What’s An Instagram Theme And Why Do I Need One?
If you scroll through your favorite feeds on Instagram you’ll notice one thing: each shot is different but also the same in a way. There is some sort of consistency, which is pleasing to the eye. We can split this consistency into two categories: color and subject. The color theme is the main colors that are prevalent on the feed and keep popping up in most photos. And the subject theme is what the page and photos are about.
Picking a theme and sticking to it throughout your feed is one of the most important factors that determine whether your page will be successful.
Instagram is a visual platform. Thousands of people stop by your feed every day and they spend about 3 seconds on average looking at it before they decide if they like it or not. In those 3 seconds a viewer needs to know what your page is about. Is it a personal account or a brand? Do you post high quality engaging photos regularly or is it hit or miss? Is your page fun, romantic, moody…? Is it about fashion or travel or something else?
Your feed needs to tell a story from the moment someone who doesn’t know anything about you looks at it. And the best way to do that is to have a unifying theme throughout your photos.
Take a look at my feed before I had a theme. At this point I already knew I wanted to build a travel page but was still trying to figure out how to do it:
At this point I’m not sure if my page is about me lounging around in a bikini or traveling around the world… And what’s with all the birds and animals I’m holding in every other picture?! 😀
And this is my feed after I realized I needed to have a theme, just a couple scrolls up. Here you can see a theme emerging with soft blue hues and consistent travel photos of me exploring Europe:
Which one tells a more consistent story?
If you read my story about how I started out on Instagram, you’d know that it took me a long time to get to this theme and I grew to my first 10,000 followers almost overnight from there.
Let’s talk about colors first. There is most likely a distinct color palette your favorite photographer sticks to throughout their photos. That means there are a few consistent tones that are present in most of their photos. Go take a look at a couple of feeds. Do you see pattern? Which colors show up in most of their photos?
For your theme I would recommend you pick 2 or 3 main colors at most. More than that can get too busy. Turquoise blues & oranges seem to be a very popular combination that a lot of people use (including me at some point). These colors work well with tropical/beach themes. Orange & browns is what a lot of fashion bloggers use as they are easier to do in a city setting. Or you can go into more yellow/reddish tones as well.
A good way to keep colors consistent is to edit consistently. This is one of the main reasons why editing with Lightroom is so popular these days. Lightroom allows you to edit each color individually so you can make sure all of your pictures have consistent tones.
If you are new to Lightroom or even if you just want to save some time editing, presets can be very helpful. Using the same set of presets can help you stick to the same colors. You still need to have some basic editing skills though, as lighting can vary widely between different shots.
For example, our editing has changed a lot through the years, which is why we have different sets of presets. We went from bright colorful blues and oranges, to more muted and natural edits with more greens and yellows. You can check out our different preset packs here.
How To Pick A Color Theme
The key here is to realize that no matter how well you edit a picture, you cannot insert colors in it that were not there in the first place. If you mostly take beach photos, there is no way to avoid blue tones. But if you are mostly hiking in the woods and taking photos with trees, no amount of editing will help you insert a lot of turquoise in. So make sure you pick a theme that goes with the kinds of photos you like to take.
To help you start out with picking your Instagram theme, here are a few useful steps you can take:
- Build a mood board. Pinterest can be very useful here. Create a board and start pinning photos with colors you like. See if a theme emerges or if you notice which colors you gravitate towards. Here’s a link to our Color mood board on Pinterest.
- Download a feed planning app. This is a great way to plan the mood and feel of your photos before you post them. Unum or Plann are great examples.
- Pick about 10 of your own photos that you like the most. Put them all next to each other in your feed planning app and see which colors you find most often in your photos. Which photos would you like to take more of?
There is no right or wrong choice here, it’s a matter of personal taste. Just take your time before you commit to a theme as it’s hard to change it later on. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it can just take a while to do it gradually without making your feed look messy.
Subject & Mood
This is the second type of theme you should think about and it’s a little harder to nail down. It’s about the story you are telling through the content of your photos. The mood you are trying to create in people looking at your photos, through your posing, composition and sequence.
To help you start out, try to answer this question:
How would you describe what your Instagram page is about in 5 words or less?
- Traveling couple?
- Fashion girl in New York City?
- Lifestyle guru?
- Single girl around the world?
- Adventurous traveler?
Also think about the words you would use to describe the mood in your photos:
- Are they trendy/fashionable or more carefree?
- Romantic or goofy/funny?
- Will you focus on luxury or more low key and affordable?
- Dressed up or barefoot/living in your jeans?
For example, Yinon and I describe ourselves as a traveling couple but so do our friends Jeremy Austin and Angie Villa. But while we prefer to focus on us as a couple, Jeremy and Angie’s pages are more focused on the incredible luxury resorts they visit around the world. You can see this reflected in the composition of our photos as well. Ours are more close up while theirs are more panoramic to include better views of the resorts and scenery around them.
Again, there is no right or wrong answer here. It’s all a matter of preference and how you want to express yourself. The key is to make sure you are telling a consistent story. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment or change things up. You just need to make sure it’s all a part of your main story.
But.. Always Using The Same Colors Is Boring! Why Can’t I Just Do Different Things Every Time?
You can. It’s just a lot harder to do. There are plenty of people on Instagram who don’t stick to some consistent colors and still have millions of followers. But usually they have something else to offer, that’s also in some way consistent. Maybe they’re a singer, or an actor, or some sort of other celebrity. Perhaps they have a loyal subscriber base on YouTube, or a very successful blog. For them Instagram is just a part of their whole story. But if all you do is Instagram, you need to make sure it tells a consistent story.
When people decide to follow you it’s because they saw something in your feed they want to see more of. You still need to bring something new every time, just not totally off-topic. Think of it like a magazine subscription. If you subscribe to Vogue, it’s because you want more high fashion. And if you subscribe to Conde Nast Traveler, it’s because you’re interested in luxury travel. So if either of those magazines all of a sudden sends you an issue focused on Politics, you’d be really confused. Maybe some subscribers would like it. But it won’t go over well as a whole.
Every time you post a new picture ask yourself these two things:
1. What is my story?
2. How does this picture continue to tell my story?
…Instagram is all about creativity. Although I’ve given you a lot of examples of themes that work, these are just to get your creative juices flowing. While it’s great to be inspired by all the amazing creators out there, it’s best to come up with your own theme. Sticking to you a few basic rules about colors and mood will help you stay consistent but it’s originality that will set you apart from others. Think about what unique angle you can bring to your photos! And feel free to comment below with a link to your feed, we’d love to check out your new theme 🙂