Truthful Tuesday: How I take photos for Instagram

Starting a sort-of regular series of posts where I share the truth of what happens behind the scenes of my blog and/or social media posts!

Inspired by this video about perfecting your life on social media, I wanted to start sharing some truths of what it is to be a not-even-part-time blogger and social media enthusiast, starting off with how I take photos for the blog and Instagram.

Seeing all the perfectly styled and casual insouciance of the style bloggers I follow on Instagram, it’s easy to forget that these photos are but one moment in life – that there is probably a whole set up around taking the photos, that there may be a professional photographer directing the shoot, and the photo has been highly filtered to its final result. Also, these style bloggers make a (pretty good) living from these photos so they have to look pretty darn good in them.

But what about those whose main job isn’t to be a style or fashion blogger? For example, here’s my cover photo for this blog post:

An artful, black and white photo of a mama and son at the pond.

The reality:

  • The black and white filter hides the fact that the water in the pond is disgustingly brown after a week of rain.
  • My son’s face is actually covered in sand as I pulled him away from the sandpit to stop him continuing to eat said sand (hence his lack of shoes and pile of sand at the bottom of the photo).
  • See the slab of concrete on the bottom right of the photo? Because I don’t have a professional photographer at hand, that’s actually a step where my stroller was as I rested the camera on the wheel and put the photo on self timer. The photo has been carefully cropped to remove as much of the step as possible.

You see, my first and foremost job is to be a mama to my 2 children, which is my reality – not the single photo that is uploaded to the blog or Instagram. The blog and social media has to fit around this – even if it means taking photos with the assistance of whatever resources I have around.

So how do I take photos when most of my time is taken up by taking care of kids?

Use Self Timer

As I said, I don’t have a photographer so this is probably my most favourite feature on my outdated Samsung S5 phone. I used to have those bluetooth remote shutters but having gone through 3 of them in as many months I decided the self-timer function was good enough – although this is questionable when you’re trying to emulate a casual pose that you’ve been holding it for 10 seconds waiting for the shutter.

Use whatever you can as a makeshift tripod

As I mentioned above, I’ve used the wheel of the pram before, but I’ve also used the hood of the pram with the phone resting on my wallet; my daughter’s music box with the phone resting against it; the hood of my car with the phone resting against my wallet. However, my absolute favourite tool is the top of a wheelie rubbish bin with the phone resting against the handle of the lid. Sounds disgusting I know but the bin doesn’t move and it is the perfect height to rest the phone on to get an outfit pic. (If you’re still disgusted by the wheelie bin tripod idea, hey I’m a mum – I carry baby wipes everywhere. The phone gets a good wipe afterwards.)

Here’s a photo I posted on Instagram recently using said wheelie bin as the tripod.

This is my favourite laneway to take photos not only because it’s got cool artwork as a backdrop to photos, but mainly because it’s not frequented by foot traffic and therefore I can take selfie photos without people thinking I’m some sort of narcissist. It’s also between a row of shops so there’s always a bin in the laneway to rest the phone on.

Being a mum I’m always out and about whether I’m doing errands, dropping Thing 1 off to pre-school, going to playgroup with Thing 2, trotting off to the park etc so I can only take photos in short periods of time. Cue the car parked by the side of the rood, window rolled down 7/8s of the way so the phone can rest against it and on the side of the door. This is the second most favourite option for taking photos, other than the fact that the owners of the houses I choose to take photos in front of are probably thinking there is something suss going on.

Here’s an unedited photo using the above technique.

This photo was taken on the way home from the shopping centre. Waaaaay too much green verge right? Also, the combination of the car door and uphill road puts the photo at a strange angle. What you can’t see: Thing 2 waiting in his car seat at the back of the car, laughing at me from the inside.

With some angle editing, the photo is now Insta worthy:

Speaking of editing…

Use Photo Editing Apps

For example, the photo above (with the flower tree in the background) was taken close to midday when the sun is at its highest so there was maximum shadow (ie the worst time to take a photo) – kicking up the brightness helped get rid of some of that shadow. This method will really suck the life out of you as you edit photos to be like-worthy, with all the filters and tricks to make the most of your photo that was taken leaning against your daughter’s ballerina music box. I sometimes use the in-app options on Instagram, but my preferred app is Snapseed for maximum time wastage and faking that perfect photo.

Another example, before:

Weird angle, too much dark, what is that brick pillar doing in the bottom right of the photo?

After editing:

Kick up the brightness to get rid of the dark spots, make it straighter, carefully crop it to get rid of the brick pillar and you’ve got a more Instagram worthy photo.

So if there’s a photo that seems more than it seems, it probably is, because there was a hell of a lot of editing and perfecting before it was shared on social media. I think the reason why the viral video of Professor Kelly and his kids really resonated with me is because even though he tried his best to present himself as an expert in his field by wearing a suit and dressing up his bedroom to make it look like a professional home office, sometimes you just can’t hide reality.

Hope you enjoyed reading/laughing this first Truthful Tuesday post. I’ll be writing one every so often when I remember!

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