How to Achieve a Beautiful Instagram Aesthetic With Marlene Lee

~ With Marlene Lee~

There have been a lot of lessons learned in this first year as a business owner. I’m very thankful for people like my friend Marlene, who have helped me discover the importance of beautiful photography and a strong Instagram aesthetic. Whether we like it or not, Instagram and social media are an absolute must for small businesses. Marlene, of @cookiesncandies, has helped me grow Lois Avery’s Instagram account, so I thought I’d ask her for some of her best tips to share with you all. She is a very talented photographer, and even travelled to Puglia and Portofino with me this year to take photos for Lois Avery. Let’s just say she definitely knows what she’s talking about, so I'm handing over this post to her ...

Define your niche

In the early days of building your Instagram feed, it’s easy to get carried away and post EVERYTHING you’re excited about. The only thing is, your audience isn’t as enthused about seeing diverse subject matters as you are. In the Instagram world, people tend to find their own “tribe” based on hashtags, aesthetics (i.e. monochrome, moody, colorful etc) or interests (travel, beauty, fashion etc). In order to find a “tribe” that you can belong to, pick one (or two) niche and stick to it—particularly if you’re building your Instagram account for business.

Build your community

I once naively thought that if I posted a beautiful photo, the audience would flock to my feed. Wrong. It’s a little like making friends at a party or an event—talking about yourself isn’t going to attract much attention, but showing genuine interest in others will. Seek those who have similar interests (your “tribe”) and take the time to write a sincere comment to them, and do it often. Be consistent and disciplined—even on days when you don’t feel like doing it.

You’ll be surprised how often doing that can turn a simple interaction into a genuine friendship or a supportive community. I’ve learned that an ounce of kindness can go a very, very long way, even in a virtual community.

Engage, engage, engage

~Images photographed for The Green Eyed Girl and Coco's Tea Party

This ties in with tip number two. We live in a generation where our attention span has reduced substantially and is akin to a gnat’s. Okay, maybe I’m describing myself here, but my point is, one of the fastest ways to lose your followers is by not engaging with them. This includes liking or replying to comments and DMs (direct messages). It can be difficult keeping on top of it all as you grow, but taking a few minutes a day to like a comment—even if you’re several days late—makes a difference in keeping people engaged in your work.

Content matters


~Image photographed for The Onlinestylist~

Unless you’re Taylor Swift or Hugh Jackman, high quality photos matter. Instagram is what I call “fast food” in the realm of photography. It’s quick and accessible, and your photo literally has two seconds to captivate your audience before they move on. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do here to make sure you’re producing the best photos possible.

  • Make sure you’re using a decent camera. You can now transfer photos wirelessly from a camera to a smartphone within minutes. Even a standard 16 megapixel camera can produce photos that have high enough resolution, which won’t look too distorted when you upload them onto Instagram (Instagram compresses all images that are uploaded to their app). In fact, it’ll still look pretty impressive when you pinch to zoom in on the image.

  • Learn to love and understand light. Taking photos during the golden hour (1 to 2 hours after sunrise and before sunset) when the light is softer and warmer can literally transform an otherwise mediocre photo.

  • Developing your own style will take your Instagram game to the next level. I’ve made my own fair share of mistakes by doing what everyone else was doing, all for the sake of getting likes. Why not take a photo of a well known location, but from a different angle? Be inspired by others, but put a personal stamp on your photos. This will tell the audience that they are undeniably yours—even in a pool of thousands on the explore page.


~Images: Before and After Editing~

Editing can really make a “meh” photo pop. There are tons of apps out there, but my personal favorites are Snapseed, VSCO, Priime and Lightroom. Most editing apps on smartphones can only process JPEG files, not RAW, so to make sure I have the type of file I need, I normally set my camera to save the image in both formats.

These apps are quite intuitive and easy to navigate, even for the novice editor. Knowing how to use them will help to avoid having a feed that’s haphazard with a multitude of different filters applied. This does not entice someone to click like or follow. The eye tends to see a block of 9 images, so when you’re checking a person’s profile, a uniformed feed will look more attractive and aesthetically pleasing.

I’m a fan of VSCO’s A and S preset series as they’re slightly muted and minimalist. If none of the presets are to your liking, don’t be afraid to layer one after another to create your own. I tend to apply a preset, adjust its intensity, save and upload to a different app (say, Priime) and apply a second preset. There really are no rules when it comes to finding your aesthetic, it’s just important that once you do, you stick to it.



Thank you so much Marlene for sharing these wonderful tips! 


All images Courtesy of Marlene Lee

You can see more of Marlene's work on her beautiful blog, and be sure to follow her on instagram too! 

Jennie Hogg