the best hashtag choice tactics, you can take a look at another blog post of mine – How to grow your Instagram account.
I try to post my photos at the time they usually get the best engagement. If you want to find your best time to post, be sure to check out my The best time to post in Instagram to get the most likes guide.
How do I start?
The hardest part is switching to a chromatic Instagram feed and starting to post your photos ordered by color. You look at other feeds (like mine) doing it and think “I don’t have that many photos of a single color to start doing this“. Neither did I when I started posting photos by color. Take a look of the comparison of how my feed looked when I started my chromatic feed in July 2018, and how it looks now. In the photo below, the left side is a full cycle of all the colors in my chromatic feed. On the right is the same amount of photos, but they barely contain my pink and purple themes now.
When I started color themes – I reused similar photos (the same subject, only a different angle/photo) in the same color on the next cycle, since I did not have enough new photos of the color. Now I rarely do it, since, while my color cycle goes through, I have captured more than enough new photos of the color. Earlier a lot of my theme photos were from previous year, or my archive. Now most of the photos I post in my color themes are captured from this Summer. Some even the day before they were posted (if I am lucky with capturing a great photo for my current theme).
Do’s and Don’ts when planning a chromatic Instagram feed
Since I’ve seen a lot of Instagram profiles and feeds, I have seen both some mistakes and some great things in all the feeds. I can share some Do’s and Don’ts with you, so that you don’t make the mistakes.
Do try out different editing styles on your same-colored posts. Since they’re the same color – if you edit them all with the same style – it will get boring pretty quickly. If you want to edit all the photos with the same style, then you don’t need a chromatic feed, because the editing style will be the thing that unites your photos.
Don’t post the same subject / very similar photos in the same color. I know it may seem tempting to share more than one photo of the flower that you captured. You might even do it (and I don’t judge you for that). But once you have enough new content of the same color – you can have more unique photos in the same color. I’m mentioning this, because if you post multiple similar photos (same subject, but different angle) near to each other, a user might think “Didn’t I already like this?” and scroll past your photo. And we all know that every engagement is crucial when it comes to getting your photo on hashtag’s “Top” section or even “Explore” page.
Do change the color of the flowers while editing if you don’t have enough photos of blue flowers, for example. I often change up the tone of the flowers, or even completely change them to something else (an example would be my blue tulip post).
Do group similar photos in a single post. If you have enough photos to post, and really want to share all the photos from a single shoot – share them as a carousel in a single post. I have started to do that recently as well.
A lot of work and patience is needed to have a chromatic rainbow Instagram feed flowing smoothly. Also a head start (having enough photos ready for each color) before starting is very useful. When I started my color themes – each theme was only a couple of photos long. I did not have that many photos in storage. But as I went out more and photographed more photos – the collection grew larger. Now I have prepared most of my blue theme, and have a lot of photos for my green theme ready. That means – I could post photos in my feed for 2 months (one a day) without editing any new photos.
Don’t be afraid to start. The start won’t be any great, mine wasn’t as well. But when the color cycle repeats – the themes will grow better and longer. With time you will be able to post better and better content.