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For the last two years, I have worked to improve my Instagram photos and build my Instagram followers. With over 27,000 Instagram followers, I think my hard work has paid off!
But a few months ago I realized something big. At least, the realization was big to me. A mistake that I had made, and had kept making, for about a year and a half.
This one mistake single-handedly kept large feature accounts from even considering any of my photos for their accounts. No matter how many times I tagged #candyminimal or #ihavethisthingwithpink or #ABMlifeiscolorful, none of them had any reason to give my photos a second look.
What did I do wrong?
I added borders to all of my photos.
Can you tell I have this thing with pink flamingos?! Monday morning included a whirlwind, complimentary visit to my old stomping ground, the Columbus Zoo. When I still lived here, I even had a zoo pass! I didn't have time to see everything in this visit, but I saw my favorites: polar bears, flamingos, snakes, gorillas, and penguins. If you love animals, definitely check out @columbus_zoo on your next visit! And if you're local, I promise a zoo pass is worth the expense. What's worth a membership in your city? #LaBelleBlog
These photos are among my most popular from 2016, but not a single feature account shared them.
To be clear, I’m not saying that every single one of my photos from the last two years is regrammable. Both my eye and my photography have improved, but some photos are still better than others.
Plus I understand the challenge of choosing which photos to regram when so many accounts tag you! I regram photos from accounts who use my hashtag #LaBelleBlog. It’s not possible for me to create consistent, original content AND share every beautiful photo tagged with #LaBelleBlog.
But I am saying that my white borders prevented large feature accounts from even considering my photos in the first place.
The Problem with Instagram Borders
I actually realized my border problem with my test account! While I don’t plan on revealing my test account until I’ve used it for a full year, I can tell you about it.
Currently, my test account has less than 500 followers. My photos are a mix of original content and regrams from accounts who use the hashtag I created for my test account. My test account is very niche. @belle_brita might be “pink lifestyle,” but my test account is way more niche! Think along the lines of those “Fuck Yeah TOPIC” Tumblr accounts.
After five months of posting inconsistently, with my 17th post, magic happened.
Real Simple shared my photo to their account.
I’m pretty sure I still had less than 100 followers at that time. At the very most, I still had less than 200 followers. And yet, a magazine with a gorgeous Instagram account and a huge following decided to regram my photo to their account.
This was confirmation that I did, in fact, create beautiful Instagram photos. What was different between my regular account and my test account?
But the full revelation wasn’t quite there yet.
Around the same time, my test account’s hashtag started picking up popularity. Plus more accounts started tagging my test account in their photos. I had enough user-generated material to share a regram every 4th photo in my grid.
While going through my test account’s hashtag and the photos that tagged me, I realized that I rejected horizontal photos. Why? Because after screenshotting the photo and cropping it to a square, the size was much lower than the display of 640 pixels.
Instagram Image Quality
A feature account doesn’t use original photos of a large size and high quality. Feature accounts use screenshots.
I can never crop the square just perfectly to avoid a white sliver and still have an image size of 640×640. Usually I end up cropping in just a little bit, to about 632×632. Crop it much smaller, and image quality suffers.
If a photo has borders, like most of my photos do, then cropping it for a regram reduces the image quality.
A few months ago, I made the painful switch. First I posted 3 photos with thinner white borders to transition. All subsequent photos have been without white borders!
Early Success without Instagram Borders
Within a month or so of posting photos to Instagram without borders, a feature account asked for permission to share my photo. My moment had finally arrived!
@visitgreenvillesc asked for my permission to share this photo from downtown Greenville! I love their account, and I felt honored to have the pink photo taken on my iPhone included in their gallery of art by actual professional photographers.
Did you know we have at least 75 pieces of street art in downtown #yeahTHATgreenville alone? This is the Rose Crystal Tower. Commissioned to honor Harriet Wyche. The eight-foot rose colored tower is made of Polyvitro. A polymer created by Chihuly that looks like glass. Which pieces are some of your favorites? // 📷: @belle_brita
I hope to see more of my photos regrammed by feature accounts! Only time will tell if my photos are pretty enough.
Speaking of pretty photos…
I’ve put together some pretty stock photos for Easter! I love setting up photos for my blog and Instagram, so a few months ago, I started creating my own stock photos. It’s taken me awhile to work out the kinks of actually putting these online to share, but I think (I hope) this will work.
Edit 09/01/2017: I’m currently redoing my opt-in forms. If you want stock Easter photos for fall… just leave a comment or email me, and I’ll send them to you.
You can use these stock photos wherever you like, no credit necessary! All I ask is that you share this post with your blogging friends.