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Nailing Your Instagram Aesthetic ( & A Cute Gingham Look! )

Let’s Talk Instagram Aesthetic

How to develop your instagram aesthetic with Hustle + Halcyon

Right out of the gates, I’m going to be super honest with y’all— conquering an aesthetic hasn’t been one of my strong-suits when it comes to blogging. And, for the longest time, I beat myself up about not being one of those bloggers with a flawless, planned, perfectly-thought-out instagram feed.

Anyone feel this??

Today, while discussing developing your aesthetic, I want to split “aesthetic” up into two categories: strict aestheticloose aesthetic. Also, I’ll be referencing Instagram as the main platform for developing your aesthetic, because that’s the easiest to talk about.

Your personal blogging story could fall into either of these categories ( or maybe you fall a little into both! ), so I think it’s important to acknowledge that ONE isn’t better than the OTHER.

It’s all about what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and avoiding putting yourself in a box or thinking that you should be one or the other. It’s all about what TYPE of blogger you are naturally, and where you’re wanting to take your blog in the future.

Let’s talk about strict & loose aesthetic in a little more detail.

outfit details

Romper | Necklace 1 & Necklace 2 | Shoes | Bag | Jacket

more gingham

Talking about the difference between a strict instagram aesthetic and a loose instagram aesthetic with Payton Sartain of Hustle + Halcyon

strict instagram aesthetic

A strict Instagram aesthetic is easy to identify, & is usually the ideal type of aesthetic bloggers strive for ( though, I’ve realized it doesn’t work for me AT ALL ). These types of blogs & instagram feeds contain super cohesive content in terms of products, imagery, & editing. These types of people remind me of creative directors; they have a specific vision & let images do all the talking.

They keep it simple & stick to their vision.

Bloggers with a strict Instagram aesthetic are more-often-than-not content creators for brands. This means that many of them shoot content FOR brands to use in the form of lookbooks or social media images.

It’s really artistic, if you ask me.

I’ll use my roommate, Molly (@trendychickadee), as an example of a blogger with a strict aesthetic. Molly sticks to using one photographer ( posting all professionally-shot images ), shooting in similar types of locations, wearing mostly boho-inspired clothing/accessories, editing all of her photos the same way, sticking to a general color scheme, & planning her feed out so it all comes together beautifully to the daily scroller.

It’s pretty amazing; it’s almost down to a science. This approach works for the kind of blogger/content creator that she is, and it plays to her strengths very well.

Also, it’s what she enjoys doing, which is the most important part. Your blogging aesthetic should be fun to develop & share ( putting too much pressure on yourself is no beuno– take it from someone who knows… @me. )

Talking about creating your instagram aesthetic with Payton Sartain in her Blogging 101

From a brand perspective, when partnering with someone like Molly, a brand knows EXACTLY the quality of the content they will be getting, which leads to lots of brands reaching out for content creation. This type of blogging can be incredibly lucrative, too!

If you’re predominantly interested in creating content for & with brands and using your platform as a way to share your visual dream board of sorts, following a strict, more specific Instagram aesthetic could be for you.

Think @happilygrey @theskinnyconfidential when it comes to strict color scheme & content, too.

If that’s totally up your alley, following a strict aesthetic is SO the move, and you’ll probably have a lot of fun creating your pretty corner of the internet. Remember, sticking to a plan while creating content doesn’t mean you can’t LIKE other styles, colors, etc., it just means you don’t necessarily share those things on your social platforms/blog.

You keep it simple.

Unfortunately for me, I am way too manic to follow such a plan. I get bored entirely too easily. I like one style one day, and a completely different style the next, and I WANT to share those things. I switch from beachy to club lyyyyfe in .5 seconds, LOL.

I take photos on the fly, and I like to post everything from outfits, to makeup, to locations, to events, to opinions, to food & drinks.

Again, some people find strictly branding themselves to be incredibly inspiring, but it’s not for me.

For the longest time, I tried to fit myself in a box, trying to be something that I was not ( I’ve talked to a lot of bloggers with similar paths, because WHO DOESN’T WANT A PRETTY FEED?? ). I thought that I had to be more strict with my aesthetic, stressing over the fact that I really wanted to share images that didn’t fall within the bounds created.

But then, I was like: fuck it. So let’s talk about loose aesthetics.

Payton Sartain shares how she developed her simple instagram aesthetic in Blogging 101

loose instagram aesthetic

Because I want to share so many different things, and I’m usually snapping photos on-the-fly, meticulously planning my feed makes me a mad woman. So, I stick to a loose instagram aesthetic. It’s less stressful for me.

I’m a very visual person, BUT I didn’t get into blogging to create a online mood board, to be a creative director, or to create content for brands. I got into blogging to express myself through my opinions, my mood, my ever-changing personal style, and whatever else might inspire, entertain &/or help me.

I rely heavily on my voice & my tone, and I keep my content cohesive using those two things FIRST. It’s less about imagery, more about attitude.

To keep all of my images looking somewhat cohesive, I use the same filter on all of my photos. Recently, I just made the switch to the S2  filter in the VSCO app, because I find that it fades out vibrant colors & brightens the image just enough.

