Whats going on with Instagram?
It’s unusual for me to open up Instagram these days without someone having a little grumble about how their engagement is suffering or that their visibility to followers non existent. Never more so than in the last six months. We’ve all known for the past year or so that videos and reels are being promoted on the app. Like many, I’ve resisted leaping head first in to reel making. And like many, my engagement has plummeted.
Are you a reel convert?
They (the Instagram chiefs) want us to stay longer, scroll more, laugh louder and generally be entertained by the antics of cats and toddlers. (I love cats and toddlers, I just don’t choose to see them in my Instagram feed) The algorithm is designed to show us what we want to see apparently so I have only got myself to blame for clicking on a cat video. Once! Isn’t there another app that does the cat thing rather well anyway? TikTok, YouTube or how about day time TV?
Don’t get me wrong there are some beautiful, high quality and evocative reels done really well on Instagram. I love foodie videos especially those by the likes of @twiggstudios and @stemsandforks and my friend @ceramicmagpie has absolutely mastered the reel in showing her creative process. There are some really informative tutorials from gardeners like @anya_theflower_fairy that I love too.
To reel or not to reel
I know I’m not alone in my lack of enthusiasm for reels. Small businesses are suffering through not being seen or heard these days as they are drowned out by the noise of reels. Reels from people we don’t even follow! Although I admit that works both ways. If you make a reel it will be shown to non followers within the reel tab. It’s not easy being a one man band making, marketing, accounting and selling. And now on top of it, videography and art direction! Many SBO’s are not content creators and fitting in a high quality reel in to a busy day is not easy. I share some tips below on staying on top of the reel making.
Still life will always be my real love
Like many people I joined Instagram because of my love of photography. I adore the creative environment and inspiring community that I belong to. I’m not against change or necessarily algorithms ,but I genuinely can’t understand why Instagram needs to be everything to everyone. I for one don’t want to be faced with a barrage of action and flashing imagery every time I look at Instagram. I joined Instagram as a form of escapism from real life and now “reel” life has made the app feel demanding, noisy, trashy and quite frankly somewhere I don’t want to be very often. However, at the end of the day this is a free app and we either embrace the changes or log out.
Reels are more work
Making a reel takes more planning and more consideration than a still. You need a tripod set up to video yourself. More editing is required not to mention effects, captions and music. The video camera on Iphone is fantastic yet doesn’t offer the same ISO or DOF options that a DSLR camera does. The most recent reel I made took an afternoon. I know I can make it quicker and less polished (actually it wasn’t very polished at all) and not get hung up on the details. The more you do the easier it gets.
But it is exactly these details that me and countless other still life photographers have thought about to create a beautiful image. A still life. A moment in time captured quietly in an attempt to create a piece of photographic art to share with like minded souls. I love the process of scene styling and finding the light to create a certain mood in my still life photography. The inner peace in creating. The joy in sharing with others. Instagram used to be the app for creators. Now it seems to be crushing creativity.
So I’ve had a good old moan and now its time to think about how to make these changes on Instagram work. And most importantly enjoy the process. I don’t want to compromise on the look of my grid so I really need to think out my reels and videos when I make them. So I’m sharing a few things that I have learnt along the way. And I do have a long way to go regarding reels. I haven’t made many and none of mine have gone viral (that is not my aim) and I’m still working out what formula works best for me and my audience. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.
1.Take small clips of video when you’re out and about. I always only used to take photos, but now if I’m in a beautiful garden or on a day trip I’ll take 2-3 second video clips to bank for later. Any longer and you’ll have more clipping and editing to do.
2. Invest in a tripod that will hold your phone. It needn’t t be expensive, but you need to be able to set up the shot and besides you can’t video yourself without one. Unless you have your personal paparazzi following you around. Even better!
3. Although reels can be up to 90 seconds long I think shorter ones work better and hold the audience. Mine are usually about 12-15 seconds. The first second counts….literally to reel them in and keep the viewer watching.
4. I usually edit in Inshot, a video making app, but you can do it in the reels app. ( I have heard that making it within the reels app will make it more favourable to the algorithm) I find there are more editing options in an app such as reversing, slowing down or speeding up a frame
5. Do use some well considered hashtags. Maybe 6-7 in the caption. Really make the first line of your caption count too as the viewer won’t be able to see as much as when a still photo is posted.
6. Sharing how to do something or your work process captures the audience. I’ve seen some great interior makeover reels showing before and after. And I’ve definitely added more destinations to my holiday wish list thanks to travel reels. You can use photos to make a reel. I like to do this to summarise the month with seasonal images.
7. When making a video consider everything you would for a photo. The quality, composition, lighting and backdrops are just as important. A reel ratio is 9:16 so it’s a good idea to imagine the composition in those dimensions.
8. Add a cover to your reel. I like to choose a seasonal image from my camera roll that sits nicely in my grid.
9. I always choose the music once I have edited my video and uploaded it in to reels. This takes me longer than anything else, but I really enjoy the process of bringing the video to life through the choice of music. The algorithm favours trending music, but I prefer to choose something that suits the mood of my imagery. ‘Running up that Hill’ feels like something I should be playing, but it’s not the right vibe for my work.
10. And as with photography, if you find yourself having a creative day stock up on stills and videos for future use. Most of all enjoy the creative process.
So will you be making more reels?
So good luck with your reel making. If you haven’t dipped your toe in the water yet it needn’t be a terrifying experience. You don’t have to perform like a circus clown to get noticed. Or dance. Or even appear in a reel. Just do what suits you when you can.
A still life photograph will always be my first love and I believe that’s what my audience want to see from me. However, I do love a creative challenge so whilst I won’t be putting away my DSLR camera just yet I will be working on making reels in my own way.
Do let me know if you have any reel making tips to share or whether you are resisting them altogether.