Are you unhappy with your photo, even though you spend five hours editing it? Is your feed unsatisfying to the eye? Do you want to start an Instagram for books, but not sure where to start? Well, fear no more, for with Linh’s Guide to the Basics (Book)Instagram for Dummies specifically written for new bookstagrammers, you can learn my photography tips, the basics of socializing, and everything in between.
To start off, I am not a professional photographer. Secondly, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good photos. A few tips and tricks can easily make your Instagram feed look truer to your personality and give it a polished, clean look. If you’ve seen my photos (in which you probably have), you can see that I like having a somewhat consistent aesthetic. I personally like the flow the photos have when they are organized and themed. However, if you’ve seen my photos, you would also know I change/interrupt my theme all the time. If you love a photo you took and it doesn’t go with your feed, post the darn thing. What every bookstagramer should know is they can post what they love whenever they want, and not feel constricted to a “style” that everyone else likes. Originality and loving your photos are key; not the amount of likes it gets. Finding a theme you know you can stick to will make taking photos fun and not a burden.
t i p #1: choosing your camera / lighting
Trying out cameras and choosing the one that provides quality photos is the first step. It depends on you and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into taking pictures. I stick to my iPhone 5S camera; not too shabby, a decent lens, and always on hand when I need to snap a photo. I also I have a Nikon D60 that I used to use (if you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while, you may have seen some photos), but it was too hefty for me to use on a regular basis. Lighting goes in hand with cameras. If you plan on having a bright, vibrant feed, a phone would do the job just fine. If you prefer a darker setting, a DSLR camera would do an excellent job.
Lighting (natural light) gives photos an awesome clear shot. Yellow lights do not give an awesome clear shot. It’s important to note that dark lighting does not mean bad photo quality. You can get awesome looking pics by using minimal lighting. It’s very hard (for me at least) to take a photo with little lighting or with only unnatural lighting. Unless you have a studio light (please don’t go out and buy one just to take Instagram photos lol), it’s hard for everybody to mimic natural lighting. I have a white light lamp that assists me when it’s a cloudy day and the sun is too stubborn to peek out, but I do not use it without the combination of natural lighting. If you ever have trouble finding a spot of sunshine in your house, the outdoors is a perfect substitute. You can also adjust the brightness while editing. It’s important to keep in mind that you should shoot for the best lighting as possible since editing can’t fix everything without having an over exaggerated feel.
t i p #2: taking the photo
Depending on what you’re trying to convey, the background of your photo can vary. “Props” like plants, items with coordinating colors and theme, and other trinkets can make the photo look aesthetically-pleasing to the eye. Blankets, sweaters, and candles give off a cozy feel. I love placing color-coordinating elements around my book(s). Not only is it fun to do, the end result is amazing. It’s pretty much the way you let your creativity outlets flow into the dynamics of the picture.
Make sure your lens is focused before you take the photo, or it would turn out blurry and grainy. Take a couple of pictures while you’re in that pose, and try taking a shot from a different perspective. When you’re editing, you have several photos to choose and narrow down from.
t i p #3: editing the photo
Attention: we have now arrived to the perilous and long journey of editing. In reality, some people take thirty seconds to edit, while others take a good half hour per photo. I take mostly around five-ish minutes; I put on a filter (I use the basic filter “fade” that comes with Apple products), touch up on the brightness and highlights, and crop/tilt the photo as needed. All of this can be done on the Instagram app itself.
A lot of people I know do what I call “layering.” You have around two to five apps you go through to completely edit your photo, using each one for a certain purpose like filters, saturation, brightness, shadows, textures, and etc. I barely ever do this, but if you’re interested, my favorite photo editing apps are Studio +, VSCO Cam, Afterlight, and Moldiv (used for collages). You have to be careful how much is too much; you don’t want your photo be look fake and unnatural. Of course, it’s awesome to use no filters on your photos, too and go natural. Don’t feel pressured to use one.
Now, some people take it to the next level and use Adobe Photoshop, which is way too expensive for my budget since I spend all my money on books. If you want to do more in-depth touchups without spending money on an Adobe subscription, I suggest using Pic Monkey. It has the same basic functions as Photoshop, and it’s free and easy to use!
The Etiquette of Bookstagram
#Bookstagram is a community of multi-cultured people from all around the world. When I joined a little over a year ago, I had no idea what I was doing except the fact I was trying to connect with people with one common interest: stories. The purpose of Instagram is to share and connect, not show off how many likes you get or how many followers you have. If you’re a bit of a shy person or you’re really bad with words, here’s some things I do to get around the Bookstagram community.
- Write positive genuine comments.
Everyone loves comments; they’re like little patches of four-leaf clovers: uncommon, and not seen as much as likes/follows. A small compliment can simply make someone’s day. I personally like comments more than an amount of likes because they take thought and more time to write out than double-tapping a photo. If you’re genuine with everyone you talk to, it’s easier to make friends and connect.
- Don’t ask for “sfs.” Ever.
It’s okay to ask, “Hey, I’m new to Bookstagram, and it’d be cool if you can check out my page!” We bookstagramers love supporting other bookstagramers. Asking for “sfs” just makes you out to seem like you care more about followers than anything else, and comes off as rude and obnoxious. So is “f4f,” “l4l,” or anything else like that.
- Respond to comments left on your post.
Interact with your followers! If someone leaves a compliment or question, reply to it. It’s that simple. This can spark a connection and conversation, and you can make new friends! Remember the purpose: share and connect.
- Tag your photos with appropriate hashtags.
This will help other people discover your account and categorize your pictures. Don’t put an obscene amount of tags onto your photos (especially if it doesn’t coincide with what your picture). If you really want to put a lot of hashtags, type it all in a different comment than your main body.
Here’s some examples of hashtags you can use:
#currentlyreading #bookstagram #yabooks #bookworm #socksunday
- Participate in “book tags.”
Tags are when you are tagged by another account to do a certain thing; maybe it’s to show all of your blue books, what you are currently reading, or underrated books. It let’s you get to know others and have a little challenge while taking photos.
- Be yourself.
Express your opinions, even though it may be unpopular. Take photos in a whole new style. Share the books you love. It’s easy to get caught up in the likes, followers, popularity, and comparing yourself to other accounts. Know that Instagram is a platform where you express who YOU are through photography and words. Be your darn self, and you’ll truly get a good experience.
In conclusion, here’s a very-not-short list of some amazing accounts and people you can look to for inspiration.
That’s it for all of my tips for starting a Bookstagram! Best of luck, and have a fun time taking photos and reading!