Instagram Then and Now

A Brief History

I’ve been using Instagram since April of 2011 when the site was about 6 months old. It seemed like a creative challenge and I didn’t know if I was up to the task. Back then I was most likely shooting photos with an iPhone 4 or 4s (can’t remember which) capturing images at less than 400 pixels per inch. By comparison, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL I now use are capturing 12.3 megapixel images—so massively greater image clarity is possible.

Looking back at my early photos, they look kind of awful. Despite some images with halfway decent composition, the clarity is “not good.”  Below is a sample, and you can follow the link to blog post with more examples and “tips.”

6013 - 6028 (c) 2013 terrinakamura.png

Minimal Activity = Stagnant Follower Count

I’m not good at “gaming” followers, and unlike many of the huge accounts out there, I have never bought any. So while I was doing “okay,” my account was never great. Then it got worse. In 2016 I accepted a full-time job. It was demanding and negatively impacted my ability to create and engage on most of my social channels, including Instagram. I was basically on “maintenance mode.” I tried to post an image most days, but weeks or months would go by, and I would “like” a bunch of photos, but I wouldn’t exchange comments with anyone! Needless to say, my account stagnated, I lost followers, and I’d be lucky to get 30 or 50 “likes on an image. I was stuck at about 2800 followers and nothing I did seemed to make a difference.

Some of you who know me pretty well are aware I left my job about a month and a half ago. The reason is long and boring, but suffice it to say I’m on the road to recovery and feeling better each day, and one thing that has been soul replenishing is reconnecting with people on social media. Engagement has been essential. I’m now up to about 4100 followers and have made lots of fabulous connections with fun and interesting new people.

Ramping Up

Assessing my Instagram situation, I realized there are now a lot of great photographers  there, some of whom have massive audiences, and I seriously needed to up my game. The first order of business was to be more thoughtful about what I was shooting; then looking at how I was prepping the work, and how I framed the image’s narrative. I’ve been a brand partner of Verizon for about 5 years and I wanted to do a better job representing their products and service, so it meant changing up the way I had been doing things. Instead of “maintenance mode,” it was more like, “Banzai!”

Before and After

I’m going to share a series of “before and after” photos, so you can see what a difference it makes to properly prepare your images. This means cropping, sharpening, adjusting contrast, boosting the color saturation, and applying filters.

Here goes:


Kind of a “blah” shot of Alki Beach, right?

After being cropped, adjusted and filtered, it looks so much more interesting, AND detail in the bird that I didn’t even know was there, shows up.


One thing I’d like to say about Instagram — there is no shortage of brainy people there. Seems that each time I post something and don’t know what it is, a number of viewers will chime in and school me! An example is this shot below. I didn’t know what the flower was, and boy, did I get some great feedback!


The bee isn’t very apparent. Maybe because there are many distracting things in the shot, plus the color is subdued.


That’s better! And as Verizon says, “Better Matters!” And for the record, the flower is an Allium.

Reg Saddle @zaibatsu and I frequently discuss things like what the algorithms are rewarding or penalizing, and how it affects what we do. One of the things we go back to is what our audiences want. Think about what you post and which things get the most traction.

Here’s something “off the beaten path” for my feed — a glassblower in the Glassy Baby hot shop, not far from where I live. One of the most necessary steps was to crop this photo. You’ll see what I mean.


Interesting but a lot going on, right? Below: where the action is.



My “boyfriend,” Hunter. Dark. But cropped and adjusted:


I don’t know about you, but our cats are shedding like crazy!


So my brother-in-law is the head of the California Leafy Greens Board. His wife (is she my sister-in-law?) said this is NOT a thistle. But man. I’ve never seen an artichoke this tall. The main thing is, too much is going on and did you see the bee? Take a look:


I almost hate to show you this one. Check out this tree photo, taken on a dreary Seattle day in late spring. I have a thing about shooting UP a tree. This is a classic case.


I didn’t like the way the trunk was drawing the eye away in the bottom right corner. Cropping was calling. But how about those colors? Drab!


Through the miracle of filters, the tree came to life!


