In a recent Clubhouse masterclass about passion projects, I dished out that Instagram is one of my ongoing art projects. In all seriousness, I use my Instagram feed as a way to cultivate a beautiful life, and practice some iPhone-ography and filter magic to curate a little body of work that does little more than simply bring me happiness and continually inspire me to seek out the beauty in my life and live in the moment. You can find my feed @emilym_thompson on Instagram.

If you’re in the market to pretty-up your own Instagram feed but aren’t sure how to get started, I’m sharing my workflow below to help you find your Instagram groove.

Here’s how I’ve curated a pretty Instagram feed, and how you can do it, too:

1 – Look around your life and through your photos for you.

What things do you photograph most? What colors are all over your life? What things do you most want to share?

Take a look at what’s going on around you. Be an observer of your own present moment or the things you’ve captured of moments past. Look at the colors, subjects (like plants or shoes), shapes – what is your life already telling you about what you’re interested in and who you are visually?

BONUS: It doesn’t hurt to find Instagram feeds that you admire for a bit of inspiration. I find that the best feeds use a consistent color scheme, style, and subjects, and some have a cool mix of photos and graphics. Here’s a couple to get you started:

2 – Find the common thread and focus on that.

From what you’ve seen around you and in the photos you’ve already captured, what’s popping up for you a lot? Maybe you take lots of photos of clouds, or flowers, or your food. Maybe your bedroom is covered in crystals and plants. Or maybe you’re actually infatuated with water and glorious rays of sunshine or the color pink. Whatever it is, find the commonality in what you’re interested in—because it’s either all over your life or all over your photo stream—and start there.

For my own feed, I focus on neutrals with pops of color, because that’s what my life is. My home is high-contrast, with lots of black and white, but warm with lots of wood. I gather inspiration from what’s already around me and capture things pretty much as they are. My favorite subjects are plants, cocktails, food, and anything on my wood countertops.

3 – Choose a filter that highlights your aesthetic.

Now, I’m a VSCO Cam girl, and my “signature filter” is more than just a preset. I spent a bit of my time forming my aesthetic, but now it’s something that I just replicate for every photo.

Here’s how I do it:

  • I import my photo into the VSCO Cam app
  • Apply filter S3
  • Adjust the exposure (up or down depending on the photo)
  • Adjust the contrast (usually up, but down when needed)
  • Decrease the saturation
  • Increase the temperature

I know that looks like a lot, but it takes me all of 15 seconds to do it, and you certainly don’t have to be as sophisticated. All you need to do is find something you like, using an app that you like, and just do it – for every photo.

And there’s also nothing wrong with #nofilter if that’s your jam. Rock it out.

4 – Pull in your images and curate your look.

I strive to not be one of those people with my nose always stuck in my phone, so I admittedly rarely Instagram in-the-moment. Instead, I take photos while I’m out and about, and later, while I’m home sitting around, I’ll pull all my new, shareable images into my VSCO Cam library to edit them up and see which ones will make it to my feed.

Because of this, my VSCO Cam library is filled with even more beautiful images than I’ve even been able to share on my Instagram feed. It’s a nice little library for me to pull from when I’m wanting to make an update and have something I want to share—like a story, or a quote, or maybe just a couple of emojis and the rad image.

Build your library of images and take a look at your style. Share what you want as needed.

5 – Capture the ongoing beauty in your life. Share it and hug it.

Once you have this nice little system down, share your images and watch your Instagram transform, and your personal style flourish. As you share this curated style, it will continue to morph and refine.

Now, my Instagram feed isn’t the most beautiful feed on the planet, I’m positive, but it is me. When I look at it, it’s my life, in a series of pretty little squares. And curating my life in this shareable way has absolutely made my private life a more beautiful place to be as well.

Maybe someday I’ll share my views on how Pinterest is helping us all live more beautiful lives too, but for the moment, get started with your Instagram. Just another little way that the internet creates magic in our lives.

Now, you can go give it a go.

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Emily is the co-host of Being Boss Podcast, helping creative entrepreneurs learn how to run their own creative business with the tough love they need to hear to do the work. She also owns Almanac Supply Co., a maker and retail business focused on creating and curating items to help you live closely with nature, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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