Telling your stories is what social media is all about. Your images need to tell stories, however big or small the story may be. Social media provides us all with wonderful platforms to share what we are about, what our brands and blogs are about and to use stories to connect with people both locally and all over the world.
I like to think about what I'm doing on Instagram as "micro-blogging". It's a word that came into fashion when Twitter first appeared, and it can sound a little dated, but I still like to use it! It helps me to think about why I'm posting an image.
Today, I'd like you to be thinking about tiny stories that you can share with your online audience. A series of images that tell the viewer something about your life or your work. Any story has a beginning, a middle and an end, so I often like to think about taking images that together tell the beginning, middle and end of a journey, project or process.
You don't necessarily have to share all of these images on Instagram. You could share the beginning of the story and that could then lead your audience to a blog post or you could share the story on Instagram Stories and one part of it on your Instagram gallery. Or you could just think of each image as an individual story.
But what stories do you have in you? I know it can seem so daunting to sit there and thing "what do I share today?" So today's first exercise is to brainstorm and really think about what it is that you could be shooting and sharing, and why!
You'll need some pieces of paper and/or some Post-it notes for this exercise. You'll need a Sharpie or thick pen too. Try to write in capital letters so you can read the notes from afar.
I'd like you to find a wall with some space for sticking them - give yourself a fair amount of room! You might like to do this with a friend or co-worker to help you think laterally.
First, I'd like you to think about what your "main thing" is. If you imagine there were only one thing you could tell someone about, what would it be?
What is at the heart of what you want to share with your audience? What do they need to know and understand about what you do? Do you have brand values that you can share through visual stories? From these core things you will have other important things that might be your Main Thing, and it could change from week to week and month to month. A campaign, a new product or an exhibition for example.
Write down what the "Main Thing" is that you're trying to do with your photography at the moment. If you have a few of these, that's okay! Put them all on post it notes on your wall to remind you.
Next I'd like you to think about the "How"? How is photography going to help you do that?
Let's say you're a florist – your main thing could be something as simple as "Get local people to buy a bouquet of flowers".
So, you'd write down "Post images on Instagram of the flowers we have in the shop". Equally, you might say "Get people within driving distance to enquire about wedding flowers". And your "How"s might be "Share images of the whole process of making the flowers for a wedding", "Share images of brides holding our flowers" or "Ask wedding photographers to let us use their images with a credit".
Have one idea per Post-it and try to use capital letters so it's easy to read from a distance.
Brainstorm as many ideas as you can come up with for your "Main Thing". If you have more than one "Main Thing", do this exercise one at a time and group your Post-its around the one they relate to. If you have friends, family or co-workers you can involve, this is a great exercise to do with more than one person.
No ideas are bad! Don't let anyone say "No, but that won't work because…" or "Just to play devil's advocate". Have fun and enjoy thinking about all of the things you'd love to do no matter how impossible they might seem. Imagine you're not limited by your skills as a photographer or the amount of time that you have to hand. What would be amazing? What would be inspiring? Write it down!
Phew! Exciting stuff. Hopefully you've got a wall full of really exciting things you could try to do. Try not to feel daunted by it! Somewhere within what you've just written down is a wonderful, achievable, immediate idea that you could try today or tomorrow to reach your goals.
Let's find it!
Again, if you have more than one "Main Thing", you'll probably want to do this one at a time.
You'll need to write four more Post-its. "Easier", "Harder", "More repeatable", "Less repeatable". Position them like this. If you have some washi tape, it’s nice to tape out a cross like this too. We call this a "two by two".
Taking each of your Post-its in turn, have a think about the idea. Right now, today, would you be able to do this? Would it be easy to do or quite hard? Is it expensive perhaps? Or would it require lots of organisation? Then it needs to go in the "harder" half of your two-by-two. Is it something where right now, you could walk over to the other side of the room, put something by the window, take a photo and put it on Instagram? Then that idea belongs in the "easier" half.
Next, think about how "repeatable" it is. Let's say you make hand-made quilts. If you put effort into finding a space in your home, painting a wall, getting some hooks put in so that you can take photos of the quilt hanging up with nice lighting, then that's really repeatable. You could use that setup for all of your quilts!
On the other hand, perhaps there's a special event where you've been invited to attend, then all of the work you'd put into getting great images because of it probably wouldn't be very repeatable. It's more like a "one off". Probably valuable to do, but the effort you put in doesn’t necessarily result in other great images.
Put each of the Post-its on your "two-by-two" based on those two factors. Try to spread it out as much as possible so you can clearly see where they sit.
Done? Great! Now step back and have a look.
You've now got a prioritised map of how you can use photography to achieve your aims. The ideas in the top right there – the "Easy and repeatable" ones, are what you should be aiming to experiment with immediately. If you're an antiques dealer, it might be "walk around the shop and take close up details of the new items" because all you need is your phone and some nice light, no backgrounds, no travel, no emails!
But don't stop there, take a look at the "Harder and repeatable" side. These are the ones that you shouldn't go for immediately, but you should try to pick one or two that you're really excited or inspired about and make plans to move them from "Hard" to "Easy". What is the first step that you could do to make it easier? Write that down in your to do list for the week.
Your aim here is to get those inspiring, exciting things into the "easy" side as quickly as you can so that you can make them happen.
We're looking at "repeatable", because one of the most important things with your Instagram, blog or website is to set up some regularity and rhythm to it. When you're starting out it can be quite a worry that you might be able to take one beautiful image, but can you keep it up? If you focus on things that are easy to repeat, then you're setting yourself up to win right from the start! You'll feel like you can keep it up, your audience will get used to the type of images you share and you'll start fitting photography into your week in a natural way.
Some of the things that are in the "Hard, not very repeatable", "Easy, not very repeatable" quadrant are those big, bold, wonderful ideas and one-offs. Keep those in hand because they're probably really exciting. What can you do to rethink those and make them more repeatable?
We love using two-by-twos in what we do with Makelight and it can really help you prioritise what you're doing in any area of your work. It helps you focus on doing the important stuff, and keeps you positive about moving towards what you really want to achieve some day.
Take a photo of your two-by-two and if you've had any realisations, make a note to yourself.
Remember, you have an amazing group of other people in the Facebook group, so please post ideas and question in there and we can all help with brainstorming or coming up with next steps for making them happen.
Have fun and good luck with this task!