Article

Insta Wellness, or how not to let Instagram gradually drive you nuts.

I love Instagram, don’t get it twisted. I really, really love it. However, like most relationships, it’s hard to maintain that fuzzy feeling all of the time. I sometimes find myself feeling completely passionate about my ‘Instalife’ and other days wishing I didn’t have this thing I had to update constantly in order to stay ‘Instalive’ (I made that one up). I often wonder if it’s possible to use Instagram responsibly and without pressure and still stay relevant.

Crafters use Instagram as a modern-day portfolio, a way of us showing our projects and work to the whole world without lugging a giant-sized folder full of printouts and mood boards to magazine companies and sweating our arses off on the tube. I sometimes wonder what happened before social media made it so easy (and free) for us to share our creativity with all and sundry, but I guess that makes me a bit of a product of the times we live in. The answer would be that they lugged a bloody great portfolio all around town with them, right?

Those of us who regularly use Instagram as a professional marketing tool have probably found ourselves panicking about taking that ‘perfect’ photo for our feed (let’s not talk about those constant battles with light) that freaking algorithm, a.k.a “why the shit does this photo have 23 likes and the one I uploaded yesterday have 400?” that gets us twisting our melons, obsessing over BEATING the ALGORITHM (like some kind of end of level boss) and trying to work out appropriate times and weather conditions to post in and if it matters which FINGER you use to press the screen with JUST IN CASE it affects that damn Insta JUJU! I ask you. What have we become with this social media ting? If I payed that much attention to my day job I’d be the most productive bish this side of The Bay of Biscay.

Why worry, I hear you say? Well, part of my income comes from this wrestling. I am self-employed because of Instagram and the connections it has given me. I wouldn’t have had as many magazine commissions or collaborations if it wasn’t for this gosh-darn app and all the things it brings with it. It matters to people, for better or for worse, and the stress is carries along with this are part and parcel of being a maker in 2020.

So, Insta Wellness. I was thinking yesterday about ways of how to make sure we use Instagram more carefully and still be engaged and have other people engage with you. It isn’t easy, and it’s extremely unpredictable, but there are a few ways that we can lower our stress levels and have a healthier attitude to our ‘Instavidas’ (I’ll stop with the made up buzzwords now)…

Why don’t we try…

Being ourselves more. Does this sound weird? Like, being yourself should be the norm, right? Well, not always. I’ve on occasion toned down my views on certain things in order to not scare people off my work/make them think I’m an activist instead of speaking my mind. Not to mention the swearing… Then again, there’s an argument for your real self being part of what you create, and if your followers can’t handle you in all your glory then they shouldn’t be following you in the first place. Freeing yourself from the shackles of being a swear-free, apoliticial maker can help you be more open and relaxed on social media. Trying to be the ideal, perfect Instagrammer is knackering, and people generally respond to you in a more meaningful way if you and your account are, well, more meaningful and real.

Stopping worrying about likes and followers. Really. What matters is your feed and content, not the number of people who have clicked follow or that heart button. Fixating on this only causes bad feelings, negativity, envy and resentment. I always see it as something similar to Alan Partridge saying ‘I’ve got 100 friends’ to that annoyed farmer. Focus on your creations.

Not posting every day. Posting content when you feel like it, or setting realistic goals for feed posts can help keep you organised and away from unnecessary time online. Try setting two days a week for feed posts, one or two relevant “stories” posts a day, or even experiment with Instagram scheduling apps to help you out with this. Plann is a fantastic app that even has an awesome free version AND hashtags organiser (heart eyes) that can really help out. Don’t feel under pressure to take a photo and provide content when you aren’t feeling in the mood. When you’re inspired, post. When you’re tired, take a break. Which leads me to…

Taking a break. Deactivating your account for a few days/weeks, updating your account less often… Those things do not mean that you’ve given up, they mean that you are appreciating your life away from social media and focussing on what’s right and healthy for you.

Choosing our battles. Everyone sees things online once and a while that really tests their patience, but choosing the right time or reason to slide into DMs and/or call people out is important. I’ve had to bite my tongue so much that I’m surprised I can still speak, but it’s important to take a deep breath.

Using polls wisely. When the Instagram ‘polls’ sticker was released, I polled the Jaysus out of everything. Do you like my new top? What do you think of my current project? How about these new needles? Ohh gurl. The problem with this is that when someone votes you down it can affect you. Why don’t they like your blanket? Am I failing? Use polls sensibly, unless you have skin thicker than a rhino. Or you put two correct answers.

Comparing ourselves to others. You do you, they’ll do them, we’ll do us and support each other.

How do you manage your Instalife? Leave me a comment or drop me a line on, well, Instagram and tell me your techniques. I’d love to hear from you!

