How To Win At Instagram

Whether we like it or not, we live in a selfie-driven culture, where how many followers one has on social media is a legitimate form of cultural currency. Whether you do it for the likes or simply as a form of expression, curating a top-notch Instagram account has become increasingly important as an extension of your own personal identity or “brand” (in many new-media industries, it can act as a resume of sorts.) There are some people who are, in simple terms, just killing it on the platform, and we tapped these influencers for stories on how they got their start and what they’ve learned along the way. Here, words of wisdom that you can adopt for your own feeds from some of our favorite ‘grammers.

Caroline Vreeland @carolinevreeland (115k followers)

How to get the perfect selfie: "A bright light shining in your face is always encouraged. Photos from above tend to be more flattering. But the most important rule for selfies, of course, is to have a glass of wine in hand."

On the perks of maintaining an authentic feed: "I do find that people are more receptive to realness. For instance, I'm obsessed with keeping my skin healthy but when I do get a pimple I never hide it. No one is perfect all the time. Our flaws and our scars should be honored as they make us who we are. I'm never nervous about what people might say (maybe I should have a bit more of a filter, but I don't) in response to anything I post—I would say I'm more excited than anything to receive feedback from people. Especially in regards to clips I post about my music."

Check out more from Caroline's feed here

Erica Choi @eggcanvas (197k followers)

How to nail the OOTD shot: "When I shoot an OOTD photo outside, I try to have the outfit and the background complement each other to some degree—for example, not shooting a black outfit on a black background. Think about foreground and background colors that enhance the other—that is a match made in photo heaven!"

Best apps and filters: "I prefer VSCO, Snapseed and SKRWT to enhance and edit my photos. For filters, I like low levels of A6 and E4 on VSCO."

Check out more from Erica's feed here

Katie Sturino of Toast Meets World @toastmeetsworld (308k followers)

How Katie—the brain behind her dog's account, Toast Meets World—got her pup noticed: "I always knew that Toast was a special dog. It's not just her toothless grin and massive tongue—she is the most laid-back diva dog I have ever met. When she let me dress her up as Joaquin Phoenix's character from Her, I knew we had a future together on social media. Eva Chen noticed Toast and put her in an adorable comedy video about Toast being the hottest new model and her fashion fame started to grow from there. We are now involved in the tight-knit rescue community on Instagram because Toast (and her un-famous sister Muppet's Revenge) are both former puppy mill moms. We love to connect with and share stories of other dogs."

Top rules for an A+ feed: "Try not to over-post—once or twice a day max. And use Aillis to edit your photos!"

Check out more from Toast and Katie's feeds

Carly Kuhn @thecartorialist (171k followers)

How Carly stood out in a crowded sea of illustrators: "I first got noticed by posting my drawings pretty quickly after the original photo that inspired me went up (and using the correct hashtags and tagging of course). People were drawn—no pun intended—to the fact that I was able to turn around and complete a drawing so quickly. That happened when I drew and posted a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker shortly after she posted her original photo. She then reposted my drawing onto her own account—that was a really good day."

On finding your "thing": "I think how to approach social media differs for every artist, but the one thing that does stand true is finding your own unique voice and staying true to it. Post what you're proud of and what you love on a consistent basis and I think that will come through and attract loyal followers. Additionally, I think I personally got noticed for drawing what's relevant in pop culture & fashion, especially during fashion week—people like to see an artist/illustrator's take on the different runway shows and backstage moments."

Check out more from Carly's feed here

Paul Havel

Amy Stone @amy_stone (125k followers)

How to develop a signature aesthetic: "A strong visual point of view is the most important aspect of creating a cohesive Instagram account. Put thought into your overall stylistic strategy: Is your angle coastal blues and surfer vibes in Montauk? Black and white minimalism in Manhattan? Decide what your visual story is, based on what you're naturally attracted to, and strive to create photos that are consistent with that vision."

Consider the bigger picture: "When selecting what to post, consider the grid. Instagram was founded on sharing in-the-moment snapshots, but these single images don't stand alone—they're a part of the bigger picture, your grid. I like to have a variety of unified subject matter and colors represented without being repetitive, but rather, complementary. Aim to create photos and moments that will cause someone to stop scrolling aimlessly through his or her feed, pause and look closer. There’s a level of effort and creativity that goes into producing this type of content, but I find it's worth it."

Check out more from Amy's feed here

Grant Legan @grantlegan (124k followers)

Live in the moment: "To get the perfect shot, I am all about the way a space is lit—lighting is everything. I look for simple corners and moments within them. How a space makes me feel inspires the shot. It usually has nothing to do with planning!"

Establish your purpose: "I think there are two ways Instagram is best maximized. Either push a lifestyle and visual aesthetic by mixing up the types of images you post to create a fully curated view on your own world—variety and balance is a good method, whether you are a brand or an individual. Or, on the contrast, have a singular focus: There are also a lot of accounts that focus on one theme and do that really well and stand out because of it. I think regardless of what you post, adding a simple filter from apps like VSCO will help streamline your images overall."

Check out more from Grant's feed here