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What nobody tells you when they post that “perfect” Instagram photo

I have been wanting to put together a behind the scenes post of what all goes into all these perfect looking Instagram photos you see bloggers post. My hope is to help you not compare your life to the “perfect” Instagram photo.   As a new blogger developing my brand on Instagram, I know how it works.  There are so many tricks and tips bloggers use to make these amazing feeds look like they just so happened to snap a pic in the right moment. But that is far from the truth…usually. Hopefully, you be encouraged not to compare your life with this staged appearance, by knowing what all can go into creating a high-quality Instagram feed.

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What nobody tells you when they post that perfect Instagram photo

More is hidden than is shown

Like hello, shocker here. A gal I know had someone blow up at her because her Instagram account (which is gorgeous and she works hard to monetize it), didn’t reflect the reality of motherhood.  It didn’t show the poop.  Or the under eye bags from lack of sleep.  The messy house that never shows up on Instagram. The frustration of naughty kids.  Real mom life.

Instead, we see smiles, captions about what cute kids are doing, and pretty mamas looking like they woke up with their hair and makeup done. We see the stage. So what goes into this? Why is it SO absurd to compare?

What’s not in the photo

The other 99% of their day is missing! For real. The frustration they feel about their body, the argument they had with their husband, the way they snapped at their kid who wasn’t listening.

Behind a “perfect Instagram photo” is stuff you don’t see. Stuff they don’t want you to see, because it’s not improving on their brand’s image.  There is a lot that you don’t know.  Anyone can pose for a photo, and hide relationship pain, financial stress, marital problems, naughty kids,  postpartum depression, you get the idea.

Occasionally someone posts a pretty picture with a real caption, that real people relate to.  But that’s rarer. I guess for me I can enjoy a beautiful feed while at the same time knowing I’m just seeing highlights.  So no matter how many cute pics I see of moms and their babies (my niche, hang in there) saying “just so grateful for how perfect my kid and husband are” I know that’s not all true, and I also know it’s them building a brand. Weird but true.

Related Post: How I started working with brands for free product with 1000 Instagram followers

Insane editing

Ok, when I first started Instagram, I had NO idea about editing.  Almost everyone growing on Instagram edits their photos, and some are more drastically edited than others.   Some people use up to 3 apps and programs just for one photo! Yikes.  But I get it.  It gives their whole feed a uniform look.  And that is all part of monetizing Insta and creating a brand.

A before and after example

I really liked the look of Instagram feeds using the A6 filter in an app called VSCO.  But my friend, I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s a filter.  And it smoothes out a LOT!  Ok, like skin tones are brighter and smoother. Colors change.  Take a look at this before and after photo to see for yourself.



filtered a6 vsco example
See the difference in color, skin tone, and hidden imperfections compared to the original. You can almost be sure you are seeing filtered photos on Instagram profiles that are growing on purpose.

What actually goes into making these photos?

Influencers create moments to capture. And the best influencers make it look like it was an accident. Here’s how:

  • Any photo you see on an influencer’s Insta probably had 5-20 pics just like it that didn’t get posted. I do this all the time, figuring if I take 20 one turn out ok. This is especially important for candids. I know influencers who just take video and get the best pic from that.
  • Often times people will do photoshoots and get tons of pictures at once to spread out over time.  It takes a lot of effort to get presentable, especiallllly if you have to get kids looking cute.  I’ve even heard of people taking photos in multiple outfits so that they have photos to post that ‘appear’ to be on different days.  It’s actually a smart use of time from an influencer’s standpoint!
  • A lot of people hire photographers. Or have really sweet husbands/or friends do it LOL. But the advantage here is obvious.
  • Cleaning just one area of the house to be photographed.

Related Post: The best way to quickly get to 1,000 Instagram followers that won’t unfollow.

It’s often super staged.

I can tell you that what you see on my Instagram feed is NOT what you would see if you popped into my house at random.  And that is true of most everyone on Instagram I network with.  We are normal people with laundry sprawled everywhere, tables piled with dishes, and muddy little kids too.

Have you ever thought to yourself  “does someone follow her around with a camera all day”? Or, “how does she get those candids with kids all dressed”? After talking with lots of Instagram moms here is how they do it.

Secrets to getting all those lifestyle photos

  1. Many take all the photos themselves with a tripod, self-timer or distance clicker, and TONS of tries. Aka: Staged to look not staged.
  2. There is a contraption people on Instagram make out of a cereal box that holds an iPhone camera to a wall or ceiling. It takes top-down photos or pics of the whole room via an app.  So ya.  Secrets out.
  3. Flat lays are HARD, and take practice.  Just imagine someone standing on a chair over their flat lay with a camera rearranging items over and over to make it look like it accidentally fell there perfectly.  Haha, it’s a weird art and to me it’s so hard to nail!
  4. You see what they want you to see. While most days are no hair and makeup with little kids, you can almost bet they are looking good for that photo.
  5. Some accounts actually hire photographers, because apparently, they are pulling in enough money to do that to make more money. Other influencers I know get their husbands to drive around to cool places on the weekends to go take photos.

Related Post: How to make $10 every time your kids are napping

It’s a business for some

I’m explaining from behind the scenes on behalf of people who aim to monetize Instagram. There is a lot of money being made on Instagram! And a huge incentive to create that “perfect Instagram photo”. Many normal people are making a part-time to full-time income from it, or at the least getting free product to post. See my post about how to get your first 1,000 followers if you want to grow enough to start working with brands. I’ve also created a guide to pitching brands for free product that includes 6 of my pitches that landed me collabs as a very small motherhood influencer and newish blogger.

Businesses want to work with people who will take beautiful photographs of their product, and show it to a new audience.  The more beautiful the photos, the bigger the audience. The larger the audience, the bigger the pay. So there is an incentive to stage photos you see!


  1. No filtering.


    maternity photoshoot 9 months
    Not only is this filtered to match my feed, but photos like this are pretty staged. My husband didn’t accidentally get this shot. He took a ton, after I got my hair curled and makeup on, because well… he is nice. Not an average day in the life of this preggo lady.


editing photos for instagram with vsco a6 filter
Here is a staged photo unedited.


vsco a6 filter edit before and after
Edited with VSCO, cropped, staged. This was a gift from my sweet sister Rachael, but many “Instagrammers” seek items such as these just for photos.

People post their highlights, not their lows.

Peter loves to show me football highlight videos, and it’s fun even though I don’t love football.  I see someone catching an amazing pass and running it 100 yards and even I find that entertaining! And 10 seconds later there’s another cool play ending in a touchdown.  And another. That holds my attention but an ordinary football game cannot.

I think Instagram is in the business of showing highlights. At least it is for those lifestyle bloggers who are growing their followers and monetizing Instagram. There is no perfect life, even if there is a perfect Instagram photo.

What you see is what they let you see.  And that’s what nobody tells you when they post that perfect Instagram photo.    So when I see a good Instagram pic, I can enjoy it but am not tricked into thinking that anyone’s life is that clean and edited…because it’s not.
















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