Monday, 7 March 2016

My Instagram and Photography Story: How I Stopped Striving For Perfection


For those who may not have noticed lately, I've been cooking up a storm on Instagram lately, hitting the ground running with #bookstagram again, and even started taking scheduling my posts seriously with Latergram.me, but I haven't always been the photographer I am now, and I've made a lot of mistakes. Today, I wanted to get a little more personal than usually, share my journey and give you a few important pieces of advice on your own photography too.

Let's be honest, past me didn't have a clue what she was doing. She was, all they call it, 'winging it'.


I mean, sure, she knew how to open her camera app on her phone, how to use Instagram and how to get the photo from A to B, but she knew absolutely nothing about lighting, and that resulted in some pretty shady (get it?) photography. (oh shush, it made me laugh..) In terms of style, let's be real here, she didn't have any whatsoever, and her photos varied from bright to dim to 1960's called and wants their bad colour tv's back.


Of course, over time, I actually learnt a few things, like actually putting the camera in focus for a start, but the most magical part came from hastags and taking part in book challenges, the first being a major player when it comes to actually getting traffic to your photo, the latter helping you find your place in communities. Holly recently shared how to use hashtags to get big results, and I only wish I'd known about them sooner, as they've drastically improved my Instagram game.


Hashtags brought more traffic, and with more traffic game to want, the need to take better photos. After all, people followed me because they liked my content, but if my photos were better, more people would follow, right? This brings us to my 'crazy angles' stage where, for some reason, I thought the more unique the perspective, the better. Fair play to past me, there was definitely a scene for that style of photography, but it didn't stick, and so came my first downfall.


What followed became a series of mismatched styles, following the crowd and mess of a feed. I tried to please everyone, and failed.


Nothing made sense. I shared everything. Absolutely everything, including some leg action.. I was definitely just sharing for the sake of sake of sharing, and looking back, that sucked. This went on for months, months until I found myself with a better smartphone and better camera, which made way for some better looking, remotely stylised photography. In fact, you can still some a little of this style in my recent photography, and I can't even say I'm ashamed. In fact, I look back and quite like them.


Sadly, things don't always go the way we plan them, and life put me in a boxing ring, and beat the shit out of me.


Life got, complicated, and messy, and by the end, I lost quite a lot of the person I used to be. I went silent on social media. I privatised everything in my life. I took a break from co-blogging. I fell into a pit of denial, of sadness, of self-hatred and isolation. I disappeared, and the worst thing was that nobody cared. Nobody missed my posts. Nobody wondered where my photography had gone.

By the time I made a temporary return to Instagram, everything had changed. Fun posts had been replaced by the common and much loved vivid colours and stark white backgrounds, so I once again followed the crowd, jumped on the bandwagon and wanted in. As expected, people lapped up my photography, and welcome me back with compliments, and I did, and still do like the look of that photography, but that style wasn't me, and when my smartphone caplunked, my presence did too. My second downfall in a matter of a 14 months. I wondered 'should I just give up?..'


It took around 7 months before I made a solid return to Instagram, armed with a new camera and a new frame of mind and attitude. I had a solid idea of what I wanted to do, the kind of photography I wanted to take, and what I wanted people to feel when they saw it.

I wanted to create a feed that inspired happiness, positivity, creativity and a love of books. So I did.


My photography reflects me so much more as a person more than it's ever done before. It's bright and colourful, reflecting so much of my creativity and imagination, but it features dark crevices and shadows. This, and using a lot of grey smooths the connection between Nellie and Co. and my Instagram, but it also brings to light a lot of my new personality and current state of mind.


You can see the kind of mood I'm in from day to day based on the colour composition and editing of each photo. The darker the look, the darker the mood, the brighter and sunnier, the happier and most positive. Even on the darker, more gloomier days and the more shadowy photos, I wanted to promote a sense of positivity and happiness, a sense that things get better, that there is brightness to be found in all dark, that there is beauty hidden within our own shadows, and it reflects in my content on Instagram.

It took me 2 years, 250 photo and lots of mistakes to show me that nothing is perfect, and your photography doesn't have to be either.



Your photography should be a reflection of you, and the last time I checked, nobody is perfect. Nothing is ever as it seems, and we all make mistakes, or fall over, or 'accidentally' feed the dog our homework, (yes we've all done it, but it doesn't make it okay) it's totally natural, but perfection isn't. Your photography doesn't have to be like everyone elses. It doesn't have to be stark, or set-up, or full of props and leaves from the field you walk your down from time to time. It doesn't have to always be in focus, or without  a bright glare, and it doesn't always have to show you in the best light.

It's worth showing the world the person you are, rather than the person you want to be.

I tried it, many times, and I was never happy. I tried to be people I weren't. I tried to share things that weren't me, and I've come a long way from those days. Sure, I have finally learnt the art of focusing when shooting, and how important light is when trying to get a remotely good photo of something is, but it doesn't have to be perfect, and they aren't. Some of my favourite photos have been my imperfect, slightly fuzzy, out of focus ones, and I couldn't be prouder of them.


