Conforming to the instagram aesthetic

I’m going to start this with an utterly shameless self promo because, why not? The topic is Instagram so you bet I’m going to link mine HERE.

*disclaimer* I’m in no way saying that the instagram platform is bad, but also, I’m not saying its amazing, its kinda a l r i g h t.

Like any platform, instagram has many positives and many negatives, especially for a photographer. Recently, I have been exploring the aesthetic aspect of the photos on instagram. Many photos seem to have a similar kind of aesthetic that are posted on instagram, which means the site becomes an amalgamation of, essentially, photographic replicas. Now, as we all know, there is no such thing anymore as an original photo, which can be explained in “How to steal like an artist” . Many people have and always will be using ideas from previous artists, but this isn’t an issue. If it was, then we might as well just stop creating, which would suck.

Art is theft- Pablo Picasso

For instance, lots of my projects involve research files, which is purely me stealing ideas from various different photographers and tweaking them, moulding them to fit my context, gaining inspiration and transforming their ideas to form my own. So, what makes instagram any different? My honest answer is, it isn’t.

This gave me the idea to replicate one of the most used photography techniques I have seen on instagram in recent years and essentially “steal” the over-used method to;

1) See what is so special about this photography?

2) Ask why its so popular

3) See if it gains more attention than my regular work.

To do this, I grabbed some packaging, from Christmas, that shines holographic when in direct light and set to work. The first kind of subject that popped into my head was flowers, I have a garden full of lots of different types of flowers and they also appear to be very popular with the instagram crowd. Next, I used the packaging to create “bokeh” effects behind the flowers. For those who don’t know what bokeh is (don’t worry I had to google it), it is “the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.” which essentially means that its kind of like the out of focus effect you use to make street lamps look like large blobs. Or, how my vision looks without my glasses when I look at street lamps.

If you look on the bokeh hashtag on instagram, there is 5.4M posts and various accounts dedicated to using this technique, which is fantastic! However, it does also make the technique start to look cliché.

Photographer, Brandon Woelfel  uses this technique regularly, in fact, his youtube channel was what inspired me to use household items to create this effect, as they also inspired me to use CD’s to create rainbow effects. I’ll be the first one to say, his photos often have me staring at them in awe for a while before swiftly double tapping them. They’re truly beautiful. Brandon, is an example of someone who uses instagrams aesthetic to his advantage, there is no doubt that he can take other types of photos and still create stunning art, but why would he when he has established an audience that craves this aesthetic and are willing to support him as long as he is creating it.

Back to my findings; first, I believe its so popular because its so easy but also so effective to create something like this, the lights look stunning and there is a high demand for the popular technique. Next, it’s special because you don’t need specialist equipment to create these photos, you don’t need a concept and you can just use household items. Its great for someone who wants to create something aesthetically pleasing who is on a budget or time restraint. Finally, the bokeh photos didn’t gain more attention than my regular work, which is possibly because unlike other photographers I don’t have a following of people who are attracted to this technique, however, it also didn’t do any worse than my other photos, meaning that people do still enjoy these photos.

Below are the examples of the photos I posted on instagram challenging “conforming to the instagram aesthetic” they were taken in approximately 10 minutes in my back garden.



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