SLIDER

Is It Time To Abandon Your Instagram Theme?

16 January 2017



 

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 1x1 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!








The Only Blogging Tip You Need To Know

10 January 2017




The blogging market is oversaturated, and saying so is hardly front page news. As the popularity of the industry continues to grow, so does the number of creative young entrepreneurs looking to cut themselves a slice of the cake. This is only good news (even if it means that those of us already on the scene have to get used to sharing a little more), because it means that more teens, twenty-something's and above are carving out careers of their own, completely in control of their direction and creative outlet (well, mostly).

I've been in the blogging game seriously now for nearly 4 years. Over the last year my blog has really started to gain traction with you guys and the brands that I work with, and as such the second half of 2016 was amazing. Like many of my other blogging guys and gals, I'm predicting an even better 2017, and I already have some really exciting projects in the pipeline that I can't wait to share to death on Instagram #DoItForTheGram. As my audience has grown over the past year (always sounds so cringe and "check me out" so apologies for that), I've found that I've more frequently been asked the same kind of questions. Whilst they vary slightly in politeness from the super lovely to the downright socially-inept, the central themes are the same: "How do I get as many followers as you?" "How do I grow my audience?" "How do I make people read my blog?" "How can I start making money?" 

Trousers - Whistles*
Boots - Zara (Topshop alternative)
Scarf - H&M
Sunglasses - Ray Ban*




I get it. With shitty algorithms flying around,  fucking up things that were never broken in the first place, it's becoming harder and harder to get yourself noticed, especially if you're a small fish in a big pond. You can be pushing out content that you love, only to log back on the next day and see that not only hasn’t your follower base grown, it’s decreased. I’ve bitched and moaned and made a thousand exasperated hand gestures thanks to Instagram’s Facebook makeover, and I understand how disheartening it is to spend hours on creating the perfect post only to see that nobody is engaging with it.

However, when I get asked these questions, I can’t deny that I feel a little bit annoyed. It’s taken me 4 years – if not more – to get to the point I’m at now, and what I do is a drop in the ocean compared to some of the other incredible creatives out there. When people drop me a random DM asking me the vaguest of all questions – “how do I grow my audience?” – I can’t answer it because I’m being asked the wrong thing. And this is something I’ve slowly realised over the past year as I took on more collaborations, only to feel like I was losing the core essence of my blog that made it was it is. There was a point where I saw that blogging tips were taking off in the blogosphere, so I tried to jump on the bandwagon and push some out there. Similarly with certain types of outfit posts, I was actively trying to create content that I thought people would like. I honestly believe this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You shouldn’t be creating content for other people, you should be creating content for you. You should be creating content that you find interesting, content that you’re proud of, content that if you saw it on somebody else’s feed, you’d stop and want to engage. 





Following that train of thought, and answering all of the questions I’ve ever been asked about blogging, this is the only blogging tip that you need to know. Be genuine. There is no substitute for posts, photography and ideas that have been fuelled by passion. Your motivation should be to share, not to grow. I understand how frustrating this is to read when you want to be recognised by brands and your peers – I have felt this way in the past – but it’s advice that comes from experience rather than an idealistic view of the industry. For a long time I cared too much about whether my content was what the blogosphere wanted. In doing so, I started to change the content I was creating, ironically steering away from the core type of content that my audience were interested in in the first place. Instead of posting the simple outfit looks and conversational think pieces which are at the heart of The Little Plum, I started trying to create guides and meaningless tip posts that I wasn’t really into myself (disclaimer: other people do this incredibly well - I did not). And that’s me being straight up – head back a year or less and you’ll see some of these posts for yourself.


 



About three or four months ago something clicked into place for me. I was browsing through the content I had been pushing live throughout the months before and looking at the people that really inspire me, and I suddenly realised how untrue to myself I was being. Where were the oversized jumpers that I wear every day? My lazy ‘put-a-coat-over-everything’ style? My ideas? They’d been lost in a sea of “yeah, that should perform really well” and in doing so, I’d stopped being genuine. I was sharing things because I was chasing numbers, not because I was excited to share them. The market is now so oversaturated that people see through this. That’s why engagement with ads is so much lower than engagement with genuine, off-the-cuff, taken-on-my-iPhone posts. Feeds are so full of marble backgrounds and the super whitened that fighting to align with a certain standard is actually likely to shoot you in the foot. The road to success is not following somebody else’s path, it’s documenting what excites you. That’s not to say you can’t be inspired by other creatives, because I’m inspired every day. When I see an Insta shot with a blurry foreground and perfectly placed plants I’m like “shit son, give me some of that”, but I can feel instantly if I’ve published something I don’t love. Go with your gut feeling – always trust your instincts.

Growing your audience, building your traffic, making money from blogging – all of those things will come if you stay genuine, both to yourself and to your readers. And have patience. A lot of patience. Things rarely happen quickly. When asked, a lot of established bloggers say that if you get into the blogging game to make money then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. I both agree and disagree. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make blogging your career – heck, isn’t that what we all want?! – but if you don’t have the passion and patience to back it up, you’ll fall flat on your face anyway. The blogging industry started as a platform to share interests and ideas – keep this ethos at the heart of what you do, and your platforms will grow naturally. So don’t worry about growing, be proud of sharing. It’s kind of like love – as soon as you stop looking for it and start enjoying the moment, it will come to you.