Just because one person is doing one thing, doesn't mean you should. Just because something works for one person, doesn't mean it's good for you. Just because one person recommends something, doesn't mean it's you their recommending it for. Perfection is entirely overrated, but being true to yourself, doing you, sharing you and everything you stand for, that's without a doubt so much better.

What three words would describe your photography style?


14 comments:

  1. Oh man, I love that you included some of your older photos as well. As someone just starting out on bookstagram, it's been hit or miss and basically deleting a LOT of photos I ended up not liking, but I think I'm finding myself around a few major ways to take bookstagrams and it's getting easier. I suppose it's definitely just practice.

    My photography style: vibrant, dreamy, Schwab (what? half my bookstagrams are for her books XD)

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    1. I thought it was really important to not only talk about my journey, but show it too, you know? It's a big part of getting to where you are, you have to embrace all the iffy photos in between the start and the now. I think those words are just lovely, and definitely fit with your style Alyssa! :)

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  2. I'm not great with Instagram :) I enjoy doing it in short bursts - but I just don't like photography! I find I often spend ages setting up my photos and then not getting the results that I wanted. I had another go recently which went downhill pretty quickly, even though I did get one or two photos that I'm proud of XD

    I love your photos!

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    1. It's definitely a case of practicing until you can't practice anymore, you know? I think you either enjoy photography and taking it, or you don't, and it's not a bad thing if you don't, it's just a personal thing. Still, thank you though Harvey! :)

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  3. This is a great post, I'm new to Instagram myself. So it's nice to know I have room for improvement.

    Three words to describe my photography Unique, colorful, and whimsical.

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    1. Thanks Skye! I like colourful, colourful draws me in like a moth to a flame! :)

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  4. I love this post! I started a bookstagram 2 years ago I think but I only started properly posting about a year ago and I'm really happy with the direction my photos are going in. They're not what I want them to be yet but I'm getting there. I'm not sure what my style is, I don't think I really have one. I like colourful photos, photos with bits of colour emerging from a background of black and white. I like my photos to be set in nature...and yep, that's it really! I'm going to try to improve but in that process I'll make sure I'm posting what I want to! :) Great post!

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    1. Thank you lovely! It's really nice to see that others are still on their journey too, and we're always learning and changing what we want to see and what we want to take photos of, and our set up. I LOVE photos around nature too, they just make me want to go out in the wide world! :)

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  5. I've been thinking a lot about how to settle on my Instagram theme these days too. I will definitely take into account your advice - to be myself, to reflect myself through my photography.

    Having an online presence sucks sometimes. When you mess up, it gets harder and harder to motivate yourself to keep on trying, to keep on being out there, because what, really, will you get in return? What impact will not being there have?

    And you're right in a sense: if you leave the internet, your presence will not be missed. But that isn't to say that staying on the internet, producing so much content, isn't valued or is ignored.
    You're contributing to the "sacred tribe", and every word you write is read somewhere, is appreciated somewhere.

    Sometimes (and especially if you have the glorious chance of looking back on your learning curve and deciding to be true to yourself) that is more than enough.

    Keep blogging the way you do - it rocks. :D

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    1. Thank you lovely, your kind words really struck a cord and it keeps me thinking 'I can still get better, as long as I learn from the past' because you're right, my content stays there, as long as it's around, and people can enjoy it or learn from it :)

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  6. I'm still not the best. I'm still trying and failing sometimes, but I love practicing and finding 'me' in my pictures. You are so right; it is easy to get swept away in photography-trends and to try to blend/fit in with everyone, but I really try to capture the essence of Mel in my pictures.

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    1. I think you succeed in that Mel, your photos are very you, and I noticed them as yours straight away, so that's a good thing indeed :)

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  7. I LOVE THIS POST AND RELATE ENORMOUSLY. <3 I'm still trying to figure out my style though. XD Like I mean, I think my photographs are a little bit better in the "this feed kinda matches" now. XD I used to do like 90% outdoor photography, which I LOVED, but summer came and killed all my favourite green setups and the light was awful and going out to take photos at 7:30pm just so the light isn't torturous AIN'T FUN. So I was basically forced indoors.

    I loooove how you showed how your feed as progressed through time. :') When I signed up to squarelovin' it showed me my first ever photo and *chokes* UGH IT WAS SO AWFUL. xD heh. So I have come a long way too. :')

    (Also I'm loving seeing all your photos and omg thanks for tagging me in so many things. ;D I LOVE THAT TOO.)

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    1. OH, IT SHOWED ME MINE TOO. Horrific. Just, so bad.. I love tags, so it's super awesome that you don't mind me tagging you all the time - I totally feel annoying when I tag people sometimes, but meh, it's Instagram, it's what you do :D

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