My Instagram Workflow

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When I started using Instagram a few years ago, I treated it like a spontaneous space for sharing pictures with friends. However, it took a while for my own group of friends to start using the service, and this changed the way I chose to post over time. Instagram may be owned by Facebook now, but I treat my Instagram account more like a photography platform, and leave more personal posts and candid shots for Facebook.

Selecting Shots

Because using Instagram isn’t a spontaneous activity for me, one thing I’ve been trying to optimize is my workflow for selecting, editing, and posting shots. Back when I used iCloud Photo Library, it was a challenge to filter the Instagram-worthy shots from the pictures I was preserving as memories. I tried using the Favorites feature to queue up photos for Instagram, but that only told me which photos I wanted to post — not which photos I had already posted.

Moving to Lightroom has helped the filtering process. I flag images when I like them, and Instagram-worthy shots are given three stars. Once I’ve posted a picture, I’ll tag it with five stars to mark it as “posted”. Lightroom Mobile is still missing keywords, but it does have the ability to filter by star and flagged status. So when I’m digging around my library for new shots to post in a series, Lightroom only displays flagged pictures that have three star ratings. That way, I’ll only be viewing pictures I want to post, which aren’t already on Instagram.

The thing that’s slowing me down right now is actually Lightroom’s latest update. The v2.6 update, which was released just before the holidays, removed the quick rating gesture that was crucial to my mobile photo triaging. This latest update would prefer that I enter a specific “Rate & Review” mode to flag and star my photos, and I think this was a big mistake. I’m hoping the upcoming update restores the quick rating ability, at least as an option.

Editing and Posting

I do most of my photo editing within Lightroom. I’ll usually play with exposure, highlights, and shadows by ranges of -20 to +20. If the colours are pretty muted, I might add some split toning so that the pictures stand out more in people’s streams.

Straightening and cropping is usually done within Instagram itself. Truth be told, I’d prefer it if Instagram let you display pictures in full-screen landscape so that you could enjoy more details, but by choosing to use the service, I have to play within its limits.

Most of my shots have cheeky little one-liners or single sentences, but after thinking about it a little more, the posts that I’ve enjoyed the most on Instagram have been those that come with a little more context. A little story and a picture — something to keep me from taking in the photo and just scrolling past. I have enjoyed that in other profiles, like @abathingegg, and I’ve decided to follow suit and do a bit of micro blogging on Instagram as well.

The part I still despise is tagging shots. I don’t really find it much fun to look up hash tags or use them myself. I think they add a lot of mess, but they seem to be a necessary part of the service for exposure. I’ve minimized the amount of effort for standard tags by using iOS shortcuts. I can type “ffuji” on my iPhone, and auto-correct will spit out all the tags that I normally use for each shot. I can then add a few more from there, depending on the content of the post.


I am by no means an Instagram expert, but this is the workflow I’ve come up with for sharing photos. I’ll import shots into Lightroom, flag and star them, then edit. After that, I’ll bring the photo into Instagram for final straightening and cropping, before adding a bit of context in the description. If you’ve got a different or faster workflow, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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