So this is a weird one. I noticed this magnolia blossom was so heavy, the bough brought the blossom to my eye level. When I peered inside, I was like, “WHAT?!?” Very cool, but I knew there was potential in making this better. As shown below, I cleaned up the shot, and there is now more detail and clarity.


Yes, folks. The bees were having a cabana party! Interestingly the following day, ZIP.


This shot is just plain beautiful any way you look at it. But even something this perfect can look better through cropping and a number of adjustments.


Things to Try

So, you can see that even a somewhat hopeless-looking photo has potential. It’s about post-production. Some things to think about:

  • Composition
  • Cropping
  • Color Adjustment (including saturation)
  • Ambience
  • Sharpening
  • Clean up
  • Filters

I’ve witnessed incredible transformations of the images posted by beginners who then found their mojo. Their photos went from “not good” to amazing!

If you’re on Instagram and follow me, simply post a comment on one of my images to let me know that you’re following, I’ll reciprocate! Here’s a link to my feed:

If you’re NOT on Instagram, what are you waiting for? 🙂

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know!

More about Terri:

Her store on Alki Beach: Alki Surf Shop
Terri Nakamura Design
Terri Nakamura on Twitter
Alki Surf Shop on Twitter
The Horsfall House on AirBNB
More by Terri Nakamura

9 thoughts on “Instagram Then and Now

    • Dear Vicki,
      Thanks so much for commenting. While I was writing this, I was thinking I should tag you, but I thought you would never see it. Now that you’re here, I’m going to do it!
      I think normally most photos benefit from color tweaking and adjusting ambience, shadows, and/or brightness. It’s a switch from what the camera sees, but when it’s enhanced, is more appealing to the viewer. Now I’m going to go find your moniker so I can link it!
      Cheers/Hugs/THANKS, Terri

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great advice, mostly for terrible Instagramers/photographers like me 🙂
    Looking at your before and after pics, I realize that cropping, sharpening, contrast, and filters are a must do if one wants to make the pics outstanding!
    Anyway, I think I can´t do it as well as you do 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chape, thanks for visiting my blog and especially for commenting. It’s been greatvto have our friendship grow to encompass WP, Twitter and IG!
      I know just a simple image correction can make a big difference! You’re doing great, but all of us can find room for improvement.
      You already have a lot going on and a solid audience, so keep up the great work! I applaud the innovative way you’re developing tools and content!
      Warm hugs, Terri

      Liked by 1 person

      • Terri, your blog is great and inspiring. It´s always a pleasure to visit. You’re lovely and I’m glad we’ve connected.
        Thank you for your encouraging words, I will continue doing my best 🙂
        Big hugs!


  2. Terri, Have I told you lately that I think your AWESOME!!! Your Horsfall House is lovely & as always I am thankful for friends like you. Witty, charming, beautiful, peaceful, and so COOL…I am always glad to hear from you & always wishing you well in all your endeavors…ALWAYS. Your Friend, Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gee, Susan. You’re entirely too kind! I think it’s great how we all encourage and support each other, and through our friendships, learn about new and interesting things.
      Thank you for being awesome! You are one of my favorite friends, and I hope you know, like the rest of your audience, we are cheering from the sidelines!
      Thank you for reading and commenting. As you know, comments and engagement are the life blood of all social media, especially blogs! ❤❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think 30-50 likes is the most I’ve ever received on a picture. Which picture has most likes you ever received?

    When I first started using filters on Instagram I thought it was like cheating. But it is not cheating if everyone else is cheating right?

    Great photos by the way. I took a photography class in high school. Being a professional photographer would be an awesome job. I think I read somewhere that nowadays not much will separate a professional from an amateur except that professionals will have great stories and writing to go along with their photos like in National Geographic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, Stan. Thank you for your response. I’m not sure which pictures of mine have had the most likes, but I have maybe a half dozen that received more than 2,000. The whole point of Instagram was using filters to make pictures look better, then sharing them with people! I always thought people who didn’t use them didn’t care about their photos. Also, people who tag “no filter” seem like they’re making an excuse for why a photo doesn’t look great (although sometimes they do!). It’s been years since reading National Geographic, but I enjoy seeing the winners of their competitions. They’re sometimes truly amazing! Thanks again!


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