Article · How To · Tutorial

How to: Up your Photo Game on Instagram – for Crafters!

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Photo editing has come a long way, hasn’t it? I’ve got vivid memories of my Dad knobbing about with some program called Paint Shop Pro as a kid and enjoying all the CDs bundled with crap software when we bought a new printer (which was like, every month). My other half is a huge MS Paint fan, and proudly created all his old band’s graphics on it in his musician days. I try and forget the fact that all the type was in ARIAL (my graphic designer soul just cried) and it was red text on black, but hey, it looked good for 2004. I even get threatened by him ‘doing all the graphic design on Paint’ when I take a bit too long to create something for our company on Illustrator… It’s not my fault I’m constantly distracted by knitting.

Now we have miniature versions of Photoshop built into our smartphones, with the average phone able to correct, crop and add that special sheen to even the darkest of images (eat that, Paint Shop Pro!) so, all in all, it’s almost impossible to take a bobbins photo. Sort of. Unless your phone is a Motorola Razr. Remember them? Mine was pink!

That said, it’s always nice to know a few tips on how to make sure your photos look as good as they can on your feed, and that don’t include spending your life savings on a top-of-the-range smartphone or camera. I’m by no means a master photographer, but here are a few ideas that will make your images shine a bit brighter.

THEME UP!

Sticking with a coherent theme with regards to style and colour will hold your feed together. Working with an organised feed will make your ‘brand’ (I hate that word but you know) really look polished and professional, whether you want people to buy your lush hand-dyed yarn, bonnets, or just scroll and see what you’re about. If you’re trying to focus your account on solely your crafting, try not to intersperse your images with baby photos, you relaxing in Crete with hot dog legs or shots of how messy your kitchen is. If you’re seriously into building an identity, consider opening a personal account for those photos to keep your crafting feed free of cluttered, off-topic images. Try using a similar background, filter or style on all your photos to expand that theme further.

LIGHT & SIMPLICITY.

Depending on the look your going for, a plain background, a decent camera (smartphone or otherwise) and a lot of light is all you need. Try and keep your photo area free of mess, cat hair and pieces of cereal (unless that’s your aesthetic in which case, go you) and stake out the sunniest area of your home to be your go-to photo-taking zone. I use a south-facing glassed in balcony (yes, it is hot in summer) to take my photos because the light there is blinding (in both senses of the word) even on cloudy days. I lay my background down on the floor, arrange my object and off I go. My studio is also very bright, so it’s great for impromptu shots. Speaking of unwanted bits of mess in your photos, I recently took a photo that looked incredible – I was convinced I was the daughter of David Bailey for a good moment – I uploaded it and waited for the hoardes of people to gasp at my talent and offer me contracts, until I noticed that there was whacking great black HAIR and a random bead in the background. Fail. FYI, for my coloured backgrounds I use plain A2-sized paper from my local craft shop. Cheap and effective.

PROP YOURSELF UP

Props can add character to your shots. Lets face it, Instagram is chock full of beigeness, marbled or wooden backgrounds and… White. They look lovely, and it’s important for your image to have little to no distractions from the object you want to show off, but adding a well-placed object that matches your theme can make your viewers really see the personality behind your work. I know plonking a cactus next to a crocheted thing is very trite, but it looks great, and if you really love plants (hi) it can add something special. Do you design kids items? Try and get a child you know to pop their cute feet in frame (obviously you’ll have to bribe them) to personalise it. Or how about a vintage children’s book or toy? Do you make home decor? Well, use your entire home to show off that lovely blanket… You get the idea!

SEE ME WITH THEM HANDS

Did you know that #handsinframe is huge? This hashtag is an awesome way of showing your talented mitts actually ‘making’ and working on that special something. No matter if you’re knitting, crocheting, Fimo clay sculpting or simply writing a note on a packing slip, this type of image is another way to make your photos rise above the rest. Some people photo their hands by stuffing their phone between their knockers, others balance them on shelves above their heads (careful, bruv), but if you plan on doing this on the regular, invest in a useful phone-holding contraption. These odd-looking holders securely clamp onto surfaces and hold your phone tightly, leaving you free to shoot your hands, beautiful face, or your face and head covered with yarn like I did once, weirdly.

GET INSPIRED BUT BE YOU

Look around other people’s feeds to see what they’re up to. This doesn’t mean copying (please, don’t copy other people, it’s shitty behaviour), but getting inspired – there’s a big difference. Along with flicking through design magazines, doing this keeps you up to date with trends, what’s happening in your creative community, and gives you ideas on how to adapt these hot looks to your own style. It takes a while to develop your own aesthetic and really make it pop, but once you discover it, stick to it and watch it grow – you’ll really feel great!

Do you have any tips on how to take incredible-looking photos? Let me know!