Two weeks ago, I posted a thread on Twitter with some advice for people who are new to Bookstagram or just want help getting started. I decided to adapt that thread into an actual post, just in case this might be relevant to other people. Please keep in mind these are only a few suggestions to help you get started and won’t cover every single thing.
MY BIGGEST ADVICE
Before I start talking about the basics, the most important advice I can offer is this: own your style. There are some really beautiful and amazing Bookstagram accounts. Don’t feel pressure to be like those accounts. Let them inspire you, but focus on what works for you. Like blogging, everyone has their own style. Be yourself and remember that your account will change and evolve as you grow as a person, reader, and Bookstagrammer.
Let’s talk about the algorithm elephant in the room first. The algorithm is a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for everyone, but especially for smaller and new accounts. Unfortunately, there’s no way around the algorithm. However, these are a few suggestions I have to help you grow:
- Engage. Be social. Comment on posts and actively engage with other accounts.
- Consistency. In the early stages of your account, I would suggest posting consistently. This doesn’t mean you have to post daily. It could mean that you post at the same time or you post 3x per week. Some people I know post twice a day. Pay attention to engagement and that will help you figure it out. There are apps out there that provide insights and that may help you determine the best time to post. I don’t use any personally, but I know they exist.
- Instagram stories. Use your story to alert your followers when you have a new post. The reality is that your post may not show up in their feed because of the algorithm.
- Photo challenges. Participate in monthly photo challenges and engage with other Bookstagrammers. Christy (@thereaderbee) and Mariana (@bookisglee) host two of my favorite photo challenges.
- Hashtags. Tag your photos. Use a variety of tags, including the book name and author. I put my tags in my notes app and just copy them into my posts. Also, consistently check your tags to make sure they’re not banned. Right now, #books is banned by Instagram. If you use this tag, your photos will not show up in any of the tags you use.
A lot of people think you need an expensive camera to be successful on Bookstagram. I’m here to tell you that’s not true. You don’t need a an expensive camera to take good photos. Yes, some people use a DSLR camera for their book photos, but most people I know use their phones. If you own a Iphone, try taking your photos in portrait mode. If you own an Android, use pro mode. And don’t forget that YouTube is a great resource for photography, even phone photography. Personally, I use a DSLR because it’s something I owned before joining Bookstagram. I prefer my DSLR because I have more control.
If you only remember one piece of advice from this post, it should be this. Take ALL of your photos in natural light. Open a window. Go outside. Open your blinds or balcony door. Whatever you do, use natural light and don’t use artificial light. Artificial light will give your photos a yellowish tint and that’s not what you want. If you can’t coordinate your photos with the sun, you can try softbox lighting. But that costs money. The best thing to do when you have good natural light is to plan ahead by taking all your photos for the week.
Most accounts us a theme, but you don’t need one. Having a theme basically means either using a consistent backdrop in all your photos, the same filter, prop, color scheme, or a combination of all these things. Using the same backdrop in every photo is not my style, so I use the same filter. Whether you decide to use the same filter or backdrop, know that it’s okay to change if you get bored. I’ve been there plenty of times and my current Bookstagram feed is a new theme. Don’t be afraid to archive your photos and start fresh.
You can use anything as a backdrop. Nature. Poster board. Coffee shop. Daily life. Furniture. Sheets. Desk. The floor. The park. ANYTHING. You don’t have to spend money on backdrops. Use the dope things you already own. Just remember to capture your photos in natural light. If you don’t have anything for your pictures, here are a few budget-friendly suggestions:
- Poster/foam board. Go to your local dollar store or craft store and get a couple of these. They come in a variety of colors. They’re really great for white backgrounds.
- Craft signs/wood panels. Walmart and most craft stores have a great selection if you want a rustic background.
- Bookcase. Use your bookcase as a backdrop for all your photos.
- Blankets/sheets. White sheets are also perfect for a white background.
- Nature. Gardens, parks, lakes, the beach make great backgrounds.
- Photography backdrop. Unfortunately, the shop I bought mine from recently closed, but you can check Etsy and Amazon for photography backdrops. They come in a variety of styles: marble, wood, solid colors, etc. If I hear of any new shops, I’ll update.
- Daily Life. Are you at a coffee shop, on campus, traveling, and have a book with you? Take photos on the go. Just remember to use natural light.
Like backdrops, you can use anything as props. You also don’t need props. If you use props, consider the book or your theme. If you buy props, consider buying versatile props that you can get the most out of. Personally, I prefer a minimalist look. However, here are some prop ideas:
- Flowers (artificial or real)
- Funko Pop figures
BACKDROP AND PROP EXAMPLES
Left photo from top to bottom: Airport bookshelf; throw blanket with mug that I already owned and books; white sheet and magazines I already own; outdoor photo in front of my apartment.
Right photo from top to bottom: TV tray that I use as a nightstand along with my Apple TV remote and lamp; foam board with my computer, blanket, glasses and mug of tea; outdoor photo on campus; photography backdrop with my sweaters.
I think this covers the basics and help anyone get started. Next post, I’ll focus on editing apps.
Let me know in the comments if this was helpful and if you would like to see more of this. Do you have any advice for new Bookstagrammers? Thanks for reading!