If you use Instagram, I’m willing to bet that at some point you’ve asked yourself a question.

“Should I have an Instagram theme?”

Okay, maybe you’ve never asked yourself that question. But you have encountered at least one account that has an “Instagram aesthetic.” Perhaps you follow a family member who uses a white border on all their photos, or a friend whose entire Instagram feed is dipped in a pastel filter.

Lauren Conrad Instagram Aesthetic

I’ve read enough articles to know that many people think an Instagram visual aesthetic is one way to attract more followers. And I get it – you want to visually stand out from the 700 million other accounts.

But are we more likely to follow an account that uses a theme? Or are we more likely to follow an account that posts interesting, engaging, and relevant photos? Are these type of accounts mutually exclusive?

Here’s one thing for sure – no one’s life is as perfect as their Instagram. So I think we should skip striving for a visual aesthetic. The photos we upload are curated enough as it is – why add another thing to obsess over?

To further convince you, here are three reasons why you don’t need an Instagram aesthetic.

3 Reasons Why You Don't Need An Instagram Aesthetic

1. Too Much Time

In May, some BuzzFeed staff attempted to copy Kim Kardashian’s Instagram aesthetic for a week. Here’s what some of the participants said at the end of the experiment:

“I started to feel slightly annoyed that I had to edit the photos so much — I’m used to just posting right away. It felt weird to save photos and actually put thought into what they would look like as a group. By the end it started to feel like a burden.”

“That being said, getting it right took a LOT of work. I had to bring outfits to work, ask coworkers to take pictures of me, and then take about 20–30 pictures to get ONE picture. And that’s BEFORE using three — THREE!!! — apps to get the aesthetic right. Being a Kardashian seems exhausting! By the end of the week I was glad it was over. I was tired of taking pictures every day, I was tired of using all the filters, and I was tired of trying to be like Kim.”

“I have a newfound respect for the amount of effort Kim K (and other social media stars) put into presenting their lives on social media. Prior to the experience, my idea of “Instagram” was taking a cute picture, maybe slapping a filter on it, and posting it. But trying to post like Kim shed some light on how Instagram can be used to tell a story, and the amount of time and consideration that goes into doing so.”

In other words, an Instagram theme is high maintenance. You’ll need:

  • An eye for photography or a personal photographer who can capture your candid moments.
  • At least one photo editing app like VSCOCam, Snapseed, or Prisma.
  • An Instagram feed planner like UNUM* or Planoly.
  • And of course, a stellar caption.

Don’t forget to repeat that process 2-3 times a week – another key to growing your Instagram followers is an active presence. Does the idea of an Instagram aesthetic exhaust you yet?

2. Too Much Stress

Have you ever tried to create a flat-lay photo? It’s not as easy and effortless as it appears. And that’s kind of what having an Instagram theme is like. It looks polished, but very few know the preparation (or stress) that leads to the final result.

Flat-Lay Photo from my Instagram Feed
What you DON’T KNOW about this photo? It took a lot of time re-arranging each object AND multiple shots until I decided on this final photo.

In fact, Instagram ranks as the worst social media network for mental health and well-being in a recent UK Study. Participants experienced high levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and the “fear of missing out” while using the app. Is it too much of a stretch to attribute some of that stress to maintaining a “perfect” Instagram?

You can take a great photo, with amazing composition, and perfect lighting…but it doesn’t fit in your feed. So you don’t share it – or you do, and swear to yourself that you’ll delete it later (what’s the point???).

With an Instagram aesthetic, you have to be consistent. And for some of us, consistency can either ignite or cramp our creativity. Before you post a photo, you have to ask yourself questions like “Does this photo fit with my theme?” and “How does this photo look in relation to my entire grid?” All that unnecessary stress…and your followers only see one post of yours at a time in their Home Feed anyways.

3. Too Fabricated…?

How authentic is someone who has an Instagram aesthetic? Do you find them approachable? Relatable? Real? If anything, I admire an individual who can maintain an aesthetically-pleasing Instagram, but I’ll be honest and say I find them a little less authentic.

Should only brands, celebrities, and bloggers use it? While it’s amazing to see how creative people get on Instagram with everything from interactive games on Instagram Stories to banner photos across multiple posts, some of the most popular Instagram accounts create relatable and delightful content without a theme.

Some of my favourite Instagram accounts like Create and Cultivate and I Am That Girl don’t use a visual aesthetic. Selena Gomez, the most followed person on Instagram, doesn’t use a theme. Neither does @Starbucks, @McDonald’s, @Nike, @Beyonce…or even @Instagram!

Don’t get me wrong – A$AP Rocky has a wicked cool Instagram feed. Let’s be realistic though. A$AP Rocky most likely has a TEAM running his Instagram account. He has the energy and resources behind him to maintain his aesthetic. But for the average person, like you and me, this isn’t the case. Wouldn’t you rather do better stuff with your time and energy?

ASAP Rocky Instagram Aesthetic

As a creative, I appreciate A$AP Rocky’s Instagram, but I can’t relate to it. And that’s okay too. You’re Instagram can be just for you. No one has to relate, to understand, or to hear your justification for what you post (like John Cena’s Instagram). But if I can’t relate, you won’t get a follow from me.

So maybe I’ve answered one of the initial questions I posed earlier.

Are Instagram accounts that use a theme AND post interesting, engaging, and relevant photos mutually exclusive? Well, out of the 414 accounts I follow on Instagram, my current answer is yes, they are mutually exclusive.

I put forth a ton of questions for you to consider in this post. You should know that I’m considering them too. I do so to point out that maybe we shouldn’t take Instagram so seriously. Maybe we should take our sleep, our mental health, and our well-being more seriously than our Likes and followers on Instagram. Let’s choose to cultivate our authentic selves instead of curating our digital selves.

And if you’re a photographer, if you’re someone who enjoys visual storytelling, or you’re someone who uses Instagram as a complement to your personal brand – do you. At the end of the day, only you know how much you invest in your Instagram feed. I hope your investment pays off.


*In another post “5 Must Have Apps You Didn’t Know You Needed” I mention UNUM as a must-have app. UNUM is a fantastic app, but since writing that post, I’ve relaxed on attempting to maintain some sort of theme for my Instagram. I still use the app, not for visual planning purposes or even analytics, but mainly for photo editing.

As always, leave your thoughts in the comments below. What’s your opinion on Instagram themes?