Through the lens
MVHS students give their insights into how and why they maintain their feed
From the day it was launched in 2010, Instagram has taken over the modern world. That’s where the phenomenon over which millions of active Instagram celebrities, organizations and individuals obsess comes in: Instagram feeds. Whether it’s business-oriented, color-based, content-focused or separated in columns, these MVHS students express what goes on behind the scenes to maintain their feeds.
It all started with her trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a theme park within the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. And a post of the Hogwarts Castle on July 27. Soon after, another post followed — of the same castle.
Her followers’ comments accused her of accidentally reposting the same picture. She had however, done it on purpose, but with no particular aim—after all, it was a trip she was excited to share with her followers, a structure in the theme park that she just so happened to take at slightly different angles but both were equally appealing pictures of. With her satisfaction and her friend’s encouragement, the pictures represented not only a memorable experience in senior Esther Na’s life but the birth of her current feed.
“I think it’s kind of aesthetic; it’s nice to see two consecutive pictures that are kind of similar,” Na said. “My close friends, they make fun of me… But I like it, so I kept going with it and my friend [senior Amanda Kim] has played a big part in me continuing with it because [at one point] I kind of felt like giving up.”
To her, an aesthetic is something with a prevailing theme. Instagram’s layout divides each user’s feed into three columns (each column an archive of square-shaped pictures) which certain users like Na base their feed off of. Her feed is primarily pictures with friends and features two columns that, in each row, are composed of almost identical pictures with minor differences in poses, angles or expressions, and a final column composed of more distinct photos. While she doesn’t specifically take her pictures to correspond with her feed, part of the reason why Na’s feed appeals to her is the emphasis it automatically places on photos in the “special” column.
“Whenever I hang out with people, we usually take group photos, so [my feed is] a lot more pictures of my friends hanging out, and special events like if I have a performance,” Na said. “Usually it just works out because we do a couple poses and the random ones are pictures I save… but if I don’t have two similar photos, it has to go in the ‘special’ column.”
By editing her pictures with uniform filters and adjustments in contrast and temperature, Na constantly has an idea of how she wants her feed to look, the warmth she wants to give off to others—what she believes accounts for the popularity, as well as the power and uniqueness, of an Instagram feed.
“I think the focus on feeds is because this is how a lot of people look at your life,” Na said. “People might not necessarily know you, but because they follow you on like Instagram, this is how they see your life, this is their perspective, so people want to show themselves in a good way.”
Lighter fluid. Check. Matches. Check. Camera. Double check.
These were the items sophomore Caleb Siow gathered as he prepared to light his hand on fire — all in the name of photography. It first began in sixth grade, when a friend of his convinced him to join Instagram.
“I got into it when my friend was like ‘Dude, you should create a f’ing Instagram!” Siow said. “It’ll make you so cool!’ It never made me cool.”
Through tactful composition and editing of his photos, Siow has since amassed a virtual photography portfolio on the social media platform Instagram. Like many others, Siow’s Instagram photos have been the results of hours of tireless work and planning. But his stockpile of photos isn’t just the average, run-of-the-mill collection of images.
“My Instagram feed matches my photography style, which is a grungy, street style,” Siow said. “And it’s kind of darkened to match my personality.”
To achieve this darkened look, Siow avoids taking photos with white color, as he dismisses the many bright feeds he sees on Instagram as “too basic.” In order to distinguish himself, he has taken precisely the opposite approach to choosing a color scheme for his images: black photographs.
Astrophotography. Exposure. Pyro photography. These are all subjects that Siow has captured in his pursuit of his dark-themed Instagram feed. On occasion, Siow’s quest for the perfect Instagram photo has taken him to the darkest corners of the city.
“I’ve been under creekside tunnels with graffiti,” Siow said. “And then I also went to Vasona Park, another graffiti tunnel near Somerset Park.”
The origin of Siow’s dark-toned pictures can be traced back to countless hours of browsing Youtube videos and others’ Instagram feeds. He has since adopted various approaches to photography by replicating others feeds’ composition techniques and subjects — but that isn’t to say Siow doesn’t strive to introduce his own style to every photo he takes. Underneath, he is intent on creating a one-of-a-kind Instagram feed which exhibits his abilities as a photographer.
“It’s kind of like advertising my photography, and then people will know I’m a good photographer,” Siow said. “If you have good pictures, you get more likes and people know you more as a photographer.”
