I find Instagram themes to be an interestingly controversial topic.
Some people swear by having a theme, whilst others seem to be bizarrely offended by them.
For those of you who’ve never heard of the term, an Instagram theme is basically a way of making your Instagram feed look visually cohesive.
Themes are used frequently by high-flying bloggers and people who have a specific business to promote. But what if you just have a PERSONAL LIFESTYLE Instagram account, one that reflects your life?
It can be a lot harder to create a consistent visual style, when the world is so full of different subjects, seasons and colours.
Now, first things first: if you don’t want to have a theme for your Instagram, then THAT’S FINE AND DANDY. You do you!
Post photos of your cat, your dinner, your living room, and your outfit, use all the colours of the rainbow, and be happy. That what it’s all about after all!
(Head’s up though: this post is probably not going to be your cup of tea. Soz.)
But if you really want to grow your lifestyle Instagram account – if you want better engagement and more followers – then unfortunately, at some point, you’re going to have to look into developing a theme for yourself.
(Unless you’re a Kardashian or a Beckham, in which case, DO WHAT YOU WANT, YOUR PHOTOS COULD BE BUTT UGLY BUT EVERYONE WILL STILL FOLLOW YOU ANYWAY. #famous.)
It’s not about being “perfect”.
As far as I’m concerned, a perfect theme is one that you love, one that’s easy for you, and one that actually makes you enjoy taking photos.
But if you want to SERIOUSLY grow your account, then having a theme is necessary.
Since developing my own personal Instagram theme over the summer, my account has grown by nearly 4000 organic followers.
I’m frequently hitting between 500-800 likes per photo (with the occasional one going crazy and hitting over 1000 likes) and I usually get about 30-50 comments on each as well.
Before my phone camera broke, I was regularly posting 1-3 times a day. I always had around 8 photos lined up in advance, I never struggled to find things I wanted to photograph that fit into my theme, and my editing process was/is quick and simple.
I really want to show you that having a theme is NOT as hard or as restricting as it sounds.
So here’s my simple, five step guide to developing a “perfect” theme for your personal Instagram account!
1. What does your life REALLY look like?
So here’s my story: for ages, I tried to make my Instagram feed look white, bright and super colorful.
Sometimes I succeeded… but more often than not, I didn’t. Because, unfortunately, my life ISN’T white, bright and super colorful. I hadn’t considered the practicalities.
Check out the example feeds above:
Lydia (@lydiaelisemillen) lives in a very white flat, surrounded by luxurious details. Nearly everything she wears is black, white or neutral; she’s a fitness and fashion blogger, and she’s naturally STUNNING. Her theme reflects her life.
Rebecca (@aclotheshorse) lives in a fairytale cottage in Ireland, with a yellow front door and surrounded by lots of forestry and historical nooks. She’s an outfit blogger, loves everything vintage, and is always dying her hair crazy colours. Her theme reflects her life.
Do you see the pattern here?
I love both of their feeds. But if I tried to copy either of them, I’d fail miserably. Simply because my life doesn’t look like that.
I wish it did (I would LOVE to live in a fairytale cottage in Ireland!), but it just doesn’t.
So first things first: be brutally honest with yourself.
You can obviously make your feed into whatever you want it to be, but it’ll be easier for you in the long run if you figure out what actually reflects your real life.
Just because your life isn’t a Pinterest dream, doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful in its own way.
(I mean, my kitchen sink is definitely not something I ever thought I’d be posting on my Instagram feed…)
2. Find your focus
The best advice I ever got about themes was when someone told me that they loved my London and architecture shots, but they didn’t want to follow me because there were too many other things going on in my feed (fashion, selfies, flatlays, etc.)
I think it’s important to have just two or three core focus subjects, because that’s what going to give your theme direction.
Obviously there is more to my life than just London, food and my bed. But those three things are CONSTANT. They’re always a part of my life, they’re important to me, and I’m always inspired by them.
So find a couple of subjects that define your life, and then shoot around those.