Stop Disparaging Romance, Be Loudly In Love

6 January 2017





Earlier this week I went to see the film Passengers. If you’re thinking about seeing it, I’ll quickly give you an honest run down of what it is. Two beautiful people wake up early on a journey to a different planet (one just happens to be a super talented mechanic/engineer – handy, huh?), fall in love, get angry at each other, nearly die and then live, with an annoyingly open ending that doesn’t answer any questions and lazily leaves the audience guessing idealist conclusions. There were so many things that irritated me about this film, but there were a few moments of saving grace. One of these moments was when the disgustingly beautiful Chris Pratt announced to the equally as disgustingly beautiful J Law: “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. You kill me.”

Top - Topshop
Jeans - Topshop (sold out - Topshop alternative here)
Shoes - Zara (Jigsaw alternative here)
Coat - COS





At this moment I melted into my seat. I squeezed Keiran’s hand, half fuelled by rage that he’d never said that to me and half fuelled by wanting him to know that I adore him in exactly the same way. When I think back on this moment now, however, I’m struck by the fact that I was also really trying to keep my cool. I didn’t want people to know that I was swooning inside thanks to these cheesy on-screen lines. I sat, eye twitching as I fought to hold in a gasping ‘oh my gaaaaaad’, all the while praying for that Willy Wonka digital gun.

But let’s face it – loving romance is no longer cool; it’s much more sophisticated to be aloof, hard to attain, only romantic in the most desperate of moments. Much more “grown up” - much more mature even. There’s seen to be a level of naivety in being unabashedly adoring, as if it’s for those who haven’t been through life and been jaded by the “reality” of love. Well, I’m calling quits. I don’t care if my PDA offends you – I’m embracing romance, loud and proud.



 


Whilst I hate rom coms, I’m a sucker for love on screen. Jim and Pam are the definition of #RelationshipGoals (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, cancel your plans and watching The Office US in full) and don’t even get me started on The Notebook. Actually, do get me started, because it’s one of the most freakin’ romantic films ever. Did you come here for a script? Well you’re getting one!

Noah: “Would you just stay with me?”
Allie: “Stay with you? What for? Look at us, we're already fighting.”
Noah: “Well, that's what we do. We fight. You tell me when I'm being an arrogant son of a bitch and I tell you when you're being a pain in the ass. Which you are, 99% of the time. I'm not afraid to hurt your feelings. They have like a two second rebound rate and you're back doing the next pain-in the ass thing.”
Allie: “So what?”
Noah: “So it's not gonna’ be easy. It's gonna’ be really hard. And we're gonna’ have to work at this every day but I wanna do that, because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.

That all consuming, bare-your-soul declaration of love is what I live for. Okay, two confessions – 1) I spiralled into a Notebook YouTube binging fest after finding that clip and 2) I was very close to also including the “It still isn’t over” moment but I felt that was going too far. Nonetheless, both reinforced the fact that I’m a sucker for romance. And I’m not ashamed.



 
I’ve always been a sucker for affection. I love cuddling, sharing baths, having my hair brushed; when K and I first met, he wasn’t the same, but I think very early on I made it clear that if you love someone, why the fuck waste time holding it back. After that, he opened up. We spend every day together, so when he went away on a mini-festival break last year, he had flowers delivered to me the when he departed and I now have the note permanently pinned to my mirror.  I live for handwritten letters and cards, and a love quote pulled from Google is guaranteed to get me in a tiz.

Making the person you love happy will flood you with joy, and that’s one of the reasons I always end up giving K his birthday/Christmas presents early – I want to see his reaction and enjoy that feeling. I unashamedly PDA all over the place, and I know that this probably warrants a lot of snotty cringing and Regina George eye rolls from outside spectators, but I.do.not.care. I don’t care!! And it’s so great!! I can kiss my boyfriend 17 times in Boots and I’m like Julie freakin’ Andrews spinning around on the top of a hill. I’m so desperate for this negative perception of romance to shift and for people to be able to tweet about how they feel without having to add the disclaimer of *cringy moment*. 




 My brother always says that Keiran and I are the most annoying couple ever. We have pet names for each other, talk to each other in stupid voices and can’t stand next to each other without cuddling. But a beautiful thing has happened – he too is now in love. When I was discussing this with him, I noted that he seemed happier than ever lately. “I’m still grumpy, just less grumpy”, he retorted, to which I replied: “There’s nothing wrong with admitting your happy.” He paused for a second, and then said: “I am happier in all honesty.” Our natural reaction is to disparage romance, to insist that we’re still cool and cold hearted and to not admit that secretly, all of those clichéd canvases in TK Maxx do kind of make sense to us now. And I’m still guilty of this in ways; earlier today I wanted to tweet that one of the best things about being in love is being somebody’s first thought, but I stopped myself, thinking that it was probably too soppy for the internet.

But fuck that! I want to express my happiness. And I think everybody should express their happiness. Don’t let the fear of judgement dictate how you are in love – share that cliché holiday pic, hashtag #luckygirl, kiss in the cinema – ENJOY BEING IN LOVE and revel in the adoration. It’s a beautiful thing and to be connected to another person in that way is actually pretty profound. So if you do anything today, take time off from worrying about other people’s perceptions, and be vulnerably, absolutely and unashamedly in love. Trust me, it’s a bubble you won’t want to burst.





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