10 simple steps to nail that perfect picture for Instagram
Your guide to a perfect "plandid"
Look at Instagram and you’d think everyone woke up perfectly imperfect. Fashion, beauty, social media, pop culture, all cultivate a myth of effortlessness. In this package, ELLE.com acknowledges, dissects, and celebrates the effort. Because effortlessness is a privilege that not everyone can afford. And there’s no shame in admitting you actually love putting in the work.
Confession: I am shameless when it comes to getting the perfect photo. Once, when presented with the fanciest hotel tub I’d ever seen, I did the only reasonable thing: create a makeshift tripod by stacking an upside-down garbage can and a makeup pouch atop a hotel night stand, set a ten second timer, risk slipping in the half-filled tub — faucet still running for aesthetics — and rushed to get the ideal “looking-away” candid pose. It took about 10 tries.
The final result? A plandid. A meticulously planned, not-at-all candid photo that captures surroundings, moods, and how just good one looks without acknowledging the camera. I’m not the first (or only!) one to do these (how do you think pro-Bloggers make all that money?), but I do love them.
A plandid shaves off just a teeeeny bit of the narcisissm involved in stunting for the ‘gram and feels more natural. Like you just happened to walk in on me enjoying my life versus screaming LOOK AT HOW GREAT MY LIFE IS. It’s second-tier extra, just short of hiring an actual Instagram husband…which for the record I’ve also done.
Call it Building a Personal Brand, call it being a Leo, call it FOMO — whatever the motivation is, I’m not afraid to say I care. And like many others, I have individual and group texts with friends where we send multiple options asking for feedback on which photo to post.
So since I’m an expert at the art of the plandid, I’ll share some pearls of wisdom on nailing the shot. Presenting my very serious, very important 10-step guide.
What really makes a winning plandid is when you look away and are seemingly photographed mid-laugh. This method requires no real laughing — just cough once from the diaphragm while smiling. It feels and looks weird (and may draw some judgement from your photographer), but trust, it will result in the perfect open-mouthed smile. Look how much fun I'm having!
Looking cute is half the plandid equation — but how about that background? Where you are tells the other half of the story. Some staples that always work: brick walls, murals, or anything that indicates you're on a rooftop. But, the real magic happens when you spot an unexpected corner and see the backdrop potential. Exhibit A: this rusty abandoned trolley in Brooklyn.
You've got to keep moving around to get the best shot. I've done everything from spin around, dance like a maniac, and walk repeatedly back and forth to get a plandid worth posting. Here is a not-at-all embarrassing grid of myself trying to capture a fun "I'm at Coachella" photo. (I was having zero fun, but who wants to see that?).
Here's the final result enhanced with the disposable camera app, Huji.
This is a trick I learned from a friend when I was trying to take an outfit photo against a wall and felt like something was missing. As she handed me her oversized sunglasses, she instructed, "Pretend like you're pushing them up on top of your head like a headband." Lo and behold, we got the shot immediately. Looking back at my other plandids, I've noticed some hand action is a common thread. Flip or play with your hair, cuff your denim jacket, hold a drink, apply lipstick — you get the idea.
I'd so much rather do a ridiculous self timer set up (cue, that one time I propped my iPad on a bench in front of the Eiffel Tower) than ask a stranger to take my photo. But, if I happen to be blessed with a willing collaborator (lol), it's on me to guide them. I'll go so far as to actually stand in their spot, frame the photo, and tell them exactly where I need to be in the shot. I also instruct them to take a minimum of 50,000 photos. Which brings me to my next point...
Even Rosie Huntington-Whiteley admits it takes 100 tries to get a selfie she likes. And she's Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. That means a normal like me needs even more and, truth be told, that's usually the case.
No matter how posed the photo, including a friend will immediately make your plandid feel more organic. Here, my best friend and I pretended to casually lounge around while drinking hot chocolate in a ski lodge. We arranged the pillows just so.
It's a meme at this point — remember Kylie Jenner's "lost something" pose — but staring downward is always a solid option. You're nonchalant, chill, just enjoying life while conveniently dressed in a great outfit. Bonus points if you look down while walking directly toward the camera.
At the end of the day, Instagram isn't real life. It's often referred to as a "highlight reel" and that is 100 percent true. At its core, it is a platform where aesthetics do matter (just look at the feeds of the most successful, millions-followed influencers), so I play the game. I approach it as an extension of my job in beauty, which by nature is an industry reliant on strong visuals. I also like my memories and experiences to look beautiful—and I always have, even pre-Instagram days (just look at my hundreds of Facebook albums).
That being said, I actively check myself to make sure I don't start putting too much value on how many likes, views, or comments I get from my posts. I try to counteract the glossy moments by showing what's really happening. Immediately after taking my fancy tub photo, I took a picture of the ridiculous means I used to get the shot. People had a field day with that one. "An iconic BTS" one friend messaged me, "You're an independent woman," another joked. One even said, "Yessss thank you for keeping it real."
Oftentimes, they're even better than the posed ones. Real smiles!
From: ELLE US