I know, I know. It sounds super restricting. But here’s the thing: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE.
Example: fashion isn’t one of the cornerstones of my theme. I do love clothes, but they’re not a major priority.
So when I do occasionally want to post about the snazzy new skirt that I just bought, then I photograph it in front of a pretty building and make the BUILDING the star of the shot.
My skirt is still in the photo, but my feed stays cohesive.
If you want a theme, you’re going to have to be brutal about only posting good quality shots that fit your theme.
Sad, but unfortunately true.
3. Filter your colours and work in blocks
You can develop a theme based JUST on a colour scheme, and some people do. I think it works especially well for businesses with a very clear cut aesthetic.
HOWEVER. If you’re working on a personal Instagram feed, I think it’s more limiting and a lot harder to achieve.
Say for example, you pick a monochrome color scheme. What happens when you go to Disneyland and everything is suddenly colorful? Or if you have a really light and pastel color scheme, and then all the dark skies and autumn leaves arrive?
It’s doable, obviously. But it’s not EASY.
I find it much simpler to have focus subjects and a general feeling to my personal account, and then play around with the colours.
My theme is dark and neutral, and I use the same filter on all my pics to give them the same general feel. But every 6-9 photos, I’ll slide in different accent colors.
For example, at the moment my feed is very green and orange, because of the autumn leaves. Previously, I had a lot of grey in my Budapest shots, with some flashes of purple and yellow.
Work in colour blocks, instead of focusing on every individual photo, and you’ll find it much easier to keep a consistent visual flow.
Carrie (@wishwishwish) does this beautifully. Her photos are always light and bright, but she moves seamlessly from soft neutrals to bold autumn brights, and on to light pastels.
What keeps her feed consistent is the focus: fashion, food and pretty landscapes.
4. Enhance your theme with your editing process
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best themes are the ones that are EASY for you to stick to.
And that means not having to use twenty different apps to try and make your naturally dark photo fit into a bright rainbow theme. (Been there, done that, it’s not fun.)
Work with what you’ve got. Keep it simple.
The edits you do on your photos should enhance the general feel you established in the first step of this guide. For me, that means keeping things very natural, with a cosy, dark edge to it.
Lowering the exposure slightly works really well with the London light, and the extra contrast and sharpness shows off all the details and textures I like to include in my shots.
Maybe your photos need bright colours, so up the saturation. Or maybe you want a softer, more hazy feel, so you turn down the sharpness and highlights.
Find what works for YOU.
Filters can help speed up the process, but I recommend turning down the intensity of any filter you use, as they can be really harsh when they’re set to 100%.
5. Plan your grid
So you’ve got your focused photos, they’ve all been beautifully edited… now what?
Well, the next step is to plan how they’ll fit into your grid.
Your Instagram grid is made up of the first 9-12 photos people see when they first click on your Instagram feed. Your photos might all be awesome individually, but how do they work together?
I use an app called Mosaico to plan my feed. I’ve heard great things about Planoly too, but I’ve never used it. Mosaico is a one-time payment of £4.99, and it lets you plan your captions and move all your photos around. I love it, and I reckon it’s the best £5 I’ve ever spent on my Instagram.
Just upload your photos to the gallery, and then play around and see how each one sits next to the other, until you’re happy with how it looks.
Try and arrange it so that your subjects are shuffled, and you don’t end up with two food shots followed by three landscapes. Mix it up a bit – it’s more interesting to look at.
Warning: it’s a bit addictive! I tend to play with it when I’m on the tube, and don’t have any wifi.
Who needs Angry Birds when you have Instagram, right?
So there you go. The super simple guide to creating your very own personal Instagram theme.
Don’t forget that all themes are a work in progress. I constantly fiddle with my editing settings, and I’m always looking for new and creative ways to take photos within my focus subjects.
Keep it simple, be honest with yourself, and most important of all: HAVE FUN.
Do any of you already have an Instagram theme? Do you like them, or hate them, or don’t care either way?
Let me know in the comments below! ♥︎