Then, I add a touch of grain & sharpen the image.

I do this to every. single. image. in hopes that it makes my content coordinate. Also, I try to switch up my images so that I have various poses & angles, which looks better on the feed.

But that’s where I stop. I don’t drive myself crazy about it. If I want to post something that might make my feed look a tad imperfect, I post it. If I like an image that isn’t a high-quality, professionally-shot image, I post it ( PS– in my opinion, iPhone photos get better engagement. ) Following a loose instagram aesthetic means sticking to a general look, so your feed isn’t a complete mess, but not stressin’ the small stuff.

Also, keep in mind, when a reader/follower sees your images, it’s usually one-by-one on their instagram timeline. They probably aren’t scrolling through your feed every day, so rellllllax.

Blogging 101 and Developing your Instagram Aesthetic with Hustle and Halcyon

It’s all about what you have fun doing AND capturing your strengths well.

Just remember– you don’t HAVE to do it one certain way & don’t feel bad if your instagram feed isn’t the equivalent of an editorial powerhouse. It doesn’t have to be.

On the other hand, don’t feel like you should be sharing more if you want to stick to a strict, branded feed. If that’s what inspires & challenges you in a good way, you’re doing what’s right for you. And, like I said, that’s the entire point of all of this.

I hope this post was helpful for any of you struggling to find your look in terms of instagram aesthetic! I know it has taken me awhile to realize that its not necessary for me to have a perfectly cohesive feed, because it’s just not me.

Ya gotta do you.

Maybe I’ll do a post specifically about the various apps & such I use to do things like detail images, bring out the whites, patch over ugly poles & people walking in the background, etc, etc, etc. Get more specific about those things. Is that something y’all would want to read?

That’s it for today, babes! Talk soon. xx

More Blogging 101:

How to Start & Grow a Blog

Photos by Ryan Chua.

How to Make Your Instagram Feed Blogger-Approved by Developing an Instagram Aesthetic

17 Responses
  • Katherine
    06 . 29 . 2017

    Girl I LOVE the thought behind this! I’ve never thought of this in those 2 terms, but I totally get it. I’m with you on the loose feed…more power to the girls who can be strict, but my life just doesn’t fit it. I so wish I had the time to shoot with a photographer or edit to that degree but I just don’t.

    So weird but I was following you on Insta because you kept get recommended to me lol. I didn’t know you were in the InfluenceHer group too!!

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      Seriously the number of people who could relate to this was so refreshing! Thanks for taking a sec to say something! InfluenceHer gals forevvvvvver tho.

  • Meagan Emerson
    06 . 29 . 2017

    Loved this post! Made me feel so much better! I would love to know your fave apps and the fine detailing of your pics. xo

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      ahh, yay! I’ll be doing a post about that soon! xx

  • Daresha Petitt
    06 . 29 . 2017

    I love your thoughts on this. I have had a difficult time with coming up with my own Instagram theme. I wanted to look like the other bloggers with well put together feeds, but like you I looked into why I started my blog and who I was as a person. I to use the loose aesthetic because it shows my followers who I am and make me more of a real person who they can relate to. Its great to see someone so successful relate to how I am with my feed. Amazing post!

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      Hey babe!! I’m so glad you can relate ( & so many others said the same thing! ). We’re all in this together, LOL. Thank you SO much for your sweet words. Always appreciated. xx

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017


  • Megan
    06 . 30 . 2017

    Thanks for sharing this! I have toyed around with a blog for some time (probably nothing I’ll ever pursue professionally) but have followed H+H from the beginning and am super interested in your work. Great to hear feedback & tips from you! (PS, I would totally read your tips on image details!)

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      Hey Megan!! You’re seriously my favorite. I’ll be posting about photo editing tips V soon! Xx

  • Kat
    06 . 30 . 2017

    First off I think I posted this same romper on my blog today. Hey Girl Hey! Also, love what you’re saying about aesthetic. I think lately mines been a little bit of a mixture.. but oddly it’s kind of annoying me that it looks a little too cohesive.. Instagram is such a love hate relationship. Love yours though and your blog! Would love to hear how you pronounce the name of it. And would love to see that next blog post on editing details. CHEERS!

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      Hey Kat! ahhh, thank you for your thoughts! Instagram IS such a love/hate thing. Oh, & halcyon is pronounced HAL-SEE-ON ( wouldve totally chosen a better name, had I known this would be my job! ). Thanks for the love, babe. xx

  • Anita
    06 . 30 . 2017

    I love your honesty and personality. So refreshing. I hear you on the loose feed aesthetically!

    And love the gingham!


    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      Thank you, Anita!! Seriously, so nice! So glad so many other girls can relate! xx

  • Pkay
    07 . 01 . 2017

    Thanks for all of the helpful tips! Would love to read an article about how you detail images!!!!

    • paytonsartain
      07 . 07 . 2017

      Will be doing this so soon! Yay– excited there is interest! Thank you! xx

  • sam collin
    07 . 03 . 2017

    Perfect look in that dress:)