Despite what might seem like a firm adherence to a dark color scheme, Siow is considering introducing new, more vivid elements to his photos in the future. In doing so, Siow’s photographs will have a wider range of creative expression, or, as Siow calls it, a “story.”
“I actually want to integrate more colors, because colors actually show a deeper story,” Siow said. “And sometimes darker pictures like my black pictures don’t actually show a story.”
All things considered, Siow just sees all of the work he does as a part of doing the things he love most: going places, taking pictures and sharing them with his beloved followers. While it is a big commitment, to Siow, there’s nothing more gratifying than the sound of his camera shutter’s click.
The project had began as a hobby. Just a small side project with friends. She liked photography, and had thought Instagram was a good way to connect with the public. Sophomore Tanya Ravichandran started her first official shoot, one with real models, and posted them to her Instagram account with the pride of a new photographer. She followed a lot of photo accounts on Instagram, hoping to gain some inspiration in what she could accomplish as a photographer.
The next thing she knew, she had a job as a photographer at Pacsun.
“I was interested in doing some fun photography with my friends, and I had never worked with a model before,” Ravichandran said. “[Next] thing you know, I follow this guy on Instagram, and I got a direct message the next day saying ‘Hey I run photography for Pacsun, I’d love to work with you for our shoots!’”
Ravichandran, proud owner of @tanyaravichandran, has used Instagram as a way to promote her photography business. She describes her feed as having a fun California vibe, with a splash of moody tones here and there. High fashion, but with a twist to fit her needs. After being contacted by Pacsun, she worked for them for three years, she then made her way to Aeropostale, where she lived the life of a professional photographer.
It was a whole new world for her.
Yet Ravichandran felt constricted by the professional environment where she works. Her models were picked for her by the company she worked for, and she had to obey the whims of the company. Ravichandran tries to shoot diversely to help branch out of the models given to her.
“[They] usually tell me what ethnicity they want, basically what they want in a model,” Ravichandran said. “But if I was shooting for myself, I love shooting diversity. [I] try to shoot very diverse, because I feel like there isn’t enough exposure.”
But despite all the negatives, Ravichandran still loves doing what she does best: taking photos. She still has photoshoots on the side, sticking true to herself, calling herself a “crazy shooter,” taking 3000 photos per shoot. She then goes home and edits nonstop, using programs like Photoshop and Lightroom to create that one perfect photo.
Why does she do all this?
“I feel like having that great feed is just pleasing to the eye, [they’ll] think ‘wow that’s so pleasing, I want to continue following them so I can see these good looking photos,’ Ravichandran said.
In one post, a fiery orange leviathan of a cloud extends across the night sky above Mt. Tyndall. In another, a white road bike with thin black tires is propped near rock-filled railroad tracks. Still another showcases a photo collage of an upbeat group of friends, captioned with a heartfelt and sincere message.
For many, one of the most important aspects of the Instagram feed is ensuring that every individual post contributes to and blends with the feed’s overall theme. However, for senior Sean Palmer, each of his posts has its own individuality that makes it stand out from his overall feed.
“That’s one of the reasons why I switched to posting a lot on Instagram, because I felt like it had more of an emphasis on the picture itself,” Palmer said. “I feel like Instagram, there’s more of an appreciation for content than there is on Facebook, so that’s why I have like this huge portfolio on my Instagram.”
Since his first post on May 19, Palmer never really had a clear idea for his Instagram. But while he isn’t very concerned about the look of his overall feed, one look at Palmer’s vibrant Instagram shows a lot about himself and his hobbies.
“One of the things I like the most about my Instagram account is it’s kind of a blend of all my hobbies, from my sport to my photography skills to backpacking to cycling,” Palmer said. “It can really blend those all together and it works out nicely.”
Motivated by his passion for photography and manifold photo opportunities, Palmer uses his Nikon D3000 camera to take most of the pictures that appear on his Instagram. Despite the diverse topics of his posts, pictures of nature — whether it be scenic mountaintops, shimmering lakes or breathtaking landscape — comprise the majority of his feed.
“I started posting those photos because I kind of wanted to share my hobby with my friends out there,” Palmer said. “I wanted people to be able to see the same things that I’ve seen on my backpack trips.”
That’s why his Instagram is not based on a certain color scheme, nor a certain column organization. It’s to accurately represent his life, his interests and his relationships.
Which, to him, is the essence of Instagram.