How to Kill the Instagram Game: Themes, Editing, and Inspo!


One of the first things people told me upon my return from summer break was how much they enjoyed my Instagram pictures. I was honestly pleasantly surprised because my use of Instagram has shifted from “only for special occasions” to “stress relief and curation”. I have a personal account and then I also put together the pictures for our blog account. We separated the two to keep some parts of our lives private, and so that we don’t spam our friends who don’t read our blog; which is oddly becoming fewer and fewer.

I take my feed v. seriously and that may seem silly to most, but it seriously helps me relax when I get stressed out. It’s another creative outlet, like the blog, where I can just take a break from the biochemistry problems and MCAT stressing. All I have to worry about is how much exposure I need to add to a picture to have the perfect theme flow. Extremely irrelevant, but important for my mental health. LOL.

At first, I reserved this craziness for the blog account, but I’ve noticed that I have started doing it on my personal account as well. I think it may just be out of habit, but even if no one else notices it, I love love love it! So, this post is ~naturally~ going to be so much fun because I get to tell you all my secrets and where I get all my inspiration from for pictures [these Instagram goddesses are perfection and I scroll through their feeds to calm down].

Whether you’re a blogger who wants to learn some tricks of the trade or a gal who is as anal about the feed as I am, keep reading for some must have apps and go to accounts!

Theme-in’ on Instagram

Yeah, so this was me about a year ago. What the heck is a theme and why would I ever take the time to do that? But, let me tell you: IT’S ADDICTING. Once you attempt to have that beautiful insta flow, you will literally never be able to go back. There are some ~talented~ souls who will automatically have this aesthetic like quality to their feeds, but I was someone who used a different filter on every pic and my feed was a mess 90% of the time. Some people love this, but I’m now someone who loves a clean and cohesive line up.

These fab ladies nail it:

As you can see, you can keep it super neutral or have pops of color or even make it super sultry! I love all these gals and you should go follow them ASAP [there will be a long list of my recommendations at the end of the post]!

Picture Inspiration!

So, once you choose your ideal theme, you’ll need to search for some inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be super well off or living in a big city to have a killer instagram theme. You can get a lot of inspiration from fellow Bloggers and Youtubers, but you can also check out everyone’s favorite idea wholesaler: Pinterest! You can find some great flat lay examples or how to pose in certain environments. I think I’ve mastered a couple of cute mural poses, but I’m still not sure how to do the caught off guard look yet [still a work in progress, ya feel?].

One of my faves, Brooke, has a really great Pinterest board dedicated to inspo for her page here.

I typically just take pictures of simple life things from a multitude of different angles to make sure I get something that I like. My favorite is my mess of a study space in Starbucks and sunsets. Also, if you’re like me and spend a majority of the time chillin’ with no make up on throw a Starbucks cup in the mix, they are ~super~ photogenic.

Honestly, my favorite pics are the spontaneous ones. I like to just carry around my camera and capture random moments. There’s something amazing about it, and you’ll feel great pretending to be a photographer. Side note: like 99% of my pictures are taken on my iPhone, but occasionally I will whip out my mini-Nikon camera or steal my mom’s Canon for some higher quality pics!


So, this is probably my favorite part and likely the weirdest thing about me. There’s something oddly comforting about editing the pictures that I take. My favorite apps for preparing the Instagram feed are: VSCOcam and UNUM. These are both available in the App store for free! A lot of other bloggers use A Color Story and Planoly, so those are some free options as well!

I’ve had two themes that I’m pretty proud of: one of which is my current theme and one from the summer. {Pro Tip: Take advantage of vacations and stock up on fun photos that you normally wouldn’t take.}


This one is the current theme on my personal account. As you will be able to tell, some of the pictures I use on both accounts [sry friends], but they are edited in slightly different ways. This also shows a small transfer from my brighter summer run into a muted and neutral warm tone fall aesthetic. I really do feel like I’m speaking in scientific jargon.

The other theme was hands down my favorite. Most of the pictures are from my vacation to Florida this past summer. But, I got some really great ~artsy~ shots. I think I like this the most because there is a good mix of type of photos as well. LOVE.



Here’s an example of how I take a photo from basic to fabulous [this picture might be familiar from the blog account]:


So, VSCOcam has the best filters; I’m currently switching between A5 and A6 for my two current themes. I play around with the exposure, contrast, and saturation until I get it right how I want it. These steps are mostly up to you, and you’ll get a better feel for what you like as you get more familiar with the app.

The Final Product:

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Here are the edits that I made to this photo:

edits2 edits1

This is also a place where Pinterest can come in handy with presets that you can choose. There are a lot of uploads for this. You can just search VSCO presets and look for your ideal feed. I have never tried this method, but a lot of bloggers have said it works for them!

You can find an example here.

So, those are all the tips that I really have. I’m still improving but I think I’ve improved a lot since last year. LIKE A LOT. Here are some of my favorite accounts to follow:

Danielle Carolan- @daniellecarolan

Caitlin Covington- @cmcoving

Brooke Miccio- @brookemiccio

Cristina Mandujano- @cristina96x

Cambria Joy- @cambriajoy

Dede Raad- @dressupbuttercup

Michele- @sochicsomiche

Also, if you’re looking for a community of ~fabulous~ bloggers on Instagram: you can check out our hashtag #SwirlSocial for some really fire posts and nice gals! I hope you enjoyed this post and that is was somewhat helpful and that it fed a little bit of your inner Instagram obsession!

Much love. xoxo,



  • My insta theme has been all over the place lately, this definitely gave me a little bit of inspiration! 🙂
    I also use VSCO, it’s such a great app plus you can lay out pictures on it, which is good for keeping a theme!
    paige // eyeliner wings & pretty things

  • Ok so I haven’t even read the entire post yet, but I’m hooked after those first four paragraphs. I’ve been getting into Instagram a lot more than over the summer, and I totally get the calming nature of fitting an image into your theme.

    UPDATE: Ok so I finished the post and it’s amazing. Will 100% be saving and sharing this. Great job, Gabby!!

  • I totally get what you mean about editing being relaxing. I kinda love importing photos to VSCO and going through my filter presets haha. Caitlin and Danielle’s feeds are two of my favorites, too!