Here is how I take pictures for Instagram. I see something. I take the picture. Or if I'm photographing a spoon, I walk around, put the spoon down, and take the picture. Whatever is next to the spoon is real. I didn't put the Garfield cartoons in the picture after the fact. I didn't put my kid's sneaker or the bottle of bubbles in the frame after the fact. It was there and I put the spoon down next to it. If I have a lot of spoons to photograph, I put the handful down and photograph them the way they landed. I don't spend time arranging them to look random. They ARE random. It's a real moment.
This may seem like a silly distinction to make in a media as curated as Instagram. I only show you parts of my life, and I definitely crop stuff out. I also curate my feed as a whole, to delete old posts that don't work well as a team with the overall thing I want it to be. So why quibble about how staged a photo is? And isn't it just as staged if I put a spoon in a particular spot? Don't I sometimes arrange spoons quite geometrically?
But I don't think it's silly. In a space where the only rules on what I do are the ones I impose on myself, I find it helpful to have some structure to the photographs I take. This rigor makes them more meaningful to me. It feels more like I am capturing the reality of a situation than constructing it. The discipline of this also makes me make strong artistic choices by chance that I would never have chosen otherwise. I used to pose my spoons next to succulents or artfully arranged fruit. Those pictures with the Garfield and sneaker and bubbles? Way better. But I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have the rules for myself.
When I take a picture of a moment in time, I am amazed at how often my first picture is the best picture. The act of taking out a camera changes things, and the sooner it is put away the more intact the moment remains.
So here are my rules for keeping it real on Instagram: I can walk around with a spoon, but then I put it down and take the picture. Ideally, the picture will tell a bit of a story beyond the spoon: the book someone is reading, the cherry tomatoes picked from the garden, the wooden bowl I promised my grandmother I'd refinish ages ago. Glimpses of my real life.
I try to snap as few takes as possible. Usually the first is the best, but sometimes I have to try a few places to find the right light. I use filters and focus to make it look like reality and to draw the eye to what I want to be the object of attention, but I try not to juice the colors.
I try to share my life in a real way. That is, after all, what I want from you.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.