True Story: I’m Famous On Instagram*

famous on instagram

* Giant asterisk! This title is mine, not Sara Tasker’s. I’m not sure she’d qualify herself as famous 😉

Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Sara and I’m 32. I live in rural Yorkshire, England with my daughter, Orla, and my fiance Rory. We moved here last summer from the city, looking for a slower pace of life. I just recently quit my job in paediatric speech therapy after ten years to blog & take photographs full time. It’s pretty awesome, seeing as writing and photography are my favourite things to do, alongside playing with my daughter, cups of tea with friends and afternoon naps.

When did you join Instagram?
Like most people, I downloaded the app when it first launched and then promptly forgot about it for a year or two, just posting occasional silly snaps. When I was pregnant with my daughter I wanted to start a photo-a-day project as a record of her first year, and Instagram seemed like a logical place to start. That was in January 2013; by April that year I’d hit 35k followers.

How did you come to be such a great photographer?
I’ve just worked really hard at developing my eye! I’ve taken photos in some form or another pretty much daily for the last decade. I think I always had a sense of good composition – I remember as a child wishing I could take photos with my eyes.

When I got my first ever roll of film developed, aged 11, there were a few seascapes I’d framed with the weathered metal fence across the bottom. My Dad lectured me on why this spoiled the shot, but I remember thinking, no, I like it better this way. He still tells me what I’m doing wrong now!

Your shots are gorgeous! Do you really shoot them all on your iPhone?
Thank you! Yep, pretty much all of my Instagram shots are from my iPhone (currently a 5) – any occasional DSLR shots get a #notiphone tag. I’m a firm believer in that saying about the best camera being the one you have with you.

 When I was hugely pregnant, faffing around with my DSLR seemed like too much effort for a daily upload, so I turned to my phone. Iphoneography is a great equalizer in the photography world because it takes the emphasis off all the expensive and elitist kit.  We’ve all got the same camera in our pockets, and it’s really simple to use, so what story are you going to tell? What’s left when you strip all that fancy kit away?
me and orla
Your feed has a very cohesive feel – it’s a lot of whites and greys and pinks. Do you ever take photos that you really love and then think “Oh, but I can’t put that on Instagram because it wouldn’t match”?
Ha! Honestly, yes, that happens – but usually not for very long. If I know a photo will throw it all out of balance I might sit on it until the right spot comes along in a day or two, or play around with it a bit.  I’m generally drawn to the same kind of tones a lot of the time anyway, so that overall cohesion comes quite naturally to me.
I know to some people it must all seem a bit obsessive, but on Instagram most users will judge an account based on the overall gallery view. If your first three rows of shots look great & consistent, people know to expect a certain standard and are more likely to hit follow. If it’s 50% beautiful and 50% blurred selfies, they’ll just drop a few likes & leave.

A lot of Instagrammers talk about how they struggle to stay ‘in the moment’ when they’re out and about; they feel like they’re always looking for the next photo. Has that been true for you?
Sort of, but sort of not. I usually just know it when I see it – whatever ‘it’ is – and so my phone stays away until something calls out to me. I’ve been on walks or meets with other ‘grammers who are snapping the whole time and haven’t taken a single picture myself. But then on the drive home I might stop the car on the roadside to photograph a broken window or a half-dead weed, and that’s my shot that day! I quite enjoy waiting for that moment to hit.

famous on instagram

You’re a mum to sweet little Orla. How do you walk the line of privacy and how your followers a slice of your life? Does Orla understand that she’s on the internet?
At 2, she’s too little to understand it yet, so I try and tread delicately. For a while, I worked to avoid showing her face in photos, but in the end the proud mama in me just won out, and I wanted to share. I understand the concerns about sharing our children’s lives online, but I also think there’s a tendency to sensationalise it. I calculate the biggest risk is that she’ll one day feel eye-rollingly embarrassed about it, so I make sure I avoid any nudey or invasive shots, & try not to post pictures of her too frequently.

How often do people recognise you from Instagram?
It’s only now & then – perhaps because I only tend to post the flattering pictures of myself! 😉 On days when I’m being a ratty Mum or am feeling less-than-aspirational, I can worry a bit about ‘shattering the illusion’; people have a certain perception of me and my life from my photographs, and of course, it isn’t always like that.
Providing I’m having a good hair day, though, it’s usually a pretty lovely experience – people are always so kind & positive about what I do, and they feel like they know me well from what I share online. It’s always nice to meet like-minded people.

Have you actively worked to build your Instagram following? Is there any strategy involved for you?
I’d say I ‘play the game’ – which if they’re honest, any big user would admit to. When you do something a lot you start to see patterns that work for you, so I try to loosely follow those – posting when my followers are online, photographing things I know people want to see. My followers love a table shot or some flowers but are less interested in my outfits, for example.

Above all I just try to be consistent and authentic, and engage fully with the community. It doesn’t matter how great your images are – if you’re not exploring and commenting on other people’s work, nobody will see what you’re doing.

What apps/platforms/tools/tips have helped you manage Instagram?
I edit in VSCOcam and recommend it to everyone, both for editing and for achieving that ‘consistency’ you mentioned above.

There’s also a site called Iconosquare which gives you a breakdown of your Instagram stats and tries to analyse what works for you etc. It can be helpful if you’re not too sure about which types of pictures work for you, and are looking to grow your profile, as well as to get an idea of your monthly statistics.
The most popular accounts are usually ones with a really consistent theme – their breakfast, every day, for example. Obviously that’s too limiting for most of us, but you can still use that idea and regularly post to a theme. I collect all my shots of my kitchen table together under the tag #meandorlastable, which gives you an indication of how often I repeat that idea!

What opportunities have come your way due to Instagram?
It has quite literally changed my life – new people, new places, new things – and now a new job! I’ve been featured in magazines, newspapers and on BBC radio 4.

I get offered a lot of freebies and invited along to swanky parties, press events and trips. It’s a different world, and it’s been a real eye opener to how the world of PR and advertising really works. But I also think there’s a broader opportunity here for people like me; we’re so used to the media setting the tone for lifestyle, what’s supposedly ‘aspirational’, what we should want; Instagram and other online channels give people some of that power back, which has the potential to be a really great thing.

What are the benefits of having a following of this size? Are there any drawbacks?
I get a lot of immediate feedback from the community, which has really helped me develop as a photographer and in my own confidence. There’s definitely a certain amount of validation that comes from so many likes and comments too – now when my Dad criticises my photography, I get to tell him ‘110 thousand people disagree’.

It also gives you a weird sort of currency in the world today: recently a company was being lousy about giving me a refund they owed me, so I eventually threatened to tell my 110k followers. They fixed it for me lightening fast!
In all honesty, I’ve yet to experience any drawbacks, though I’m aware they’re very possible. So far, Instagram is a uniquely positive and friendly place, so I’ve literally never had a troll or a nasty comment – but I know there’s the potential for that whenever we share our lives online.

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to grow their following?
Post daily, and only post your best work – think of your Instagram as your online gallery. Experiment and find your own style. Be an active member of the community – make friends, join in with hashtag challenges leave thoughtful comments & read my more detailed instagram tips – there’s lots more left to say!

Thanks so much for sharing, Sara! Do you guys have any questions for her?

P.S. Sara does 1:1 Instagram mentoring and she’s offering Yes & Yes readers a discount! Just enter the code ‘YES&YES’ at checkout and she’ll refund the 10% via Paypal after your purchase goes through.

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