Social Media

The Science Behind Great Instagram Feeds

min read
The Science Behind Great Instagram Feeds

These days, having a great Instagram feed is everything. Think of it as your shop window.

When people click on your profile, they cast a quick eye on those first 9 most recent posts, instantly judging your work. If they like what they see, they may explore further and follow you. If your grid is a bit of a jumbled mess and a turn-off? No follow. (BTW: That is one of the reasons we created Storyboards, so you and your team can get a head start at creating amazing content for any post, feed, or story).

Instagram Storyboard feed

So, here are some of the ways you can ensure your Instagram feed is always looking beautiful and ready to impress.

Plan ahead

There’s one simple reason why your favorite Instagram feeds look so damn good. The creative has planned ahead. Each square is a building block in your grid. Every time you post, you’re adding a brick to this wall. Every square is an important one.

By planning ahead and knowing what you’re going to post, you construct a beautiful grid.

Choose an aesthetic

First things first, decide on the aesthetic of your feed. Take the time to study what others are doing. What do your favorite feeds look like? Are they bright and airy, or dark and moody? Do they use certain patterns and compositions? What color scheme have they gone for? Are they using filters?

Take inspiration from this and compile a mood board that represents everything you love and want in your own feed.

Color theory and filters

In your feed, you want to think about what combination of colors you’re going to use. Ideally, each post needs to follow the same set of rules so that it fits in with the others.

This may be as simple as deciding that each post must incorporate the colors of teal, dark blue and white. If you’re going for a ‘bright and airy’ theme, the colour white partnered with a soft pastel shade will work well. If you’re opting for the ‘dark and moody’ vibe, you could opt for darker greens and blues that are mixed in with black and crushed shadows.

To further help you with this, consider using filters. You can find filters in all of your favorite editing apps (like UNUM or VSCO), download them from Adobe Lightroom or even create your own from scratch. Applying a filter instantly ensures that each photo you post to Instagram sticks to the aesthetic guidelines and ‘fits’ in your feed.

These filters could apply to any number of effects, from things like a simple ‘S-curve’ on the highlights and shadows to grains and color tints. Have fun with them and see what works best. Pro Tip — play around with intensity!


Composition is all about how you arrange the visual elements in your photo. Good photo composition makes use of things like negative space and the rule of thirds, helping to guide your viewers eye to where you want it to be.

Rule of thirds

This is a foundational photo composition technique that you’ve probably already heard of. Whenever you compose a photo, you can divide your image into thirds (most phones and cameras now have the option to lay this over your viewfinder image). Ideally, you want to place the ‘focal points’ or the interesting thing in your photo at the point where these lines intersect. 

Negative space

This is the area that surrounds a subject in your photograph. By using negative space, you can help to eliminate distractions and emphasize the subjects you want your viewers to focus on, drawing their attention to them.

Centered composition

This goes directly against the rule of thirds because it places your subjects directly in the center of the photo. Combining centered composition with negative space can achieve a nicely balanced look.

Other patterns

Utilizing patterns in your feed can make it look instantly consistent and visually easy on the eye. Take a look at the following.


If you treat each photo as a ‘tile’, this one is super easy. For one tile, you post a photo. For the next tile, you post a quote. Next tile? Photo. And so on. This is a really easy way to have a consistent feed.

Don’t be afraid to experiment too! The tile doesn’t have to be a quote — it could be a title from your latest blog or a piece of art such as a drawing or painting.

Alternating Storyboard

Diagonal theme

The diagonal theme is another super easy trick. All you have to do is choose a type of photo (for example, focusing on cars), or a certain colour theme (red). Then, ensure that as you post, these different themes line up in your feed diagonally.

Sample Storyboard

The line in the middle

This trick simply requires you to make every third post conform to a rule. It could be that every third post is a video, or a quote. Then, when you look at your feed, one column (try to aim for the middle column), will always be a video or a quote. Either side of it are your photos.

Row by row

A lot of photographers like this one. Dedicate each row of three photos to a certain shoot where you had a particular subject or style. Each row is then nicely separated and different from the last and next ones. It breaks up your feed and organizes it really clearly.

Wrapping up

Although the app continues to change (it looks unrecognizable from its first few incarnations back in the early 2010’s), Instagram has always been about the visuals. It’s a photo-sharing app at heart and you need to play the game.

These tips will help you shape a feed that’s beautiful, visually appealing and unique enough to really stand out from the crowd and elevate your account. With that, comes a larger audience and more reach!

March 15, 2021

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